Why the Rosary?

G. K. Chesterton was a famous convert to the Catholic Faith. He once made the following observation about miracles: "Somehow an extraordinary idea has arisen that disbelievers in miracles consider them to be false by pure logical reasoning, while believers in miracles accept them only on faith. BUT, in reality, the opposite is true. Believers accept them because they have evidence for them, while disbelievers deny them because their faith is against them."

[See Orthodoxy, chapter 9, for complete and exact quote.]

In 1917 Our Lady appeared to 3 shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal. She visited the children for six consecutive months. Her final visit ended with the largest public miracle ever recorded. On October 13th 1917 approximately 70,000 people saw the sun dance in the sky above Fatima for a period of 12 minutes. Newspapers around the world carried the story. In 1930, after a long investigation, Fatima was officially recognised by the Roman Catholic Church. During the apparitions, Our Lady foretold what would happen if people did not stop offending God. In one message she said that the Holy Father would have much to suffer.

Pope John Paul II was shot in 1981 on the feast day of Our Lady of Fatima. He is on record as saying that "the Messages of Fatima are more relevant today than they were in 1917". The basic message of Fatima is simple, it concerns the means by which we can obtain peace for the world: THE CONSECRATION OF RUSSIA BY THE POPE AND BISHOPS TO THE IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY; and that we TURN BACK TO GOD, DO PENANCE AND PRAY THE ROSARY. Perhaps now is a timely moment to be reminded of the prophetic voice of Our Heavenly Mother.

So, what is so special about the Rosary? What does it do?

Our Lady said at Fatima that wars can be averted through the Rosary. Many believe that she first gave the Rosary to the world through St Dominic in 1214. The Church teaches that there are three basic sources of all sin: the world, the flesh and the Devil (CCC 377). The Rosary (which the Italian mystic St Padre Pio called "the weapon") attacks the sources of sin head on. The following table presents how the Rosary tackles them:

The world

The flesh

The Devil

Covetousness for earthly goods, peer pressure, materialism, anything that blinds us to eternal realities.

The pleasures of the senses. The weakness of our human nature due to the concupiscence that followed Original Sin.

Self-assertion, the pride of Satan, vanity, conceit. Saint Padre Pio: "Only the proud and arrogant refuse the Rosary."

Succumbing to love of creatures over the Creator.

Succumbing to the vices and the deadly sins.

Succumbing to the temptations of the Devil.

The Glorious Mysteries.

The Sorrowful Mysteries.

The Joyful Mysteries.

Meditating on life after death: a happy death, judgement, Heaven and Hell. [Wed, Sun.]

Meditating on the Passion of Christ and what Our Lord suffered for us in His innocent flesh. [Tue, Fri]

Meditating on the life of Christ: conception, in utero, birth, childhood, hidden life. [Mon, Sat]

Fruit of the Glorious Mysteries: SUPER-NATURAL OUTLOOK

Fruit of the Sorrowful Mysteries: SELF-CONTROL

Fruit of the Joyful Mysteries: HUMILITY

What are the Luminous Mysteries or Mysteries of Light?

In 2002 Pope John Paul II offered the world 5 new mysteries to the Rosary (to be prayed on Thursdays), meditations which are dedicated to chapters of Jesus' Public Life. They are: 1) Christ's Baptism in the Jordan; 2) Christ's self-revelation at the marriage of Cana; 3) Christ's proclamation of the Kingdom and call to convert; 4) The Transfiguration; 5) The Last Supper.

Why tinker with beads? What's so special about Rosary beads?

A set of Rosary beads is a sacramental. Sacramentals are sacred signs that give spiritual and temporal blessings. A set of Rosary beads, once blessed by a priest, becomes a permanent sacramental. Sacramentals give actual grace and they afford us a special protection against the power and influence of evil spirits. Certainly the beads are not essential for anyone to pray the Rosary, but, because of the spiritual effects of holding such a blessed object when we pray, it is always better to pray with Rosary beads.

Why do Catholics repeat the same prayers over and over again when they pray the Rosary?

Catholics do not just repeat the same prayer over and over again when they pray the Rosary. The Rosary is a progression of many prayers " the Apostles' Creed, the Our Father, the Glory be, the Hail Mary and the Salve Regina " and these prayers are accompanied by many holy meditations. As the Rosary progresses, Catholics meditate on the joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries of the life of Christ and His Mother.

Is the Rosary not an example of the vain repetition condemned by Christ in Matthew 6:7 ?

True, the Hail Mary is repeated many times during the course of the Rosary, but this is not "vain" repetition, certainly not the vain repetition condemned by Our Lord. The vain repetition He condemned is that of people who pray standing "in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men" (Matt 6:5). No prayer is vain, no matter how often repeated, if it is sincere, for Christ Himself engaged in repetitious prayer in the Garden of Gethsemani ("he went again: and he prayed the third time, saying the selfsame word" Matt 26:39, 42, 44), and we are informed in Rev 4:8 that the angels in Heaven never cease repeating, night and day, the canticle: "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come." In Lk 18:9-14, the publican humbly repeated the prayer: "Oh God, be merciful to me, a sinner," and he went away justified; whereas the pharisee went home unjustified after his long-winded prayer. In Dan 3:52-90, God was likewise pleased with the repetitious prayer of the three young men in the fiery furnace, whom He preserved miraculously untouched by the flames.

Any non-Catholic Christian engages in repetitious prayer: the same prayers at mealtime grace, the same prayers at Church services such as the Lord's prayer. The time lapse is no factor; it is still repetitious. Jesus was condemning the mindless babbling of the pagans of the time, who ceaselessly multiplied words in the hope that their many words would appease their moody gods. (See also the repetition in Psalm 136)

There are more Hail Marys than any other prayer in the Rosary " are you not meant to be praying to Jesus?

Jesus loved His Mother. He lived with her in a family nearly all His life. He made her full of grace and no sin ever touched her soul. After her Earthly life ended, Jesus took His Mother to Heaven with her soul and body. She is now praying for us and all those we love. She wants to take us all to Heaven that we may be together with her Son. She prays for us to help us to be good. She will help us to reach Heaven if we pray to her and love her as our mother. God's Mother is our Mother; He gave her to us when He was dying on the Cross (Jn 19: 26-27). In the Rosary, we are praying to Jesus through Mary. So, if the Mother of God gives the world a simple child-like prayer such as the Rosary in order to obtain world peace, who are we to reject it?

When lovers try to express in words the love they have for each other, words fail, because love is a mystery that transcends merely human communication. So, simple phrases like: "I love you", are repeated often. A Rosary is a prayer whereby we continuously tell God that we love Him through His Mother. Each prayer represents a rose that storms Heaven for all our needs (hence the name " Rosary). We all must become like little children in order to get to Heaven (Lk 18:17). That's why we pray the Rosary.

References:
De Montfort, The Secret of the Rosary; Sheehan, Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine; CCC; Whitcomb, The Catholic Church Has The Answer, Lovasik, My First Prayer Book; Chesterton, Orthodoxy

* Please note that this text should be read in the context of the whole work and in recognition of the appropriate paragraphs of the Catechism of the Catholic Church highlighted in the index.