As we near the end of October, the month dedicated to the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I present here a short and very personal appreciation on this most efficacious of prayers. And I write from Catholic Ireland, where Our Lady’s Rosary has been prayed for centuries with incredible devotion and dedication.
From the great Cathedrals to tiny chapels, up and down the country, one can still hear the praying of the Most Holy Rosary, before or after Holy Mass.
When I lived in county Wicklow, many years ago, a local friend of mine constantly praised the Holy Rosary for having saved the faith in Ireland – because, through the repeated attacks on Catholicism over centuries, the regular praying of the Rosary kept the faith alive.
And until recently, Catholic homes in Ireland would pray the family Rosary each evening. I’ve heard many a tale, where folk would visit friends or relatives after supper and just as in their own home, the Rosary would begin and whoever was there joined the family prayer.
That is, until television came and began to replace this precious tradition, chipping away at the faith. So that today, the faith is greatly diminished in Ireland.
It seems just as my friend said: The faith in Ireland is kept alive by praying the Holy Rosary!
Yet, my first experience of the Holy Rosary was not in Ireland. It was during my Catholic formation, in Switzerland. Roger and I were on a pilgrimage to the site of Brother Klaus, the Patron Saint of Switzerland. During our formation, the Priest leading the pilgrimage had told me of a very particular prayer, which touches deeply into the heart.
On this pilgrimage, high in the Swiss Alps, we gathered at the small chapel built in honour of the saint and began to pray.
The prayer was in German and not speaking the language very well, I joined in where I could. Being completely new to the faith, I knew no prayers save the Our Father.
The same prayer was incited again and again and I felt deeply moved in my heart. My heart began to feel very soft. It was so beautiful.
Afterwards, I asked the priest if the prayer was the one he had told me about, which touched the heart.
‘Oh no’, he said, ‘It was the Holy Rosary.’
On the Eighteenth of July 2000, having been confirmed and received into the Catholic Church, I came to Zurich for a special birthday party. On that day, I prayed the Holy Rosary for the first time alone. I prayed for the birthday child. And since then, each and every day I have prayed the Holy Rosary.
And over the years, my prayer has increased and increased, until for the last two or more years now, I pray three chaplets a day, including the family Rosary.
And just as I felt on that pilgrimage, where I experienced this incredible prayer for the first time, my heart is softened, day after day as I pray to the Blessed Virgin. I pray very early in the morning, when the world is in slumber and it feels as though the angels and saints are blessing us all as we sleep in our beds.
As I contemplate the mysteries of the lives of Jesus and Mary I see unfathomable depths and feel rich heavenly support. For me, praying the Holy Rosary has become a form of spiritual breathing, without which, I feel unwell.
St. Louis de Montfort, in his little book, The Secret of the Rosary, states:
Through the Holy Rosary, Sinners are forgiven, Souls that thirst are refreshed, Those who are fettered have their bonds broken, Those who weep find happiness, Those who are tempted find peace, The poor find help, Religious are reformed, Those who are ignorant are instructed, The living learn to overcome pride, The dead (the Holy Souls) have their pains eased by suffrages.
He claims that the Holy Rosary has ‘chased away devils, destroyed sin and renewed the world’.
St. Louis wrote so beautifully of this incredible prayer. Some years ago, in a review of his small book, I quoted him, writing:
St. Louis describes the Rosary as a ‘Crown of Roses’ and as ‘The mystical rose tree of Jesus and Mary in life, death and eternity.’
He says that ‘every time people say the Rosary devoutly they place a crown of one hundred and fifty-three red roses and sixteen white roses upon the heads of Jesus and Mary. Being heavenly flowers these roses will never fade or lose their exquisite beauty.’
And he writes that the roses of your rosary will ‘never wilt or die, and they will be just as exquisite thousands of years from now as they are today.’
When I read these words they bring to mind the importance of the Spiritual Bouquets of roses, created by rosaries prayed for specific intentions, such as for the Holy Father or for the consecration of Ireland to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Our rosaries will never be forgotten in the spiritual world. This is such a beautiful and consoling thought – one we must never forget.
There is so much I could write on this most efficacious of prayers, but I will leave you with a deeply touching account from St. Louis de Montfort’s book, where he writes of a young Fransiscan friar, who had a strong devotion to the Holy Rosary. He was once discovered in his room:
Bathed in a heavenly light facing Our Lady who had two angels with her. Beautiful roses kept issuing from his mouth at each Hail Mary; the angels took them one by one, placing them on Our Lady’s head, and she smiling accepted them.
As we leave this month of the Holy Rosary, I urge you to take up your beads and pray.
Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, pray for us.
St. Louis de Montfort, pray for us.