Good evening everyone.
During this time of lock down when we cannot be physically together, it’s comforting to have opportunities to pray together as the body of Christ. Together with many others we bring our petitions, our worries, our struggles and our many needs through Mary to Jesus. A novena is a powerful way to do this.
What is it about our lady that we love so much? What is it about the rosary that has survived down through the generations? Why has our lady in her apparitions throughout the world asked her little children to pray this prayer? .
I want to offer some reflections on these questions tonight,
The year was 1214. St Dominic was praying hard for a very difficult situation. A serious heresy called Albigensianism that was spreading throughout the South of France. We are told Our Lady appeared to him and said:
“Dear Dominic, do you know what weapon the Most Holy Trinity wants to use to reform the world :I want you to know that in this kind of warfare the ‘battering ram’ has always been the Angelic Psalter which is the corner stone of the New Testament. So, if you want to reach these hardened souls and win them to God, preach my Psalter!”.
What did Our Lady mean by “preach my psalter?” Many of You are familiar with the book of Psalms, mostly written by King David, in the Old Testament. Many Monks in the thirteenth century couldn’t read or write. So instead of reciting the psalms they would pray the ‘Angelic Psalter’ which was traditionally the 150 Ave Maria’s which we now know as the full rosary!
This story reminded me of the history in our own country. For many years the majority of Irish people couldn’t read or write. Nor did they have access to a bible. It was the rosary that kept the gospel story alive. It was through praying the mysteries of the rosary that the story of Christs life, death and resurrection became known and passed onto the next generation.
When we pick up our rosary beads we are opening up the book of the gospels. The rosary unpacks the scriptures, it keeps the story of Christ alive in our minds and hearts. Through praying the rosary we delve into beautiful key moments of salvation history.
In the Joyful mysteries we think of the visit of the angel Gabriel to Mary. We think of Jesus as a fragile little embryo in Marys womb, at that special time in his life when their two hearts beat physically as one. We think of that arduous journey in which a pregnant Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth and their joy-filled meeting when St john the Baptist leapt for joy in his mother’s womb. We can ponder that very first Christmas in Bethlehem and the joy of Mary and Joseph at finding Jesus in the temple after a frantic three day search.
In the Luminous mysteries introduced by Saint Pope John Paul 11, we remember the Baptism of Christ by St John the Baptist, which marked the beginning of His public life. Then the wedding at Cana when Mary gave Jesus the nod to perform his very first public miracle to save a family from the embarrassing predicament of having run out of wine.
We can enter into that poignant moment on Mount Tabor when Peter James and John witnessed Christs divinity in the Transfiguration. We can be present with Jesus and the apostles at the last supper and the institution of the Holy Eucharist.
In the sorrowful mysteries we glimpse Mary’s strength and perseverance as she accompanied her son through every step of his shameful scandalous passion and death.
The glorious mysteries are when it all begins to make sense. From the joy of the resurrection, to His glorious ascension and the birth of the church at Pentecost. Scripture tells us Mary was there present praying with the disciples. For where else would she be?!.
Every time we say ‘hail Mary’ we remember the angel Gabriel’s unexpected visitation to Mary a young teenage girl in an obscure village.
What were the first words the angel Gabriel spoke?,” be not afraid!” We need to ponder those words more than ever today. When we say ‘blessed is the fruit of your womb’, we remember Jesus as a little unborn child and we remember all those little babies in the womb and all mothers struggling with an unplanned pregnancy. We remember too those parents dealing with the difficult news that a child will not be as healthy as they had hoped, or whose life may be very short. We get the courage to speak out with truth and love into these very difficult situations and to provide practical help and support as best we can.
Our mother knows what it was like to be afraid, to worry, to be misunderstood, to be judged, to be embroiled in scandal. She knows what it is like to see a loved one suffer, be falsely accused, mocked , treated like a criminal , tortured and killed. Yet she trusted in her heavenly Father , she said Yes, she persevered and she hoped.
Many insights, comfort and clarity can be gained from pondering the mysteries of the rosary, especially the example of Mary.
We need to teach our children this! We need to teach our children that the rosary is more than boring repetition. A good idea is to recite a line of scripture before each mystery to remind them of the scriptural significance of this beautiful prayer. There are now so many fantastic resources available to help that were not available when our parents were young. Many times back then the rosary was recited at high speed and children would have received a swipe with the dishcloth if they misbehaved!.
As good as the resources or accompanying meditations are, just don’t make it too long, as children have a way of letting you know! In our house the hardest thing has been getting them all in the room at the same time! This time of lockdown however can be a good opportunity to get our domestic church, our family in order. Many graces can be achieved within our families if we persevere in the recitation of the rosary.
‘pray for us now and at the hour of our death’
Every time we say the simple ‘hail Mary’ we know that just as God in his eternal wisdom willed Mary to be the instrument of our salvation, in bringing Christ into the world, We ask her to be there at the hour of our death and we know she will honour this promise!
Isn’t this so comforting? We need this comfort and reassurance especially now when fear and death seem to loom large in our world. When we don’t have access to our sacraments like we used to have, we have the reassurance of her presence. Mary knows too what it was like to live on without her son. I often think of how she must have felt after Jesus ascended into heaven. It must have been so difficult for her to have lived without His physical presence. She understands how we feel at not being able to receive Jesus in the eucharist.
Finally, we may also be tempted to think that if we are housebound or sick that we are pretty useless. We couldn’t be more wrong. It is those that the world overlooks, or sees as of little importance, who have through the rosary, the means to be a powerful force for good.
Remember Our Lady’s words to St Dominic. The rosary is the ‘battering ram’. So those of you that are sick or housebound can be a powerful, ‘battering ram’ against evil. Our lady promised Sr Lucia at Fatima that ‘in the end my Immaculate heart will triumph’. Remember that every time we make time to say the rosary we are bringing that triumph that little bit closer.