Emmitsburg Council of Churches

The Year of the Rosary and Five New Mysteries
(Part 2)

Father John J. Lombardi 

"Love to pray. Feel often during the day the need for prayer, and take trouble to pray. Prayer enlarges the heart until it is capable of containing God's gift of Himself. Ask and seek and your heart will grow big enough to receive Him." +Mother Teresa

I recall fondly, while in India, praying the Rosary with Mother Teresa's sisters, the Missionaries of Charity, amidst the clamor of busy streets and clammy Bengalese air. The sacred rhythm of the devotion soothed my wearied soul after a long day. Each night we sat and knelt in the main chapel of the Motherhouse, which included a lovely statue of Mary, the Stations of the Cross, and a crucifix, with the words beneath Our Lord's outstretched arms, "I Thirst".

Above the Calcutta streets we would gather before Our Lord in the Eucharist in praying the Rosary followed by holy silence. Many non-Catholics from all over the world would come and pray, or simply sit there- entranced by the deep prayerfulness, and intrigued by the evident holiness-as displayed by Mother Teresa herself (she would sit and kneel on the floor like the other sisters), and their dedication to spiritual love and service to the poorest of the poor…Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist, and Mary thru the Rosary brought such a disparate group of us together!

As the rosary united us there, it can also unite Christians and Catholics anywhere-- when prayed devoutly. This devotion, once lost and neglected, is being rediscovered by many . Pope John Paul has recently published a new Apostolic Letter, "On the Most Holy Rosary," and we continue with excerpts from this, along with comments…

From "mysteries" to the "Mystery": Mary's way

"(the) mysteries do bring to mind what is essential and they awaken in the soul a thirst for a knowledge of Christ continually nourished by the pure source of the Gospel. The Rosary offers the "secret" which leads easily to a profound and inward knowledge of Christ. We might call it Mary's way" (paragraph # 24) ... How can I thirst for more spiritual knowledge thru the Rosary?

Mystery of Christ, mystery of man

" The Rosary helps to open up the way to this light. Following in the path of Christ, in Whom man's path is recapitulated, revealed and redeemed, believers come face to face with the image of the true man" (#24) ... Do I allow the Rosary to reveal myself to me?

The Rosary, a way of assimilating the mystery

"Meditation on the mysteries of Christ is proposed in the Rosary by means of a method designed to assist in their assimilation. It is a method based on repetition. To understand the Rosary, one has to enter into the psychological dynamic proper to love" (#26) ...  A loving method-the Rosary-- can help us to become holy.

A valid method …

"We should not be surprised that our relationship with Christ makes use of a method. God communicates himself to us respecting our human nature and its vital rhythms. Hence, while Christian spirituality is familiar with the most sublime forms of mystical silence in which images, words and gestures are all, so to speak, superseded by an intense and ineffable union with God, it normally engages the whole person in all his complex psychological, physical and relational reality (#27)... The West is now experiencing a renewed demand for meditation, which at times leads to a keen interest in aspects of other religions. In effect, the Rosary is simply a method of contemplation" (#28) ... Meditate means, from the Latin, meditare "to chew over". How can I prayerfully ponder over the mysteries of the Rosary, realizing that some truths and mysteries will only come when deeply engaged within.

Announcing each mystery

"Announcing each mystery, and perhaps even using a suitable icon to portray it, is as it were to open up a scenario on which to focus our attention. The words direct the imagination and the mind towards a particular episode or moment in the life of Christ. They easily draw the mind to a more expansive reflection on the rest of the Gospel, especially when the Rosary is prayed in a setting of prolonged recollection"(#29) ... How can each "mystery-setting" help me to love and follow Jesus more?

Listening to the word of God

"Follow the announcement of the mystery with the proclamation of a related biblical passage---it is not a matter of recalling information but of allowing God to speak (#30)…After the announcement of the mystery and the proclamation of the word, it is fitting to pause and focus one's attention for a suitable period of time on the mystery concerned, before moving into vocal prayer. A discovery of the importance of silence is one of the secrets of practicing contemplation and meditation" (#31) ... How can you embrace silence and meditation more in your life?

The "Our Father"

"After listening to the word and focusing on the mystery, it is natural for the mind to be lifted up towards the Father. Acting as a kind of foundation for the Christological and Marian meditation which unfolds in the repetition of the Hail Mary, the Our Father makes meditation upon the mystery, even when carried out in solitude, an ecclesial experience" (#32) ... The Heavenly Father is the "source" of the Trinity; and He is "loving power and generatively"-how can I honor Him more?

The ten "Hail Mary's"

"When the Hail Mary is properly understood, we come to see clearly that its Marian character is not opposed to its Christological character, but that it actually emphasizes and increases it. The first part of the Hail Mary, drawn from the words spoken to Mary by the Angel Gabriel and by Saint Elizabeth, is a contemplation in adoration of the mystery accomplished in the Virgin of Nazareth. The center of gravity in the Hail Mary, the hinge as it were which joins its two parts, is the name of Jesus" (#33) ... Mary leads us to Jesus, she does not deflect us from Him, just as she brought Jesus to life on Earth!

The "Gloria" and "the Beads"

"Trinitarian doxology is the goal of all Christian contemplation.(#34)…The beads converge upon the Crucifix. Blessed Bartolo Longo saw them also as a "chain" which links us to God. A chain, yes, but a sweet chain" (#36) ... Where is my Rosary? Sacramentals like the Rosary can help us to be reminded of holiness and prayer.

Distribution over time

"According to current practice, Monday and Thursday are dedicated to the "joyful mysteries", Tuesday and Thursday to the "sorrowful mysteries", and Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday to the 'glorious mysteries'. Thursday would then be free for meditating on the 'mysteries of light'. What is really important is that the Rosary should always be seen and experienced as a path of contemplation" (#38) ... Plan to pray the Rosary'-especially in a contemplative way!


"By virtue of its meditative character, with the tranquil succession of Hail Mary's, the Rosary has a peaceful effect on those who pray it, disposing them to receive and experience in their innermost depths, and to spread around them, that true peace which is the special gift of the risen Lord. The family: parents…the family that prays together stays together. The Holy Rosary, by age-old tradition, has shown itself particularly effective as a prayer which brings the family together. …and children: It is also beautiful and fruitful to entrust to this prayer the growth and development of children" (#42) ... Pray the Rosary-do NOT let it fall into oblivion! Make the sacrifices for the time and love to pray it…

Spiritual Suggestions:

  • Buy or secure a Rosary-carry it wherever you go. You may "refer" to it in your pocket throughout the day to remind you of Jesus and Mary's love for you…
  • Begin praying the Rosary by praying lovingly, slowly, contemplatively, one decade a day. Then slow build this up, over a month's time, to two decades and so to the whole Rosary.
  • Pray slowly and devotedly to and thru the Mother of God!

Briefly Noted

The Mass: As you may know the US Bishops have published the Vatican-approved new directives in the Mass regarding: silence (emphasized and increased); extraordinary ministers (to serve appropriately); receiving Holy Communion (bowing prior to reception); music (that it complements, not distracts from the Mass); the priest (that he change nothing on his own and sees himself as "alter christus"-another Christ; kneeling (together at appropriate times); sign of peace (not ostentatiously)…May we all reverently honor God thru the Sacrifice of the Mass!

True story: One person at Mass heard a homily on holy poverty and giving to those in need…In response she gave a beautiful, expensive family heirloom to the Grotto as a sacrificial-gift for our new organ. Out her love and simplicity she helped all of us-- Thank you!

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi