“The Rosary is my favorite prayer. A marvelous prayer! Marvelous in its simplicity and its depth.” – St. John Paul II
Likely one of the most beloved modern saints, John Paul the Great left with us an incredible legacy of faith; one aspect of his faith was his devotion to the Blessed Mother and the Holy Rosary.
He loved the Rosary so much, in fact, that he created the Luminous Mysteries as an option for meditation while praying the Rosary. In no way did St. John Paul II intend to force upon the faithful these new mysteries. Instead, we can consider them to be the completion of our full meditation on the lives of Jesus and Mary, as they include important aspects of Jesus’ public ministry.
THE ROSARY IS CHRISTOCENTRIC
In his apostolic letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, St. John Paull II explains that the Rosary is truly a reflection of the intimate unity shared between Jesus and His Mother. Despite the reality that most of the Rosary is recited with Hail Mary’s, we reflect on the gospel stories related to the journey of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection – including the influence and presence of Our Lady.
The Rosary really tells a story, as St. John Paul II explained in his Introduction, a story in which we “sit at the school of Mary” and “contemplate on the beauty of the face of Christ.”
THE LUMINOUS MYSTERIES
St. John Paul II reflected deeply on our modern milieu and felt the desperation of despair, loneliness, and isolation. What better prayer, he believed, than to renew our devotion to the Holy Rosary? In response to his declaration of the Year of the Rosary (October 2002-October 2003), he shared with the public these beautiful Luminous Mysteries that are now commonly prayed on Thursdays each week:
1. Jesus is baptized in the Jordan River. We pray for the gift of openness to the Holy Spirit and obedience to God.
2. The wedding feast at Cana. In this mystery, we ask for trust in God’s plan.
3. Jesus announces the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Here we pray for conversion and repentance – our own and those who do not believe or love Him.
4. The Transfiguration. In this fourth Mystery of Light, we ask Jesus for a true spirit of worship.
5. The institution of the Holy Eucharist. Finally, we thank God for His ultimate gift of love – His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity available for us every day. The grace we pray for in this mystery is a grateful heart, that we may not take for granted the gift of Jesus’ totality.
Each Mystery of Light is intended to reveal the beauty of Jesus’ humanity as He chose to reveal His divinity to us.
ST. JOHN PAUL II’S TIPS ON PRAYING THE ROSARY
The Rosary is intended to be a contemplative tool that naturally eases us into meditation and contemplation, a deeper form of prayer than merely vocal or mental prayer. Based on this reality, St. John Paul II offered some practical tips on how we can improve the way we pray the Rosary, whether individually or in groups, in his apostolic letter.
1. Announce each mystery with a corresponding image. Holy images of each mystery offer us a powerful visual aid to influence our imagination as we meditate on that particular decade. They also keep our minds focused on the journey of Jesus and Mary, from the Annunciation to the Coronation.
2. Follow the announcement of the mystery with a corresponding verse from scripture or a meditation from a saint. St. John Paul II felt that including a biblical verse with each mystery adds to its profundity, because we are invoking God as the Word-made-Flesh. It is an incarnational invocation.
3. Observe a moment of silence before beginning vocal prayer. This is a means by which we calm our senses, mind, and emotions to ready ourselves for entering into the mysteries alongside Jesus and Mary.
4. Meditate on the communal aspect of the Our Father. The Our Father opens each decade with a reminder that we belong to God as His adopted children through baptism.
5. Focus on the Name of Jesus when praying the Hail Mary’s. A truly Christocentric prayer keeps Jesus as the focal point. St. John Paul II suggested that we specifically meditate on the Holy Name of Jesus when we pray the ten Hail Mary’s of each decade.
6. Opt to sing the Glory Be. The Glory Be summarizes our journey of meditation. Singing it aloud brings to completion the concept of Alpha and Omega – beginning and end – to our particular meditation.
7. Meditate on the symbolism of the chains of the Rosary. The chains can be viewed as our sufferings in life, united to the Holy Cross of Jesus Christ. But we can also imagine that the circular shape of the Rosary signifies our never-ending relationship with God, as well as our communal relationship with others.
The Rosary is one of the most powerful prayers at our disposal, truly a prayer for our troubling times. St. John Paul II prophetically urged the faithful to remember the countless graces we, and the world, receive, through our sincere offerings of prayer – made especially efficacious through the hands of the Mother of the Redeemer.