Help from Mary
“The Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary … still remains, at the dawn of this third millennium, a prayer of great significance, destined to bring forth a harvest of holiness. It blends easily into the spiritual journey of the Christian life, which, after two thousand years, has lost none of the freshness of its beginnings and feels drawn by the Spirit of God to ‘set out into the deep’ in order to once more proclaim, and even cry out, before the world that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior, ‘the way, and the truth and the life’ (Jn 14:6), ‘the goal of human history and the point on which the desires of history and civilization turn.’” Saint John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae
Very often, solutions to our problems are simpler and more available than we realize. In this past Sunday’s Gospel reading, Jesus teaches his disciples “about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary” (Luke 18:1). Good advice, that.
I suspect that one of the reasons for the decline of Christianity in the western world is due in no small part to the fact that many people never pray. Life, they think, can be handled without God. This is true in families as well. For some families the only prayer that might be offered at all is the prayer before meals and some have even abandoned that. In my opinion, this is partly why a larger percentage of young people abandon the practice of their faith now than in past generations. Many simply don’t think faith is important. If it were, their families would have prayed together and helped their children to develop daily, personal prayer as a life-long habit.
Jesus urged us to pray always because our faith depends upon it. If we don’t pray, we will stop believing.
I would like to offer a simple, yet profoundly powerful corrective to this unhappy trend: Mary and the Rosary. I know, it sounds too simple, even a bit boring. The rosary? Yes, the rosary. I have yet to meet in my life a person who prayed the rosary and left the faith. Never.
I have my own theories on why the rosary is such a powerful prayer. First, it prays with the Word of God. The key prayers of the rosary are taken from Scripture; the Our Father and the Hail Mary are from the Gospels. The rosary also puts us into contact with the saving mysteries of Jesus. Like many adults, I came to realize that my mind and heart were formed over the years by the mysteries of the rosary. I am disappointed that many of our youth are not familiar with the most basic events of salvation history. Yet, they would be if they prayed the rosary!
But, here is my other theory as to why the rosary is so powerful. When we pray the rosary we invite Mary into what we are doing, and she is our Mother. She never fails. She is so good, so full of love for her Son, and for all of us. When we pray the rosary, it is as if we are saying to Mary, “Mother, take my hand and help me.” And she does; she always does. She helps us encounter Jesus like no other.
The rosary with its repetition can seem uninspiring, even boring. Many think of the rosary the way Naaman the Syrian thought of the Jordan River in the Second Book of Kings, chapter 5. When told that his leprosy would be cured if he washed seven times in the Jordan, he scoffed. He was expecting something more exciting and significant; and if he were to wash in a river, there were better ones than the Jordan. Nevertheless, at the urging of his servants, he relented and was miraculously cured, and he returned home praising the God of Israel.
The rosary is the same. Start praying the rosary regularly and see.
+James V. Johnston, Jr.
Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph
Catholic Key, October 25, 2019 issue
N.B. This Saturday, October 26th, 2019, at 10 a.m. Bishop Johnston will lead a rosary procession beginning at St. Patrick Church in the northland of Kansas City; the procession will go to Divine Mercy Park and return to St. Patrick for the celebration of Mass which will be followed by lunch. October is the month of the Holy Rosary. The procession is a part of the Diocesan Holy Year of Renewal in preparation for the full implementation of the Diocesan Mutually Shared Vision, One Family: Restored in Christ-Equipped for Mission. All are welcome to participate.