Is Your Rosary Too Mechanical?

Learn to Make it a Living Thing.

Pilgrims participate in the International Rosary Procession in Fatima.

Written by Greg Wasson

Fatima and the Rosary

Sometimes we forget that Our Lady of Fatima is really Our Lady of the Rosary in a similar way as Our Lady of Lourdes is the Immaculate Conception. Mary identified herself at Fatima as Our Lady of the Rosary – a reference to Our Lady of Victory. And, in each apparition, she called for the recitation of the rosary every day so as to invite us to share in that victory.

The rosary, then, may be the most important aspect of the Fatima apparitions. After all, it leads us to heaven. Did the Blessed Mother not say Francisco would go to heaven but only after saying many rosaries? I do not believe that most of us fully grasp the real power of saying the rosary. If it leads to heaven, then we should make every effort to understand.

The Rosary is a Living Thing

Noted theologian, spiritual master and teacher of Pope St. John Paul II, Father Garrigou-Lagrange, instructs on pages 66-8 in his book The Three Stages of the Interior Life that the person who seeks to advance in the spiritual life can make significant progress by familiarizing himself with the mysteries of the rosary. These mysteries are about “the incarnation of the Word, of the redemption, and of eternal life,” which are the mysteries of salvation. By calling to mind daily these mysteries and delving deeper into their spiritual meanings, going beyond the mere sensible aspects, the rosary no longer becomes a “mechanical recitation of the Hail Mary, but a living thing, a school of contemplation.”

The person who takes up the rosary this way changes the way he prays it. He becomes more familiar with the true spiritual meanings and applies them to his daily life. Little by little, day by day, the rosary will “enkindle in him the desire for heaven, of the glory of God, and the salvation of souls; it would give him a love of the Cross and strength to carry it, and from time to time a foretaste of heaven, a certain savor of eternal life….”

How many of us are “enkindled” by the rosary in this way? We need to change our perspective on the rosary and realize how powerful a prayer it really is. After all, as Father Donald Calloway MIC argues in his book Champions of the Rosary, the rosary is a gift from heaven, truly given to St. Dominic by the Blessed Virgin Mary as a spiritual weapon and as a tool of sanctification.

As Garrigou-Lagrange says, it becomes living when used to its potential!

Unleashing the Rosary’s Potential

In order to unleash this potential, we need to approach the rosary differently. We need to say it as it was meant to be said: To pray the rosary well is to pray the Word of God. Father Calloway questions what better devotional prayers can there be than the Our Father and the Hail Mary?:  “The words of the Our Father came from the lips of Jesus himself. The words of the Hail Mary were uttered on God’s behalf by a holy angel!” The mysteries are all centered on Christ. What we need to do is savor them, meditate on them correctly – not rushing through – but lingering, penetrating, pondering the mysteries and their relations to one another as a whole panorama of the life of Christ. These are the mysteries of our salvation – the rosary is a compendium of the holy Gospel. When we say it with this mindset, we are praying the Gospel. What devotional could be more powerful?

It was because Our Lady wanted to help us in the great task of working out our salvation that       she ordered St. Dominic to teach the faithful to meditate upon the sacred mysteries of the life of Jesus Christ. She did this, not only that they might adore and glorify him, but chiefly that they might pattern their lives and actions upon his virtues. ~ St. Louis de Monfort

How many of the saints had the holy habit of meditating on the mysteries of the rosary? Great saints like Teresa of Avila said the whole rosary every day, as did John Paul II and many of the other popes, Mother Teresa, Josemaria Escriva, Padre Pio, Maximilian Kolbe, Louis de Montfort, Alphonsus Ligouri, Dominic, Blessed Allan de la Roche; the list goes on. It is not just a prayer for the elderly in the pews; it is the prayer of saints, young and old, that all of us should, and can, use to make us holy.

Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen said, “When we say the rosary we are saying to God, the Trinity, to the Incarnate Savior, to the Blessed Mother: ‘I love you, I love you, I love you.’”

Father Calloway claims that by praying the rosary, “We express our gratitude to Jesus and Mary by ‘calling to mind’ the tremendous sacrificial love they have for us. This act moves the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart to pour out countless graces on us. Expressions of love from us are reciprocated by gifts of love from Heaven.”  He also points out that when we pray the rosary, “We show that we are faithful to the Word of God, which states explicitly in the Magnificat that all generations will call Mary blessed.”

Blessed James Alberione put it this way: “The rosary is the easiest way to honor God and the Blessed Virgin. It is the surest way to triumph over spiritual enemies, the most suitable way to progress in virtue and sanctity.”

The best way to change or improve your rosary is to use scriptural passages and pictures of the mysteries to aid your ever-deepening meditation and to associate a virtue with each mystery. Change your mindset too – view it as less of a duty and more of an adventure! The gain is well worth it as heaven awaits the genuine devotees of the Most Holy Rosary of Our Lady.


Greg Wasson is a contributor to Soul Magazine.

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