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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

The Rosary

Murmuring of voices joined before lighted candles, common whispers on fervent lips, a faith filled fingering of humble beads; in all these ways the rosary expresses the deepest cries of broken hearts and the resounding hope for a new day. Demeaned as a symbol of radical nationalism, and even a call to violence, the Rosary is actually a pathway to mature prayer and human greatness. Since believers began to substitute "Our Fathers" and "Hail Mary's" in the place of the 150 psalms, centuries of saints have found peace in the angelic and ecclesial mantra. This even in the face of war. Those who pray this summary of the psalms regularly have witnessed that it changes not only one's own heart but even the course of world events.

In a pharmaceutical world where many wander in aimless fear of whatever next catastrophe might shorten our lives, one needs a compass to find the truly meaningful. The Rosary is a map, a compass, a walking stick for a journey into the the heart of Jesus. The holy mysteries chart a course. Biblical words of prayer are footsteps on the pathway. The Cross around which the Rosary unfolds supports the weight of one's existence. In each of its mysteries, the riches of Christ's crucified and risen humanity are opened—joyful, luminous, sorrowful, and glorious. In these mysteries live a mother's memory of her Son and the Son's love for his mother, things that they both treasure and that they both long for every disciple to know. In the Rosary, heart speaks to heart—the heart of God into the heart of man, the heart of man into the deep things of God. This portal into greatness and glory remains relevant even in the face of impending doom.

The world needs the hope that the rosary binds fast to the heart. The most authoritative sources tell us that global temperatures and weather patterns pose an inevitable threat to human existence. The more honest voices will also admit that materially and scientifically there is very little we can do about it. It is time to turn to prayer.

To attribute the consequences of our own actions to divine justice is not to believe that we are sinners in the hands of an angry God. Having rejected God whose only desire is our good, He humbly and respectfully has delivered us into our own hands. We are the authors of our own demise—not God. Our lack of care for the world is merely a projection of our own self-hatred. Such is the mystery of sin—it hurls us back into the nothingness from which we were summoned into existence. Having made a mother's womb the most dangerous place for human life on the planet, it should not surprise us that our planet is ready to abort us too. Yet, it is through calamity that the Lord continues to hold out hope to us. Each new catastrophe is another invitation to return to prayer—and the Rosary accepts this invitation. Are not bad weather and natural calamities signs that something is out of whack and invitations for us to return to our senses? The humble beads running through our fingers by help us stand up and turn our face to the Father's House.

In the Rosary, we confront the Cross of Christ who unveils the evil in our hearts and the tender mercy of God. He knows our sin and loves us anyways, suffering our hostility even to the end. Human misery has a limit. It does not have the power to overcome Divine Mercy. This is why we discover healing from sin and conversion of life while reciting the Rosary and remembering all that Christ did and all that happened to Him. Those who stick with this prayer know that the healing and conversion ripple out from the heart and into the world. For those who desire peace, the Rosary offers not only a way out of one's own hostility but also the possibility of healing for our planet and the whole cosmos.

The Rosary is a prayer not of vain repetition but of holy remembering. This prayer is ordered to recollection, to a pondering of all things in the heart with Mary. At a time when so many have forgotten the sacred, the Rosary has us repeating over and over the prayer the Word of the Father commanded us to pray. When we are a little to occupied with passing things in the world below, the Rosary raises in us the greeting of angel Gabriel and helps us make our own the words of Mary's cousin Elisabeth. Such prayer plunges into Biblical currents over and over again. It is murmuring Scriptural truths and committing revealed standards to memory. In this, the Rosary raises our minds to the things that are above, to things that last forever. Our lips move to the rhythm of countless saints before us, and our hearts, with theirs, remember the inexhaustible treasures of Christ.

Humbly remembering holy things protects against meaningless innovations. The merely passing and sensational is raised as an altar—if we worship progress, we will become like it: blind and deaf. Not only strangers, but many of own our friends and family have been enchanted into thinking that all progress necessarily supports human thriving. Ironically, they also turn to the most unreliable conventions for security in these dangerous times. Neither faith in progress or convention can save humanity. Only God can do that and the Rosary helps us ponder what binds us to Him.

The Rosary lifts the mind to things beyond human convention or progress, a fresh newness that warms the heart in the face of fear and despair. Not all breaking with the past is good: closing the door to the sacred is followed by a step into chaos. Conversely, to turn to the holy in the midst of chaos helps us find the only footing that can support our existence. In the Rosary a soul can rediscover the loving goodness on which alone humanity thrives. Not a prayer that clings to the past - this prayer finds in saving historical events thresholds into the freshness of eternal life. In the Rosary, a new beginning for humanity, for each heart, for every heart awaits.

To pray the Rosary is to turn back to the holy—not as an escape from the profane, but as a way to sanctify it. The Rosary opens to a holiness more powerful than politics and ideology—something that reaches into the very core of human existence. The holiness that the Rosary knows comes before human history, holds up every historical moment and all of history is directed to it. This holiness is higher than the highest moment and deeper than deepest depths of life - and the Rosary opens to these heights and depths. Pondering in our hearts the things of God, the holiness into which the Rosary leads helps us live our daily lives at the pace of prayer, baptized in the prayer of God Himself, in harmonies not of this world, but without which this world is empty.

The Rosary recounts the memories of Jesus and Mary in a way that shapes how we see our lives and the world around us. Only the ancient newness of the sacred helps us find our way through profane's progressive decay. Only the newness of Christ Jesus navigates the worn out exigencies of the the current age. The merely innovative in a dying world does not prolong its life but exhausts it to death, but receiving the gift of an ancient prayer just may provide true progress of heart. If forgetting the truth about one's own existence threatens our society, the Rosary remembers a hope that evil cannot overcome. Remembering the holiness of God through the humble beads of this prayer offers continuity in the midst of the profane and opens the riches of the Church in the poverty of the world.

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