Never will anyone really be able to understand the marvelous riches of sanctification that are contained in the prayers and mysteries of the Holy Rosary. This meditation on the mysteries of the life and death of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the source of the most wonderful fruits for those who use it.
Today people want things that strike and move-that leave deep impressions on the soul. Nor has there ever been anything in the whole history of the world more moving than the wonderful story of the life, death, and glory of Our Savior, which is contained in the Holy Rosary. In the fifteen tableaux the chief scenes or mysteries of His life unfold before our eyes. How could there ever be any prayers more wonderful and sublime than the Lord’s Prayer and the Salutation of the Angel? All our desires and all our needs are found expressed in these two prayers.
The meditation on the mysteries and the prayers of the Rosary is the easiest of all prayers, because the diversity of the virtues of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the different stages of His life which we study refresh and fortify our mind in a wonderful way, and help us to avoid distractions.
For learned people these mysteries are the source of the most profound doctrine. But simple people find in them a means of instruction well within their reach.
We must learn this easy form of meditation before progressing to the highest state of contemplation. This is the view of Saint Thomas Aquinas and the advice that he gives when he says that first of all one must practice on a battlefield, as it were, by acquiring all the virtues which the Holy Rosary gives us to imitate. The learned Cajetan says that this is the way that we reach a really intimate union with God — for without this union contemplation is nothing other than a dangerous illusion which can lead souls astray.
If only the Illuminist and the Quietist heresies of today had followed this piece of advice they would never have fallen so low, nor would they have caused such scandals and upset the devotions of good people. To think that it is possible to say prayers that are finer and more beautiful than the Pater Noster and the Ave Maria is to fall prey to a strange illusion of the devil.
These heavenly prayers are the support, the strength, and the safeguard of our souls — but I must admit that it is not always necessary to say them as vocal prayers. It is quite true that, in a sense, mental prayer is more perfect than vocal prayer. But, believe me, it is dangerous, not to say fatal, to give up saying the Rosary of your own accord under the excuse of seeking a more perfect union with God.
Sometimes a soul that is proud in a subtle way, and who may have done everything that he can do interiorly to rise to the sublime heights of contemplation that the saints have reached, may be deluded by the noon-day devil into giving up his former devotions because he thinks that he has found a greater good. He then looks upon his erstwhile practices as inferior and only fit for ordinary and mediocre souls.
But this kind of soul has deliberately turned a deaf ear to the prayers and salutation taught us by an archangel, and even to the Prayer that God made and taught us, and which He said Himself. “Thus therefore shall you pray: Our Father who art in heaven . . .” (Matt. VI:9.) Having reached this point such a soul drifts from its first illusion into still greater ones, and falls from precipice to precipice.
If you genuinely wish to reach a high level of prayer in all honesty and without falling into the traps that the devil sets for those who pray, say your whole Rosary every day, or at least five decades of it.
If, by the grace of God, you have already reached a high level of prayer, keep up the practice of saying the Holy Rosary, if you wish to remain in that state, and if you hope, through it, to grow in humility. For never will anyone who says his Rosary every day become a formal heretic, or be led astray by the devil. This is a statement that I would gladly sign with my blood.
On the other hand, if Almighty God in His infinite mercy draws you to Him as forcibly as He did some of the saints while saying the Rosary, make yourself passive in His hands, and let yourself be drawn towards Him. Let God work and pray in you, and let Him say your Rosary in His way, and this will be enough for the day.
But if you are still in the state of active contemplation or the usual prayer of quietude — which is to say, that of placing yourself in the presence of God, and loving Him — you have every reason in the world not to give up saying your Rosary. Far from making you lose ground in mental prayer, or stunting your spiritual growth, it will be the most tremendous help to you. You will find that it will be a real Jacob’s ladder with fifteen rungs, and by each one of these you will go from virtue to virtue and from light to light. Thus, without danger of being misled, you will easily come to the fullness of the age of Jesus Christ.
Whatever you do, do not be like a certain pious but self-willed lady in Rome, so often referred to when speaking about the Rosary. She was so devout and so fervent that she put to shame, by her holy life, even the strictest religious in the Church.
Having decided to ask Saint Dominic’s advice about her spiritual life, she asked him to hear her confession. For penance he gave her one whole Rosary to say, and advised her to say it every day. She said that she had no time to say it, excusing herself on the grounds that she made the Stations of Rome (a devotion of visiting stational churches in Rome) every day, that she wore sack-cloth and also a hair shirt, that she gave herself the discipline several times a week, that she carried out so many other penances and fasted so much. Saint Dominic urged her over and over again to take his advice and say the Rosary, but she would not hear of it. She left the confessional, horrified at the tactics of this new spiritual director who had tried so hard to persuade her to take on a devotion that was not at all to her liking.
Later on when she was in prayer she fell into ecstasy, and had a vision of her soul appearing before Our Lord’s Judgment Seat. Saint Michael put all her penances and other prayers onto one balance of the scales, and all her sins and imperfections onto the other. The tray of her good works was greatly outweighed by that of her sins and imperfections.
Filled with terror she cried for mercy, imploring the help of the Blessed Virgin, her gracious Advocate, who took the one and only Rosary that she had said for her penance and dropped it onto the tray of her good works. This one Rosary was so heavy that it weighed more than all her sins, as well as all her good works. Our Lady then reproved her for having refused to follow the counsel of Her servant Dominic, and for not saying the Rosary every day.
As soon as she came to herself, she rushed and threw herself at the feet of Saint Dominic, and told him all that had happened, begged his forgiveness for her disbelief, and promised to say the Rosary faithfully every day. By this means she rose to Christian perfection and finally to the glory of everlasting life.
You who are people of prayer, learn from this how tremendous is the power, the value, and the importance of this devotion of the Most Holy Rosary when it is said together with meditation on the mysteries.
Few saints have reached the same heights of prayer as Saint Mary Magdalene, who was lifted up to heaven each day by angels, and who had had the privilege of learning at the feet of Our Lord Himself and His Blessed Mother. Yet one day when she asked God to show her a sure way of advancing in His love, and of arriving at the height of perfection, He sent Saint Michael the Archangel to tell her, on His behalf, that there was no other way for her to arrive at perfection than to meditate on Our Lord’s Passion. So he placed a cross in the front of her cave, and told her to pray before it, contemplating the Sorrowful Mysteries which she had seen take place with her own eyes.
The example of Saint Francis de Sales, the great spiritual director of his time, should spur you on to join the holy confraternity of the Rosary, since, great saint that he was, he bound himself by oath to say the whole Rosary every single day as long as he lived.
Saint Charles Borromeo said it every day also, and strongly recommended the devotion to his priests and to the ecclesiastics in the seminaries and also to all his people.
Saint Pius V, one of the greatest Popes who ever ruled the Church, said the Rosary every day. Saint Thomas of Villanova, Archbishop of Valence, Saint Ignatius, Saint Francis Xavier, Saint Francis Borgia, Saint Teresa, and Saint Philip Neri, as well as many other great men whom I have not mentioned, were deeply devoted to the Holy Rosary.
Follow their example; your spiritual directors will be pleased, and if they are aware of the benefit that you can derive from this devotion, they will be the very first to urge you to adopt it.
I should like to give you even more reason for embracing this devotion, which so many great souls have practiced. The Rosary, recited with meditation on the mysteries, brings about the following marvelous results:
1. It gradually gives us a perfect knowledge of Jesus Christ;
2. It purifies our souls, washing away sin;
3. It gives us victory over all our enemies;
4. It makes it easy for us to practice virtue;
5. It sets us on fire with love of Our Blessed Lord;
6. It enriches us with graces and merits;
7. It supplies us with what is needed to pay all our debts to God and to our fellowmen, and it obtains all kinds of graces for us from Almighty God.
The knowledge of Jesus Christ is the science of Christians and the science of salvation. Saint Paul says that it surpasses all human sciences in value and perfection. This is true (1) because of the dignity of its object, which is a God-man compared to Whom the whole universe is but a drop of dew or a grain of sand; (2) because of its helpfulness to us — human sciences on the other hand only fill us with the smoke and emptiness of pride; and (3), because of its utter necessity. For no one can possibly be saved without the knowledge of Jesus Christ. And yet a man who knows absolutely nothing of any of the other sciences will be saved as long as he is illumined by the science of Jesus Christ.
Blessed is the Rosary, which gives us this science and knowledge of our Blessed Lord through our meditations on His life, death, passion, and glory.
The Queen of Saba, lost in admiration at Solomon’s wisdom, cried out: “Blessed are thy men and blessed are thy servants who stand before thee always, and hear thy wisdom.” (Kings X: 8. But far happier still are the faithful who carefully meditate on the life, virtues, suffering, and glory of Our Savior, because by this means they can gain the perfect knowledge in which eternal life consists. “This is eternal life.” (John XVII: 3.)
Our Lady revealed to Blessed Alan that no sooner had Saint Dominic begun preaching the Rosary than hardened sinners were touched and wept bitterly over their grievous sins. Young children performed incredible penances, and everywhere that he preached the Holy Rosary such fervor arose that sinners changed their lives and edified everyone by their penances and change of heart.
If by chance your conscience is burdened with sin, take your Rosary and say at least part of it, honoring some of the mysteries of the life, passion, or glory of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and be sure that while you are meditating upon these mysteries and honoring them, He will show His sacred wounds to His Father in heaven. He will plead for you and will obtain for you contrition and the forgiveness of your sins.
One day Our Lord said to Blessed Alan: “If only these poor wretched sinners would say My Rosary, they would share in the merits of My passion, and I would be their Advocate and would appease My Father’s Justice.”
This life is nothing but warfare and a series of temptations. We do not have to contend with enemies of flesh and blood, but with the very powers of hell. What better weapons could we possibly use to combat them than the Prayer that our great Captain taught us, and the Angelic Salutation, which has chased away devils, destroyed sin, and renewed the world? What better weapon could we use than meditation on the life and passion of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? For, as Saint Peter says, it is with this thought we must arm ourselves, in order to defend ourselves against the very same enemies that he conquered, and which molest us every day.
“Ever since the devil was crushed by the humility and passion of Jesus Christ, he has been very nearly unable to attack a soul that is armed with meditation on the mysteries of Our Lord’s life, and, if he does trouble such a soul, he is sure to be shamefully defeated.” (Cardinal Hughes.)
“Put you on the armor of God.” (Eph. VI:ll) So arm yourselves with the arms of God — with the Holy Rosary — and you will crush the devil’s head and will stand firm in the face of all his temptations. This is why even the material Rosary itself is such a terrible thing for the devil, and why the saints have used it to enchain devils and to chase them out of the bodies of people who were possessed. Such happenings are reported in more than one authentic record.
Blessed Alan said that a man he knew of had desperately tried all kinds of devotions to rid himself of the evil spirit who possessed him, but without success. Finally the man thought of wearing his Rosary around his neck, which eased him considerably. He discovered that whenever he took it off the devil tormented him cruelly, so he resolved to wear it night and day. This drove the evil spirit away forever, because he could not bear such a terrible chain. Blessed Alan also testified that he had delivered a large number of people who were possessed by putting the Rosary around their necks.
Father Jean Amat, of the Order of Saint Dominic, was giving a series of Lenten sermons in the Kingdom of Aragon one year, when a young girl was brought to him who was possessed by the devil. After he had exorcised her several times without success, he put his Rosary around her neck. Hardly had he done so when the girl began to scream and yell in a fearful way, shrieking: “Take them off! Take them off! These beads are torturing me!” At last the Father, filled with pity for the girl, took his Rosary off her.
The very next night when Father Amat was in bed, the same devils who had possession of the girl came to him foaming with rage and tried to seize him. But he had his Rosary clasped in his hand, and no efforts of theirs could wrench it from him. He managed to beat them with it very well indeed and chased them away, crying out: “Holy Mary, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, come to my help!”
The next day when he went to the church he met the poor girl-still possessed-and one of the devils within her started to laugh and said in a mocking voice:
“Well, Brother, if you had been without your Rosary, we should have made short shrift of you!” Then the good Father threw his Rosary around the girl’s neck without more ado and said: “By the sacred name of Jesus and that of Mary His Holy Mother, and by the power of the Most Holy Rosary I command you, evil spirits, to leave the body of this girl.” And they were immediately forced to obey, and she was delivered from them.
These stories show the power of the Holy Rosary in overcoming all possible temptations that the evil spirits may bring — and also all kinds of sin — because these blessed beads put devils to rout.
Let us turn, then, to the Holy Rosary in all our needs, and we shall infallibly obtain the graces we ask of God to save our souls.