“Do not be afraid, I will not harm you. I come from heaven…Are you willing to offer yourselves to God and bear all sufferings He wills to send you, as an act of reparation for the conversion of sinners? Then you are going to have much to suffer, but the grace of God will be your comfort.” –The words of Our Lady to the three shepherd children of Fatima.
One hundred years ago, on May 13th, 1917, the Blessed Mother appeared to three children in Portugal with a message from Heaven for the world. She requested that the children, Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco, come on the 13th of the month for the next six months. Our Lady told the children that Jesus wanted to use the children to make His mother known and loved, and to establish devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary throughout the world. In each apparition, the Blessed Mother asked that the Rosary be prayed every day “to bring peace to the world.” In her last visit on October 13th, 1917, she told the children, “I am the Lady of the Rosary.”
“To bring peace to the world” is no little thing. The world is filled with division, violence, and death. It would take a miracle of God to bring peace from the chaos that surrounds us. God has always willed to show forth His power and glory through the smallest and weakest. He has sent his own Mother to earth with a delicate Rosary in her hands as an unlikely but powerful weapon against evil, if only we co-operate with His Divine Plan by praying it. It is not a vain repetition of words, but the contemplation of the Face of Christ through the eyes of His Mother; and therein lies its power.
Contemplating the Face of Christ with Mary
When he placed the New Millennium under “the Radiant sign of the Face of Christ” Pope St. John Paul II wrote:
“To contemplate the Face of Christ, and to contemplate it with Mary, is the ‘program’ which I have set before the Church at the dawn of the third millennium…It is the Church’s task to reflect the light of Christ in every historical period, to make His Face shine also before new generations of the new millennium. Our witness, however, would be hopelessly inadequate if we ourselves had not first contemplated His Face.”
The Rosary is a traditional Christian prayer directed to the contemplation of Christ’s Face. “Without contemplation, the Rosary is a body without a soul,” says Pope St. John Paul II, “and runs the risk of becoming a mechanical repetition of formulas, in violation of the admonition of Christ.”
Contemplation is a gift, a grace, from God. It is a communion in which God transforms a soul into His likeness. To put it more simply, as St. Teresa of Jesus says, contemplation is “a close sharing between friends…taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us.” Contemplation is not something beyond our reach however–we have an incomparable model in Mary; the eyes of her heart were always turned toward His Face. To dispose our souls to receive this great gift of God we need only reach for a Rosary and pray it with humility, listening attentively in the Spirit together with Mary, in silent love–that veil of mystery–to the Father’s voice. When we contemplate the scenes or mysteries of the Rosary in union with Mary, the Rosary becomes an unceasing praise of God; a way to learn from her about her son, Jesus, to discover His secrets and understand His message for us.
To recite the Rosary, which can be called a compendium of the Gospel, Pope St. John Paul II says, “is to contemplate the Face of Christ in union with, and at the school of, His Most Holy Mother…Against the background of the words of the Ave Maria the principal events of the life of Jesus Christ pass before the eyes of the soul. They take shape in the complete series of the joyful, [luminous,] sorrowful and glorious mysteries, and they put us in living communion with Jesus through–we might say through the heart of his Mother…The Rosary belongs among the finest and most praiseworthy traditions of Christian contemplation…To look upon the Face of Christ, to recognize its mystery amid the daily events and sufferings of His human life, and then to grasp the divine splendor definitively revealed in the Risen Lord, seated in glory at the right hand of the Father; this is the task of every follower of Christ and therefore the task of each one of us. In contemplating Christ’s Face we become open to receiving the mystery of Trinitarian life, experiencing ever anew the love of the Father and delighting in the joy of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul’s words can then be applied to us ‘Beholding the glory of the Lord, we are being changed into His likeness, from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.’” (Rosarium Virginus Mariae)
The entire month of October is dedicated to the Holy Rosary and October 7th is celebrated as the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. The feast, originally named for Our Lady of Victory, commemorated the stunning victory, against all odds, obtained by Our Lady in the Battle of Lepanto through the prayer of the Rosary–which saved Christendom on October 7th, in 1571. By keeping our eyes fixed on the Face of Jesus as we pray the Rosary, together with Mary, through her maternal intercession, we too may obtain great victories through the heart of her Son Jesus, who obtained for all mankind the greatest victory over sin and death by His Resurrection.