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”. – Pope Benedict XVI
My dear people of God, as we come to the end of the Marian Year, I thank God exceedingly who continues to bless us daily. In a special way, we thank God for the gift of his mother to the Church and the world. For truly, the Blessed Virgin Mary is the help of Christians. We rejoice in her unfailing help as we call upon God to continually heal us and our world of our pain and distress.
The Message from History
As history has it, in 1917, in the town of Fatima in Portugal, the Queen of heaven and earth appeared to three little shepherd children, Lucia de los Santos, and Francisco and Jacinta Marto. Our Lady appeared six times on the 13th of the Months of May to October and every time that she appeared, she repeated ONE key message through the appearances: Pray the Rosary! She revealed her name and identity as Our Lady of the Rosary. We commemorate this title of the ever Virgin on October 7 of the Liturgical Calendar.
History is one of the most remarkable things in our lives. The mere fact it occurred makes it remarkable. Once it has occurred, how can it not be true? How can it not have an impression no matter how tiny it might be, in the lives of people? The tenets of our faith in the Triune God and the Holy Catholic Church arise from history: the creation of the world in the beginning and as recorded in the Book of Genesis, the relationship between the One and sovereign God and the Patriarchs and the people of Israel, the Incarnation and Nativity of Jesus, the growth of the kingdom of God and the Church, all of these happened (and still happens) in time. This is the case in the apparition of our Blessed Mother, with its centennial being celebrated in this year.
I recall once the quote of the 26th president of the United State of America, Theodore Roosevelt, who said “the more you know about the past, the better prepared you are for the future.” Thus the more we know about the circumstances that led to the apparitions of 1917 and the messages that followed from the mouth of the Blessed Virgin, the more we will better prepare for the future coming of our saviour Jesus, who will come to judge the living and the dead. It is important like the stewards at the wedding feast at Cana (cf. Jn 2:5) to listen to the words and instructions of our Blessed Mother whose message is not different from her Son and our Saviour, Jesus; a message of the need for prayer, reparation, repentance, and sacrifice, and the abandonment of sin.
Me and My Rosary
As clearly deduced from the Fatima event, the dominant message is “Pray the Rosary daily”. A call that unites us with the action of Jesus himself who was always in communication and communion with God the Father throughout his public ministry.
If a mother echoes to her child a mandate sundry times, it is because she is convinced from the depths of her heart, that what she is commanding or requesting with great fervour is of great importance. Similarly, the Mother of God and our Mother, Mary most Holy, instructed the children at Fatima, as well as the world at large, six times to pray the Rosary daily. The emphasis cannot be overlooked. Also, following from the demand to obey our earthly mothers as contained in the 4th Commandment, how much more should we obey our Heavenly Mother? In essence, this is a message that although counts for the world, it is first to be internalized by every dedicated heart.
We should form the most important habit of praying the Rosary, not sometimes or simply upon an impulse. Rather, we should form the habit of praying the most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary every day; if possible, we could even pray the Rosary more than once a day, as was often the habit in the lives of many of the saints. But how can this happen if a number of reasons that will militate or impede our love for the Rosary abound? A simple attitude of having ‘my Rosary’ in my bag, purse, pocket, around my neck is something that is losing grip among a great majority of Catholics. When the praying of the Rosary is spoken of, it is conceived under the guise of a communal prayer, which in itself is not wrong, but the personal and private meditative praying of the Rosary by individual hearts meets little love and understanding.
I want to urge everyone to take out time to read and meditate on 1 Samuel 17, the story of the battle between David and Goliath. It gives the impression as if we are David against Goliath. David was much younger and smaller in stature, with no military grounding (no sword, no shield, nor even any armor). On the other hand, Goliath was a giant, with much experience in combat, fully dressed with his armor and wielding a massive sword and even with a shield bearer foregoing him.
However, while Goliath was sparring, David proceeds with confidence in the name of Yahweh, the Lord of lords and King of kings. He reaches for a stone, places it in his slingshot and launches it at Goliath and strikes him in the head.
Today we are surrounded by many Modern Goliaths – materialism, ruthless appetite for sin, demonic influence – therefore for us to win the ferocious battle, we must place ourselves under the armed guidance of the Blessed Virgin Mary and confidently wield our spiritual weapon, the most Holy Rosary, (my Rosary) and use it frequently and with Faith. Each one can say to himself or herself boldly “with my Rosary I have indisputable courage with such a weapon and a great leader that the battle will be won and the victory will be mine.”
The Pope emeritus, Benedict XVI during an address after the recitation of the Holy Rosary at the Basilica of Saint Mary Major on Saturday 3rd May, 2008, expressed the depths of the Church’s praise and reverence for this unique prayer. In his words:
“Today, together we confirm that the Holy Rosary is not a pious practice banished to the past, like prayers of other times thought of with nostalgia. Instead, the Rosary is experiencing a new springtime. Without a doubt, this is one of the most eloquent signs of love that the young generation nourish for Jesus and his Mother, Mary. In the current world, so dispersive, this prayer helps to put Christ at the centre, as the Virgin did, who meditated within all that was said about her Son, and also what he did and said. When reciting the Rosary, the important and meaningful moments of salvation history are relived. The various steps of Christ's mission are traced. With Mary the heart is oriented toward the mystery of Jesus. Christ is put at the centre of our life, of our time, of our city, through the contemplation and meditation of his holy mysteries of joy, light, sorrow and glory.”
My dear friends in Christ, the rosary should have a new springtime in our lives especially as we mark the Marian Year throughout the Church in Nigeria. With the disturbing trend of evil and hatred that seem to characterize our world today, the power of love manifested in the rosary as the Blessed Virgin Mary accompanied the Son through the journey of his salvific mission must guide us anew. Christ must be put at the center of our personal, social, political and cultural lives. Through the high and low points of the life of Jesus, we learn through the prayer of the rosary the importance of journeying along with faith and trust in God who orders our lives according to his divine will.
The Rosary, a prayer though simple, touches God most profoundly as it unites his mother to his Son – Jesus Christ. Little wonder Pope Francis gives people he meets a rosary. In his words, “Our Lady is always close to Her children and ready to help when we pray to her, when we ask for her protection… let us remember she is always ready to serve and never keeps anyone waiting.”
May Mary help us to welcome within ourselves the grace stemming from the mysteries of the Rosary, so that we can transform the society, beginning with our own daily relationships, and purifying them from so many negative forces. Amen.
† Alfred Adewale Martins
Archbishop of Lagos
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