7 October 2008. Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary
Galatians 1, 13-24; Psalm 139; Luke 10, 38-42
As we celebrate the memorial of our Lady of the Rosary, allow me to talk about the rosary personally. If you were to ask me why I pray the rosary, I would probably answer you this way.
First, the rosary reminds me of the history of my faith. It was like St. Paul in the first reading who narrated the history of his conversion. You see, my family was not the very pious type; with members belonging to one or more religious organizations. My father was not particularly a devotee; it was my mother who convinced him to pray and to attend mass regularly. He was one of those dads you see outside of the church during the homily. My brothers and sisters were members of choirs. But we were not raised up doing long novenas and reciting chants in latin. But if there was one thing I remembered about my family’s love affair with God, it was the daily night rosary led by my mom. Every night, the whole household stopped for prayer. No matter who dozed off (usually it was me and my Dad), it did not matter. The practice continues until today. The rosary was the staple personal prayer of the whole family.
Second, the rosary was the stuff of our grade school and high school faith-life. We remembered the living rosaries we held every October. A large part of the recitation of the rosary was mechanical: repeated Hail Marys and Our Fathers, and the mindless blurting out of the Three Mysteries (it was still the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious during my adolescent life). But if there were things I learned about the repetitions it was these: I memorized some parts of Scripture. The Hail Mary is taken from Luke 1, 28 from the words of the Angel Gabriel and from Luke 1, 42 from the lips of Elizabeth, the cousin of Mary; the Our Father is in Luke 11 and Matthew 6). Moreover, the Glory Be is a prayer to the Trinity. And more importantly, I memorized the Life of Christ. Memorize all of the Mysteries of the Rosary, and you basically know the life of Christ. This is not far from history. During the Middle Ages, education was a privilege of the monks. A large number of the populace were uneducated. In order for them to know snippets of the Word of God, the monks taught them the Hail Mary, the Angelus, the Pater Noster (Our Father). The first part of the Hail Mary was succeeded by different petitions which eventually led to the 2nd verse of the oral prayer. The rosary was an educational or a catechetical tool.
Third, the rosary led me to appreciate the life of Jesus. I prayed the rosary more often during travels. Admittedly, it was a good way to while away time. Often it could get me to sleep. But what I like the most about the rosary was its flexibility. There were many ways of praying it. You could go through all of the mysteries, or you can pray just one decade and meditate on a particular aspect of the life of Christ, or you pray it so that you know that the last thought you had before you sleep was God. It was good to sleep in the embrace of God.
If I were to pattern my life to Christ today, I must meditate on His life repeatedly. There is one thing that we have to make clear: we do not worship Mary — we worship only the Blessed Trinity. But we give Mary the highest honor. In many of Mary’s icons, each gesture mean something. One of the gestures we see about Mary is that she points to the Child in her arms. She tells us that the proper way of Marian devotions should lead us to love Christ. It is not an accident that we call the rosary, a devotion. Devotions increases our love, loyalty and enthusiasm for a person, an activity or a cause. This time, the devotions should increase our love for Mary’s Son.
Finally, if asked why the rosary is a repetition, well it is about real life. There is a pervading culture that loves change. Anything that is repeated is boring. But look again. Many new things comes from repetition. A scientific discovery traces its source from repeated experimentation. An additional idea comes from repetitious studies. An improvement in our skills comes from discipline. A deepening of love comes from consistent repetition of both the words, “I love you” and various ways of love expressions: the everyday meal our mother prepares for us, the daily text messages, the regular dates and celebrations are all repetitions. Change does not happen unless something is repeatedly done. If one would like to love Jesus, then repeat and repeat and repeat His life. You just don’t form a habit, you actually become the habit. Pray the life of Jesus, and eventually you become like Jesus. This is the rosary to me and my family. And this is why I still pray it until today.