Holy Father Recommends the Rosary
Pope Proclaims "Year of the Rosary" and Publishes Apostolic Letter
on 24th Anniversary of His Election
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 16, 2002 (Zenit.org)
John Paul II marked the 24th anniversary of his
pontificate with the proclamation of the Year of the Rosary, and the publication
of an apostolic letter on the Marian prayer.
The Pope signed the document in the open air, during today's weekly audience in
St. Peter's Square, which gathered some 17,000 pilgrims, including 4,000 Poles.
John Paul II used the occasion to reiterate his determination to continue as
Pope for as long as God wills, and he entrusted to Mary's hands "the life
of the Church and that of sorely tried humanity."
"To her I also entrust my future. I place everything in her hands, so that
with a Mother's love, she will present it to her Son," he added.
In his new apostolic letter, entitled "Rosarium Virginis Mariae" (The
Rosary of the Virgin Mary), the Pope presents the Marian prayer -- if prayed
"with devotion and not mechanically" -- as a "meditation on the
mysteries of the life and work of Christ."
"By repeating the invocation of the Hail Mary, we can reflect profoundly on
the essential events of the mission of the Son of God on earth, which have been
transmitted to us by the Gospel and by Tradition," the Pope explained.
And, given that in the 15 mysteries of the rosary prayed up until now, the great
events of Christ's public life were not contemplated, in the new apostolic
letter the Pontiff adds five mysteries, which he calls the "mysteries of
They include moments in Christ's public life, beginning with his baptism in the
Jordan and ending with the passion.
"Is there, perhaps, a better instrument than the prayer of the rosary for
the demanding but extraordinarily rich endeavor to contemplate the face of
Christ together with Mary? To do so, however, we must rediscover the mystical
profundity enclosed in the simplicity of this prayer, so dear to popular
tradition," the Pope continued.
In the second place, and by way of reinforcing his proposal, the Pope proclaimed
the "Year of the Rosary," which extends from this month to October
The Holy Father explained that the proclamation celebrates three significant
moments: the start of his 25th year in the papacy; the 120th anniversary of Leo
XIII's encyclical "Supremi Apostolatus Officio," which initiated a
series of documents on the rosary; and the appendix to the Holy Year 2000.
In "the history of the Great Jubilees the good custom existed that, after
the Jubilee Year dedicated to Christ and to the work of the Redemption, one was
proclaimed in honor of Mary, as if imploring her help for the fruition of the
graces received," the Pope explained.
In bidding the pilgrims farewell, he said that the "Year of the Holy
Rosary, which we will live together, will certainly produce beneficial fruits in
the hearts of all, it will renew and intensify the action of grace of the Great
Jubilee of the Year 2000, and will become a source of peace for the world."
5 "Mysteries of Light" Added to Rosary
Suggested for Thursdays, They Contemplate Jesus' Public
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 16, 2002 (Zenit.org)
The greatest novelty in John Paul II's new apostolic letter on the rosary is the
proposal to include five additional mysteries in the Marian prayer.
John Paul II Answers Rosary's Critics
Explaining his decision in "Rosarium Virginis Mariae" (The Rosary of
the Virgin Mary), the Pope describes the rosary as a "compendium of the
Gospel" oriented to the "contemplation of Christ's face" through
Mary's eyes and the repetition of the Hail Mary." Each day, five mysteries
are contemplated, and 10 Hail Marys are prayed on each mystery.
Up until now, the 15 mysteries of the rosary -- the joyful, sorrowful and
glorious -- lacked decisive moments in Christ's public life, the Pope explains.
Because of this, the Pope says in No. 19 of the apostolic letter that
"while left to the freedom of individuals and communities," he
suggests the inclusion of "the mysteries of Christ's public ministry
between his Baptism and his Passion."
John Paul II explains that he calls them "the mysteries of light"
because Christ in his public life manifests himself as the "mystery of
light": "'While I am in the world, I am the light of the world' (John
No. 21 of the new document articulates the five "mysteries of light"
of Jesus' public life, and explains the mystery that the Christian contemplates
in each one of these passages:
(1) His baptism in the Jordan,
(2) His self-manifestation at the wedding of Cana,
(3) His proclamation of the Kingdom of God, with his call to conversion,
(4) His transfiguration, and finally,
(5) His institution of the Eucharist, as the sacramental expression of the
"The Baptism in the Jordan is first of all a mystery of light," the
Pope writes. "Here, as Christ descends into the waters, the innocent one
who became 'sin' for our sake (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21), the heavens open wide
and the voice of the Father declares him the beloved Son (cf. Matthew 3:17 and
parallels), while the Spirit descends on him to invest him with the mission
which he is to carry out."
Another mystery of light is the first of the signs, given at Cana (see John 2:1-
12), when Christ changes water into wine and opens the hearts of the disciples
to faith, thanks to the intervention of Mary, the first among believers,"
the apostolic letter adds.
"Another mystery of light is the preaching by which Jesus proclaims the
coming of the Kingdom of God, calls to conversion (cf. Mark 1:15) and forgives
the sins of all who draw near to him in humble trust (cf. Mark 2:3-13; Luke
7:47-48): the inauguration of that ministry of mercy which he continues to
exercise until the end of the world, particularly through the Sacrament of
Reconciliation which he has entrusted to his Church (cf. John 20:22-23),"
the document continues.
Explaining the fourth "mystery of light," the Holy Father continues:
"The mystery of light par excellence is the Transfiguration, traditionally
believed to have taken place on Mount Tabor. The glory of the Godhead shines
forth from the face of Christ as the Father commands the astonished Apostles to
'listen to him' (cf. Luke 9:35 and parallels) and to prepare to experience with
him the agony of the Passion, so as to come with him to the joy of the
Resurrection and a life transfigured by the Holy Spirit.
"A final mystery of light is the institution of the Eucharist, in which
Christ offers his body and blood as food under the signs of bread and wine, and
testifies 'to the end' his love for humanity (John 13:1), for whose salvation he
will offer himself in sacrifice."
In No. 38, the Pope suggests that the luminous mysteries be prayed on Thursday.
He then proposes that the joyful mysteries be prayed on Monday and Saturday, the
sorrowful on Tuesday and Friday, and the glorious on Wednesday and Sunday.
According to current practice, Monday and Thursday are dedicated to the joyful
mysteries, Tuesday and Friday to the sorrowful, and Wednesday, Saturday and
Sunday to the glorious.
"Where might the 'mysteries of light' be inserted?" the Pope writes.
"If we consider that the 'glorious mysteries' are said on both Saturday and
Sunday, and that Saturday has always had a special Marian flavor, the second
weekly meditation on the 'joyful mysteries,' mysteries in which Mary's presence
is especially pronounced, could be moved to Saturday. Thursday would then be
free for meditating on the 'mysteries of light.'
A Devotion Directed to the Christological Center of the Faith
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 16, 2002 (Zenit.org)
In his newest apostolic letter, John Paul II responds to the criticisms made
against the rosary in some Catholic circles over the past four decades.
In No. 4 of "Rosarium Virginis Mariae" (The Rosary of the Virgin
Mary), the Pope writes that there "are some who think that the centrality
of the Liturgy, rightly stressed by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council,
necessarily entails giving less importance to the Rosary."
"Yet, as Pope Paul VI made clear, not only does this prayer not conflict
with the Liturgy, it sustains it, since it serves as an excellent introduction
and a faithful echo of the Liturgy, enabling people to participate fully and
interiorly in it and to reap its fruits in their daily lives," the Holy
According to the Pope, others "fear that the Rosary is somehow unecumenical
because of its distinctly Marian character."
"Yet the Rosary clearly belongs to the kind of veneration of the Mother of
God described by the Council: a devotion directed to the Christological center
of the Christian faith, in such a way that when the Mother is honored, the Son
... is duly known, loved and glorified," the letter says.
"If properly revitalized, the Rosary is an aid and certainly not a
hindrance to ecumenism!" the Pope stresses.
"But the most important reason for strongly encouraging the practice of the
Rosary is that it represents a most effective means of fostering among the
faithful that commitment to the contemplation of the Christian mystery,"
John Paul II concludes in No. 5 of the apostolic letter.
"Inasmuch as contemporary culture, even amid so many indications to the
contrary, has witnessed the flowering of a new call for spirituality, due also
to the influence of other religions, it is more urgent than ever that our
Christian communities should become 'genuine schools of prayer,'" the Pope
However, in order to understand the rosary in this way, the Pontiff told the
pilgrims gathered today in St. Peter's Square, it must be prayed "with
devotion and not mechanically," as a "meditation of the mysteries of
the life and work of Christ."
John Paul II Entrusts His Future to Mary
Signals That Retirement Isn't in the Program
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 17, 2002 (Zenit.org)
When he marked the 24th anniversary of his pontificate, John Paul II left no
doubt about his determination to continue as Pope.
He began his address Wednesday at the general audience in St. Peter's Square
by quoting what he said in the Kalwaria Zebrzydowska Shrine last Aug. 19.
"Most Holy Mother, [...] obtain also for me the strength of body and
spirit, so that I will be able to fulfill to the end the mission assigned to me
by the Risen One," the Pope said.
"I give to you all the fruits of my life and of my ministry, I entrust
to you the future of the Church; [...] I trust in you and to you I say once
again: 'Totus tuus, Maria! Totus tuus!' Amen," he added.
"Totus tuus" -- All thine -- has been the motto of his pontificate.
It implies an act of consecration of his life to the Virgin Mary.
After thanking God "for the 24 years of my service to the Church in the
See of Peter," the Holy Father continued: "On this special day, I
entrust once again to the hands of the Mother of God the life of the Church and
that of sorely tried humanity."
"To her I also entrust my future. I place everything in her hands, so
that with a Mother's love, she will present it to her Son," he said.
The Pontiff's words countered media-fed rumors about his resignation.
As early as 1985, a French book, "Daily Life in the Vatican Under John
Paul II," addressed the possibility of the Pope's resignation. The Vatican
Press Office did not take the trouble to deny its assumptions.
Rumors were rampant from 1992 to 1995, a period when the Pope underwent
surgery and reached his 75th birthday, the mandatory age of retirement for
The first time the Holy Father referred to the matter was on May 17, 1995,
when he said: "First of all, I renew before Christ my offer of availability
to serve the Church for as long as he wills, abandoning myself completely to his
holy will. I leave to him the decision as to when and how he will relieve me of
The Pope has since repeated this position publicly. Still, on the eve of his
last trip to Poland, some French and German newspapers said he would resign and
enter a monastery.
The Rosary Predated St. Dominic
Though He Became a Principal Promoter
ROME, OCT. 17, 2002 (Zenit.org)
When did the rosary come into being?
St. Dominic Guzman (1170-1221), founder of the Order of Preachers, or
Dominicans, is generally regarded as the creator of the rosary. But that
attribution is not historically accurate, says Father Ennio Staid, a Dominican
theologian and an expert on the subject.
Mary's Psalter predated the Spanish saint, though he and the Dominicans
became its principal promoters.
According to sources made available to ZENIT by Father Staid, the key moments
of the rosary's development took place between the 12th and 15th centuries.
At the start of the 12th century the praying of the Hail Mary spread in the
West. The angel's annunciation to Mary, mentioned in the Gospel, was, until the
seventh century, the antiphon of the Offertory of the 4th Sunday of Advent, a
Sunday with a particularly Marian significance.
But the only part of the Hail Mary that was recited was the one recalling
this passage and Elizabeth's blessing. The name of Jesus and the second part --
"Holy Mary" -- were introduced around 1483.
Initially, the recitation of the greeting to Mary did not imply the
contemplation of the mysteries of Christ's life.
Between 1410 and 1439 Dominic of Prussia, a Cologne Carthusian, proposed to
the faithful a form of the Marian Psalter in which there were only 50 Hail Marys,
each followed by a verbal reference to a Gospel passage.
The Carthusian's idea was a great success and psalters of this type
multiplied in the 15th century. The final references to the Gospel were
extremely numerous, at one point reaching some 300, according to the regions and
Dominican Alain de la Roche (1428-1478) did a great work in promoting the
Marian Psalter, which at this time began to be called "Rosary of the
Blessed Virgin Mary," thanks to his preaching and to the Marian
confraternities he founded.
The rosary was simplified in 1521 by Dominican Alberto da Castello, who chose
15 evangelical passages for meditation, which included the short prayer at the
end of the Hail Marys.
Pope St. Pius V (1566-1572) instituted the essence of the rosary's present
configuration with the bull "Consueverunt Romani Pontifices."
On Wednesday, John Paul II signed an apostolic letter on the rosary.
Why Pray the Rosary?
Dominican Theologian Ennio Staid Responds
ROME, OCT. 14, 2002 (Zenit.org)
John Paul II called for the rosary to be recited during the month of October for
world peace, and announced that he will soon publish a document on the
importance of this spiritual practice.
To better understand the importance of the rosary in Christian life, ZENIT
interviewed an expert on the subject, Dominican theologian Father Ennio Staid.
Q: Is the rosary an old-fashioned religious practice?
Father Staid: The rosary is not a prayer of Christian initiation, but the end
point, after a long journey of faith.
My grandmother could not read or write, but she would have been more
effective than I am in speaking about the rosary. Her love for Mary's chaplet
was so great that she persuaded the tenants of our building to pray Mary's
Psalter. The rosary is not correctly appreciated if it is not lived.
Father Staid: To know the incarnated history of this devotion it is necessary
to enter silently into many homes, hospitals and huts where, since the Middle
Ages until our days, the Hail Mary has resonated, as it did the first time it
was pronounced by the Angel in Nazareth or when Elizabeth's greeting to Mary was
heard in Ain Karen, in Zechariah's house. Homes, huts, hospitals, fields ... in
which the rosary united heaven with the poor, the simple, the sick, with those
in love with the faith brought by Christ.
Q: But, in a world characterized by secularization, this would seem to be
Father Staid: For this very reason, it is even more necessary to rediscover
the rosary. However, this will only happen when people -- especially priests,
religious, bishops, not just the Pope -- are humble and make time in their day
In our time, when everyone is running around, it is difficult to pray.
Moreover, many educators in the faith are afraid of the "devotionalism"
in which this magnificent devotion is encased.
My teacher, the great theologian Enrico Rossetti, O.P., used to say: "A
Christian without devotion has not yet been supported by the experience of any
saint, nor by the authoritative teaching of the Church."
Wherever this de-sacralized, unpopular, inhuman, heartless Christianity has
been applied, it has only brought disasters for the faith. I was able to see
this in certain areas of Brazil, where the people, deprived of genuine
devotions, have turned to magic.
Q: Is it not better to work with the needy for half an hour than to spend
half an hour reciting the Hail Mary?
Father Staid: This objection is an example of the psychological reality in
which we have to move. It shows that the explanation of prayer in general, and
of the rosary in particular, must be renewed. Therefore, we priests must be the
first to have clear ideas on the intrinsic value of the same.
A doctor isn't good because he simply goes to universities giving lectures.
He has our appreciation when we see him exercise his medical profession in an
excellent manner, when he cures the sick. An explanation of prayer is valid to
the degree that the one who practices it lives his prayer. There is no prayer if
there is no faith; and faith does not take root where the soil is not prepared.
Q: Then why should people pray the rosary?
Father Staid: Because Jesus says so: "Pray always, without
ceasing." Today it is more important than ever to pray to avoid
Christianity being reduced to a simple esotericism, a simple action, in which
evangelical charity becomes pure philanthropy.
The rosary is an easy and simple way to discover prayer once again, which
nourishes faith, because it offers us the possibility of contemplating the whole
history of salvation. It reflects the original preaching of the faith. It is the
contemplation of the mystery of Christ -- essential, and in an atmosphere of
prayer -- together with Mary. Cardinal John Henry Newman described the rosary as
"a creed made into a prayer."
The rosary leads us to contrast our life with God's call to love. In this
way, it is fully integrated in our life, giving transcendent meaning to our
actions. By praying the rosary, with confidence, we take Mary by the hand so
that she will lead us to Jesus. To her, first among believers, we pray that she
make us live what she lived, namely, the experience of the presence of Christ in
us and among us.