First Saturday of October: The Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Today, we celebrate the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Where and when the Rosary began is unknown. The use of beads as an aid in prayer has a long history both in the Catholic Church and in other religions. The chain of beads establishes a framework, a setting, a pace for the prayer, and the repetition provides a background for meditation.
Even though the origin of the Rosary is unknown, it is undeniable that its popularity grew significantly through the preaching of Saint Dominic, who died in 1221. Dominic encouraged the Rosary as a remedy to heresy. The meditation on the mysteries developed a foundation of the truths of the faith. This saint also saw the prayer as an antidote to sin. As Dominic and his followers preached throughout Europe, they encouraged the laity to regularly pray the Rosary.
Many popes have also encouraged this devotion. One notable example comes from the reign of Pope Pius V (1566–1572). At that time the Turkish Muslims were actively seeking to conquer Christian Europe and were having significant success in their endeavors. Europe was in real peril.
Pope Pius V asked all the faithful to pray and ask for Mary’s intercession that the Turkish threat would be halted. In particular, Pius encouraged the praying of the Rosary. In the famous Battle of Lepanto on October 7, 1571, the Christian forces defeated the Turkish fleet and effectively ended the threat of conquest by the Muslims.
To acknowledge the effectiveness of praying the Rosary and to thank the Blessed Mother for her intercession, Pius established the Feast of the Holy Rosary to be celebrated each October.
The word rosary comes from the Latin rosarius, which means “garland” or “bouquet of flowers.” It is an apt word for a bouquet of prayers offered to God. The word bead is an Old English term that originally meant “a prayer.”
As with any sacramental, prayer, or devotion, the Rosary can be a tremendous aid in drawing closer to God. However, it can also be misused. The structure and flow of the prayer is meant to aid the individual in meditation. The rhythm of the prayer can quiet the spirit and help a person be more receptive to hearing God, and thus be formed spiritually.
For some, however, the Rosary can become a merely mechanical action, something to be rushed through as a duty. Since the grace of any sacramental is dependent upon the attitude of the person using it, devout and thoughtful use of the Rosary is a prerequisite to enjoying the grace of the devotion.
Blessed Virgin Mary
Now concerning the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Gospel reading for today:
Mary, as our spiritual mother and model disciple shows us how to face an uncertain future. She gave consent to the will of God in a variety of ways.
I would like to offer up seven consents, that I found through studying others’ thoughts and meditations.
Consented to the unknown (see Luke 1:26–38).
Though Mary knows it will bring a mix of joy and suffering, she surrenders to God’s will that she become the mother of the Messiah. Through her consent she receives the gift of motherhood; he does not merely take up residence within her. She not only provides her womb, in which Jesus grows, but she is the source of Jesus’ flesh and blood.
She is the only mother whose son created her. Through Mary, Jesus becomes the God-man, our Savior, through whom we receive life. Mary’s humble response to the angel’s announcement is neither a prideful “You picked the right woman!” nor a false humility, “I could never raise the Son of God.” She simply states her willingness to be available to do whatever God has called her to do.
Like Mary, will we consent to bear new life, whether a spiritual or physical life, or face new challenges without knowing the parameters of how much will be required of us? Will we be available?
Consented to serve (see Luke 1:39–56).
Though Mary is newly pregnant, she goes immediately more than seventy miles to serve her cousin, Elizabeth, who is already six months pregnant. Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, declares to all that Mary is uniquely blessed as the mother of her Lord. Mary responds with her Magnificat, acknowledging God’s tremendous work within her as he fulfills his promises to bring salvation. Mary stays with Elizabeth for three months, serving her. Then Mary travels home to complete her pregnancy.
Mary chooses to serve without asking to be served. She reminds us of Jesus’ words during his ministry: “For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
Will we, like Mary, consent to serve even when we do not feel like it?
Consented to follow her husband (see Matthew 2:13– 15).
Mary willingly travels with Joseph to Bethlehem to register their family in obedience to the Roman authorities. She trusts Joseph to care for her and the baby, far away from their families, who could have assisted them at delivery. Then she births Jesus in a cave outside of Bethlehem.
When Joseph tells her that an angel has warned them to flee, Mary does not second-guess him, claiming that usually angels tell her what to do. She packs up their belongings and follows Joseph into a foreign land, doing what she can to preserve Jesus’ life. Mary follows the promptings of her heart and the word of the Lord through her husband.
We need catholic wives, like Mary, to follow our husband’s lead, especially when it comes to the well-being of our children.
Consented to a hidden life (see Matthew 2:19–23; Luke 2:19, 21–35, 39–52).
Though Mary knows the prophecy Simeon gave her—that a sword will pierce her heart— she embraces motherhood, the joys and the sorrows.
She exemplifies for us that the call to be open to life is a call to lay down our lives.
Mary loves Jesus. She nurses him and cares for him. With Joseph, she takes him to the temple to be circumcised. She celebrates the Jewish feast days with him, like Passover in Jerusalem. She raises Jesus, knowing she does not fully understand him. She ponders God’s work in her life (see Luke 2:19). For thirty (hidden) years Mary lives with Jesus. Mary is the incomparable model of how life should be welcomed and cared for.
Undoubtedly Mary treasured time with her son. But did she, like us, find the time went too quickly, and he was no longer a baby, a toddler, a teen? Do we take time to ponder God’s great work in our lives and our children’s lives?
Consented to love at a distance (see Luke 11:27–28).
Mary does not accompany Jesus everywhere he ministers, though others do. She supports him from a distance and binds her heart to his through prayer.
While Jesus is teaching a crowd, one woman proclaims a blessing on his mother: “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you sucked!” (Luke 11:27b). Jesus refocuses the crowd’s attention. He does not downgrade the debt he owes Mary as his mother. Instead he highlights the impetus for her actions that others, like us, can imitate. “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:28). Mary’s obedient response to God’s Word, no matter the cost, is blessed. She is obedient in great and small things; therein lies her greatness.
Do we, like Mary, allow an adult child to assert his or her independence, all the while communicating our love, respect, and support? Do we love from a distance? Do we bind our hearts to theirs in prayer?
Consented to suffer: That is why we call her Our Lady of Sorrows (see John 19:25–27).
Our Lord needed his heavenly Father and his earthly mother, all the way to the cross. Accompanying Christ to Calvary, Mary consented to his sacrificial self-offering with her own self-offering. Will we, like Mary, offer our sufferings and losses, choosing to trust the Lord for what we do not understand?
Consented to continue to serve even when her child is gone.
Mary’s work is not done once Jesus is gone. From the cross, in the midst of his anguish, Jesus gives his mother to the Beloved Disciple, which includes giving her to us as beloved disciples as well. Mary receives him—and us—as her child (see John 19:26–27). Mary lingers with the disciples in the Upper Room at Pentecost. She leaves her homeland and travels to Ephesus, Turkey, with Saint John, and she is probably the source for Saint Luke’s infancy narratives. She reminds widows, widowers, empty nesters, and retirees there is more work to do!
Will we, like Mary, continue to serve the Lord as we get older, welcoming opportunities to care for others in Jesus’ name?