Growing up, I had a stuffed elephant that I slept with every night. Judging by its looks,
it was nothing special. The fur was matted and dirty. Its nose drooped to one
side, and its stuffing had seen better days. But still I slept with it every
night because it brought me comfort.
I still have that elephant and, every now and then, I pull it out,
and am amazed at how it can make me feel better.
That’s sort of how the rosary is for me. It’s something that has
always been a source of great comfort.
Recently, the rosary has been getting a lot of attention,
thanks to Pope John Paul II. Last October, he released his
apostolic letter The Rosary of the Virgin Mary (Rosarium
Virginis Mariae), which added five new mysteries—the Luminous
Mysteries—to the rosary. The new mysteries focus on Jesus’
public life. (Read a condensation
of the pope’s letter.)
You can also read one
friars' reflections on the new mysteries.
In February of this year, the pope once again turned to the rosary—this
time as a symbol of hope—when he asked Catholics to pray the rosary in order
to avoid war in Iraq and bring peace to the world.
A Long Tradition
Pope John Paul II is not the first pope to encourage Catholics
to pray the rosary. In fact, the rosary, which literally means “a garden of
roses,” enjoys a long history in the Church.
The facts surrounding its exact origin are unknown, as many of the Church’s
traditions are, but St. Dominic most often gets credit for
instituting the prayer. Apparently, St. Dominic implored the
Virgin Mary for her help during the time when the Albigensian
heresy was devastating the area around Toulouse, France. Her
response to him was to teach the rosary as an antidote to
heresy and sin.
Whatever the rosary’s origins, Pope Pius V officially approved the
devotion in 1569, when he recommended that Catholics say “150 salutations...with
the Lord’s Prayer at each decade...while meditating on the mysteries which recall
the entire life of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Since that time, the rosary has continued to be a mainstay of the
Catholic faith, usually broken into three sets of mysteries (Joyful, Sorrowful
and Glorious). It has been used to pray for peace, for personal intercessions
and for many other reasons.
Prayer for the Family
In The Rosary of the Virgin Mary, the pope pointed out
the significance of the rosary for families. “As a prayer for peace, the rosary
is also, and always has been, a prayer of and for the family. At one time this
prayer was particularly dear to Christian families, and it certainly brought
them closer together. It is important not to lose this precious inheritance.
We need to return to the practice of family prayer and prayer for families,
continuing to use the rosary,” he wrote.
Here are ways your family can continue to use the rosary:
When you say the rosary, you may find yourself having
trouble remembering which prayer to say on which bead. This
Web site offers a visual
aid of how to pray the rosary. Print the instructions,
laminate them and give a copy to all the family members.
use of the rosary by giving it as a gift for special religious occasions, such
as First Confession, First Communion, etc. Include one of the laminated cards
the rosary together as a family. Find a time when the family can be together
and recite the rosary. Either pray for a special intention for the entire family,
or each person can pray for his or her own individual intention.
lot of times the rosary gets a bad rap for not being very dynamic, but there
are ways to make it more interesting. Pray the rosary while you go for a walk
or take part in a rosary rally. (Many parishes sponsor these.)
Remember the rosary in times of stress, such as when you’re worried
about one of your children or keeping watch in the hospital
with a family member.
Visit this site's special
feature on the rosary for more information.
Next Month: Pentecost