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Saint Dominic and The Institution of the Rosary

The Rosary

by Monsignor Thomas Wells
Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Bethesda MD

October is the month of the Holy Rosary where the Church reminds us of the value of this beautiful method of prayer. I know that I find the rosary an ever greater gift in my life: not because I pray so well, but because I pray so poorly. Some historians speculate that the origins of the rosary go back to efforts, even before the Middle Ages, to help illiterate lay brothers in monasteries and laity in the fields to pray. The monks could pray the psalms and read the Gospels and, in them, find fruit for prayer, but those who could not read had little on which to fall back for spiritual inspiration. (Incidentally, the stained glass windows in the great cathedrals served the same purpose. They could be "read" by the illiterate in such a way that the truths the windows depicted were taught to those who could not read.) At first, apparently, the people were encouraged to pray, for example, fifty Our Fathers. Interestingly, the Hail Mary, as we know it today, was not known before about the twelfth century. Incidentally, the repetition of prayers, which we sometimes find difficult, is a practice known throughout world religions. Strangely enough, the repetition can free the mind from having to find things to say to God and allow the person to hear what God might be saying. Beads strung together to help in the counting of prayers is also a very ancient practice.

The development of the decades of ten Hail Marys separated by the Our Father and the meditation on particular mysteries of the life of Christ and Our Lady gradually came about as more effort was given to teaching the laity to pray.

The rosary is such a gift for our day because, while we have the ability to read and thus use Scripture or other spiritual aids in trying to pray, many feel they have not the time. The rosary solves the problem. I know people who pray the rosary on the subway, who say it while commuting or while going through the torture of running for exercise. Probably they will never become mystics in their prayer, but at least they give time to the Lord each day and ask the prayers of His Mother on behalf of themselves and those they love.

Every car should have a rosary in it. There should never be a long ride in the car with the family without the family rosary being said. It should become habit that when there is a stretch of free time, at least some of that time should be given to God in this wonderful exercise of prayer. No matter when we say it, whether alone or with others, whether in the quiet of the evening or in the chaos of the Beltway, let us use this month of the Rosary to join countless millions who have gone before us in this prayer with Our Lady to the Glory of God.

Image of Saint Dominic and The Institution of the Rosary from the Gallery of Art for the Catholic Restoration by Matthew Brooks is used with the artist's kind permission

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