The word “rosary” means a garden of roses. Thus in the rosary, all the Our Fathers, Hail Marys, and Glory Bes form a spiritual bouquet that we present to Our Blessed Mother.
Some people, even Catholics, feel uncomfortable praying the rosary. They think that doing so violates Jesus’ prohibition against repetitive prayer (Matthew 6:7). But this is a mistake. When we repeat prayers in the rosary, we are not trying to gain God’s attention by piling words upon words. What we are actually doing is involving our bodies in prayer so that our minds are free to meditate on the mysteries of salvation.
Think of it this way: Suppose you want to have an intimate conversation with a friend, but that your little brother keeps barging into the room, interrupting your talk. If you give your brother something to do (e.g. a coloring book with crayons), he will be so occupied as to stop bothering you. That is what the rosary does. The saying of the prayers, the fingering of the beads, and the movement of our lips occupy the body so as to free the mind for meditation, an intimate conversation with God. Thus it is not necessary to “think about” each Our Father and each Hail Mary. The important thing is to meditate on the holy mysteries of salvation.
What is even more important is that the devil hates the rosary. According to Padre Pio, “The Rosary is the ‘weapon’ for these times.” Not only that, the rosary is a wonderful prayer to say in times of spiritual darkness, when we don’t know how we ought to pray. The times of darkness will come. When they do, it’s nice to have the rosary to hold onto. Learn how to say the rosary now. You never know when it will come in handy.
The First Joyful Mystery- The Annunciation
In this mystery, we recall how the angel Gabriel visited Our Lady. Tradition tells us that Mary may have been only about 15 years old at the time. The angel asks her if she would consent to be the mother of Jesus. She replies: “I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say.” If you stop and think, Mary’s sinlessness makes her “yes” quite remarkable. Sin always limits our freedom. Because the blessed Virgin was free from all original and personal sin, her consent to be the mother of Our Lord was totally free–free from selfish motives. Mary’s “yes” sprang from pure love, love for God and love for us. How free am I to say “yes” to God?
The Second Joyful Mystery- The Visitation
Let us recall Our Lady’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth as described in Saint Luke’s Gospel. Mother Teresa calls the Annunciation “Our Lady’s First Holy Communion Day.” What did Mary do as soon as she had conceived the Christchild? She went out and helped her cousin Elizabeth with all sorts of tasks. Does my reception of Holy Communion prompt me to charity toward my neighbor?
In Luke 1:43, Saint Elizabeth calls Mary “the mother of my Lord.” Here “my Lord” refers to Jesus. If Jesus is truly God, then it certainly follows that Mary herself can be called the Mother of God. Catholics have done this for centuries.
If you have trouble calling Mary “the Mother of God,” consider this: When we emphasize the fact that Mary is “the Mother of God,” we underscore Jesus’ divinity. When, on the other hand, we emphasize the fact that Mary is “the Mother of God,” we underscore Christ’s humanity. Thus, in honoring Mary as “the Mother of God,” we say more about her Son Jesus than we do about Mary herself. We affirm that Jesus Christ is true God and true Man.
The Third Joyful Mystery- The Nativity of Our Lord
Here we consider Jesus’ humble birth in Bethlehem. What does this mystery teach us? The Church Fathers speculated that the devil wanted to destroy the newborn Christchild. But Satan looked for Jesus in all the wrong places–among royalty, in the most splendid palaces. Never did the Evil One guess that Christ would be born in poverty and laid in a manger. Christ’s birth, then, teaches us the value of humility and of being poor in spirit. Am I a humble person, seeking the glory of God rather than my own reputation? Am I poor in spirit, realizing that everything I have belongs to Christ?
But the Incarnation (the mystery of God become Man) teaches us an even deeper truth. The fact that “the Word became flesh” in order to save us (John 1:14) reminds us that there is something sacred about human nature. Now that God has become one of us, human nature has assumed a dignity it never had before. Do I treat my own body as something sacred? Do I treat other human beings as images of the Incarnate Christ?
The Fourth Joyful Mystery- The Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple
This mystery tells us something about obedience, about suffering, and about thanksgiving.
In bringing the Christchild to the Temple, Mary and Joseph are obedient to the Law of Moses. True freedom does not mean doing what we want. Rather, it comes from freely doing the will of God. Am I obedient to the will of God?
The aged Simeon predicts that a sword of suffering will pierce the sinless heart of the Virgin Mary. Thus we know, as Pope John Paul II teaches (Salvifici doloris), that suffering is not always a punishment for sin. Suffering seems to be an essential part of human existence. Also, Christ did not come to take away our suffering, but to redeem it, enabling it to bear fruit for the Kingdom of God. Do I carry my cross instead of complaining about it? Do I make use of the suffering that comes my way?
The prophetess Anna gives thanks when she is at last able to see the Infant Jesus. Thanksgiving is a key to joy. For those who are grateful, all the way to Heaven is Heaven. As the priest says at Mass, “It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God.” Is my life characterized by gratitude?
The Fifth Joyful Mystery- The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple
Saint Therese of Lisieux sees into the profound depths of this mystery. She writes: “O Mary…in Jerusalem a bitter sadness comes to flood your heart like a vast ocean. For three days, Jesus hides from your tenderness….Mother, your sweet Child wants you to be the example of the soul searching for Him in the night of faith.” Am I persistent in seeking Jesus in times of doubt and darkness? Do I look for Him in all the wrong places? Or do I realize that, even when He hides Himself from me, He always lingers in the temple of my soul?
Meditation before the Hail Holy Queen
In the year 1013, there was born a man who later came to be known as Herimannus Contractus, or Herman the Lame. He was educated in the monastery of Reichenau, where he eventually took religious vows. He proved to be one of the greatest intellectuals of the Middle Ages. He wrote on a whole host of subjects, including mathematics, botany, astronomy, and chromography. Yet, as Father Benedict Groeschel says, Herimannus Contractus “had spina bifida, cerebral palsy, and a cleft palate so severe that he could not be understood.” As if all these crosses were not enough, Herimannus eventually went blind. But in his blindness, what did he do? He wrote prayers, antiphons and hymns. Many people believe it was he who wrote most of the hymn we know as the Salve Regina, i.e. the Hail Holy Queen: “Hail Holy Queen! Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope!….” How ready am I to sing the praises of God? Am I a fair-weather Christian? Or can I find it within myself to praise God even when times are difficult?