7 October 2017 - District Superior's Letter
Since the 13th century numberless favors have been bestowed on Christendom through the devotion of the Holy Rosary.
Dear Friends and Benefactors of the Society of St. Pius X,
Since the 13th century numberless favors have been bestowed on Christendom through the devotion of the Holy Rosary. It is therefore not surprising that numerous Popes have sought to encourage the fruitful practice of this form of prayer by increasing our esteem and renewing our fervor.
One efficacious means towards this end is an inward and firm conviction of the surpassing excellence of this devotion, which can be obtained simply by considering its origin and propagation in the Church, its nature, and its salutary effects.
It was at the beginning of the 13th century that St. Dominic, at the request of Pope Innocent III, went to the south of France to preach against the Albigensian heretics who were undermining the faith by perverting the teaching of the Gospel, profaning the Sacraments (they considered marriage as evil) and corrupting morals. His labor and preaching, however, seemed of no effect until the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to him and revealed the devotion of her chaplet of roses and charged him to preach and introduce its practice everywhere.
The devotions he revealed was simply a reminder of the means God used to redeem mankind. Beginning with the salutation of the archangel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin, it moves on to His gracious birth and holy life, followed by His bitter passion and death and finally His glorious resurrection and ascension into heaven. Thus the chief mysteries of the life, passion, resurrection and ascension of Our Lord as well as the principal events in the life of our Blessed Lady are laid out for meditation and contemplation. The Blessed Virgin said to St. Dominic: “Thus, was the world redeemed and the gates of heaven re-opened…This will be the instrument of their conversion”.
Consoled and strengthened by her assurance, St Dominic, following her instruction, arranged these principal events and went forth preaching them as the devotion we call the Holy Rosary. As he did so, people gathered to hear him preach and soon the Churches were found to be too small to hold the crowds that flocked around to join in its recital.
The devotion spread so rapidly that, even during his lifetime, it was known to have spread throughout France and it soon became the property of the whole Christian world. It was prayed not only by the common people but also by popes, cardinals, bishop and priests, kings and queens, founders of religious orders, saints and sinners. The Rosary quickly became the favorite and universal prayer of Christendom proving it to be, from both its origin and propagation, an excellent devotion.
But its excellence is more clearly seen in the very nature of this devotion, i.e. its contents and their arrangement. For the Holy Rosary is composed of some of the most excellent prayers we possess. There is the Sign of the Cross and the Apostles Creed, which summarize the principle truths of our Catholic Faith. It also contains the Lord’s prayer, which Christ Himself taught us. Then the Angelic salutation; made up of the words of the angel Gabriel, St. Elizabeth and those the Church wished to address to the Mother of God. Finally, there is the Doxology or the praise of the Holy Trinity, which is usually found at the end of most prayers and psalms.
The Rosary begins with an introduction, which includes the sign of the cross, the Apostles Creed, an Our Father, three Hail Mary’s, and the Glory be. Then follows the Rosary, properly so called, consisting of meditations on the fifteen mysteries of our Redemption that are further divided into five mysteries each called the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious. Thus, arranged in this most excellent and suitable order, recollection and devotion are fostered and even the simplest and most illiterate can understand and have them impressed on their memories.
During each mystery, we pray one Our Father, ten Hail Mary’s and one Glory be. As the number of Hail Mary’s prayed during the fifteen decades amounts to 150, the Rosary has also been called the breviary of the laity.
However, like all good things there are some who object to the Rosary saying it is rather simple for more intellectual minds. Others say that the frequent repetitions make it tedious and tiresome, causing it to degenerate into a thoughtless and mechanical routine.
But it is simplicity that is precisely its chief attribute of excellence making it suitable for learned and unlearned, for adults and children and for its recitation in common in the Church or within the family.
The repeated prayers are also accompanied by the most sublime mysteries of our religion, whose depths cannot be exhausted by any minds during any length of time. If it becomes mechanical it is due rather to our spiritual weakness, negligence or lukewarmness.
But what completely refutes all objections and shows the Rosary’s excellence are the fruits both in this life and in the one to come. This devotion is most productive of spiritual blessings in the present life as can be seen firstly by the grace of conversion given to those in the state of sin. This was first seen in the case of the ill-disposed Albigenses, who had not only fallen from the faith but had also taken up arms against the children of the Church; shedding blood and destroying churches and convents.
Even St. Dominic’s eloquent preaching proved of little avail until at the Blessed Virgin’s instigation he began to promote the Rosary. Once he did so the heretics began to consider and see their errors and crimes and returned to the true faith living the Christian life. Speaking of this conversion St. Alphonsus said: “Not more quickly did the walls of Jericho fall at the sound of Josue’s trumpets than error and heresy disappeared before the holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin.”
The practice of praying the Rosary also secures for us the grace to lead truly Christian lives. Setting before us the chief mysteries of the faith, we have incentives to love God, hate sin and strive with all our energy after the eternal good of heaven; all motives and means to live holy lives. In the mystery of the Incarnation the infinite love of God is shown which inspires us to love Him. The contemplation of the God-man suffering and dying for us on the cross inspires in us a great hatred of sin. The meditation of the glorious triumph of the resurrection and ascension inspires us to long for heaven. And there is put before us the grandest and most inspiring models of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary, to give us courage, confidence and strength in the practice of Christian virtue.
Finally, this devotion has been known to secure the grace of a happy death through final perseverance, which is a special grace we cannot merit ourselves but one granted to those who humbly persevere in serving God without ceasing. Just such a case was related by a priest once summoned to the death bed of a young nobleman, well known for his dissolute lifestyle. He found the man most contrite and willing to offer up both his life and sufferings in atonement for his lifestyle. When asked what caused this change of heart the young man said “This grace must be ascribed to the intercession of the Mother of God. When my mother lay on her death bed, she called me to her bed-side and made me promise that I would daily say the Rosary. I have kept my promise, though for the last ten years I performed no other act of religion. The Mother of God has saved me.”
The devotion has also proved a powerful means to obtain temporal blessings. The existence of the feast itself is due to the commemoration of two great temporal favors obtained through the intervention of the Queen of the Most Holy Rosary; namely two victories over the Turks – once in Lepanto (1571) and the other in Hungary (1716). Nor do the fruits of this devotion cease in this life but extend to the life to come.
As a penitential work, the Rosary is an effectual means of cancelling the temporal punishment due to sin. It enjoys many privileges and indulgences and secures for the suffering souls in Purgatory the powerful intercession of the Mother of God, which appeases the divine wrath and moves Almighty God to shorten or alleviate the pains of these poor souls.
Should this not convince us of the excellence of this devotion and inspire us with renewed confidence in its effects and fervor in its practice? Unfortunately, though the fruits are manifest, fervor for this devotion has grown cold at times since it was first preached by St. Dominic In fact, just a century after St. Dominic passed on to his reward the devotion became almost forgotten and the flow of God’s grace drawn down upon the world blocked. The whole of Europe was punished by a terrible plague, heresy was again at large and the great schism began. Then the Blessed Virgin appeared to another Dominican monk, Blessed Alan de la Roche, and told him take up the work begun by St. Dominic, which he did and through its revival the Church again gained enough strength to meet the onslaughts of those who would destroy Her if possible.
This pattern has repeated itself up to the present day. Time and time again as men lose fervor in the practice of the faith, God allows evil to triumph as a warning to us. Time and time again Our Lady has appeared to give us a message the same in substance as that given to St. Dominic. If we say the Rosary every day the enemies of religion will be overthrown and there will be peace. This was repeated at Fatima in 1917 with the added warning that if we did not heed her message there would be the widespread invasion of errors throughout the world, carrying with them persecution of the innocent.
She has also promised us: “My Immaculate Heart will triumph in the end”. Whether this triumph comes now or after much further damage is done depends in part on our zeal. Part of the fate of the world truly lies with each of us in our hands, which will be a safe place if we also hold this weapon she has given us, the Rosary.
Sincerely in Christ through Our Lady of the Holy Rosary,
Fr. John Fullerton