Guest Feature by Dr. Peter Howard
This is probably my tenth revision of this blog post. With it being the month of Mary and the month of Fatima and it being 2018 — the year after all the major jubilees of Divine Mercy and the centenary of Fatima having come to their end— I wanted to share what would be WAY too much for a single blog post (already, I fear this one being a little long, so please forgive me!) So, I am going to focus on one major point of the message of Fatima that even after all my travels last year speaking on Fatima across the United States and even the Philippines, I believe is STILL misunderstood and therefore trivialized by many Catholics because we are overly familiar with it … the ROSARY.
In every monthly message to the children of Fatima, our Blessed Mother specifically asked the children and the world to pray the Rosary every day. On June 13, 1917, she said:
Say the Rosary every day, to bring peace to the world and the end of the war.
There it is. Do you want peace in your heart? Do you want peace in your family? Do you want peace in your relationship with your spouse? Do you want peace in your relationship with your children? Do you want peace in your parish? Do you want peace in your nation? Do you want peace in the Church? Do you want peace throughout the world? Then you need to be praying the Rosary every day for this peace.
Mary made it very clear that God’s plan for peace in the world is entrusted to Mary. On July 13, 1917, she told the children: “Continue to pray the Rosary every day in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary, in order to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war, because only she can obtain it.”
So, we see the inseparable role the Rosary plays in God’s plan to bring peace to the world. Why the Rosary and how does it accomplish it? First, we look to the Rosary’s history, which has borne witness to its power in shaping the history of Christianity beginning with St. Dominic using the Rosary to crush heresies, defeating the enemies of the Church and exorcise demons.
We see these effects magnified in 1571 when the Rosary was prayed by the whole Holy Roman Empire, at the command of Pope St. Pius V, in order to repel the Moslem invasion at Lepanto in the Mediterranean Sea. And there have been many miracles of the Rosary since, which show its power for those who pray it with true devotion. Just look up the eight Jesuits who survived Hiroshima because they lived the message of Fatima in their home, praying the Rosary faithfully every day.
The second way the Rosary brings peace is by what it does to the individual and family who prays it. We must never forget that the first war that must be fought and won is in our own hearts, as St. James reminds us:
What causes wars, and what causes fightings among you? Is it not your passions that are at war in your members? … Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you men of double mind. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you. [James 4:1-10]
Therefore, Venerable Fulton Sheen tells us in his work Peace of Soul:
If we would remake the world, we must begin by remaking the individual; then the institutions will be good enough, for they will resemble the good men who made them.
This is what the Rosary does to us as it occupies our minds as we contemplate the saving mysteries of Christ beginning with Mary’s humility — humility that made her so completely empty of self as to be completely filled with God, literally, at the Annunciation! This is what peace is — the presence of God in the soul —the presence of God that Mary always brings as she did at the Annunciation. That’s why Pope St. Pius X says:
The Rosary is the most beautiful and the most rich in graces of all prayers; it is the prayer that touches most the Heart of the Mother of God … and if you wish peace to reign in your homes, recite the family Rosary.
We now can begin to see why St. Francis de Sales said, “the greatest method of praying is to pray the Rosary.”
Why does he use the word “method”? Because the Rosary is meant to be an entirely incarnational prayer experience encompassing the whole Christian — body, mind and spirit. Incarnational prayer has always been a staple to Dominican spirituality. It engages the mind and spirit by meditation and contemplation of the saving mysteries of Jesus Christ. It engages our senses when we finger the beads and while we audibly recite the three greatest prayers: Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be. The more we occupy our whole person in prayer the more it resembles the prayer of Jesus, Who Is Wisdom Incarnate.
Other than the basic structure of prayers and contemplating the prescribed Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful and Glorious mysteries, there is no single way to pray the Rosary. God gave us an intellect to be creative in how we serve Him. Thanks to my wife, I have overcome my own ridiculous rigidity and scrupulosity with saying the Rosary — insisting it must be prayed the same monotonous way every single time — that led to more naps for my family than it did mystical experiences and insights.
One way my family made the Rosary more of an incarnational experience was to actively engage our senses while we pray through the use of essential oils. We use them for practically everything for our family’s health care and since they are so biblically based for both medicinal and ritual use, why not incorporate them in our Rosary prayer? We engage our senses all the time at Mass with incense and in the use of sacramental oils. Let’s use what God has given us similarly in our family. It’s time we Catholics reclaim what God has given us in His creation to glorify Him and lead us to Him. That is the point of His creation. It’s time to take back what the New Agers have distorted and direct the use of created things to the true God as we do in our liturgies, sacraments and sacramentals. As Fulton Sheen said, “When the Church drops something, the world picks it up.” So, let’s take back what we have dropped and lead others back to God through them as originally intended!
Inspired by this, my wife designed beautifully crafted essential oil-absorbing rosaries that allow our senses to experience the therapeutic aroma of oils like frankincense and myrrh as we meditate on the mysteries like the Birth of Our Lord and Christ’s death and burial.
Another inspiration of my wife to enhance our family Rosary experience stems from her Byzantine roots and her mother teaching her family a Byzantine-style chant of the Rosary. My family later developed our own version where all of us (even our two-year daughter) chant a different harmony to a simple tone that makes the Rosary and its mysteries come alive because of the beautiful and prayerful singing. Plus, we get the added benefit of “praying twice” (as St. Augustine put it) since our prayer is sung. At first, I resisted this “Byzantine assault” on my proud Roman upbringing. After I decided to mature about this and open up, I helped develop our own version of the chant and I quickly discovered that it was really my favorite way to pray the Rosary — and it still is!
Then leave it to my wife also to insist that we then record the family Rosary chanted this way so that other families can learn a new way to pray the Rosary that engages everyone and with beauty. We now joke of how the recording experience almost destroyed my family (try recording something for the world to hear where all five kids from ages 14 to 2 are all perfectly behaved!). Our perseverance paid off and we are happy to present The Family Rosary – Chanted to the world! I invite you to listen to a sample at aromaRosary.com. We are encouraged to learn that this CD (which also is available in digital format) is already helping families around the world rediscover the beauty of the family Rosary and helping them pray it daily!
If you are still struggling to make the Rosary part of your daily family prayer life, I leave you with extremely hopeful words from Sr. Lucia of Fatima — words I always turn to when I pick up the Rosary to pray for the special needs of my family and friends:
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.
Now, let’s pray.
Copyright 2018 Dr. Peter Howard
Check out Dr. Howard’s new podcast: “360 Living.”