The Powerful Crown of Roses
In the kingdom of men, the crowns made of durable, precious metals yield the symbol of power and dominion. In the Kingdom of God, it is always the opposite. It is those crowns made from living vines and branches that God chooses to show that true power is found in those rooted in the earth – in other words, in humility (derived from the Latin humus meaning “from the earth”).
The first of those great crowns was manifested on Good Friday with the humiliation of Jesus. The second of the great crowns is mystically revealed by the Mother of God, whom God sent to teach us a secret and powerful way to her Son. It is a way that involves a living crown—a crown made of the perfect earthen flower that reminds us of the paradox of Christianity – that only through being rooted in the earth (humility) and united to the suffering of Christ, will one bear true fruit. And this flower is the rose – the queen of all flowers — whose beautiful rose petals are fed only by a stem paved with thorns.
And just as the rose is the queen of all the flowers, the Rosary is the queen of all devotions. It is a prayer so simple and humble, yet, as history has shown us, is among the most powerful prayers the Church possesses in its spiritual arsenal. It is its power to form the greatest saints and also the power to conquer the enemies of the Church that sets it apart from all other prayers outside the Liturgy and the sacraments. It is heaven’s prayer of choice for the Church in distress when the power of God is needed more than ever. And this is undoubtedly manifested at Fatima in 1917, that year of great spiritual revolution, where Our Lady revealed herself as “Our Lady of the Rosary.” Why is this so significant? Let’s take a look.
Put simply, the Rosary is the perfect devotion composed of the three greatest prayers—the Our Father (given to us by Christ Himself), the Hail Mary (given to us through the words of the Angel and the prayer of the Church) and the Glory Be (sung by the heavenly host in the Book of Revelation)—all of which are preceded by the Creed, that disposes our souls directly to God and puts demons to flight. So, the prayers of the Rosary are given to us by God Himself through His direct revelation of the mysteries of Redemption as recorded in Sacred Scripture and transmitted by the Church. On top of these prayers we reflect on the saving mysteries of Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Church. And we do all this while “fingering the beads”. In short, we have a thoroughly incarnational prayer that occupies every part of our Christian person: body, mind and spirit. St. John Paul II emphasizes that, at the heart of the Rosary, is a pathway to deep contemplation:
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 which I have proposed in the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte as a genuine ‘training in holiness’: ‘What is needed is a Christian life distinguished above all in the art of prayer (St. John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae (Rosary of the Virgin Mary), 5)
So, we already have some pretty good incentives to get us to pray the Rosary. And not to sound like an infomercial, “but wait, there’s more . . .”
The Rosary is a prayer of immeasurable power. Why is that? Well, when you are reciting at least fifty times the words that brought about the greatest miracle in history, a God-Man, you are asking Our Lady to mediate the greatest miracles upon the world in the here and now.
All we need to do is take a quick survey of Church history and we see the role the Rosary has in changing the course of world history. Beginning with the giving of the Rosary to St. Dominic in the 13th century, the Rosary was given as a means to convert a militant group of heretics, the Albigensians. As soon as St. Dominic began to preach the rosary and pray it for the conversion of sinners, the power of Mary’s mediation was witnessed as the Albigensians were conquered by Our Blessed Mother. St. Louis de Montfort explains why:
The Hail Mary is a sharp and flaming shaft which, joined to the Word of God, gives the preacher the strength to pierce, move and convert the most hardened hearts even if he has little or no natural gift of preaching…This was the great secret that Our Lady taught St. Dominic and Blessed Alan so that they might convert heretics and sinners.” — St. Louis Marie-Grignion De Montfort, Secret of the Rosary, paragraph 51.
When Islam had already spread through most of Europe and its sights were now placed on Rome, Pope Pius V called upon the Holy Roman Empire to pray the Rosary in order to defeat a massive and powerful Moslem navy en route to Italy. At the famous Battle of Lepanto in 1571, the Christian naval fleet obtained a decisive victory over the Moslems as both Catholics on land and sea, led by the Pope, called on the powerful intercession and mediation of Mary to save Europe. And she did. The victory was unquestionably attributed to her mediation and what resulted was a feast day of “Our Lady of Victory,” which was later renamed “Our Lady of the Rosary” on 7 October 1716 by Pope Clement XI commemorating this great battle and the true weapon that obtained that victory.
We fast forward to Fatima 1917. We have Our Blessed Mother revealing herself as “Our Lady of the Rosary” and explicitly asking us to pray the rosary for peace. If the previous examples are not enough to convince us of its power, let’s fast forward again to 6 August 1945, Hiroshima, Japan. Eight city blocks from ground zero of the atomic bomb explosion lived eight German Jesuits, who not only survived the blast, but had no residual effects of radiation. When a survivor of the blast, Fr. Hubert Schiffer, SJ, was asked (reportedly over 200 times by scientists, et al.) why he believed they survived and with no radiation side-effects, he simply said: “We believe that we survived because we were living the message of Fatima. We lived and prayed the rosary daily in that home” (An excellent article on this can be found at http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/features/2010/08/05/the-priests-who-survived-the-atomic-bomb/ ).
I am convinced . . . the Rosary is as powerful as Our Blessed Mother says it is. It is therefore very significant that in the year of great revolution, Mary at Fatima reveals that she is “Our Lady of the Rosary” and she wants us to pray it for peace and the conversion of sinners—both intentions which are at the root of the history of the Rosary. Let us heed her request and do so, especially in our families. It is a proven fact that families who pray the rosary together stay together—and that doesn’t mean there won’t be great challenges within families. The Rosary is what tethers us to the redemptive mysteries and power of Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. And the devil HATES the Rosary for this reason. And he tries every way possible to prevent us from praying it, especially as a family.
So, I have some tips for families. If your day is too hectic and sitting down for twenty minutes of prayer is too much of a challenge, then start your day with two decades of a rosary and finish the other three in the evening (either after dinner or right before going to bed). Drawing from personal experience, nothing calms children and prepares them for sleep better than the Rosary! Equally important is to add meditations throughout the prayer. Have one child or spouse read Scriptural passages while the first part of the Hail Mary is being recited and then all say the second half. We need help meditating and having meditations from Scripture or from other solid sources is key, in my opinion.
Lastly, don’t give up. Imagine the graces you are obtaining for your soul and those of your children—remembering that at the hour of your death you will have prayed countless thousands of times: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.” Do you think Mary will have forgotten this greatest of tributes to her? I think not and that gives me inexplicable hope and joy. What a gift to pass this on to our children!
And so I close with the words of the oldest of the seers of Fatima, Sr. Lucia dos Santos, who reminds us that we do have a simple, yet extremely powerful, weapon to combat the evils and challenges of our times, whether it be the threat of ISIS, another world war, the threat of global economic collapse, the attacks against the unborn and the family:
The Most Holy Virgin in these last times in which we live has given a new efficacy to the recitation of the Rosary to such an extent that there is no problem, no matter how difficult it is, whether temporal or above all spiritual, in the personal life of each one of us, of our families…that cannot be solved by the Rosary. There is no problem, I tell you, no matter how difficult it is, that we cannot resolve by the prayer of the Holy Rosary. (Interview with Sr. Lucia dos Santos by Father Augustín Fuentes, December 26, 1957).
What’s in your pocket?
Art: Mirror detail from The Virgin Mary Reading, Antonello da Messina, between circa 1460 and circa 1462, PD-Worldwide; Detail from Rosa, MayaSimFan, 30 June 2007, CCA-SA; Rosary, Daniel Tibi, 16 January 2006, PD-Worldwide; Vitrail néogothique dans l’église Saint-Martin de Florac: Saint Michel et le Démon, détail (Neo-gothic stained glass from Saint Martin de Florac Church: Saint Michael and the Demon, detail), Vassil, 1/06/09, PD; Modification of A sterling silver Catholic rosary, Aprilwine, 13 November 2010, CC-SA; Detail from The Battle of Lepanto  at the gallery of the geographical maps at the Vatican Museums, Spiros own work, 21 September 2008, CC-SA; Detail from La Vierge du Rosaire protégeant les navires espagnols à la bataille de Lépante (The Virgin of the Rosary Protects Spanish Ships at the Battle of Lepanto), Anual, 1 November 2012, CCA; Our Lady of the Rosary by Anonymous (Kraków), 1599, St. James Church, Sandomierz; source: Mariusz Karpowicz (1988); Crown of Roses, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, circa 1858, PD; all Wikimedia Commons.