On Saturday, 25 April 2020, Pope Francis wrote a letter to the world inviting all people to pray a Rosary, either individually or, preferably, as a family, every day during the month of May (the Pope’s letter is included below). May is, of course, traditionally devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Mother. But, in light of the world pandemic that has disrupted our physical, social, economic, and spiritual lives, praying the Rosary can be a special way in which we implore Our Lady to intercede with Jesus for relief from our plight, and to let her help us stay focused on Him during this difficult time.
Many miracles have been attributed to the intercession of Our Lady as a result of praying the Rosary, and I, for one, believe that, considering the messy state the world is in right now, we need a miracle.
Many of you faithful may already pray a Rosary daily. Others may pray it periodically, but, unfortunately, too many don’t pray a Rosary at all. If you are unfamiliar with how to pray a Rosary, there are several resources available. Most parish churches offer a printed guide to praying the Rosary. There are on-line resources and applications, such as the Laudate app, that offer a variety of ways to pray the Rosary.
I suspect there are many reasons people do not pray it regularly, one of which is that they don’t understand the history and efficaciousness of the Rosary. The Rosary has been prayed since the early days of the Church. Over the centuries it has been instrumental in: helping Christian armies win battles when they were seriously outnumbered (e.g. the Battle of Lepanto, 1571, and the Battle of Vienna, 1683); defending against heresies; overturning of Communism in Eastern Europe in the 20th century; and, certainly, many personal miracles and answered prayers.
Another predominant reason many do not pray the Rosary, I believe, is that they think it is boring and repetitive, and they get nothing out of it. I know that was my opinion after I converted and thought I ought to pray the Rosary because that’s what I was supposed to do as a Catholic. I taught myself how to pray it by following step-by-step instructions printed on a trifold flyer that I picked off of a shelf in a church foyer somewhere. But, after praying a Rosary, I usually felt I had just wasted twenty minutes.
I eventually learned that, while praying the Rosary, we are supposed to meditate on the various events, or mysteries, in Christ’s life (e.g. Joyful, Glorious, Sorrowful and Luminous mysteries) by placing ourselves in the company of our Mother and, with her, contemplate the face of her son in the context of those various mysteries as each Hail Mary is recited. Understanding this helped me significantly in my spiritual growth.
A method of praying the Rosary that I find particularly effective is one called a “Scriptural Rosary”. When prayed with this method, a short verse from Scripture is recited before each bead of the Rosary. This method prompts one to reflect on each aspect of the mystery. A scriptural Rosary is available on the Laudate app.
Then I discovered a new “old” way to pray the Rosary. It is the method which Our Blessed Lady made known to St. Dominic in the early 13th century as he was fighting to convert Catholics back to the faith who had fallen to heretical views. Under her inspiration, St. Dominic gathered people together in their homes and shared with them the teachings of Jesus. Then, after each of five short teachings, he recited the Our Father and ten Hail Marys. In this way, St. Dominic, by teaching from the full Deposit of Faith, brought many fallen away Catholics back to the Church. The Holy Family School of Faith offers this method of praying the Rosary as a podcast that you can find here: Daily Rosary Meditation. (Note: be sure to click on the button, “Why do you pray the Rosary that way?”)
In his letter, Pope Francis emphasizes his desire that we pray as a family. Praying as a family brings us into union with one another and amplifies our prayers to Mary who brings them to Jesus. In normal times, “families” might be expanded into “groups” which might include friends and neighbors as well as family. Whether it’s just your family or a larger group who have come together to pray a Rosary, these settings are conducive to building friendship and creating good conversation through which all participants may grow spiritually.
Finally, I realize that there are occasionally non-Catholics (e.g. some of my own family) who read this blog and who do not understand why we have a devotion to the Virgin Mary nor why we invoke her intercession through a Rosary prayer. If any non-Catholic would like to join me in praying a Rosary, I will be happy to lead them through. I encourage you, also, as engaged Catholics to invite your non-Catholic family and friends to pray the Rosary with you.
I pray that you and all the faithful will renew yourselves spiritually during this month of May, especially since so many parishes still will not offer mass due to pandemic restrictions. May we all, in union with each other, grow closer to our Lord, Jesus Christ, through His and our Mother, Mary.
LETTER OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
TO THE FAITHFUL FOR THE MONTH OF MAY 2020
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The month of May is approaching, a time when the People of God express with particular intensity their love and devotion for the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is traditional in this month to pray the Rosary at home within the family. The restrictions of the pandemic have made us come to appreciate all the more this “family” aspect, also from a spiritual point of view.
For this reason, I want to encourage everyone to rediscover the beauty of praying the Rosary at home in the month of May. This can be done either as a group or individually; you can decide according to your own situations, making the most of both opportunities. The key to doing this is always simplicity, and it is easy also on the internet to find good models of prayers to follow.
I am also providing two prayers to Our Lady that you can recite at the end of the Rosary, and that I myself will pray in the month of May, in spiritual union with all of you. I include them with this letter so that they are available to everyone.
Dear brothers and sisters, contemplating the face of Christ with the heart of Mary our Mother will make us even more united as a spiritual family and will help us overcome this time of trial. I keep all of you in my prayers, especially those suffering most greatly, and I ask you, please to pray for me. I thank you, and with great affection I send you my blessing.
Rome, Saint John Lateran, 25 April 2020
Feast of Saint Mark the Evangelist
(Click here to be linked to the Vatican website to read the original letter and the two prayers mentioned.)
(Pope Francis: A Special Call to Pray the Rosary in the Month of May, 2020 was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)
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