February 28, 2003
The Secret of the Rosary
"When the designated time had come, God sent forth His Son born of a woman." —Galatians 4:4
THE HOLY SPIRIT, THE ROSARY, AND HARD TIMES
As we come closer to the end of the world, the emergence of the antichrist, and the mass apostasy (2 Thes 2:3), we urgently need the Spirit to guide us to the truth of the rosary (see Jn 16:13). The Lord is calling us to rediscover why He gave us the rosary as a form of prayer. After developing for centuries, the rosary was given through Mary to Dominic when he was fighting a losing battle against the Albigensian heresy, which denied that Jesus came in the flesh. This is the spirit of the antichrist (1 Jn 4:2-3). Dominic did not know how to pray as he ought, so the Spirit helped him in his weakness by giving him the rosary (Rm 8:26). And, as Dominic prayed the rosary, an impossible victory was won. We likewise need to claim by prayer a victory which seems impossible.
THE ROSARY, PROPHECY, AND THE BIBLE
Throughout the centuries, Jesus' disciples have asked the Master to teach them to pray (Lk 11:1). Many people have maintained they had received prophecies or revelations from the Spirit about how to pray. Many of these experiences are authentic, and many are not. We must not despise prophecy (1 Thes 5:20), while at the same time we must test the spirit of the prophets (1 Jn 4:1). The revelation of the rosary is possibly one of the most tested in history.
The rosary is of the Spirit because it is Biblical. The "Our Father" and the "Glory Be," as well as half of the "Hail Mary," are straight from the Bible. When we pray the rosary, we are for the most part repeating God's word. The rosary also has a special relationship to the Psalms. The full rosary is 150 "Hail Marys" representing the 150 psalms. Also, the fifteen mysteries that we reflect on during the rosary are either taken from or based on the Scriptures. Because the rosary is a Biblical prayer in thought, history, and word, we have good reason to discern that it is of the Spirit.
THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT (Galatians 5:22-23)
"You can tell a tree by its fruit" (Mt 12:33), and the fruit for those praying the rosary has been exceptional, especially for families. I grew up praying the family rosary nightly, and I can testify that "the family that prays together stays together." The rosary is a means of inestimable blessings for a family. Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II affirm, "There is no doubt that ... the rosary should be considered as one of the best and most efficacious prayers in common that the Christian family is invited to recite" (The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World, #61).
The rosary has also been a way of praying for victory (Lepanto), evangelization (Guadalupe), healing (Lourdes), and peace (Fatima). In effect, the rosary is part of the Spirit renewing the face of the earth.
I had largely given up praying the rosary in my mid-twenties. I thought I was too sophisticated for such a simple prayer. But as soon as I was "renewed in the Spirit," I was inspired by the Spirit to return to praying the rosary. The first time I ever prayed in tongues was during the praying of the rosary. Also, one of the greatest evangelistic explosions I have ever seen began with a rosary march. The rosary in my experience has borne the fruit of the Spirit.
THE SECRET OF THE ROSARY
When I share these experiences, some people are skeptical, because for them the rosary has not been so Spirit-filled. Possibly, they don't know the secret of praying the rosary. They know the wording and order of the prayers, but they may not know how to pray the rosary in the freedom of the Spirit. The rosary is especially for simple, childlike, and creative people. The rosary was originally a poor, illiterate man's way of praying the 150 psalms. He substituted part of Luke 1 for each psalm and in this way prayed the psalms in Spirit, even if he couldn't read. Then he got his hands into the action by carving out some wooden beads, stringing them together, and fingering the beads. Consequently, the rosary is a "hands on" prayer rather than just a "head trip".
But even so, the Spirit did teach those praying the rosary to reflect on "mysteries" from the Scriptures, in addition to repeating verses from the Bible and praying with their hands. However, this was also done creatively in the Spirit. For centuries there were many different mysteries to pray and, even though the mysteries are standardized today, there's no reason why we must limit ourselves to these. We should feel free to pray "new" mysteries.
Furthermore, when we pray individually, we need not always pray ten "Hail Marys" every "decade". We should begin with the "Our Father" and then pray as the Spirit leads. So a "decade" could be five, nine, twelve, or fifteen "Hail Marys." When the Spirit calls us to move on, we should thank the Lord for what He's doing with a concluding "Glory Be" and begin another "decade".
The Lord blesses Spirit-led creativity in praying the rosary. We see this in innovations such as adding the prayer: "O my Jesus, forgive us..." We also see the Lord working through the rosary of Jesus, the Franciscan rosary, the Scriptural rosary, and the rosary in which we add intercessory prayers before each decade or even before each bead. Also there are many chaplets, which are shortened variations of the rosary.
We may be called not only to be creative in how we pray the rosary but also in where we pray. The rosary is a perfect prayer not so much for the church as for the streets. Despite noise and traffic, the rosary is a way to pray together with others. The streets are where the Holy Spirit sent the church. We should be out in "the highways and byways," leading people to Christ (Lk 14:23). We are called to put our faith on the lampstand (Lk 8:16) by publicly witnessing to the truth and waging spiritual warfare against abortion, pornography, perversions, and injustices of all kinds. For example, some of the greatest rosaries I have ever prayed have been before an abortion chamber where I've seen the Lord save babies' lives.
These examples indicate that the Lord blesses us when we pray the rosary in the creative freedom of the Spirit. Openness to the Spirit is the secret to deep and powerful prayer, including praying the rosary.
THE ROSARY, COMMUNICATION, AND LOVE
In conclusion, the purpose of any prayer, including the rosary, is to extend our communication with God so as to grow in His love. We talk to God in our own words but what we want to express is often beyond words. So we look for a way to extend our power to communicate. We sing, clap, shout, and gesture. But still our power to communicate is inadequate to express our love for the Lord. We receive the gift of praying in tongues (1 Cor 12:10), but still we need more. The rosary gives us one more form of communication with the Lord.
Thank You, Holy Spirit, for teaching us to pray, giving us freedom and creativity, extending our power to communicate with the Lord, and revealing to us the secret of the rosary.
Nihil obstat: Reverend Robert L. Hagedorn, March 11, 2002
Imprimatur: † Most Reverend Carl K. Moeddel, Vicar General and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, March 14, 2002