Learning to Live Christ at Mary's School

Author: Ettore Malnati

Learning to Live Christ at Mary's School

Ettore Malnati

Theological-Pastoral Reflection on Rosarium Viorginis Mariae

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 — in general and Catholic in particular — it is important to understand the fulcrum upon which every path and proposal turns.

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 with Christ.5

"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 — and evangelization is among these — one must participate in the same "belonging to God" that is revealed to us in Christ.

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 God".

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 Predecessors — from Pius XI to Paul VI — as 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 millennium.

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 Angelus.

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 — of 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 be confirmed.

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 kairòs: Christ.

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 of Galilee.

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 Visitation.

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 plan?".

"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 — is 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 dimension.

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 and method.

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 us.

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 — the 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 impoverished humanity.

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 personality.

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' — in the normal order of things — to 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 light.37

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 domestic Church.

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 inheritance".38

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 Community.

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 deprived.

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 follow Christ".51

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 contemplation — the Rosary, for example — is 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 meditation-contemplation.53

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 — and 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 humanity.

Familiarity with this prayer — if 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 social life.

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, n. 4.

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.

8Rosarium Virginis Mariae, n. 5.

9Ibid., n. 3.


11Ibid., n. 38.

12 Cf. ibid., n. 42.

13 John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor, n. 73.

14Rosarium Virginis Mariae, n. 40.


16 Cf. ibid., n. 41.

17 Cf. ibid., n. 42.

18 John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptor Hominis, n. 1.

19Ibid., n. 22.

20 Cf. Rosarium Virginis Mariae, n. 14.

21 Cf. ibid., n. 15.

22 Cf. Ecclesia de Eucharistia, n. 14.

23Ibid., n. 16.

24Rosarium Virginis Mariae, n. 14.


26 John Paul II, Angelus, 29 October 1978; L'Osservatore Romano English Edition [ORE], 9 November 1978, p. 2.

27Rosarium Virginis Mariae, n. 25.

28Ibid., 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, n. 28.

32 Cf. Paul VI, Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, n. 19.

33 John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, n. 28.

34 Second Vatican Council, Dignitatis Humanae, n. 6.

35 Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Salvifici Doloris, n. 1.

36Ibid., n. 7.

37 Cf. Rosarium Virginis Mariae, n. 25.

38Rosarium 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, n. 12.

46Ibid., n. 13.

47 Cf. John XXIII, Apostolic Letter Il Rosario per la Giusta Pace delle Nazioni, n. 13.

48Ibid., n. 9.

49Rosarium Virginis Mariae, n. 5.

50Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2705.

51Ibid., n. 2708.

52Rosarium 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.

57Rosarium Virginis Mariae, n. 26.

58 Cf. Ibid., n. 43.


Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
10 March 2004, page 8

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