Today is the Feast of the Holy Rosary, Our Lady’s gift to her children. The Rosary is the second best gift that the Queen of Heaven has given to her children. The first best gift is of course, Our Savior Jesus Christ!
THE HOLY ROSARY: Ultimate Liturgy
By Solange Hertz
The Rosary Is Her Gift To Us…Not Even the Pope Can Change That
(Fundamental Reasons Why So Many Faithful Catholics Never Embraced the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary)
There is no mention whatever of the Rosary in the documents of the Second Vatican Council. Not even in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, whose final chapter deals exclusively with our Lady ’s role in the Church. A vague reference in Article 67 to “practices and exercises of devotion towards her” might be assumed to include it, but according to Bishop Rendeiro of Coïmbra, the Bishops who wished to add to the text “the Rosary with meditation on the Mysteries of the life of Christ and the Blessed Virgin” were voted down. Apparently the Council deemed it best to follow the recommendations of the Theological Commission and make no mention of particular devotions, for fear of encouraging manifestations of piety beyond what they termed “the limits of sound and orthodox doctrine.” …
Not for them the beloved adage of the saints, “De Maria numquam satis!” They were solicitous to “painstakingly guard against any word or deed which could lead separated brethren or anyone else into error regarding the true doctrine of the Church.” They would only concede that the Church “has endorsed many forms of piety toward the Mother of God,” forms which “have varied according to the circumstances of time and place and have reflected the diversity of native characteristics and temperament among the faithful.”
In point of fact the Rosary began at the foot of the Cross along with Sacred Heart devotion. When Our Lady appeared to St. Dominic with instructions to propagate the Rosary, she did so for the same reason that our Lord would one day appear to St. Margaret Mary. In neither case was anything new proposed to the faithful, who were merely being recalled to practices known in the Church from the beginning, but which they were in imminent danger of forgetting.
Like the traditional Mass, the traditional Rosary has been suppressed, denigrated and ignored, but never entirely eliminated. Even adaptations like the “Scriptural Rosary” still being promoted has never become really popular. As it became increasingly evident to the Rosary’s devotees that to tamper with it was to tamper with God’s work, the only strategy left to the innovators was to disregard it as much as possible.
All the while conceding that the Rosary’s major components, the Angelic Salutation and the Our Father, figure prominently in the Gospels, its adversaries are wont to deny its authenticity by pointing out that the Rosary itself is nowhere mentioned in Scripture. These cavilers are perhaps best refuted by St. Basil’s famous sermon on “Sacred Tradition as Divine Guide:”
“Of the beliefs and public doctrines entrusted to the care of the Church, there are some which are based on Scriptural teaching, others which we have received handed down in mystery by the tradition of the Apostles ; and in relation to the true religion they both have the same force. Nor is there anyone will contradict them; no one certainly who has the least acquaintance with the established laws of the Church. For were we to attempt to reject the unwritten practices of the Church as being without great importance, we would unknowingly inflict mortal wounds on the Gospel. . . .
“For example . . . who is it that has taught us in writing to sign with the sign of the Cross those who place their trust in Jesus Christ our Lord? . . . The words of the invocation at the Consecration of the Eucharistic Bread and the Chalice of Blessing, which of the saints has left them to us in writing? For we are not content with the words both the Gospel and the Apostles have recorded, but have added some others, both before these and after them, as having great significance to the mystery, and which we have received from unwritten tradition.”
Zealous demythologizers laboring to dismiss the revelation of the Rosary to St. Dominic as pious legend rest their case largely on the absence of any mention of his actually saying the Rosary in contemporary documents. But then, neither do we possess a single one of his sermons, although he founded the Order of Preachers! Leo XIII, the “Pope of the Rosary,” who wrote no less than eleven encyclicals and an apostolic letter on the subject, unequivocally upheld the authenticity of the tradition. In 1891 he declared in Octobri mense that it was by the express “command and counsel” of the heavenly Queen “that the devotion was begun and spread abroad by the Holy Patriarch Dominic as a most powerful weapon against the enemies of the Faith in an epoch not unlike our own, and indeed of great danger to our holy religion.”
Actually Leo XIII was only reaffirming doctrine already defined by Pope St. Pius V. Incredible as it may seem, the vast majority of Catholics are unaware that this same Pope who canonized the Mass for all time in the famous bull “Quo Primum” in 1570 had first canonized the Rosary the year before in the bull “Consueverunt”. Ratifying the tradition relating to St. Dominic and officially entrusting the propagation of the Rosary to his spiritual sons, the document defines once and for all the form in which the Rosary is to be prayed:
“. . . respiciens modum facilem, et omnibus pervium, ac modum pium orandi et precandi Deum, Rosarium seu Psalterium eiusdem B. MARIAE VIRGINIS nuncupatum , quo eadem Beatissima Virgo Salutatione Angelica centies et quinquagesies ad numerum Davidici Psalterii repetita, et Oratione Dominica ad quamlibet decimam cum certis meditationibus totam eiusdem D. N. Jesu Christi vitam demonstrantibus interposita, etc.”
As with the Mass, St. Pius did not concoct or change anything. He merely stated with the full authority of his office what the proper form of the Rosary is, giving obedient testimony to the work of the Holy Ghost, principal author of genuine liturgy. Far from suggesting possible variations or innovations, the Holy See was at pains even then to proscribe spurious forms of the Rosary, as can be seen in its condemnation of the “ Seraphic” Rosary and others like that of the Blessed Trinity and of St. Anne. A new Mass was promulgated by Paul VI after Vatican II, but no Pope has yet presumed to promulgate a new Rosary.[Remnant Editor’s Note: This article appeared in The Remnant many years ago. Since its first appearance, an aged Pope John Paul II was coerced to do the unthinkable: He changed the Rosary, exactly as the alleged Freemason, Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, had lobbied (in vain) Pope Paul VI to do thirty years earlier. Pope John Paul established the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary as an option in his 2002 Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae not long before his death and while suffering greatly the effects of the disease that would ultimately take his life. Fealty to Our Lady, fidelity to her Rosary and even loyalty to a very ill Pope (who was manipulated)—has prevented us here at The Remnant from ever embracing the Luminous Mysteries. We have never used this optional set of mysteries and we never will. We encourage our readers to do the same. … Michael J. Matt]
Its basic form remains what St Pius V laid down in the passage just quoted: 150 Hail Marys in groups of ten with an Our Father in between, joined to meditation on certain mysteries of the life of our Lord…
Modernist opinion to the contrary, the Rosary is no sentimental paraliturgical practice developed by Christian folk over the centuries to keep children, little old ladies and ignorant peasants occupied with a devotion suited to their limited capacities. Whoever would consider it insufficiently “Christological” to rank with the major ecclesiastical devotions need only be reminded that the Hail Mary was the first Christian prayer. Given to the world before the Lord’s Prayer, it contained the latter in embryo much as our Lady bore our Lord. As official announcement of His arrival, the climax of the Hail Mary is not praise of His Mother, but praise of “the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.” Before the close of the thirteenth century the Holy Ghost had inspired the Church to add the Holy Name to the Salutation, thus making the focus on Christ explicit and unmistakable.
Although men contributed to the Rosary’s development, it was not put together by men. Under divine impulsion it grew from the Archangel Gabriel’s greeting to Mary as a living plant from seed. No prayer is so firmly rooted in Apostolic tradition as the Rosary. The Breton Dominican Bl. Alain de la Roche, who after two centuries would revitalize St. Dominic’s work, is said to have learned in prayer that the first promoter of the practice was St. Bartholomew. Perpetuated among the Desert Fathers, it was not unknown to St. Augustine, St. Benedict, St. Bernard, St. Francis, St. Lutgard, St. Christina and many early saints.
The meditations on the fifteen principal mysteries of salvation which accompany the prayers are no modern accretions, but among the Rosary’s most ancient elements. They could not have sprung from the Rosary, for they engendered it. All those who had a hand in forging its mysteries – from Mary and Joseph through St. John the Baptist, Zachary, Elizabeth, on past the ox and ass at Bethlehem to the thief on the cross, Mary Magdalene at Christ’s tomb and those first Christians in the Cenacle at Pentecost – were architects of the Rosary. Piece by piece they put it together by their faith and suffering, and all are present to the soul who contemplates their extraordinary achievement.
Rooted in the injunction to “pray without ceasing” which binds all men, the Rosary provides a method for keeping the whole person – mind, mouth and hands – occupied with God. To call it perfect liturgy is no mere figure of speech, but sober fact. Designed as it was by the Queen of heaven to facilitate prayer for those unable to recite the Divine Office, its 150 Hail Marys were first said in lieu of the 150 Davidic Psalms recited by the monks. What better substitute for meditation on the old Psalms than meditation on the very Mysteries they prefigured? …
So well was the Rosary’s liturgical character understood, that for a long time its recitation actually began with the prayer Aperies as does the Office. Even today it ends with the “Hail Holy Queen,” which is the ancient hymn Salve Regina sung at the Office’s close. Whereas the great Office is the Opus Dei, the work of God, the Rosary may be rightly called the Opusculum Dei, God’s little work, or at least the Opusculum Mariae, the little work of our Lady. In his encyclical on the Rosary Pope Pius XII does not scruple to refer to it as a “rite” to be “performed.”
Its preparation, both natural and supernatural, was long and careful. Counters for keeping track of prayers date from earliest antiquity and are common to many false religions, as witness those “rosaries” which St. Francis Xavier was surprised to find Japanese Buddhists using and the “worry beads” currently used by Moslems. In themselves such devices have no religious significance beyond mute testimony to original sin, which has so weakened human powers of concentration as to render them necessary. It is only through the goodness of our heavenly Mother that the Rosary has become a sacramental. ..
It was St. Dominic’s great privilege, at our Lady’s behest, to raise the systematic repetition of the Angelic Salutation to the level of official prayer. Beginning by inserting it into the Office of Our Lady for clerics, he substituted it for the Office among tertiaries and the laity, and recommended praying sets of fifties to the faithful in general. Inasmuch as these early Hail Marys were probably said on Paternoster beads, the two prayers certainly became joined in various combinations early on, but the Rosary we are familiar with did not take shape until the second half of the fifteenth century.
…Prepared from eternity for its apocalyptic mission, the Rosary from its first appearance on earth seemed always to keep pace with surges of evil. Our Lady had appeared to St. Dominic at the very dawn of that awful spiritual cataclysm so bedecked in natural grace and glamor that we still refer to it as the Renaissance. This “rebirth” unfortunately turned out to be that of the spirit of Babel, which loosed paganism and unregenerate humanism once more over the world. Painting, music, politics, philosophy and all the arts and sciences began following their own head in concerted revolt against Christ their King and Creator.
It was to divert this noxious flood at its headwaters that the faithful had been urged to fling the Angelic Salutation into the teeth of the Cathar heresy. The enthusiastic response constituted a massive declaration of Marian faith, for denial of Mary’s divine Maternity and proscription of prayer to her figured prominently among Cathar errors. Under Dominican direction St. Louis of France and St. Margaret of Hungary became ardent promoters, and the devotion spread throughout Christendom like wildfire. All Europe prayed the Hail Mary by fifties, and She who defeats all heresies granted a decisive victory…
According to the Breviary the Turks were defeated at Lepanto “on the very day on which the Confraternities of the Most Holy Rosary throughout the world were offering up their rosaries, as they had been asked to do.” The Venetian Senate went further, formally declaring, “Non virtus, non arma, non duces, sed Maria Rosarii victores fecit,” attributing their success not to bravery, arms or leadership, but exclusively to the power of Our Lady of the Rosary. A second victory over the Turks was won through her intercession a century later at Vienna, and again in the next century at Belgrade. …
The only devotion to be raised to a liturgical status on a par with that of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, it would eventually be accorded its own feast day on October 7. First inserted into the Roman Martyrology by Clement VII, it was instituted with proper office by Pope Gregory XIII, and later extended to the universal Church by Clement XI. Benedict XIII included the feast in the Breviary, and Leo XIII dedicated the entire month of October to Our Lady of the Holy Rosary. …
Indeed the liturgy of the Church from earliest times has not hesitated to apply to our Lady those beautiful, mysterious texts of Scripture which describe God’s wisdom personified, whom “the Lord possessed from the beginning of His ways, before He made anything, from the beginning. From eternity was I established, and of old before the earth was made.” She is also that “mother of fair love” whose “abode is in the full assembly of the saints.”
Her “overshadowing” by the Holy Ghost which effected our Lord’s Incarnation is the closest approximation in creation to an incarnation of the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity. According to St. Maximilian Kolbe, she “is so closely allied with the Holy Ghost that she is called His spouse. . . She is, so to speak, the personification of the Holy Ghost! Jesus Christ is the Mediator between God and humanity; the Immaculata is the unique mediatrix between Jesus and humanity.
“Just as Jesus Christ, to show His great love for us, became Man, so too the third Person, God-Who-Is-Love, willed to show His mediation as regards the Father and the Son by means of a concrete sign: this sign is the Heart of the Immaculate Virgin! It remains true to say that Mary’s action is the very action of the Holy Ghost. . . Let us grasp how impossible it is to separate the Holy Ghost from Mary the Immaculata, since she is the instrument He uses in all He does in the order of grace.”
As Mother of Christ and His clergy, her position is incomparably superior to that of Christ’s Vicar the Pope, whose infallibility is a privilege related to her Immaculate Conception. The liturgy says of her, “They who work by me shall not sin. They that explain me shall have life everlasting.” St. Louis de Montfort, probably the greatest Marian apostle of modern times, taught that to address her is to address God Himself by the most efficacious means, so closely is she identified with the divinity.
At La Salette when she complained to the children Mélanie and Maximin of the widespread desecration of Sundays, she said, “I have given you six days in which to work. I kept the seventh for myself, and people don’t want to give it to me. This is what makes my Son’s arm so heavy.” Many found this statement shocking. How could she who was so humble say such a thing? Didn’t she mean, “God gave you six days?” At the time the two children were accused of misquoting her, but neither could be induced to change one word of their testimony, then or later. Because some Catholic editors not so scrupulous took it upon themselves to correct the seers in the name of orthodoxy, the bothersome authentic version has since been conveniently forgotten.
The Rosary is the ultimate liturgy. It finds its place as easily in a concentration camp as in church. After the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Sacraments, it is the most powerful weapon ever placed at the disposition of the faithful. Dare we say more powerful? Yes, in the sense that, somewhat like Baptism and Marriage, it does not depend on the clergy – or in fact on any human being. Although not actually a Sacrament, through Mary Mediatrix of All Graces it infallibly opens to us at any time or place the inexhaustible fountain of living water flowing from the Sacred Heart of the Savior.
Were the Mass and the Sacraments to disappear for a time, the miraculous efficacy of the Rosary could not fail to be evident. Pius XII writes, “From the frequent meditation on the Mysteries the soul draws and imperceptibly absorbs the virtues they contain, and lights up with extraordinary hope of the immortal virtues, and becomes strongly and easily impelled to follow the path which Christ himself and His Mother have followed.”
It is possible to pray the Rosary in isolation, but never alone. As an integral part of the liturgy of the Church, it cannot be prayed outside the Communion of Saints. No more powerful “private” prayer exists, for it is the prayer of Christ himself in His Mystical Body. Leo XIII declared in Octobri mense, “We may well believe that the Queen of Heaven herself has granted a special efficacy to this mode of supplication.”
His words would be reaffirmed by Sr. Lucia, the visionary of Fatima, who told Fr. Fuentes, “The Most Holy Virgin in these last times in which we live has given a new efficacy to the recitation of the Rosary, to such an extent that there is no problem, no matter how difficult it is, whether temporal, or above all, spiritual, in the personal life of each one of us, of our families, of the families of the world or of religious communities, or even of the life of peoples and nations that cannot be solved by the Rosary. There is no problem, I tell you, no matter how difficult it is, that we cannot resolve by the prayer of the Rosary! With the Holy Rosary we will save ourselves. We will sanctify ourselves. We will console our Lord and obtain the salvation of many souls.”
To the Italian Salesian Dom Umberto Pasquale she wrote in 1970, “The decadence which exists in the world is without any doubt the consequence of the lack of the spirit of prayer. Foreseeing this disorientation, the Blessed Virgin recommended recitation of the Rosary with such insistence, and since the Rosary is, after the Eucharistic liturgy, the prayer most apt for preserving faith in souls, the devil has unchained his struggle against it . . . The Rosary is the most powerful weapon for defending ourselves on the field of battle.”
She writes in the same year to Mother Martins on how “the devil has succeeded in infiltrating evil under cover of good. . . And the worst is that he has succeeded in leading into error and deceiving souls having a heavy responsibility through the place they occupy. . . They are blind men guiding other blind men!” Against the blunders and injustices committed by legitimate authority, prayer is almost the only recourse open to the ordinary faithful. Let them pray the Rosary day in and day out, over and over. The constant repetition of the prayers and Mysteries, which innovators find monotonous and antiquated, anchors it to the rhythms of God’s creation, where the same sun rises every day and the same seasons return every year.
Where there is no repetition there is chaos, for peace and order in this world cannot exist apart from it. “The recitation of identical formulas repeated so many times,” writes Pius XII, “rather than rendering the prayer sterile and boring, has on the contrary the admirable quality of infusing confidence in him who prays and makes a sweet compulsion toward the Immaculate Heart of Mary.” To one of her priest nephews Sr. Lucy writes, “The repetition of the Ave Maria, Pater Noster and Gloria Patri is the chain that lifts us right up to God and unites us to Him, giving us a participation in His divine life, just as eating bite after bite of bread, from which we nourish ourselves, sustains the natural life is us; nobody calls that outdated!”
Whoever prays the Rosary is formally joined to the prayer of the Church in a most informal way. Proclaiming the everlasting Sanctus with every “Glory be,” the Rosary partakes of the angelic liturgy before the throne of the Lamb eternally immolated in heaven. The persecuted Catholics of Ireland were on sure doctrinal ground when they resorted to the “beads” for a “dry Mass.” As our earthly liturgy continues to disintegrate and the ranks of the priesthood to dwindle, this is good to remember. Older Catholics do in fact remember when it was accepted practice to participate in the Holy Sacrifice by saying the Rosary.
In a letter written to another of her priest nephews, Sr. Lucia referred to this method once known to all:
“It is false to say that this is not liturgical, because the prayers of the Rosary are all part of the sacred liturgy; and if they are not displeasing to God when we recite them as we celebrate the Holy Sacrifice, so also they do not displease Him if we recite them in His presence, when He is exposed for our adoration. . . Why would the prayer which God taught us and so much recommended to us be outdated? It is easy to recognize here the ruse of the devil and his followers, who want to lead souls away from God by leading them away from prayer . . . Do not let yourselves be deceived!”
Much as our Lady had set heaven’s seal on Pius IX’s promulgation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception by appearing at Lourdes in 1858 and proclaiming, “I am the Immaculate Conception,” she would ratify Leo XIII’s teachings on the Rosary by appearing at Fatima in 1917 and proclaiming “I am the Lady of the Rosary.”
There were six apparitions, in all of which she was seen, as at Lourdes, with the Rosary. During the last one on October 13, while the great miracle of the sun was in progress, Sr. Lucia saw three extraordinary tableaux displayed in the heavens: one of the Holy Family, symbolizing the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary; a second one of the Mother of Sorrows, symbolizing the Sorrowful Mysteries; and a third one of our Lady crowned and reigning in glory as Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, symbolizing the Glorious Mysteries.
At Fatima our Lady told her children once and for all, “I want you to continue to say the Rosary every day!” A complete Rosary has fifteen decades, and not only five like the chaplet. Padre Pio is said to have offered a hundred daily. Because it is liturgy placed within the reach of all and enjoined upon all with such insistence by the Mother of God, there is good reason to believe that its recital is not optional in the scheme of salvation. She told Bl Alan, “Know, my son, that a probable and proximate sign of eternal damnation is aversion for, lukewarmness and carelessness in saying the Angelic Salutation which has repaired the whole world!”
As once against the errors of the Cathars, Mary’s children are now being told to fling the Rosary against the “errors of Russia” which are drawing the whole world into Satan’s eternal fiery empire. In 1957 Sr. Lucia told Fr. Fuentes, “The Most Holy Virgin made me understand that we are living in the last times of the world. . . She told me that the devil is in the process of engaging in a decisive battle against the Blessed Virgin, and a decisive battle is the final battle where one side will be victorious and the other side will suffer defeat.”
Foreseeing these times, St. Louis de Montfort called for “true servants of the Blessed Virgin who, like so many St. Dominics, would go everywhere, the burning, blazing brand of the Gospel in their mouths and the Holy Rosary in their hands, barking like dogs, burning like fire, dispelling the world’s darkness like suns, and who, by means of devotion to Mary. . .would crush the head of the ancient serpent wherever they went.”
Damaged perspective is quickly corrected by reference to the Mysteries of the Rosary, which contain the whole of human history in prophecy. For the Church there is no possibility of failure. Faithfully reproducing the life of her blessed Lord on earth as Mary did, she has left the Joyful Mysteries far behind and is already at grips with the Sorrowful ones. Approaching her own crucifixion, she is even now on the Way of the Cross which leads to the Resurrection. Like her divine Master, “who having joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame” (Heb.12:2), she keeps her gaze fixed on the Glorious Mysteries lying ahead.
Conformed to Him in all things, the Church can expect her torment to end like His, abruptly and without warning, leaving the world to marvel as did Pilate, who “wondered that He should already be dead” (Mk. 15:44). Suffering is not natural to man, who was created to share God’s own eternal happiness and glory. The Sacred Heart has promised, “I shall reign in spite of Satan and all opposition!” Revealing her own participation in that promise, His Mother has declared, “In the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph.” In their one Heart is laid up one inevitable, final, resplendent victory.
The above excerpts are from an essay written by Solange Hertz many years ago and reprinted in its entirety in the Remnant Newspaper by Michael Matt as, “The Holy Rosary: Ultimate Liturgy”. It is available online at the Remnant Newspaper . It can also be found in an excellent collection of Mrs. Hertz’s essays, “The Thought of Their Heart”.
By the way, have you seen any videos of Pope Francis devoutly praying the Rosary in public? If so, I would love to hear about it.
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In the meantime,
Pray the Rosary and confound the devil!
† Viva Cristo Rey!
† Immaculate Heart of Mary, Queen of our hearts, Mother of the Church, do thou offer to the Eternal Father the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, for the conversion of poor sinners, especially our Pontiff.
~ by evensong, for love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Vouchsafe that I may praise thee, O Sacred Virgin. Give me strength against thine enemies.