Friday, October 7th is the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. The Feast commemorates the decisive victory of the Holy League over Muslim forces in the 1571 Battle of Lepanto. The Holy League credited victory, a catastrophic loss for the Muslim forces, to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary since the league had sought her aid through devoutly praying the Rosary. Since the victory was such an overwhelming defeat of anti-Christian forces, Pope Pius V instituted the Feast of Our Lady of Victory. Two years later, Pope Gregory VIII renamed the day the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.
History of the Rosary itself dates to at least three hundred years prior to the Battle of Lepanto. According to legend, while in Prouille, in 1208, St. Dominic, the founder of the Dominican Order of Preachers, received a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary. While desperately seeking the Lord in an attempt to discern why he was having so little success in converting the Albigensian heretics, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Saint Dominic and gave him the Holy Rosary as a tool of spiritual warfare against the heretics. As he and his disciples began devoutly praying the Rosary, the spiritual tides turned and the Dominicans began experiencing victory after victory, conversion after conversion. This, in part, explains why the Holy Rosary is a standard element of the Dominican habit, just as are the white tunic and scapular and black cloak and cappa.
There are a great many Christians throughout the world who insist that the Rosary is a wicked tool of false religion. They insist that it is idolatry and worshipping some false goddess. This is absolutely not true. In fact, praying with the Rosary or meditating with the Rosary is, in a way, praying with the Holy Scriptures.
There are only a few prayers that one needs to pray the Rosary: The Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Hail Mary, and the Glory Be. The Apostles’ Creed is the most basic baptismal creed of the Church. Every believer recites this creed either at their Baptism or Confirmation, and at the renewal of baptismal vows whenever any believer receives these sacraments. Who could raise an objection to the recitation of the Apostles’ Creed in prayer?
In praying the Rosary, one prays the Lord’s Prayer six times. Who can complain about this? Did not Our Lord Himself instruct us saying, “In this manner, therefore, pray:” (St. Matthew 6:9) Who would dare to say that we should not pray using the very words Our Lord told His apostles to use?
The heart of most people’s issue with the Rosary is the use of the Hail Mary, yet this is another prayer that is fully grounded in Holy Scripture. The prayer reads, “Hail, Mary, full of grace. Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed be the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.” Taking the prayer phrase by phrase we see that St. Luke’s Gospel (1:28) gives us the Angelic Salutation of “Hail Mary, full of Grace.” St. Luke again provides the words “Blessed art thou among women and blessed be the fruit of thy womb.” (1:42) St. Elizabeth would not yet have know Our Lord’s name, but we include the Holy Name because “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth.” (Philippians 2:10) The phrase “Holy Mary, Mother of God” comes from the third ecumenical council, the Council of Ephesus in 431. That council affirmed the universal teaching that Jesus Christ is God. Therefore, if Jesus is God and the Blessed Virgin Mary was Jesus’ mother, then, by definition, she was also God’s mother since Jesus is, in fact, God. She was, of course, holy because “holy” means set apart for a specific purpose. Mary’s purpose was unique in all of humanity and clearly she was set apart and, therefore, holy.
Some people raise an issue by saying “why would you ask some dead person to pray for you?” They say, “The only person I need to go to the Father on my behalf is Jesus Himself.” Yet those same people have no qualms against going to a trusted brother or sister and asking them to pray for them. They might say, “I’m sick, brother. Would you pray for me?” or, “My husband is travelling next week. Would you agree with me that God give him travelling mercies?” Who could fault them for asking a brother or sister to stand with them in prayer? In St. Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus responds to a question from the Sadducees saying, “Have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” (St. Matthew 22:31-32) Those who are dead in Christ are alive with the Lord, for He is the God of the living! If you will ask any other brother to pray for you, why not ask a saintly forbearer who has gone before us? Why not ask His holy mother to pray for us? Take note: you are not asking the Blessed Virgin Mary to grant you anything! This prayer is not “Holy Mary, give me what I want,” but rather, “pray for me, a sinner.” Surely, none can object to a Christian calling himself a sinner. St. Paul tells us “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) It is only by Christ’s blood that we are washed white as snow. Without Him, we are miserable sinners. I know that when my time comes I definitely want as many people as I can get praying for me. Again, why not ask Our Lord’s Holy Mother? Remember the wedding at Cana? (St. John 2:1-11)
There is also the prayer “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the Beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.” There are seventeen separate verses in the Book of the Revelation that refer to God receiving glory in heaven. Our Lord Himself declared, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (St. Matthew 28:19) Again, what objection could be raised to ascribing glory to God? Was He not glorified in the beginning? (See St. John 1:1 and Genesis 1:1) Is there some strange rule which would prevent us from glorifying Him today? Will He not be glorified at the end of time? (See The Book of the Revelation.)
Thus, we can see that the prayers that are said in praying (with) the Rosary are not objectionable, but rather are thoroughly Biblically based. Nevertheless, dispelling objections to something is nowhere near the same things are convincing someone that it is a good idea. Later on this week, I will post another article on why praying the Rosary is not only not idolatrous, but why it is a powerful spiritual devotion afterall.