Fr. Benedict J. Groeschel, CFR
The Rosary is my favorite prayer. A marvelous prayer! Marvelous in its simplicity and its depth. – Blessed John Paul II, October 29, 1978
Catholics rightly call Mary the Queen of the Most Holy Rosary because the power of the Rosary manifests Mary’s great love and protection for all her children. Never will we be disappointed in asking anything from Mary through the recitation of the Most Holy Rosary. Our Queen wishes to draw us closer to Christ through this magnificent devotion, and I am convinced that we just don’t pray it enough. What miracles happen when we do!
It is hard to overestimate the true spiritual power of the Rosary. As a staple of Catholic devotions since at least the 11th century, the faithful have seen innumerous miracles from this humble string of beads, and it is helpful from time to time to look again at the devotion of the Rosary to appreciate its significance as one of the most powerful sources of spiritual renewal. Thanks to the influence of my family and the good nuns who taught me in school, I have prayed the Rosary from my youth with great fruitfulness. You will also see all Franciscans wearing the Rosary on their belts, a tradition in our order dating back to the time of St. Francis.
While it is difficult to pinpoint the exact origin of the Rosary devotion, its great popularity came primarily at the hands of St. Dominic, the founder of the Dominicans, in the 12th century. St. Dominic was concerned about a particular heresy of his day that taught that the material world was evil and that the power of the devil was equal to the power of God. People began to think that Jesus was only a mere creature and their faith in the sacraments and the authority of the Church was harmed. Well, a strong saint like Dominic was not going to sit around and let the heretical preachers win the day at the cost of souls, so he began what we might term today a “Rosary Crusade” all throughout Europe, and he converted many souls back to the true faith.
Traditionally, the Rosary consisted of 150 beads representing in a symbolic way the 150 psalms of the Old Testament. As we know, these beads are divided into fifteen “decades” of mysteries where the faithful meditate on the joyful, sorrowful, and glorious moments of the lives of Jesus and Mary. Blessed John Paul II, in his encyclical Rosarium Virginis Mariae (2002), calls the Rosary a “school of Mary,” and “a compendium of the Gospel” in which the faithful are “led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love.” How beautiful and how true! The Rosary has been a source of profound conversions to the faith, the correction of morals, and the growth in holiness of many countless souls. What most people don’t know, however, is that it is also a real protection from disaster and evil.
Perhaps the most miraculous story I have ever heard of the Rosary came out of the terrible event of the nuclear bombing of Japan at the end of the Second World War. In a rectory just eight blocks from the center of Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945 eight Jesuit priests survived the nuclear explosion unscathed because they were praying the Rosary at that very hour! A half million people died in the bombing, but the eight Jesuits had no lasting injuries from the explosion or negative effects from the radiation. All lived to their natural deaths years later. In fact, the same thing happened to St. Maximilian Kolbe’s Franciscan community in Japan when the other nuclear bomb was dropped in the city of Nagasaki days later. It was also untouched by the explosion. Those Franciscans prayed the Rosary daily. If we were to add to this list of miraculous incidents, we could cite the Christian victory over the invading forces of Islam at the battle of Lepanto in 1571, as well as many others. All of these incidents were the direct result of the graces won through the intercession of the Most Holy Rosary.
It cannot be emphasized enough that the seemingly repetitive prayer of the Rosary is not just rote prayer; it is meant to be a contemplation of the very mysteries of the life of Christ from the point of view of the one who knows Him best, His Mother. Those who pray the Rosary regularly, and with true devotion, know that a real peace comes into the lives of all those who are devoted to Mary, Queen of the Rosary. She never disappoints those who turn to her in this most beautiful of Marian devotions. Perhaps today she is inviting you to “contemplate the Face of Jesus” with her in the mysteries of the Rosary—and don’t be surprised if your life changes forever.
Dearest Mother and “Queen of the Most Holy Rosary,” fill our lives with a fervent spirit of prayer and meditation upon the holy life of our Lord Jesus. As you were privileged to nurture Him during His life on earth so help us to know Him more profoundly by the contemplation of His Mysteries, who lives and reigns with the Father and Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.
[Excerpted from: Fr. Benedict Groeschel, Jesus and Mary: In Praise of their Glorious Names, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc.: Huntington, Indiana, 2012.]