The Importance of the Rosary
In the latter part of the nineteenth century an upper-middle-class peasant was sitting in a train opposite a young university student. The student observed the man praying the Rosary, with the beads moving through his fingers.
"Sir, do you still believe in such old-fashioned things?" asked the student.
"Why yes, I do. Don't you?" replied the man.
The student burst out laughing, saying "I do not believe in such absurdities. Take it from me. You should throw the Rosary out and learn what science has to say about it."
"Science? What do you mean by this science? Could you explain it?" asked the man, as some tears betrayed his hurt feelings.
The student saw that he had offended the man, so he offered, "If you give me your address I will send you some information on the matter."
The man reached awkwardly in his coat pocket and produced his card. When the young man read the card he fell silent and hung his head. The card read, "Louis Pasteur, Director of the Institute of Scientific Research, Paris."
One is never too learned to pick up the beads and reflect on the mysteries of our faith. Carlo Carretto addressed the modern man, "You have become too intellectual, too cunning. By now you have become more followers of Descartes than [children of Mary]. It is not wrong to be dominated by reason in all that pertains to the visible. It is wrong to pretend to understand the mysteries of God or to pierce the invisible with that instrument. After so many centuries you always return to the same point: confusing reason with faith, wanting to use something limited-such as human reason-to penetrate heaven" (The God Who Comes, p. 216, 217).
St. Francis de Sales, the brilliant bishop of Geneva prayed the entire fifteen mysteries of the Rosary every day from the age of nineteen. Bishop Sheen, another brilliant leader of the Church, prayed it daily and wrote enthusiastically about this prayer, "The Rosary is the meeting ground of the uneducated and the learned; the place where simple love grows in knowledge and where the knowing mind grows in love...The Rosary is the book of the blind, where they see, and there enact the greatest drama of love the world has ever known; it is the book of the simple which initiates them into mysteries and knowledge more satisfying than the education of other men; it is the book of the aged, whose eyes close on the shadow of this world, and open on the substance of the next. The power of the rosary is beyond description" (The World's First Love, p. 188, 189).
The Rosary is never a "rote" prayer for those who say it properly. There is always a new way of meditating on a mystery, a new insight to be found, a further understanding of its rich message. Richard Baumann, a German Lutheran minister put it this way: "In saying the rosary, truth sinks into the subconscious like a slow and heavy downpour. The hammered sentences of the gospel receive an indelible validity for precisely the little ones, the least, to whom belongs the Kingdom of Heaven...The Rosary is a long and persevering gaze, a meditation, a quieting of the spirit in the praise of God, the value of which we Protestants are learning once more."
Meditation on the mysteries is, of course, essential. Pope Paul VI wrote "Without [contemplation on the mysteries] the Rosary is a body without a soul, and its recitation is in danger of becoming a mechanical repetition of formulas" (Marialis cultis, n. 47)
Pope Benedict XV said, "The Rosary is a perfect prayer because of the praises it offers, the lessons it teaches, the graces it obtains, and the virtues it achieves. Pope John Paul II called the Rosary "my favorite prayer." He recommended that families pray the Rosary together. Small wonder that those couples praying the daily Rosary together have a divorce rate of one in 500. In 1980 Pope John Paul II had this to say at Fatima: "Would you like me to tell you a secret? It is simple, and after all, it is no secret. Pray, pray much. Pray the Rosary every day."
Mary said at Fatima in July 1917, "Continue to say five decades of the Rosary every day in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary to obtain the peace of the world..." Is world peace worth fifteen minutes a day to you?