From the Ministry of Blessed Alan de la Roche until the Present Day
This is the conclusion of our very brief look at the history of the Rosary, with a few apologetical remarks at the conclusion.
At the end of Part 1, we saw how in the century after St. Dominic, the devotion of the Rosary died out and, in the words of St. Louis de Montfort, became "like a thing buried and forgotten" (The Secret of the Rosary, p. 22).
Blessed Alan de la Roche Rekindles the Rosary
In 1460, however, Blessed Alan de la Roche once again began to preach the Rosary to the people, and inspired lasting fervour and dedication to its practice. This came about when, one day as the Dominican priest was saying Mass, Jesus spoke to him from the Sacred Host, saying, "How can you crucify Me again so soon?" Startled, Blessed Alan asked, "What did You say, Lord?" Our Lord replied, "You crucified Me once before by your sins, and I would willingly be crucified again rather than having My Father offended again by the sins you used to commit. You are crucifying Me again now because you have all the learning and understanding that you need to preach My Mother's Rosary, and you are not doing so. If you only did this you could teach many souls the right path and lead them away from sin--but you are not doing it and so you yourself are guilty of the sins that they commit." Thus, Blessed Alan resolved to preach the Rosary unceasingly.
Our Lady also appeared to Blessed Alan on different occasions, spurring him to greater commitment, and revealing the promises that are recorded in Letting God do the Work. St. Dominic himself also appeared to Blessed Alan, in order to tell him of all the great results of his ministry--of the miracles and conversions and blessings brought about by devotion to the Rosary. He said to Blessed Alan, "See the wonderful results I have had through preaching the Holy Rosary! You and all those who love Our Lady ought to do the same so that, by means of this holy practice of the Rosary, you may draw all people to the real science of the virtues." Thus, from the time of Blessed Alan de la Roche, the Rosary has been a common practice among Catholics of all states and walks of life.
The Battle of Lepanto
Through praying the Rosary, great miracles and benefits have been poured out on people and nations, because, as St. Louis de Montfort tells us, "It would hardly be possible for me to put into words how much Our Lady thinks of the Holy Rosary and of how she vastly prefers it to all other devotions. Neither can I sufficiently express how highly she rewards those who work to preach the devotion, to establish it and spread it." Among the miraculous intercessions brought about through the Rosary, the one that cemented it in the life of the Church was brought about by the Turkish invasion of 1571. Dr. Kevin Orlin Johnson, Ph.D., tells the story in chapter 12 of Why Do Catholics Do That?
In October 1571, Europe faced a hopeless challenge. The Turks, raging out of their newly won empire, had already swarmed through the Middle East, conquering every land they entered, slaughtering millions and forcing the survivors to convert to Islam. Having taken the lands of the Levant, they struck across the sea, taking the crucial islands of Crete and Cyprus. At these seafaring islands, the Turkish galleys gathered, aimed like missiles at the Christian kingdoms of the central Mediterranean, menacing Sicily, Venice, and even Rome herself.Fátima
Pope Pius V Ghislieri called upon the Christian princes of Europe to rally in a great league of defense, a new Cursade to beat back the invincible navy that threatened to overrun the continent and destroy the Church. The King of Spain, the princes and nobles of Italy, and many other monarchs responded and hastily assembled a fleet under commanders of many tongues and nations.
But the Turks had one language, one commander, and one mission. Already skilled in conquest, they far outnumbered the allied forces. There was no way that the Christian fleet looked equal to the challenge. No way on Earth.
Well, Pius V wasn't depending on earthly help alone. He was a Dominican, devoted to Our Lady, and he called upon the Rosary confraternities of Rome and all over Europe to undertake special processions and public recitations of the Rosary to ask for the prayers of the Blessed Mother.
On the first Sunday of October, the Christian fleet met the invading Turks off the coast of Greece, in the Gulf of Lepanto. As Christians all over Europe turned to Our Lady through their Rosaries, the Turks surrounded the Christian ships. But the European fleet broke through. At the end of the day's fighting, almost all of the Turks were driven ashore or drowned. Europe was saved.
Pope Pius ordered an annual commemoration in honour of Our Lady of Victory, and his successor, Gregory XIII, set aside the first Sunday in October as the feast of the Holy Rosary. From that time on, the Rosary has been encouraged, even commanded, by popes, saints, and spiritual leaders. (pp.96-97)
Throughout the centuries, The Blessed Virgin has appeared to different people throughout the world, calling the Church and the world to greater devotion and piety. Many times these messages included warnings about dire consequences soon to come unless the people repented and turned to God. And very often, the primary manner in which repentance was to be demonstrated was through the Rosary. But nowhere is this more evident than in Our Lady's appearance to the three shepherd children of Fátima, Portugal. In 1917, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared on the 13th of every month from May to October to Lucy de Santos and her cousins (except in August, when Mary appeared to her on the 19th, because Lucy had been locked up by the Canton on the 13th as "a disturber of the peace").
Our Lady revealed herself as "The Lady of the Rosary" and told Lucy many things--namely, to pray the Rosary to end World War I, as well as prophesying the advent of World War II, the rise of Communism, and even the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II. While only Lucy could see Our Lady, those with her could see only flashes or haloes of light.
On the final day of her visits, it was pouring rain. Nevertheless, a crowd of about 100,000 people had come out to try and see something. Despite the rain, Lucy instructed the people to put away their umbrellas and to pray the Rosary instead. Our Lady revealed herself accompanied with St. Joseph and the Infant Jesus who blessed the crowds with the Sign of the Cross. Again, only Lucy saw the apparition, but during it, Mary caused the rain to stop and the sun to come out. The crowd did see, however, the sun suddenly shine out, whirl around like a gigantic fire-wheel, and send out streamers of green, red, orange, and purple which lit up the faces of the multitude. Then, gyrating madly, it plunged downward quickly, and then rose again in a zigzag pattern to its original position.
The day before, the editor of Lisbon's biggest daily paper, Avelino de Almeida, had written an editorial discounting the apparitions. Nevertheless, he came out to sceptically observe the proceedings--and he himself witnessed the miracle of the sun. He wrote a long and detailed account of it the next day, describing it as "unique and incredible if one had not been a witness of it."
It was during these apparitions that the Blessed Mary, in instructing Lucy to have the people pray the Rosary as an end to war and for repentance, that Our Mother added another prayer to the litany of Our Fathers, Hail Marys and Glory Bes. Referred to as "The Fatima Prayer," it goes, "O my Jesus, forgive us our sins. Save us from the fires of hell, and lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy." This prayer illustrates that, contrary to what many who do not understand devotion to Our Lady claim, Mary in no way competes with Jesus' Lordship or His gift of Salvation to us, but, on the contrary, cooperates with Him at every step and leads us more and more to Him.
The Contributions of Pope John Paul II
Since the days of St. Dominic until the end of the last century, the Rosary had been divided up into three different sets of mysteries: The Joyful--looking at the events surrounding Christ's life; the Sorrowful--reflecting on His passion and death; and the Glorious--meditating on Christ's resurrection and power in the Church. In 2002, out of his intense devotion to Our Blessed Mother, Pope John Paul II issued an Apostolic Letter titled Rosarium Virginis Mariae, in which he fills in the gap of Christ's life from His birth to His death. Entitling these new mysteries the Luminous Mysteries, the Holy Father called us to meditate on the public ministry of Christ. To further spread devotion to the Rosary, he also consecrated the year from October 2002 to October 2003 as "The Year of the Rosary."
While most people have embraced the new mysteries of Christ's life, some people to whom I have spoken have protested, saying that there was nothing wrong or incomplete about the Rosary to begin with. Others have said that it is not right to change the mysteries--that somehow we are violating Catholic doctrine or some such thing. To these statements I reply that the Rosary isn't a matter of "doctrine" so that's a ridiculous charge from the outset. Furthermore, while the Rosary certainly was complete and effective before the new mysteries, how can one protest against having even more of Christ's life on which to meditate?
The Rosary, as I have shown in these articles, was not a static prayer handed down once for all in an enshrined and inviolable form--but a technique of prayer that has developed and evolved since the beginning of Christianity until the present. From reciting the Psalms to substituting Our Fathers or Hail Marys in their place, to St. Louis de Montfort's own contribution of adding the Glory Be to the end of each decade, and Our Mother's own instruction about the Fátima Prayer, the Rosary has continued to become even more perfect. Even the original mysteries that St. Dominic proclaimed weren't exactly the same as those that we have today. What then is to prevent the completion of the Gospel of the Rosary with the mysteries of Christ's ministry?
Finally, by way of personal testimony, it was meditating on the second of the new mysteries, The Wedding at Cana, that really led me to understand and love Our Lady, and further meditation on that same mystery was the initial inspiration for this forthcoming series of posts on the Rosary, and the following one on Mary herself. Thus the new mysteries are bearing good fruit--and it is by their fruit that you shall know and judge them.
The Superiority of the Rosary
In the first part of our History, we saw how the Rosary initially developed as a sort of "Poor Man's Psalter"--that is, that the monastic practice of reciting 150 Psalms was translated to the recitation of 150 Hail Marys so that the illiterate peasants who wanted to emulate the monks' devotion could do so. From the time of Saint Dominic to the time of Blessed Alan, therefore, the Rosary was most often referred to as "The Psalter of Jesus and Mary". Since this accommodation was made in a time when the normal workaday person could not be expected to read or write, let alone afford to own a Bible of their own and learn the Psalms, I have heard it objected that, in our world today of widespread availability of the Bible and greater levels of literacy, returning to the monastic practice of reciting the Psalms would be preferable to the recitation of Our Fathers and Hail Marys. Protestants have argued this out of a desire to avoid "Mariolatry", while some Catholics have proposed it in order to further "ecumenism."
To this proposal, I would object rather strongly for several reasons: the first being that, since the time of St. Dominic, the Rosary has become a devotion wholly different and separate from the recitation of the Psalms in the selfsame way that, though Christianity originally sprung out of Judaism and traces Her roots there, Christ's Church is an entity and organisation separate and distinct from Her Jewish ancestors. Moreover, the Rosary as such has been confirmed again and again by Our Lord and His Mother as being of principle value for our spiritual life--and has been attested to by many and various miraculous signs.
For the remainder of my objections, I defer once again to the wisdom of St. Louis-Marie de Montfort:
Since simple and uneducated people are not able to say the Psalms of David, the Rosary is held to be just as fruitful fo them as David's Psalter is for others.Finally, I would note that, with the addition of the five new Luminous Mysteries, the Rosary of 200 Hail Marys now surpasses definitively David's Psalter of 150 Psalms.
But the Rosary can be considered to be even more fruitful than the latter for three reasons:1. Firstly, because the Angelic Psalter bears a nobler fruit, that of the Word Incarnate, whereas David's Psalter only prophesies His coming;
2. Secondly, just as the real thing is more important than its prefiguration and as the body is more than its shadow, in the same way the Psalter of Our Lady is greater than David's Psalter which did no more than prefigure it;
3. And thirdly, because Our Lady's Psalter (or the Rosary made up of the Our Father and the Hail Mary) is the direct work of the Most Blessed Trinity and was not made through a human instrument. (The Secret of the Rosary, p. 25)
As we pray Mary's Psalter, the Rosary, and meditate on the Mysteries of the life of Her Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, we are led by her ever deeper into that Life, and receive grace upon grace from God. Let us not neglect or reject this most precious devotion, but rather partake eagerly of its fruits as we honour Our Saviour and His Blessed Mother.
Catholic Answers (http://www.catholic.com) [Source of the online text of Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Letter on the Rosary.]
Grignon, St. Louis-Marie, de Montfort. The Secret of the Rosary. (Rockford, IL: TAN Books and Publishers, Inc., 1991.) [Beyond what was directly cited, this work provided the information for Blessed Alan de la Roche.]
Johnson, Dr. Kevin Orlin, Ph.D. Why Do Catholics Do That?: A Guide to the Teachings and Practices of the Catholic Church. (New York: Ballantine Books, 1994) [As cited, this is the source for the narration of the Battle of Lepanto.]
Sheridan, John D. The Hungry Sheep: Catholic Doctrine Restated Against Contemporary Attacks. (New Rochelle, NY: Arlington-House Publishers, 1974.) [Referenced for the details regarding the Fátima Miracle and Senhor Almeida's comments about it.]
(Category: Catholic Distinctives: Mary, Mother of God.
Catholic Devotions: The Rosary.
The Church: Christian History)