Thursday, October 7, 2010

Crown Of Roses

From 1999 to 2001 I was the Director of Religious Education at the Spiritus Sanctus Academies in Ann Arbor Michigan. At that time the schools had a weekly letter called the Monday Mailer that went home to each family. I wrote a short essay/article each week for that letter. Here is an excerpt of one of those articles.

October 7- Feast of the Queen of the Holy Rosary

Crown of Roses
Fulton Sheen, in his book titled “The World’s First Love”, tells a story of the early Christian martyrs. As the young virgins marched into the Colosseum to face certain death, they wore festive robes and crowns of roses on their heads. They were dressed “to meet the King of Kings in Whose name they would die.” At night, the faithful still living would creep back into the Colosseum and collect the roses, saying their prayers as they went, one for each rose. At the same time, far away in Egypt, hermits counted their prayers on pebbles. These spiritual bouquets developed into what became known as the rosary, which means “crown of roses”.

The prayers said on the rosary have not always been the same. The Eastern Church had a practice of repeating invocations to the Blessed Mother while meditating on the life of Christ. In the West, St. Brigid of Ireland meditated on the life of Christ using a rosary made up of the Our Father and the Hail Mary. Around the 1200’s, St. Dominic received a command from the Blessed Mother to preach and popularize this devotion.

The 150 prayers said in today’s rosary came from the practice of reciting the 150 Psalms of David. At a time when books were scarce and many people unable to read, the recitation of the Psalms was largely impossible for the average lay person. So, the Hail Mary and Our Father were substituted. Eventually, the 150 Hail Mary’s were split into fifteen decades separated by an Our Father and the Doxology (the Glory Be). These prayers come almost entirely from the Scriptures, with the exception of the end of the Hail Mary: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.” This was added in the Middle Ages when the Black Plague was sweeping Europe and many faced what appeared to be the “hour of their death”. The prayer commonly said after the Glory Be was added in 1917 when the Blessed Mother appeared in Fatima. Because of the great decline in morals, Mary asked that we intensify our prayers for sinners. So we added: “O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of your mercy”

The Rosary is unique since it is both a mental and vocal prayer. As we say the Hail Mary’s and Our Father’s, we are meditating on the life of Christ. It is as if we think the prayers, rather than say them. The Rosary is also a multi-sensory prayer, best said aloud and with the rosary beads. While the lips move and the fingers touch the beads the heart and mind dwell on the beauty of the life of Jesus Christ and His Mother.

The Rosary is a devotion that is found throughout the Universal Church. It is one of the few devotions mentioned in the Catechism more than once (CCC #971, 1674, 2678, 2708). With the exception of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, it is perhaps the most important devotion in the life of a Catholic.

I know many of our families have made the Rosary a regular part of their family devotions. This month, many more of our families are making a commitment to pray the Rosary as a family. These families have seen the fruits in their lives from this effort. Please consider incorporating this powerful prayer into your family’s devotional life. Remember, also, to pray for each other to grow in love of Christ through devotion to His Blessed Mother.


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