Each year on the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary on October 7, I recall my childhood days in which praying the rosary was part of my everyday prayer practice. I can remember the beautiful white pearl rosary my grandmother sent me for my First Communion Day and always carrying it in my little white purse on Sunday. I can remember leading a decade of the rosary at various school assemblies. My favorite memory was praying the rosary with a classmate’s family after supper. I was so impressed that this family of twelve gathered faithfully every night to pray the rosary together that I ran home afterwards to ask my mother if our family of nine could do the same. I really don’t remember what she said exactly, but I remember that she let me lead the rosary one Sunday afternoon. I guess I gave up on the idea since so many of my brothers and sisters were too young at that time to know what the prayerful event was all about. I remember seeing my father praying the rosary during Mass. My mother prayed the rosary at novenas and wakes. She told me once she prayed it in bed at night, but she may have only made it through one or two decades. One of my sisters remembers my mother saying the rosary with her when our grandmother died. One of my brothers prayed it when he was a cross guard for children crossing the street on their way to school.
The memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary was instituted to honor Mary for the Christian victory over the Turks at Lepanto on October 7, 1571. Pope St. Pius V and all Christians had prayed the rosary for victory. The rosary is often described as the Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and considered one of the best prayers to Mary, the Mother of God.
Pope Benedict XVI invited all families to pray the rosary for the intentions of the Pope, the mission of the Church, and peace. In his words “It is as if every year Our Lady invited us to rediscover the beauty of this prayer, so simple and profound… a contemplative and Christocentric prayer, inseparable from the meditation of Sacred Scripture.”
Pope St. John Paul II, in his Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae on October 16, 2002, shared the following on the prayerful aspects of the Rosary:
The Rosary, though clearly Marian in character, is at heart a Christocentric prayer. In the sobriety of its elements, it has all the depth of the Gospel message in its entirety, of which it can be said to be a compendium. It is an echo of the prayer of Mary, her perennial Magnificat for the work of the redemptive Incarnation which began in her virginal womb. With the Rosary, the Christian people sit at the school of Mary and are led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love. Through the Rosary the faithful receive abundant grace, as though from the very hands of the Mother of the Redeemer. The Rosary has accompanied me in moments of joy and in moments of difficulty. Against the background of the words Ave Maria, the principal events of the life of Jesus Christ pass before the eyes of the soul. To recite the Rosary is nothing other than to contemplate with Mary the face of Christ.
Although praying the rosary is not part of my daily prayer rhythm, I will often decide to pray it for certain catastrophic events in the world such as conditions that threaten world peace, victims affected by severe weather, racial and economic injustices, and many other events that turn my heart to sorrow. During the current turmoil of the pandemic, I have prayed it quite frequently. Whether I am attentive to every word I pray or not, I know that it is a time of sacred silence. Just being in the presence of God and Mary, I know that my prayers are heard.
Throughout the years, I have always been edified by Sisters who were faithful to praying the rosary. I have seen Sisters sitting quietly in the Chapel praying the rosary or walking to the cemetery with their rosary in their hands. I have seen Sisters pray the rosary with a Sister during her last hours. And during a tornado warning, a Sister will always invite us to pray the rosary together.
As Benedictines, our communal prayer is the Liturgy of the Hours and the Eucharist. Time is spent daily in private prayer, whether it be meditating on Sacred Scripture, Centering Prayer, praying the rosary, sitting in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, or walking our beautiful grounds admiring the gifts of God’s creation. Whether our prayer is communal or private, we are united with and pray for the world’s needs.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will host a virtual rosary event on October 7, 2020, on the occasion of the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary. Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the USCCB, has called for this moment of prayer with the intention of uniting Catholics across the country at this time when there is much unrest and uncertainty. Archbishop Gomez has invited several bishops, representing the various geographical regions of the United States, to pray a part of the rosary and it will premiere on the USCCB’s YouTube channel and Facebook page on Wednesday, October 7 at 3:00 PM ET (12:00 PM PT).
By Sister Priscilla Cohen, OSB