The Rosary remains a prayer “destined to bring forth a harvest of holiness.”
These are the words of Pope St. John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, which celebrates its 15-year anniversary this month (Oct. 16). It is fitting then that we also celebrate the feast of St. John Paul II (Oct. 22) in this “Month of the Rosary.” More fitting still is that this month marks the 100th anniversary of the sixth and final apparition of Fatima (Oct. 13). The Rosarium Virginis Mariae is worth reading more than once. And spending time with this Marian Pope’s reflections might be a perfect way to deepen our filial love this month.
A harvest of holiness. . .to be brought forth.
Several years ago, as a college student, I was praying the Rosary before Mass. An elderly woman came to me after Mass, placed her hand on my wrist and said, “Keep praying the Rosary. Do you know how powerful that prayer is?” I forget how I responded. What counts is that I vividly recall that incident. It was as if I had been innocently playing with a weapon only to have someone quickly alert me to the fact that it’s really a weapon.
Imagine that one day you are praying the Rosary, and Our Lady actually appears to you. She says to you, “I want you to continue saying the Rosary every day.” Would you listen?
At that sixth and final apparition in Fatima, Our Lady said this exact thing. She also revealed, “I am the Lady of the Rosary.” She asked that a chapel be built. She announced that people must amend their lives and ask pardon for their sins. These were her requests. This was her plan for peace.
I remembered what that old lady said to me after Mass. Maybe her name was Mary. What a simple commission! Pray the Rosary every day. Could praying the Rosary actually make such a difference in the world?
Our celebration of Our Lady of the Rosary on October 7th has its roots in an historical event known as the Battle of Lepanto. Pope St. Pius V firmly believed it was due to the prayers of the faithful that the course of the battle was turned. The feast of Our Lady of Victory (later renamed Our Lady of the Rosary) was established to acknowledge this act of Divine Providence. Praying the Rosary made a difference.
Today is no different, and our most recent Saint-Pope calls us to remember this:
The Church has always attributed particular efficacy to this prayer, entrusting to the Rosary, to its choral recitation and to its constant practice, the most difficult problems. At times when Christianity itself seemed under threat, its deliverance was attributed to the power of this prayer, and Our Lady of the Rosary was acclaimed as the one whose intercession brought salvation. Today I willingly entrust to the power of this prayer. . .the cause of peace in the world and the cause of the family.
(Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 39)
These words from 2002 call on us to remember those “times when Christianity itself seemed under threat” and to remember the very real power of this prayer at those times. Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima—herself an example of God’s intervention in time and history—also calls on us to remember these things. Her requests in 1917 can be seen in St. John Paul II’s two prayer intentions. We pray the Rosary for “the cause of peace in the world and the cause of the family.”
Today’s “Battle of Lepanto” seems to involve these two issues. Rising against the powers of Satan, all demonic forces, and our own weakness in sin, we humbly ask our Mother’s intercession before our Father in heaven. . .“bring enduring peace and safeguard the family”. . . “bring forth a harvest of holiness!”
Image: Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P., Our Lady gives the Rosary to St Dominic (used with permission).