I'll tell you a story about one rosary and let it stand for so very many of these lovely, silent, haunting companions in our pockets and cars and purses and drawers and under pillows and wrapped around the hands of the dead.
Many great popes, saints, and Christian leaders have exhorted us to pray the rosary. It’s a powerful prayer, they say, one that can change your life, strengthen the family, bring peace to the world, convert entire nations, and win the salvation of souls. But does the average person experience the rosary this way?
Your grandmother gave it to you for your First Communion. It came in a hinged box just like the one in which engagement rings crouch importantly. She handed it to you after the epic Mass at which you received Your First Communion. You were still dressed in your awkward uncomfortable first dark suit in which you looked like a tiny businessman or your rustling uncomfortable white dress in which you looked like a tiny debutante.
According to one tradition, the rosary’s defining moment came during an apparition of Mary to Saint Dominic around the year 1221. Dominic was combating a popular heresy in France called Albigensianism. Mary gave him the rosary, told him to teach people this devotion, and promised that his apostolic efforts would be blessed with much success if he did. We know the religious order Dominic founded (the Dominicans) clearly played a major role in promoting the rosary throughout the world in the early years of this devotion.
Today we face unprecedented challenges on every front. The evils of “this present darkness” weigh heavy against us. Perhaps this is what makes the advice of Saint Padre Pio, a holy man from our own age, so valuable and insightful.
Pope John Paul II, in his apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, tells us that the Rosary “marks the rhythm of human life” (RVM, 2). Through the years, I have come to discover the truth of this beautiful statement. This sacred prayer and its holy beads have been my comfort, my joy, and a mighty weapon for spiritual warfare.
Image: John W. Iwanski. You've probably heard the expression knock on wood. But what you might not know is that one derivation of this popular saying refers to one of our own Catholic traditions—the recitation of the rosary. The rosary was a physical representation of inner faith, and it was natural to touch it when you were in distress or pain. “Knocking” rosary beads together, people said, was a sure means to get an answer to your prayer!