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The Prayer of the Holy Rosary

An innumerable multitude of holy men have always held it dear. They have used it as a powerful weapon to put the demons to flight, to preserve the integrity of life and to acquire virtue more easily.

Our Lady of the Rosary – Monastery of Sts. Dominic and Sixtus, Rome

More than once have We asserted – and We recently repeated this in the Encyclical Letter Divini Redemptoris – that there is no remedy for the ever-growing evils of our times except a return to Our Lord Jesus Christ and to His most holy precepts. Truly, only He has “the words of eternal life” (Jn 6:68), and individuals and society can only fall into immediate and miserable ruin if they ignore the majesty of God and repudiate His Law.

God wills that we should have all things through Mary

However, anyone who studies with diligence the records of the Catholic Church will easily recognize that the true patronage of the Virgin Mother of God is linked with all the annals of the Christian name. When, in fact, errors everywhere diffused were bent upon rending the seamless robe of the Church and upon throwing the Catholic world into confusion, our fathers turned with confident soul to Her “alone who destroys all heresies in the world,”1 and the victory won through Her brought the return of tranquillity. […]

Nevertheless, Venerable Brethren, though such great and numerous evils hang over us, and others still greater are to be feared for the future, we must not lose heart nor let the confident hope that rests solely on God become fainter. He who “made the nations of the earth for health” (Cf. Wis 1:14) without doubt will not let those perish whom He has redeemed with His Precious Blood, nor will He abandon His Church. But rather, as We said in the beginning, shall We beseech God through the mediation of the Blessed Virgin, so acceptable to Him, since, to use the words of St. Bernard: “Such is the will of God, who has decreed that we should have all things through Mary.”2

Crown composed of holy and admirable prayers

Among the various supplications with which we successfully appeal to the Virgin Mother of God, the Holy Rosary without doubt occupies a special and distinct place.

This prayer, which some call the Psalter of the Virgin or Breviary of the Gospel and of Christian life, was described and recommended by Our Predecessor of happy memory, Leo XIII, with these vigorous passages: “Very admirable is this crown in which the angelic salutation is interwoven with the Lord’s Prayer, united to interior meditation. It is an excellent manner of prayer, and conducive to the attainment of immortal life.”3 And this can well be deduced from the very flowers that form this mystic garland. What prayers in fact can be found that are more appropriate and holy?

This first is that which our Divine Redeemer Himself pronounced when His disciples asked Him: “Lord, teach us to pray” (Lk 11:1); a holy supplication which both offers us the way – as far as it is possible for us – to render glory to God, and also takes into account all the necessities of our body and soul. How can the Eternal Father, when prayed to with the very words of His Son, refuse to come to our aid?

The other prayer is the Angelic Salutation, which begins with the eulogies of the Archangel Gabriel and of St. Elizabeth, and ends with that very pious supplication by which we beg the help of the Blessed Virgin now and at the hour of our death.

Piety and love always express something new

To these invocations, said aloud, is added the contemplation of the sacred mysteries, through which they place, as it were, under our eyes the joys, sorrows and triumphs of Jesus Christ and of His Mother, so that we receive relief and comfort in our sorrows. Following those most holy examples, we ascend to the happiness of the heavenly homeland by steps of ever higher virtue.

This practice of piety, Venerable Brethren, admirably diffused by St. Dominic, not without the heavenly suggestion and inspiration of the Virgin Mother of God, is without doubt easy for all, even for the ignorant and the simple. But far from the path of truth are those who consider this devotion to be a repetitive and monotonous singsong, and cast it aside as good only for children and the elderly!

In this regard, it is to be noted that both piety and love, though always renewing the same words, do not always repeat the same thing but always express something new issuing from the intimate sentiment of devotion. And besides, this mode of prayer has the perfume of evangelic simplicity and requires humility of spirit; and, if we disdain humility, as the Divine Redeemer teaches, it will be impossible for us to enter the heavenly Kingdom: “Amen, I say to you, unless you become as little children you shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mt 18:3).

Nevertheless, if men in our century, with its derisive pride, refuse the Holy Rosary, there is an innumerable multitude of holy men of every age and every condition who have always held it dear. They have recited it with great devotion, and in every moment they have used it as a powerful weapon to put the demons to flight, to preserve the integrity of life, to acquire virtue more easily, and in a word to attain real peace among men. […]

See to it that such a pious practice be more diffused

The Holy Rosary, besides, not only serves admirably to overcome the enemies of God and Religion, but is also a stimulus and spur to the practice of evangelic virtues which it injects and cultivates in our souls. Above all, it nourishes the Catholic Faith, which flourishes again by due meditation on the sacred mysteries, and raises minds to the truth revealed to us by God. Everyone can understand how salutary it is, especially in our times wherein sometimes a certain annoyance of the things of the spirit is felt even among the faithful, and a dislike, as it were, for the Christian doctrine.

Therefore, revive the hope of immortal welfare, while the triumph of Jesus Christ and of His Mother, meditated on by us in the last part of the Rosary, shows us Heaven open and invites us to the conquest of the Eternal Homeland. Thus, while an unbridled longing for the things of this earth has penetrated into the hearts of mortals and each one more ardently longs for the short-lived riches and ephemeral pleasures, all feel a fruitful call back to the heavenly treasures “where no thief approaches and no moth destroys” (Lk 12:33), and to the wealth that will never perish.

And the charity which has been weakened and cooled in many, how can it fail to be rekindled into love in the souls of those who recall with a full heart the tortures and death of our Redeemer and the afflictions of His sorrowful Mother? From this charity towards God, then, there cannot but rise a more intense love of one’s neighbour if one dwells on the labours and sorrows that Our Lord suffered for all, reinstating the lost inheritance of the children of God.

Therefore, see to it, Venerable Brethren, that such a fruitful practice be more diffused, more highly esteemed by all, and that common piety be increased.

Excerpts from: PIUS XI.
Ingravescentibus malis, 29/9/1937

2 BERNARD OF CLAIRVAUX . In nativitas Beatæ Mariæ Virginis, n.7.
3 LEO XIII. Diuturni temporis, n. 3, 5/9/1898.
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