As a convert from Protestantism, I have struggled through the years to understand and appreciate the Rosary. Nevertheless, I am wise enough to know that any aversion to a devotion recommended by so many saints and wise men is a problem with me, and not the Rosary. Before I pray the Rosary, I have asked God to help me understand and appreciate it personally, so that my mind can comprehend and my heart embrace it as I should. In this article, I’d like to share some of the reflections I have had over time. I hope that this helps others, who think like me, take up the Rosary with attention, reverence and devotion.
Meditating on Acts Performed, not Doctrines Taught
The first thing I have learned is that the word “mystery” has been a distraction to me. We know that when we pray the Rosary, we are to medite on a number of “mysteries”. In my Christian life, which has been largely academic, I associate “mysteries” with doctrines of the Church that have been revealed by God to be received by faith. I understand and accept the mysteries of the faith, as far as doctrines are concerned and I have approached the Rosary with this idea of “mysteries” in mind.
What I have realized, however, as I have worked to find my faults, is that his is not how the word “mysteries” should be thought of when we come to pray the Rosary. We are not coming to meditate on the doctrines of the Church. Such a meditation is quite cold and fruitless. We are to go beyond the words and doctrines of the Church to the events themselves, to the actual actions of Our Lady and His Holy Mother.
In the Rosary, we are not to meditate on doctrines of the Church, or historical events. We are to meditate on acts that were performed by Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary for our sake, as we speak to them in prayer. Thus, when we say the word “mystery” while praying the Rosary, we are to think on what Jesus and Mary did for us.
Meditating on Our Lord’s Intentions
When we pray the Rosary, we are to meditate on a number of chosen events in the life of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and of His Holy Mother:
- The Angel Gabriel announcing the Gospel to the Virgin Mary
- The Virgin Mary visiting St. Elizabeth
- Our Lord being born in a stable in Bethlehem
- The infant Jesus being presented to the Lord in the Temple
- Mary and Joseph’s finding Jesus in the Temple
- Jesus agonizing in the Garden of Gethsemane
- Jesus suffering a bloody scourging
- Jesus being mocked with a crown of thorns
- Jesus carrying the Cross to Calvary
- Jesus suffering death by Crucifixion
- Jesus rising from the Dead
- Jesus ascending triumphantly into Heaven
- Jesus delivering the gift of the Holy Spirit to His Church
- The Virgin Mary being assumed into Heaven
- The Virgin Mary being crowned as the Queen of Heaven
As glorious as all of these events are, they were not performed for their own sake, but to bring about some effect.
Jesus Christ came into the world to destroy the works of the devil. Jesus Christ came into the world to save us from sin and death. Jesus Christ came into the world to glorify His Father. It was to bring about these effects that Jesus performed these glorious acts. They were not performed that He might gain for Himself a lasting memory in world history books. They were performed to cause the world to change.
In the Rosary, we not only meditate on the acts performed by Our Lord in history. We also meditate on their desired effects. For example, why did the Lord choose to be born in a stable in Bethlehem? He did so to help us despise riches and overcome temptations of pride and covetousness in this life. Why did the Lord choose to suffer a bloody scourging? He did so to teach us to mortify our bodily senses that we might overcome all temptations. Why did Our Lord choose to rise again from the dead and appear to His disciples? He did so that we might be filled with love for God and serve Him fervently. Why did the Lord send the Holy Spirit from heaven at Pentecost? He did so that we might be filled with that Spirit and made holy in body and soul.
As we meditate on each of the acts of the Rosary, we find that each was intended to bring about some effect in us. When we pray the Rosary following the method of St. Louis de Montfort, we name and pray for each of these graces to be realized in us, that the ends for which Our Lord came into the world might be fulfilled in us.
- The Angel Gabriel announced the Gospel to the Virgin Mary–that we might become humble.
- The Virgin Mary visited St. Elizabeth–that we might love our neighbor.
- Our Lord being born in a stable in Bethlehem–that we might despise riches.
- The infant Jesus being presented to the Lord in the Temple–that we might be pure in body and soul.
- Mary and Joseph’s finding Jesus in the Temple–that we might become wise.
- Jesus agonizing in the Garden of Gethsemane–that we might be sorry for our sins.
- Jesus suffering a bloody scourging–that we might mortify our bodily senses.
- Jesus being mocked with a crown of thorns–that we might hold the world in contempt.
- Jesus carrying the Cross to Calvary–that we might be patient in the trials of this life.
- Jesus suffering death by Crucifixion–that we might be converted and persevere to the end.
- Jesus rising from the Dead–that we might love God and serve Him fervently.
- Jesus ascending triumphantly into Heaven–that we might desire heaven ourselves.
- Jesus delivering the gift of the Holy Spirit to His Church–that we might be filled with the fruits of the Spirit.
- The Virgin Mary being assumed into Heaven–that she might intercede for us.
- The Virgin Mary being crowned as the Queen of Heaven–that we may, like her, receive a crown of glory.
In the Rosary, we meditate on the works of Our Lord and the ends for which they were performed–that they might be fulfilled in us.
Meditating on Our Lives
When we kneel to pray the Rosary, and meditate on the loving acts of Christ, we are led to consider our own lives and whether we are allowing these effects to be accomplished in us. We are led to consider how, by our sins and neglect, we cause Our Lord’s works and sufferings to fail. We cause Mary’s obedience to have been in n–at least in our case. We make Our Lord’s sufferings to have been pointless historical events without any purpose–at least in our case. We make our Lord’s resurrection and ascension to be mere spectacles–at least in our case. While the Lord Jesus came into the world to save sinners, and suffered so much for our sake, we make it to have been a failure–at least in our case.
This is a meditation that should break our hearts and cause us great sorrow.
This is the first effect of the Rosary: to lead us to true contrition.
Seeking to Fulfill Our Lord’s Desires
In the Rosary, we take a stand and refuse to allow the devil, the world, and our own flesh, to rob the Lord of His glory. We refuse to allow ourselves to ignore Our Lord’s life and works. We refuse to allow ourselves to go on living as if the events remembered in the Rosary are a mere children’s stories. We refuse to go along with the current of human customs and worldly trends, and seek, actively, to cooperate with God’s grace and cause the ends for which He came into the world to be accomplished in us.
This is a second effect of the Rosary: to refuse to allow the Lord’s works to be without effect.
Responding Appropriately to the Gospel
When St. Peter preached to the Jews after they had crucified the Lord and they were led to realize what terrible thing they had done, they turned to Peter and asked, “What must we do to be saved?”This is the proper response for us, as well, when we consider how we have neglected our salvation so terribly. The answer is found in the Rosary,
1. We Worship the Trinity
We begin the Rosary by offering spiritual sacrifices to the Holy Trinity, confessing the true and Catholic faith. We pray:
“We offer Thee, O most Holy Trinity, this Creed in honor of all the mysteries of our Faith; this Our Father and these three Hail Marys in honor of the unity of Thy Essence and the Trinity of Thy Persons.”
We offer to God no money, no bloody sacrifices, no payments for our sins–all of which are forgiven by the redemptive works of Christ Our Savior. We offer God spiritual sacrifices He has asked of us. We offer the Creed received from His chosen Apostles, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. We offer the prayer which Our Lord Himself taught us during His life, the Lord’s Prayer. We offer the “Angelical Salutation”, spoken by the mouth of His own messenger, St. Gabriel, praising her whom “all generations shall call blessed”. This is an acceptable sacrifice offered to God in honor of His own divinity and trinity of persons. This truth, after all, was revealed by the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, and in confessing it, we fulfill this part of His mission.
2. We Ask for Faith, Hope & Charity
The prayers we offer–one Our Father and three Hail Marys–are offered, requesting a favor in return.
“We ask of Thee a lively faith, a firm hope and an ardent charity”
These three requests are not random, but are the three theological virtues from which all Christian morality proceeds. The Church teaches:
“The theological virtues are the foundation of Christian moral activity; they animate it and give it its special character. They inform and give life to all the moral virtues. They are infused by God into the souls of the faithful to make them capable of acting as his children and of meriting eternal life. They are the pledge of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the faculties of the human being.”
We ask not for money, or fame, not for health or long life, but for virtue. This is the true prayer that pleases God, prayer that seeks nothing but the will of God, which is our sanctification.
3. We Make a Spiritual Offering to Honor Christ’s Saving Works
After honoring the Holy Trinity, and praying for the virtues which are the source of our sanctification, we then begin praying the decades of Rosary–but what are these? They are spiritual sacrifices offered to Christ, in honor of the loving works He has offered for us. We pray before each decade:
“We offer Thee, O Lord Jesus, this first decade in honor of [this mystery]”
The decade of the Rosary, then, is an offering we make to Christ in honor of the redemptive act He himself offered for us. pray:
4. We Beg for the Graces Christ Intended to Give Us
Each decade of the Rosary is offered with a petition, namely, that the effect for which Christ worked might be realized in us.
“We ask of Thee, through this Mystery and through her intercession, [this grace]…”
For every act of love remembered in the Rosary, we pray for the effect of it to be accomplished in us, that Christ’s work may not be in vain. Note that we ask that this grace be effected by two means: (1) the original work of Christ given for us during His earthly life, and (2) the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom Christ took up into Heaven for this purpose. We add our prayers to this work to cooperate with God in our own salvation, for His glory. We repeat this for each of the events remembered in the Rosary, asking for the effects named above for each of the fifteen “mysteries”.
We pray, after each decade,
“May the grace of the mystery of…[this work]…come down into our souls. Amen.”
We are simply praying that God’s will may be done in us.
5. We Beg the the Virgin Mary to Help Us Fulfill Christ’s Will
Recognizing our weakness and inclinations to evil, we beg the assistance of our spiritual Mother, praying:
“All sinful though I am, I cast myself at thy feet and beseech thee to obtain from Jesus, thy beloved Son, contrition and pardon for all my sins, as well as the gift of divine wisdom.”
This after all, is the end for which Christ came into the world–for which He prayed as He prepared to offer His life for our salvation. Read Our Lord’s prayer in John 17 and consider how we work to fulfill this by praying the Rosary–this is the end for which Christ came into the world:
“Father, the hour is come, glorify thy Son, that thy Son may glorify thee. As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he may give eternal life to all whom thou hast given him. Now this is eternal life: That they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. I have glorified thee on the earth; I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now glorify thou me, O Father, with thyself, with the glory which I had, before the world was, with thee.
I have manifested thy name to the men whom thou hast given me out of the world. Thine they were, and to me thou gavest them; and they have kept thy word. Now they have known, that all things which thou hast given me, are from thee: Because the words which thou gavest me, I have given to them; and they have received them, and have known in very deed that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them whom thou hast given me: because they are thine: And all my things are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.
And now I am not in the world, and these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep them in thy name whom thou has given me; that they may be one, as we also are. While I was with them, I kept them in thy name. Those whom thou gavest me have I kept; and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition, that the scripture may be fulfilled. And now I come to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy filled in themselves. I have given them thy word, and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world; as I also am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from evil.
They are not of the world, as I also am not of the world. Sanctify them in truth. Thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for them do I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. And not for them only do I pray, but for them also who through their word shall believe in me; That they all may be one, as thou, Father, in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou hast given me, I have given to them; that they may be one, as we also are one: I in them, and thou in me; that they may be made perfect in one: and the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast also loved me. Father, I will that where I am, they also whom thou hast given me may be with me; that they may see my glory which thou hast given me, because thou hast loved me before the creation of the world. Just Father, the world hath not known thee; but I have known thee: and these have known that thou hast sent me.
And I have made known thy name to them, and will make it known; that the love wherewith thou hast loved me, may be in them, and I in them.”
It is in light of this prayer of Our Lord that Our Lady reveals to us the “Promises of the Rosary“:
- Whoever shall faithfully serve me by the recitation of the Rosary, shall receive signal graces.
- I promise my special protection and the greatest graces to all those who shall recite the Rosary.
- The Rosary shall be a powerful armor against hell, it will destroy vice, decrease sin, and defeat heresies.
- The Rosary will cause virtue and good works to flourish; it will obtain for souls the abundant mercy of God; it will withdraw the hearts of men from the love of the world and its vanities, and will lift them to the desire for eternal things. Oh, that souls would sanctify themselves by this means.
- The soul which recommends itself to me by the recitation of the Rosary, shall not perish.
- Whoever shall recite the Rosary devoutly, applying himself to the consideration of its sacred mysteries shall never be conquered by misfortune. God will not chastise him in His justice, he shall not perish by an unprovided death; if he be just he shall remain in the grace of God, and become worthy of eternal life
- Whoever shall have a true devotion for the Rosary shall not die without the sacraments of the Church.
- Those who are faithful to recite the Rosary shall have during their life and at their death the light of God and the plenititude of His graces; at the moment of death they shall participate in the merits of the saints in paradise.
- I shall deliver from Purgatory those who have been devoted to the Rosary.
- The faithful children of the Rosary shall merit a high degree of glory in Heaven.
- You shall obtain all you ask of me by the recitation of the Rosary.
- All those who propagate the Holy Rosary shall be aided by me in their necessities.
- I have obtained from my Divine Son that all the advocates of the Rosary shall have for intercessors the entire celestial court during their life and at the hour of death.
- All who recite the Rosary are my sons and daughters, and brothers and sisters of my only Son Jesus Christ.
- Devotion of my Rosary is a great sign of predestination.
This is why we pray the Rosary.
William C. Michael, Headmaster
Classical Liberal Arts Academy
P.S. If you would like to join us in the Classical Liberal Arts Academy, praying the Rosary according to the method of St. Louis de Montfort, I invite you to use our “Pray the Rosary” page, which provides all prayers to be recited and beatiful images of the mysteries to be meditated on.
Mr. William C. Michael is the founding headmaster of the Classical Liberal Arts Academy. He graduated from Rutgers University with an honors degree in Classics & Ancient History and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Mr. Michael has worked in private education as a Classics teacher and administrator for over 20 years. He is a Roman Catholic, married to his highschool sweetheart, a homeschooling father of ten children, and keeper of a quiet family farm in North Carolina. Mr. Michael enjoys studying ancient natural philosophy, gardening and running.