Theological-Pastoral Reflection on Rosarium
The key to reading John Paul II's Apostolic
Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae is revealed in the sixth chapter of
his most recent Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia. Here he
presents the need to place every journey or "school" of interior life,
including devotion to the Blessed Virgin, under the light of what is
central to the Christian mystery:1 the redemptive act of
Christ, anticipated in the Last Supper, brought to fulfilment on Golgotha
and sacramentally represented in every Eucharistic Celebration.2
For a correct initiation and pedagogy involving the entire journey of
Christian spiritual tradition
general and Catholic in particular
is important to understand the fulcrum upon which every path and proposal
The heart of Christian worship is Christ,3 the only Saviour
of humanity and of the whole person,4 encountered
experientially and ordinarily through the journeying reality of the
Church, who proclaims and lives Christ's gestures of liberation: she is
incorporated into his mystery by way of the sacraments.
Contemplation and imitation of Mary necessarily lead us to conformity
"The Church's reflection today on the mystery of Christ and on her own
nature has led her to find", Paul VI affirmed, "at the root of the former
and as a culmination of the latter the same figure of a Woman: the Virgin
Mary, the Mother of Christ and the Mother of the Church. And the increased
knowledge of Mary's mission has become joyful veneration of her and
adoring respect for the wise plan of God, who has placed within his Family
(the Church), as in every home, the figure of a Woman, who in a hidden
manner and in a spirit of service watches over that Family 'and carefully
looks after it until the glorious day of the Lord'".6
This is the theological and pastoral mens (understanding) which
must move the Christian people at the school of the Virgin of Nazareth to
be at every moment in history a blessed sign of contradiction, and in that
way to offer man the way of arriving at his true and total realization,
which means to "open wide the doors to Christ".7
To be a constant evangelizing presence every disciple of Christ must
keep sight of his own purpose, ontologically linked to Baptism, and thus
live and proclaim to all (cf. Mt 28:19) the mystery of Christ, offering
the pathway of the economy of salvation of which the Church is a living
experience. To fulfil the works of God
evangelization is among these
must participate in the same "belonging to God" that is revealed to us in
Prayer is that unique "opportunity" which becomes a tool of reflection,
communion and contemplation of the mystery, stirring up in believers that
determination which strengthens their will and heart to act "according to
The Rosary is one of the simple yet effective methods of simple
contemplation of the Christian mystery; in its repetitiveness, typical of
the "prayer of the pilgrim", it can become a "genuine school of prayer".8
In the Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, John Paul II
emphasizes how this prayer was also recommended by his 20th-century
from Pius XI to Paul VI
a "contemplation with Mary of the face of Christ",9 and states
his intention to proclaim "the year from October 2002 to October 2003 the
Year of the Rosary"10 at the beginning of the new Christian
It is thus important to gather and present the following themes which
are contained in this magisterial document:
1. Sanctification of time;
2. Christocentricity of the Rosary;
3. Anthropology of the Rosary;
4. Ecclesiology of the Rosary;
5. The Rosary: contemplative prayer.
Sanctification of time
The rhythm of time in the regions of the Alps and in little villages is
characterized by the sound of church bells, which seemingly "protect" and
"keep watch" over scattered homes nestled between rugged slopes. Evening
shadows seem almost "driven away" by the bells for the Rosary or the
Not long ago, this was the reminder for rural mountain people to leave
their homes and close the day in God's house, the "new Jerusalem", with
the prayer of the Rosary, sanctifying the fatigue and the joys of those
who "earn their bread by the sweat of their brow".
The same methodology behind reciting the Rosary
improved down the centuries
distributing the mysteries throughout the days of the week, springs from
the desire to give to the passing of days "a certain spiritual 'colour'",
affirms John Paul II, "by analogy with the way in which the Liturgy
colours the different seasons of the liturgical year".11
By introducing the so-called "mysteries of light", this dimension of
the sanctification of a moment in the history of man where the Word of God
Incarnate acted as Master and Perfecter of the Old Alliance, forming the
new People of God by welcoming the proclamation of the Kingdom, seems to
Time is the great and fundamental gift that man has for himself in
relation to all he wishes to be and do. It is in time, used according to
certain criteria, that man finds well-being or misery, peace or war, a
life of virtue or of vice, an eternity in the joy of God or in existential
ruin. If, according to certain popular wisdom, "time is money", according
to Christian wisdom, time is and must be an experience of God.
Following the example of Mary, the woman of silence and of the
freely-given "yes" at the Annunciation, the Rosary calls Christians to
insert themselves into history so that their kronos becomes kairςs:
To sanctify time is to give back to God his primacy through the
edification of that koinonia of which every disciple of Christ is a
forebear, regardless of difficulties great or small.
In the "mystery of the Visitation" (cf. Lk 1:39-56), the Rosary reminds
Christians of the primacy of charity with communion as its fruit,12
for without charity they are not distinguished as disciples of the Rabbi
Mary, without explaining to her promised spouse the adventure to which
God had called her and leaving Nazareth to fulfil a ministry of
"consolation", was herself consoled by the words the Evangelist transmits
to us: "Blessed is she who believed". This is the spirituality of the
The community of believers must insert themselves in history to
continue hearing and intuiting this "other logic", without which the human
family finds it difficult to walk the paths of justice, peace and
solidarity. These involve not only various persons or entire communities
but the whole man by means of a hierarchy of values which gives to the
"moral life... an essential 'teleological' character, since it consists in
the deliberate ordering of human acts to God, the supreme good and
ultimate end (telos) of man".13
The sanctification of time also includes those areas where man lives
and works, in society and the family.
Precisely in relation to the social reality regarding the duty to be
builders of peace, John Paul II invites the entire Catholic family to be
persons of "peaceful action". The Rosary generates this peace in the
depths of "the person who prays" by means of its meditative nature. It
disposes believers "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 (cf. Jn 14:27; 20:21)".14
John Paul II continues by saying that the Rosary is also a prayer of
peace for the fruits of charity which it, produces "when prayed well and
in a truly meditative way..., and so cannot fail to draw attention to the
face of Christ in others, especially in the most afflicted. How could one
possibly contemplate the mystery of the Child of Bethlehem, in the joyful
mysteries, without experiencing the desire to welcome, defend and promote
life, and to shoulder the burdens of suffering children all over the
world? How could one possibly follow in the footsteps of Christ the
Revealer, in the mysteries of light, without resolving to bear witness to
his 'Beatitudes' in daily life? And how could one contemplate Christ
carrying the Cross and Christ Crucified, without feeling the need to act
as a 'Simon of Cyrene' for our brothers and sisters weighed down by grief
or crushed by despair? Finally, how could one possibly gaze upon the glory
of the Risen Christ or of Mary Queen of Heaven, without yearning to make
this world more beautiful, more just, more closely conformed to God's
"In a word, by focusing our eyes on Christ, the Rosary also makes us
peacemakers in the world".15
In relation to the family, we can say that not long ago, more than any
other prayer, the Rosary was the prayer of our families. Today in certain
situations and places it still remains such.
John Paul II exhorts parents to sanctify the time that concerns the
life itself of conjugal love16 and the education of their
children, through this experience to be lived out together with them.17
I cannot help remembering the great impression made upon young school
and university students with whom I was gathered during summer camp in Val
Badia, to see seated together in the lounge one evening an entire family
parents with their three older children
reciting the Rosary.
The sanctification of time is a responsibility that must and can be
assumed by each one of us. Choosing with true humility to pray within the
family or in certain circumstances, even in the workplace, becomes on its
own a protection and promotion of the most noble values that we must
perceive as possible to live in ordinary, daily life.
This is first on the list of that concrete and efficacious
evangelization to which individual Christians and the Christian community
are called to be witnesses.
Christocentricity of the Rosary
If there exists a prayer outside the Liturgy that offers an adequate
and rich presentation of the stages of Christ's mystery, from the
Incarnation to his glorious Ascension, not to mention his public life
(mysteries of light) and his act of Redemption on the Cross, it is the
prayer of the Rosary.
The presence of Mary in the various mysteries makes sense and receives
light from the life of Christ.
The Rosary's intrinsic Christology is a clear and popular compendium of
what Christian dogma received from the Councils of Nicea and Chalcedon.
The divinity of the Son of Mary; the true humanity of the Son of God;
his mission to restore our humanity weakened by the sin of Adam; the
redemption offered to every person on condition that they welcome it and
let themselves partake in the Christian itinerary; the Resurrection as the
"other logic" that Christ received from the Father because he did his will
"unto death, even death on a cross" (Phil 2:8): these are the
Christological "symbols" or the regula fidei which the Rosary
re-proposes to each believer and to the Christian people as that spiritual
"ruminatio" of the mystery of Christ, the Saviour and Redeemer.
The theme that determines the theological and pastoral thought of the
entire Pontificate of John Paul II
evident from his first Encyclical
precisely the work of Christ the Redeemer.
At the beginning of his Petrine ministry, the Holy Father wrote: "The
Redeemer of man, Jesus Christ, is the centre of the universe and of
history. To him go my thoughts and my heart in this solemn moment".18
"...I thereby wish to enter and penetrate into the deepest rhythm of
the Church's life. Indeed, if the Church lives her life, she does so
because she draws it from Christ... [we need] to turn to Christ, who is
Lord of the Church and Lord of man's history on account of the mystery of
the Redemption, [for] we believe that nobody else can bring us as Mary can
into the divine and human dimension of this mystery. Nobody has been
brought into it by God himself as Mary has".19
As we read again these profound convictions expressed and nourished
throughout these 25 years of his Petrine ministry, the Apostolic Letter
Rosarium Virginis Mariae, wherein John Paul II calls the Rosary the
"instrument" to learn Christ20 and be conformed to Christ with
Mary, seems an obvious consequence.21
Moreover, Ecclesia de Eucharistia expresses the same belief and
need to bring man to Christ, presenting in particular an in-depth
understanding of his Paschal mystery, not merely as an event to be
remembered but as a sacramental reality to be lived,22
especially in that "intimate union" which the Eucharist offers us.23
The Rosary offers the opportunity, in all its depth, for an almost
mystical teaching sui generis to accompany the Christian to "intus
legere" the saving work of Christ, including the eschatological
If the reformed theologian Karl Barth rightly affirms that Christianity
does not exist without eschatology, we stress the fact, with all the more
reason, that the Rosary reminds us to consider the aspect of hope that
Christology offers to an anthropology in search of meaning, in its content
The Rosary, apart from recalling the announcement of the Christian
kerygma as an extraordinary event planned by God for the salvation of
those who believe (cf. I Cor 1:21), continually offers those called the
opportunity to be in every occasion, "convenient or inconvenient" (II Tim
4:2), listeners and imitators of Christ; this means historicizing the
kerygma by which the Lord as object and subject of the Annunciation saves
The Rosary's Christology is essentially experiential: it gives wonder
to the mystery of Christ and leads Christians to assume the duty of
evangelization, providing the authentic reason for their mission of
proclamation and witness as precisely Christ and belief in him as he
entered the world to save sinners (cf. I Tim 1:15) and offer us a new
vision, both in time and eternity. "Learning to be conformed to Christ"
becomes important for every baptized person, lay faithful and ordained
ministers alike. The Rosary offers us a guide and an "older sister" in
this indispensable adventure: Mary, Mother of Christ and of the Church.
John Paul II points out the reasons for choosing this path, affirming
that "the Spirit is the interior teacher who leads us to the full truth of
Christ (cf. Jn 14:26; 15:26; 16:13). But among creatures no one knows
Christ better than Mary; no one can introduce us to a profound knowledge
of his mystery better than his Mother.
"The first of the 'signs' worked by Jesus
changing of water into wine at the marriage in Cana
clearly presents Mary in the guise of a teacher, as she urges the servants
to do what Jesus commands (cf. Jn 2:5)".
"...Contemplating the scenes of the Rosary in union with Mary is a
means of learning from her to 'read' Christ, to discover his secrets and
to understand his message".24
This prayer provides something else: conformity to Christ like branches
grafted to the vine (cf. Jn 15:5). This gift, of course, comes
specifically from Baptism, but it must be continually enriched through an
inner understanding which the Rosary in its Christocentricity also fosters
in the will of Christians, directing them to "have this mind among
yourselves, which was in Jesus Christ" (Phil 2:5).
"In this process of being conformed to Christ in the Rosary, we entrust
ourselves in a special way to the maternal care of the Blessed Virgin...
perfect icon of the motherhood of the Church".25
True devotion to Mary, according to Paul VI, lies in the desire to
imitate her as a diligent disciple of Christ, where she becomes an
exemplar for following him and a help for believers.
Anthropology of the Rosary
After stating that the Rosary is his "favourite prayer"26
and that he is a "lover" of it, John Paul II affirms that "each mystery of
the Rosary, carefully meditated, sheds light on the mystery of man".27
Indeed, emphasizing the Christocentricity of this prayer and placing it
in the light of the entire soteriological question which the Christian
proclamation offers, reveals that in Christ the human person discovers the
roots of an anthropology of hope and of full self-realization.
"The Rosary helps us to open up to this light",26 offering
the believer a "humble wisdom" from the various stages of Jesus' life.
This allows man, thanks to the mystery of Christ, to carry out the role
entrusted to him by the Creator (cf. Gn 1:28): considering this image and
likeness for the entire universe, dwelling within the dimension of an
Through the mysteries of the Annunciation and the Visitation, the
responsibility to welcome life and respect the process of growth until
birth and beyond is made clear "because man is the only creature on earth
that God has 'wished for himself' (Gaudium et Spes, n. 24), and the
spiritual soul of each man is 'immediately created by God' (cf. Paul VI,
Professio Fidei, 1968); his whole being bears the image of the
Creator. Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves 'the
creative action of God', and it remains forever in a special relationship
with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from
its beginning until its end: no one can, in any circumstance, claim for
himself the right to destroy directly an innocent human being".29
One of the missions the Christian must carry out within a culture that
has made promiscuity its ethical criterion is precisely that of assisting
the culture to reflect upon the sacredness of life and to teach respect
for the dignity of the unborn. But to do all one can to enlighten society
implies an abdication that includes a grave responsibility.
If, as John Paul II affirms, the way for the Church is man30
in all his dimensions, it is necessary to use this component to make the
culture of life grow and to eliminate the culture of death.
"We find ourselves not only 'faced with' but necessarily 'in the midst
of' this conflict: we are all involved and we all share in it, with the
inescapable responsibility of choosing to be unconditionally pro-life".31
As revealed in the mystery of the Nativity, each person born enriches
all of humanity and belongs to it. What would society be if no place
existed for selfless attitudes of sharing and welcome?
In the Gospels, Bethlehem is the place where solidarity appears as a
sign of contradiction which allows one to "see" the Lord's presence,
however impoverished the situation may be.
The criterion of solidarity permits a concrete trust between persons,
soothing the grave discomfort of inequality between those who, in the ups
and downs of life, are separated economically, socially and morally.
Workers in the socio-political field must also never lose sight of the
criterion of solidarity, which for a Christian is an expression of both
charity and justice; it is an issue of knowing how to give witness through
educating all, including the young generations, to the difference between
having and being32 in the formation of one's
It is crucial to teach that "evil does not consist in 'having' as such,
but in possessing without regard for the quality and the ordered hierarchy
of the goods one has. Quality and hierarchy arise from the subordination
of goods and their availability to man's 'being' and his true vocation".33
In the sorrowful mysteries, especially in Jesus' condemnation to death
because his message agitated the "peace" of an unprepared Sanhedrin, we
see that confronting this new proposal of faith pertains not only to that
time but also allows us to consider the importance the right to religious
freedom has today.
In the Declaration Dignitatis Humanae, the Second Vatican
Council recalls that this duty is for "every civil authority... [who must]
undertake to safeguard the religious freedom of all the citizens... it
must help to create conditions favourable to the fostering of religious
life so that the citizens will be really in a position to exercise their
religious rights and fulfil their religious duties and so that society
itself 'may enjoy the benefits of justice and peace, which result from
man's faithfulness to God and his holy will".34
As Christians, this necessitates our duty to welcome others and to be
missionaries in the style of Christ, who was a witness of the Father and
Redeemer of the world, a true friend of humanity.
The question of religious freedom also implies the duty of
interreligious dialogue and the ecumenical journey involving all
Christians in the continual search for truth in charity. This dialogue
presupposes accepting the Second Vatican Council's plan regarding the
hierarchy of truth which becomes a tension towards a communion with Christ
as its end and the Holy Spirit as its divine soul. This cannot be built.
on a sterile irenicism which mortifies the truth that Christ wanted to
place as a "torment" in the soul of the Roman Procurator Pontius Pilate
(cf. Jn 18:38).
The drama of suffering also finds a place in the sorrowful mysteries of
the Rosary, drawing sense and strength from the motivation given to it by
the new man, Christ Jesus.
Without denying the impoverishment that suffering inflicts on people,
Christian anthropology offers humanity the salvific meaning35
of suffering, spiritually and morally, to the point of realizing the
conviction of the Apostle Paul: "In my flesh I complete what is lacking in
Christ's afflictions" (Col 1:24).
Often, however, suffering provokes questions on the essence of evil,
which seems inseparable from it. "The Christian response to [suffering] is
different, for example, from the one given by certain cultural and
religious traditions which hold that existence is an evil.... Christianity
proclaims the essential good of existence and the good of that which
exists.... Man suffers on account of evil, which is a certain lack,
limitation or distortion of good. We could say that man suffers because of
a good in which he does not share... or of which he has deprived himself.
He particularly suffers when he 'ought'
the normal order of things
have a share in this good, and does not have it. Thus, in the Christian
view, the reality of suffering is explained through evil, which always, in
some way, refers to a good".36
All this can be logically reasoned if Christ is contemplated as is
possible in the Rosary, where we can see the mystery of man in its true
Ecclesiology of the Rosary
In its ancient and new methodology the Rosary particularly highlights a
coming together in order to listen, praise and seek a mission of
ecclesiological witness: that is, prayer offered specifically by the
John Paul affirms this ecclesiological choice of the Rosary, noting
that it has always been "a prayer of and for the family. At one time this
prayer was particularly dear to Christian families, and it certainly
brought them closer together. It is important not to lose this precious
Communion and unity are one of the recognized Church characteristics.
Concern for protecting and promoting communion means concretely striving
to build and defend it; this must be the work of every Ecclesial
John Paul II is even able to maintain with certainty that "the family
that prays together stays together",39 and points to the Rosary
as the "prayer which brings the family together. Individual family
members, in turning their eyes towards Jesus, also regain the ability to
look one another in the eye, to communicate, to show solidarity, to
forgive one another and to see their covenant of love renewed in the
Spirit of God".40
Married couples thus exercise a ministry of "first-hand transmission"
resulting from the gift of faith, one for the other, which becomes
reciprocal contemplation of the Incarnation of that Christ-like gesture
which is the Lord's love for his Church. This must be made visible in
their life as a couple and is made a sacramental presence in history.
In today's crisis of indissolubility of love between husband and wife,
recalling and fulfilling this ecclesiological experience by means of the
prayerful moment of contemplation of the profound analogy between Mary's
Fiat in reply to the angel and the believer's Amen when
receiving the Body of the Lord,41 means offering the
opportunity of an almost sacramental representation of the "yes"
pronounced in front of the Lord's altar the day on which the sacrament of
Matrimony is instituted. Aside from making the two one body, marriage has
made them a domestic Church, a true presence of Christ's Mystical Body.
A concrete spirituality of Matrimony must include an experience of
prayer by the family and in the family. The Church is constructed, thanks
to listening to the Word and welcoming the Kerygma, so that Christ's
mystery is the object and subject of proclamation.
The Rosary thus brings the Christian kerygma once more to the
reflection of those who live it seriously as an experience of prayer,
welcomed so that it enlightens the will of believers to adhere constantly
to Christ's mission.
John Paul II did not hesitate to call the Rosary the compendium of the
Gospel in a dimension that leads to convergence "upon the Crucifix, which
both opens and closes the unfolding sequence of prayer. The life and
prayer of believers is centred upon Christ. Everything begins from him,
everything leads towards him, everything, through him, in the Holy Spirit,
attains to the Father" .42
The Paschal gift of forgiveness that the Church must celebrate and live
sacramentally and ministerially is emphasized by John Paul II in the light
of Christian asceticism as something the Rosary can offer43
those who reflectively pray it. Forgiveness implies asking and giving it
before presenting one's offering (cf. Mt 5:23-24) during the most
important event of the ecclesiological dimension: the celebration of
Eucharist." This experience cannot be separated from its identity, which
makes us members of the one People of God, his Church.
Although geographically dispersed throughout the cosmos, we share
Christ's sentiments and are his Mystical Body offered for the salvation of
the world, thanks to our living faith. It is a salvation already acquired
for us by Christ on Calvary and that will continue on in history, thanks
to the faith of those who place their hope in him.
To live a moment of listening, praise, contemplation and supplication
in the family by praying the Rosary means to use and offer the wonder of
this salvation, sensing the need to be evangelizers for all of this Good
News: that Jesus of Nazareth was put to death, God raised him
from the dead, and of this we are his witnesses (cf. Acts 3:15).
The Rosary: contemplative prayer
Christian prayer contains many "expressions", all aimed to gradually
put liturgical prayer in the first place while at the same time not
disregarding devotional prayer: vocal, mental, community or personal.
In placing the Liturgy as the summit of Christian prayer, the Second
Vatican Council stresses that the spiritual life is not limited solely to
the Liturgy,45 and exhorts Christians to also make use of pious
exercises conformed to the law and norms of the Church.46
The Rosary is particularly important among all these exercises, and is
a prayer which BI. John XXIII said includes "the pure and luminous
contemplation of each mystery; that is, that truth of faith that speaks to
us of the redemptive mission of Jesus"47 and is situated as an
"exercise of Christian devotion for Latin-rite faithful... for priests,
following the Holy Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours, and for the laity,
after participation in the sacraments".48
Therefore, it becomes part of a method for acquiring or deepening the
spirit of prayer of which even the life of the Christian cannot be
The Rosary is, in a nutshell, the way to pray according to Catholic
devotion. It is vocal prayer; it is mental prayer, alone or with the
community. But this characteristic, evident from experience, must never be
deprived of its characteristic moments of meditation according to the
repetitive style of the pilgrim.
In this sense, the Rosary is "a most effective means of fostering among
the faithful that commitment to the contemplation of the Christian
mystery... as a genuine 'training in holiness'".49
Today, more than ever, if one wishes to be a "leaven of truth" amid the
complex realities of a post-modern society with all its conflicts and
"boasting certainties", one cannot renounce that "city asceticism", fruit
of reflective and interior prayer: namely, meditation.
In defining "meditation", the Catechism of the Catholic Church
emphasizes that it is "above all a quest. The mind seeks to understand the
why and how of the Christian life in order to adhere and respond to what
the Lord is asking".50
"Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion and desire. This
mobilization of faculties is necessary in order to deepen our convictions
of faith, prompt the conversion of our heart and strengthen our will to
The sources of Christian meditation are the mysteries of Christ, of
which the Rosary offers us a valid and extensive itinerary; and this
includes John Paul II's new "mysteries of light", which present Christ
"during the years of his public life, when he proclaims the Gospel of the
Kingdom"52 and calls all to faith and conversion.
Vocal repetition of the Incarnation as announced to the Virgin of
Nazareth by the Angel of the Lord (cf. Lk 1:28-42) and the entrustment in
faith of the People of God to the one chosen by the Almighty, are aspects
that remind the faithful of the beginning of the Son of God's presence in
history. This reminder frees the mind of distractions and focuses one on
the threshold of the mystery, giving glory to the Trinity.
In the frenetic pace of today's world, an experience of meditation and
Rosary, for example
not only important, but necessary. Entering into ourselves and
interpreting our response to God's project in the footsteps of Christ the
Lord, is the necessary condition that enables the Christian to live that
serenity which becomes strength for accomplishing one's mission and a
model of Christian example for others. Today's demand for a new
evangelization through specific and efficacious initiatives highlights the
Christian's need for an interior life guaranteed by
The zealous and incisive activity of St Bernard of Chiaravalle, the
most contemplative and active person of his time, can be interpreted in
this light. One of his contemporaries wrote of him: "In Bernard,
contemplation and action blended in such a way that he seemed at one and
the same time focused on exterior works and completely absorbed in the
presence and love of God".54
The Rosary's method of contemplation, based on repetition, is seemingly
"characteristic and poor"; and yet, as John Paul II affirms, it is by its
nature a method designed to assist in the assimilation of the mysteries.55
It is an experience that continually calls us back to the mystery of
Christ or of entrustment to Mary "because she believed", and thus presents
us to the Father, having listened to the voice of the Spirit. And all this
so that the Church, Christ's Mystical Body, remains an intercessory
presence joined to the Father, for the needs and problems of man and
humanity as a whole.
The Rosary therefore leads Christians to deeper trust,56
cultivating the need to allow themselves to be "conformed ever more
completely to Christ, the true programme of the Christian life".57
John Paul II concludes his Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae
by offering to each person and to the Catholic Christian community the
opportunity to rediscover the prayer of the Rosary.
Besides addressing ordained ministers and pastoral agents in their
different ministries so that they might zealously promote the Rosary,58
he urges theologians to exercise wise and rigorous reflection in order to
help Christians to discover the Biblical foundations, spiritual riches and
pastoral value of this traditional prayer.59
Personal experience shows that the Rosary is a treasure to maintain and
promote, both in life's varied moments
joyful, luminous, sorrowful and glorious
especially in daily living.
God's Word is certainly efficacious by its nature, but it will be
fruitful in man's heart only if he is willing to welcome it. The
theological, ecclesial and anthropological aspects of the mysteries of the
Rosary will inspire wonder in believers who become familiar with this
prayer, introducing them to the "simple contemplation of the pilgrim". It
calls upon Christ to take advantage of his infinite divine mercy,
awakening in believers the desire for Christian perfection in unison with
their capacity and vocation.
The Rosary is also an opportunity to build adult devotion to the Virgin
Mary within the People of God, the privileged way to lead believers to
trust and to entrust themselves to the mystery of Christ, Saviour of
Familiarity with this prayer
lived in important spiritual moments such as those of pilgrimages
where space is filled by this "continuous" and "poor" repetition of the
angel's announcement and the Church's entrustment to the Mother of God,
allows us to truly savour the importance and the brevity of our experience
as wayfarers. It points out to us that the more our lives are reborn
according to ultimate realities, the more our historical existence will be
directed towards the humanization of every aspect of our personal and
May the prayer of the Rosary in community serve as the occasion to
rediscover the communal dimension of the faith and to realize that there
is a reciprocal human need to make visible the greatness God works in
those who "listen to and carry out" the Word.
"Blessed are you, Mary, because you believed" (cf. Lk 1:45).
1 Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de
Eucharistia, n. 54.
2 Cf. ibid., n. 15.
3 Cf. Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus,
4 Cf. Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, n. 22.
5 Cf. John Paul Il, Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis
Mariae, n. 15.
6 Marialis Cultus, Introduction.
7 John Paul II, Discourse at Beginning of Pontificate,
16 October 1978.
8 Rosarium Virginis Mariae, n. 5.
9 Ibid., n. 3.
11 Ibid., n. 38.
12 Cf. ibid., n. 42.
13 John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor,
14 Rosarium Virginis Mariae, n. 40.
16 Cf. ibid., n. 41.
17 Cf. ibid., n. 42.
18 John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptor Hominis,
19 Ibid., n. 22.
20 Cf. Rosarium Virginis Mariae, n. 14.
21 Cf. ibid., n. 15.
22 Cf. Ecclesia de Eucharistia, n. 14.
23 Ibid., n. 16.
24 Rosarium Virginis Mariae, n. 14.
26 John Paul II, Angelus, 29 October 1978;
L'Osservatore Romano English Edition [ORE], 9 November 1978, p.
27 Rosarium Virginis Mariae, n. 25.
28 Ibid., n. 28.
29 Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Donum
Vitae, 1987, Introduction, n. 5.
30 Cf. Redemptor Hominis, n. 14.
31 John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae,
32 Cf. Paul VI, Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio,
33 John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo Rei
Socialis, n. 28.
34 Second Vatican Council, Dignitatis Humanae, n.
35 Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Salvifici Doloris,
36 Ibid., n. 7.
37 Cf. Rosarium Virginis Mariae, n. 25.
38 Rosarium Virginis Mariae, n. 41.
41 Cf. Ecclesia de Eucharistia, n. 55.
42 Rosarium Virginis Mariae, n. 36.
43 Cf. ibid., n. 41.
44 Cf. Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, n. 3.
45 Cf. Second Vatican Council, Sacrosanctum Concilium,
46 Ibid., n. 13.
47 Cf. John XXIII, Apostolic Letter Il Rosario per la
Giusta Pace delle Nazioni, n. 13.
48 Ibid., n. 9.
49 Rosarium Virginis Mariae, n. 5.
50 Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2705.
51 Ibid., n. 2708.
52 Rosarium Virginis Mariae, n. 21.
53 Cf. G.B. Chautard, L'Anima di Ogni Apostolato, ed.
Pauline, Rome, 1969, p. 86 ff.
54 G.B. Goffredo, La Vita di S. Bernardo [The Life
of St Bernard], I, c.V, 3.
55 Cf. Rosarium Virginis Mariae, n. 26.
56 Cf. John XXIII, Il Rosario per la Giusta Pace delle
Nazioni, n. 15.
57 Rosarium Virginis Mariae, n. 26.
58 Cf. Ibid., n. 43.