add five new mysteries to rosary, calls for prayer's revival (October 2002)
By John Thavis
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The rosary is a powerful prayer for peace,
for families and for contemplating the mysteries of Christ's life,
Pope John Paul II said in a new apostolic letter.
praising those who regularly pray the rosary in its traditional
form, the pope also encouraged the addition of five "mysteries
of light" -- moments from Jesus' public ministry -- to further
underline the rosary's focus on Christ.
Paul marked the 24th anniversary of his election Oct. 16 by signing
the apostolic letter, "Rosarium Virginis Mariae" ("The
Rosary of the Virgin Mary"), during his weekly general audience.
declared a Year of the Rosary through next October, asking everyone
to recite it frequently, lovingly and with the knowledge that its
prayers link them with Mary and lead them to Jesus.
the five new mysteries be:
baptism in the Jordan.
self-manifestation at the wedding of Cana."
proclamation of the kingdom of God with his call to conversion."
-- His Transfiguration.
institution of the Eucharist.
Paul also shared his own special affection for the Marian prayer
and offered suggestions for how people can pray the rosary better.
rosary has accompanied me in moments of joy and in moments of difficulty,"
he wrote. "In it I have always found comfort."
weeks after his election to the papacy in 1978, he said, "I
frankly admitted: 'The rosary is my favorite prayer.'"
said, "thinking back over the difficulties which have also
been part of my exercise of the Petrine ministry, I feel the need
to say once more, as a warm invitation to everyone to experience
it personally: The rosary does indeed 'mark the rhythm of human
life,' bringing it into harmony with the 'rhythm' of God's own life."
asked everyone's help in countering "a certain crisis of the
rosary" marked by a failure to teach the prayer to children
and by a suspicion -- supported by some theologians -- that it is
outdated, superstitious or anti-ecumenical.
after "the terrifying attacks" of Sept. 11, 2001, he said,
the revival of the rosary can be a valuable part of Catholics' efforts
Paul said the rosary has "a peaceful effect on those who pray
it," it leads them to see the face of Christ in others, to
recognize other's grief and suffering and to yearn to make the world
"more beautiful, more just, more closely conformed to God's
I willingly entrust to the power of this prayer ... the cause of
peace in the world and the cause of the family," he wrote.
he said, is and always has been a prayer of and for the family.
the rosary draws families together with the Holy Family, bringing
their hopes and concerns to God and focusing their attention on
images from the life of Christ, rather than from television, he
on the practical, Pope John Paul said that while reciting the rosary
involves repetition its goal is contemplation and concentration,
he said, the beads must not be seen as "some kind of amulet
or magical object," but as a means of marking "the unending
path of contemplation and of Christian perfection."
also can "remind us of our many relationships (and) of the
bond of communion and fraternity which unites us with Christ."
while not a substitute for Bible reading, should draw the mind to
Christ and to other events in his life, the pope said. Some people
may find it helpful to have a picture or icon of the biblical scene
of each mystery or, at least, to picture the scene in their minds.
Paul also suggested people read a Scripture passage related to each
mystery, not as a way of recalling information "but of allowing
God to speak."
when reciting the rosary, he said, people forget that an essential
part of contemplative prayer is silence; reciting the rosary alone
or with a group of people, it is appropriate to pause silently after
the reading of each mystery.
the 10 Hail Marys of each decade are "the most substantial
element" in the rosary, the pope asked people to pay more attention
to the recitation of the Our Father and the Glory Be to the Father,
prayers that draw people to God the Father and to the Trinity.
that when the rosary is recited in a group the Glory Be could be
sung "as a way of giving proper emphasis to the essentially
Trinitarian structure of all Christian prayer."
Paul also asked people to stop and look at the crucifix on their
life and prayer of believers is centered upon Christ," he wrote.
Like the rosary, "everything begins from him, everything leads
toward him, everything, through him, in the Holy Spirit, attains
to the Father."
is flexible, he said. Special prayer intentions can be recited after
each mystery; parts can be sung; different age groups, cultures
or ethnic groups might choose a different concluding Marian prayer
when looking for ways to bring the rosary alive for children, adaptations
are possible, he said: "Why not try it?"
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