October is the month of the Rosary. During this month, we concentrate our attention on Mary, Our Blessed Mother, who leads us to her Son as we continue on our journey of faith in this life. The Rosary offers us a unique opportunity to come to Jesus through Mary. All of the Mysteries of the Rosary are centered on the essential moments of Christ’s ministry. By meditating upon them, using the Hail Marys as a background, we come closer to infusing those mysteries within our lives. Meditating upon these mysteries, we let them speak to the realities of our lives in all of their complexities, joys, and sorrows. We do so with the heart of Mary, listening to God’s word today and opening ourselves up to it.
During this October, our Diocese is actively engaging our families through a family Rosary video. Our Offices of Faith Formation and Family Life have collaborated with our parishes by reaching out to families to video an individual family praying the Hail Mary and compiling these videos into a complete Rosary, with a decade in Spanish. This outreach will enable us to grow as individual families and a diocesan family by going to our Mother, Mary, for her loving support and intercession. We are also actively participating in a project of Aid to the Church in Need which is inviting Catholic children around the world to pray the Rosary on Monday, October 19, for peace and healing. We are encouraging our Catholic schools and religious education programs to join in this international day of prayer through the Rosary entitled, One Million Kids praying the Rosary. Our Diocese also participated in the virtual Rosary for America on October 7, the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, which was sponsored by the United States Conference of Bishops.
Pope Francis has great devotion to our Blessed Mother and to praying the Rosary. In a series of reflections entitled, Mother Mary, Inspiring Words from Pope Francis, he expressed, “I would like to emphasize the beauty of a simple contemplative prayer, accessible to all, great and small, the educated and those with little education. It is the prayer of the Holy Rosary. In the Rosary we turn to the Virgin Mary so that she may guide us to an ever closer union with her Son, Jesus, to bring us unto conformity with Him, to have His sentiments and to behave like Him. Indeed, in the Rosary while we repeat the Hail Mary we mediate on the mysteries, on the words of Christ’s love, so as to know and love Him better. The Rosary is an effective means for opening ourselves to God, for it helps us overcome egotism and to bring peace to hearts in the family, in society and the world.” Pope Francis issued a letter during this past month of May in which he again encouraged the praying of the Rosary. He expressed, “It is traditional in this month to pray the Rosary at home with the family. The restrictions of the pandemic have made us come to appreciate all the more this ‘family’ aspect, also from a spiritual point of view. For this reason, I want to encourage everyone to rediscover the beauty of praying the Rosary at home in the month of May. This can be done either as a group or individually.” His words underlie what we are attempting to do in our Diocese during the month of October.
Pope Francis’ devotion to Mary and to the Rosary follow very closely in the footsteps of Saint Pope John Paul II. The Saint consistently emphasized Mary’s role as a model Christian who embodies the meaning and living out of the Gospel of her Son. One of his monumental writings on Mary was this Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae. He gave us this great gift during this month on October 16, 2002, which was the twenty-fifth anniversary of his own election as a Successor of Saint Peter. It was in this Apostolic Letter that he also added five new decades to the Rosary – the Mysteries of Light. It is appropriate to reflect upon this letter, during this month of October, as it helps us to appreciate more the special role of Mary within our lives as well as the deep devotion of Saint Pope John Paul II to her.
The Rosary has been a powerful prayer precisely because it is a prayer of the people. Its beauty is that it follows a natural rhythm and can be prayed by anyone at almost any time and in any place. Part of its history includes its being prayed by peasants working in the fields during the middle ages in imitation of monks reciting the Psalms in a monastery for the Divine Office. Some may find it difficult to pray the Rosary precisely because of too much concentration on their own meditations and not on the natural rhythm of the Rosary. One should not become discouraged and is actually in good company if this is the case. In her autobiography, Story of a Soul, Saint Therese of Lisieux, whose feast we celebrated on the first day if this month of October, expressed how she sometimes found it difficult to pray the Rosary. She wrote, “... the recitation of the Rosary is more difficult for me than wearing an instrument of penance. I feel I have said this so poorly! I force myself in vain to meditate on the mysteries of the Rosary; I don’t succeed in fixing my mind on them. For a long time I was desolate about this lack of devotion which astonished me, for I love the Blessed Virgin so much that it should be easy for me to recite in her honor prayers which are so pleasing to her. Now I am less desolate; I think that the Queen of Heaven, since she is my Mother, must see my goodwill and she is satisfied with it.”
During this month of October, filled with challenges as we continue to face so many difficulties before us, let us turn to Mary. As a Diocesan family, with our individual families, let us open ourselves through the Rosary so the Lord can speak to us. As Pope Francis urged, “Contemplating the face of Christ with the heart of Mary, our Mother will make us even more united as a spiritual family and help us overcome this time of trial.”
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
October 9, 2020