Marian Festival - Feast of the Holy Rosary
Sacred Heart Cathedral
7th October, 2018
It gives me great joy to be with you on the day when the universal Church commemorates the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This feast was instituted by Pope St. Pius V in thanksgiving for the great naval victory over the Turks at the battle of Lepanto on this day in the year 1570, a favour due to the recitation of the Rosary.
This victory saved Europe from being overrun by the forces against Christianity. A second victory gained that year on the Octave of the Assumption, determined Pope Clement XI to command the Feast of the Rosary to be celebrated by the universal Church. However, the history of the Rosary is controversial.
The tradition of the Church says that the rosary probably began as a practice by the laity to imitate the monastic Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours, during the course of which the monks daily prayed the 150 Psalms. The laity, many of whom could not read, substituted 50, or even 150, Hail Marys for the Psalms. Nevertheless, over the centuries different Popes in their apostolic letters have accredited St. Dominic with the origin of the Rosary.
In 1883, Pope Leo XIII issued an encyclical in which he commended to the faithful the devotion to Our Lady of the Rosary, attributing its origin to St. Dominic.
Keeping all this in mind, it was not until Our Lady of Fatima appeared to the three children on May 13, 1917 that she revealed herself to be Our Lady of the Rosary. Recognizing the apparitions of Fatima as being worthy of belief, on October 13, 1930, the Bishop of Fatima authorized devotion to Our Lady of the Rosary at Fatima.
The Feast is a great festival of thanksgiving for the countless benefits bestowed on Christianity and on our Church through the Rosary of our blessed Mother.
In modern times, successive popes have urged the faithful to pray the Rosary. It is a form of contemplative prayer, mental and vocal prayer, which brings down God’s blessing on the Church. It is a biblically inspired prayer centered on meditation on the salvific mysteries of Christ in union with Mary, who was so closely associated with her Son in his redeeming action.
Pope Francis has said, “The prayer of the rosary is, in many ways, the synthesis of the history of God’s mercy, which becomes a history of salvation for all who let themselves be shaped by grace... Praying the Rosary does not remove us from the problems of life. On the contrary, it demands that we immerse ourselves in the history of each day, so as to grasp the signs of Christ’s presence in our midst. Whenever we contemplate an event, a mystery of the life of Christ, we are asked to reflect on how God comes into our own lives, so as to be able to welcome him and follow him.”
The Rosary is Christocentric setting forth the entire life of Jesus Christ, the passion, death, resurrection and glory. Of course, the Rosary honors and contemplates Mary too, and rightly so, for the same reason that the Liturgical Year does likewise, and I quote from Mediator Dei: "Because of the mission she received from God, her life is most closely linked with the mysteries of Jesus Christ, and there is no one who has followed in the footsteps of the Incarnate Word more closely and with more merit than did Mary."
Meditation on this cycle of Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious and Luminous Mysteries makes the Rosary not only a breviary or summary of the Gospel and of Christian life but also a compendium of the Liturgical Year. The Rosary stands revealed as a dynamic teacher and nurturer of Christian faith, morality, and spiritual perfection, fostering in various ways faith, hope, charity, and the other virtues, and mediating special graces, all to the end that we may become more and more like unto Christ.
My dear friends, the Word of God has power to touch the lives of ordinary people through solid piety, authentic devotion and attentiveness to the living Word that is not locked in a remote past, enchained by scientific methods, presented in linguistic strangleholds, or covered with archaeological inconsistencies. While the biblical stories we read and contemplate come from a past time, their message is current.
Though the stories may be historically inaccurate, their writers were not authoring histories, but living, theological messages that kept communities of faith alive. Given that archaeology has been so helpful in locating places, unearthing artifacts, confirming details in the text, the science of archaeology deals with dead stones and at times lost civilizations. Never forget that the Word of God deals with the living communities of faith who have handed down the message to us, a message that keeps alive our community of faith.
Pope Francis has often spoken of his devotion to the Rosary. He emphasizes that Mary guides us toward the path we are called to take in order to be true disciples of Jesus. Furthermore, he says that in praying the rosary, we feel her closeness in each mystery and contemplate her role as “the first disciple of her Son, for she does the Father’s will. Pope Francis stresses that Mary can help teach us what it means to be a disciple of Christ, because while she was “eternally chosen to be his Mother,” she also learned how to be his disciple.
‘Her first act was to listen to God,’ Pope Francis reminds us, noting how she then obeyed the angel’s message and followed Jesus closely, ‘listening to every word that issued from his lips’ and keeping them in her heart.
However, the Pope stresses, ‘it’s not enough simply to listen.’ While this is the first step, it must be followed by concrete action. ‘The disciple truly puts his life at the service of the Gospel,’ he said, and, recalling Mary’s own actions: Not only did she give birth to the Son of God, but she also showed her concern for the young spouses in Cana by interceding for them. Then, when Jesus was crucified on Golgotha, Mary did not flee pain but stood beneath the cross of Jesus and, by his will, became the Mother of the Church.
After Jesus rose from the dead, she then encouraged the apostles assembled in the upper room as they awaited the Holy Spirit, who would make them fearless heralds of the Gospel.
The rosary helps us all to pursue this path of holiness. Some years ago in a visit to the Roman Basilica of St. Mary Major, Pope Benedict XVI prayed the rosary with the faithful and spoke these words:
"May Mary help us to welcome within ourselves the grace emanating from these mysteries, so that through us we can "water" society, beginning with our daily relationships, and purifying them from so many negative forces, thus opening them to the newness of God. The Rosary, when it is prayed in an authentic way, not mechanical and superficial but profoundly, it brings, in fact, peace and reconciliation. It contains within itself the healing power of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, invoked with faith and love at the centre of each 'Hail Mary'."
The purpose of the rosary is to help us meditate on the great mysteries of our salvation. Pope Pius XII called it a compendium of the gospel. The main focus is on Jesus—his birth, life, death, and resurrection. The Our Fathers remind us that Jesus’ Father is the initiator of salvation. The Hail Marys remind us to join with Mary in contemplating these mysteries. They also make us aware that Mary was and is intimately joined with her Son in all the mysteries of his earthly and heavenly existence. The Glory Bes remind us that the purpose of all life is the glory of the Trinity.
The rosary appeals to many. It is simple. The constant repetition of words helps create an atmosphere in which to contemplate the mysteries of God. We sense that Jesus and Mary are with us in the joys and sorrows of life. We grow in hope that God will bring us to share in the glory of Jesus and Mary forever.