The Rosary as Survival Manual

As our moral environment becomes more challenging, Catholics shouldn’t be caught flat-footed. John Paul II said that in Christianity: “Our spirit is set in one direction, the only direction for our intellect, will and heart is towards Christ our Redeemer, towards Christ, the Redeemer of man. We wish to look towards him-because there is salvation in no one else but him, the Son of God-repeating what Peter said: ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life’”

To develop Christ as the focus of mind and heart in the face of so many contrary ideas we need various tools, both to keep our focus on Christ and to stiffen our resolve as we bear the cost of that focus. Praying the Rosary frequently does both.

As you know, in the Rosary we ponder the different events in Jesus’ life from the Joyful Mysteries to the Glorious Mysteries. But why focus on Christ? John Paul II says that “through all levels of . . . self-awareness, and through all the fields of activity in which the Church expresses, finds and confirms herself, we must constantly aim at him ‘who is the head’, ‘through whom are all things and through whom we exist’, who is both ‘the way, and the truth’ and ‘the resurrection and the life’, seeing whom, we see the Father, and who had to go away from us that is, by his death on the Cross and then by his Ascension into heaven – in order that the Counselor should come to us and should keep coming to us as the Spirit of truth.”

This is how we become beacons of clarity in a world living in a moral fog.

The Rosary’s two main prayers are the Hail Mary and the Our Father. The Hail Mary captures the words of her cousin Elizabeth when she met the pregnant Mary. In this prayer, we ask Mary to intercede for us. We do this because as John Paul II explained: “the Blessed Virgin Mary continues to ‘go before’ the People of God. Her exceptional pilgrimage of faith represents a constant point of reference for the Church, for individuals and for communities, for peoples and nations and, in a sense, for all humanity. It is indeed difficult to encompass and measure its range.”

She accompanies her son and helps us to do the same.

Mary can help us to truly appreciate what the mysteries of Jesus’ life mean. His is the perfect human life and so it becomes the foundation of our perfection as human beings. The Second Vatican Council explained that: “All men are called to this union with Christ, who is the light of the world, from whom we go forth, through whom we live, and toward whom our whole life strains.”(LG 3)

In fact in the same document, we read: “Christ Jesus, since he wills to continue his witness and service also through the laity, vivifies them in this Spirit and increasingly urges them on to every good and perfect work.” (LG 34)

This is how a life in Christ unfolds day by day. In some form or other, we live through all of the mysteries of his life. However we constantly need to be reminded that Christ is more real than the attractions and distractions around us. As the threats and the darkness gather, Christ is with us, the Christ of the Rosary and not the Christ concocted by some modern politician or theologian.

Then we also pray the Our Father. When John Paul II wrote about the divine Father, he considered Him as the Father of Mercies. Part of John Paul’s study consists of a reflection on the Parable of the Prodigal Son in which Christ’s image of the Divine Father begins to unfold.

It is the Father who gives us the “dignity as a son in his father’s house.” (Yes “son” but that is a whole story on its own.) This dignity comes from living out the will of the Father as Jesus does. We pray “thy will be done” every time we pray the Our Father.

The mention of the Father opens a whole world of meaning for us. In John Paul II’s words: “The conduct of the father in the parable and his whole behavior, which manifests his internal attitude, enables us to rediscover the individual threads of the Old Testament vision of mercy in a synthesis which is totally new, full of simplicity and depth.”

So pronouncing the words of the Our Father leads us to the glorious father of the parable where: “The father of the prodigal son is faithful to his fatherhood, faithful to the love that he had always lavished on his son.”(John Paul II) And we are all his adopted sons in Christ.

Pope John Paul II prayed the rosary several times a day and now Pope Francis does the same. They both might be considered to have reasonably busy lives. Surely we can do no less, and in these times, especially with our families.