In November of 2013, Catholic News Service published an article describing how Pope Francis gave away twenty thousand boxes, each containing a rosary, a Divine Mercy holy card, and what looked like instructions for taking a prescription, to a large gathering of pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square. At the conclusion of his Sunday Angelus address, he told the crowd, “I want to recommend some medicine for all of you. It’s a spiritual medicine.” He held up a medicine box with a human heart imprinted on it and informed the pilgrims that there was a rosary in each box. He added, “Don’t forget to take it. It’s good for your heart, for your soul, for your whole life.”
The Rosary: healing medicine
The article continued to explain that the directions-for-use sheet that came with the boxes recommended “daily use of the beads for both adults and children … that receiving the sacraments increases the efficacy of the prescription and that further information and assistance can be received from any priest.” (http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/ cns/1304848.htm)
I couldn’t help but recognize that this holy prescription offered by Pope Francis contrasts with a dangerous trend we have witnessed in healing and deliverance ministry: a rapid increase in addiction to prescription medicine. This is a plague that is affecting people from various walks of life. One person reported, “From the first time I abused prescription medicine, I opened the door for demonic harassment and the temptations are unrelenting.”
I’m convinced that the best medicine for what ails the human family today is precisely what Pope Francis has prescribed — a daily dose of the Rosary and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. If people take this spiritual medicine, they will end up in the confessional and at the Eucharistic table of the Lord, and I’m convinced that the evil one’s power to oppress people will be greatly weakened.
The Rosary: a contemplative & intercessory weapon of prayer
The Rosary is a contemplative prayer and an intercessory prayer. It is also a weapon against the evil one. The devil and his legions are real, and they detest Mary and the holy Rosary! Once, during intense deliverance prayers by the priest leader, the demon screamed through the mouth of the victim, “Stop saying those beads! Those beads burn me!” Unknown to the victim, her mother was in an upstairs room praying continuous Rosaries for her daughter. The Rosary is continuously prayed, either silently or aloud, during official rites of exorcism because it is a weapon of scriptural prayer.
The Catechism asserts that prayer is a battle and that man’s entire life is a battle against the evil one (nos. 409, 2725). God made a provision for this by equipping the Church with an arsenal of spiritual power (the sacraments and sacramentals) to make us victorious over evil. The Rosary is one of the primary weapons of prayer. Demons react most powerfully against the words of Scripture and anything having to do with Mary. The Hail Mary prayer is composed, in part, of the words of the Angel Gabriel recorded in the Gospel.
The Rosary: a compendium of the Gospel
In Rosarium Virginis Mariae, John Paul II referred to the Rosary as a “compendium of the Gospel” and added the five Luminous Mysteries to the original fifteen mysteries of the Rosary:
For the Rosary to become more fully a “compendium of the Gospel,” it is fitting to add, following reflection on the Incarnation and the hidden life of Christ (the joyful mysteries) and before focusing on the sufferings of his Passion (the sorrowful mysteries) and triumph of his Resurrection (the glorious mysteries), a meditation on certain particularly significant moments in his public ministry (the mysteries of light). This addition of these new mysteries, without prejudice to any essential aspect of the prayer’s traditional format, is meant to give it fresh life and to enkindle renewed interest in the Rosary’s place within Christian spirituality as a true doorway to the depths of the Heart of Christ, ocean of joy and light, of suffering and of glory.
Pope John Paul II specifies the scriptural scenes corresponding to the mysteries of the Rosary. This further explains why the Rosary can be called a “compendium of the Gospel”:
The Joyful Mysteries: “The first five decades, the ‘joyful mysteries,’ are marked by the joy radiating from the event of the Incarnation. . . . To meditate upon the ‘joyful’ mysteries, then, is to enter into the ultimate causes and the deepest meaning of Christian joy.”
The Mysteries of Light: “In proposing to the Christian community five significant moments—‘luminous’ mysteries—during this phase of Christ’s life, I think that the following can be fittingly singled out: (1) his Baptism in the Jordan, (2) his self-manifestation at the wedding of Cana, (3) his proclamation of the Kingdom of God, with his call to conversion, (4) his Transfiguration, and finally, (5) his institution of the Eucharist, as the sacramental expression of the Paschal Mystery.”
The Sorrowful Mysteries: “The Gospels give great prominence to the sorrowful mysteries of Christ…. The Rosary selects certain moments from the Passion, inviting the faithful to contemplate them in their hearts and to relive them…. The sorrowful mysteries help the believer to relive the death of Jesus, to stand at the foot of the Cross beside Mary, to enter with her into the depths of God’s love for man and to experience all its life-giving power.”
The Glorious Mysteries: “The contemplation of Christ’s face cannot stop at the image of the Crucified One. He is the Risen One! The glorious mysteries … lead the faithful to greater hope for the eschatological goal toward which they journey as members of the pilgrim People of God in history. This can only impel them to bear courageous witness to that ‘good news’ which gives meaning to their entire existence.”
In St. John Paul II’s outline of the Rosary, we see that meditation on the mysteries of the Rosary is a Church-approved, time-tested way of plunging deeply into the Gospel. To contemplate the life of Christ with Mary is, for many Catholics, the secret to deeper intimacy with Jesus.
The Rosary: Mary’s memories
The prayer of the Rosary is a memorial of the life of Jesus. Each mystery of the Rosary is a mystery of remembrance of what God has done for His people. Pondering the life of Jesus Christ helps to renew our minds and hearts by drawing us closer to what is true, good and beautiful. This can heal our negative memories also. Contemplating Christ’s life with Mary intensifies our concentration on Jesus.
Pope John Paul II wrote that Mary remembers Christ in a “biblical sense,” meaning that the memories do not only belong to history but “they are also part of the ‘today’ of salvation.” In a sense, remembering makes salvation history present with its gift of grace. Remembering Jesus and what He has done for us (the Paschal mystery) is necessary for gratitude and a thriving faith.
This is also true of our personal history. For example, last Thanksgiving, after dinner, my eighty-year-old parents handed each of their five children an envelope containing old photos taken of us as we were growing up in the fifties, sixties, and seventies. It was joyous to recall our family history and marvel at the passage of time. We not only remembered the moments represented in the pictures, we somehow relived them.
Mary remembers Christ and the history of salvation better than anyone else, since she accompanied her Son on His earthly pilgrimage. In Rosarium Virginis Mariae, Pope John Paul II writes about Mary’s memories:
Mary lived with her eyes fixed on Christ, treasuring his every word: “She kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19; cf. 2:51). The memories of Jesus, impressed upon her heart, were always with her, leading her to reflect on the various moments of her life at her Son’s side. In a way those memories were to be the “rosary” which she recited uninterruptedly through her earthly life.
Even now, amid the joyful songs of the heavenly Jerusalem, the reasons for her thanksgiving and praise remain unchanged. They inspire her maternal concern for the pilgrim Church, in which she continues to relate her personal account of the Gospel. Mary constantly sets before the faithful the “mysteries” of her Son, with the desire that the contemplation of those mysteries will release all their saving power. In the recitation of the Rosary, the Christian community enters into contact with the memories and the contemplative gaze of Mary.
When we pray Mary’s Rosary, we walk with her, but she points us to Jesus. She teaches us to keep the memory of Christ alive within our hearts. Mary accompanied Jesus Christ in a way no other person did. She will help us to fall in love with Jesus—and that is key to healing our memories, wounds and souls.
“Those beads” are not the magic of some occult sorcerer—they are the mysteries of the life of Christ, the memories of Mary that sooth the soul with the balm of mercy. Why does the devil hate “those beads”? –Because they recount the story of his utter defeat and help us to profess Christ’s glorious victory. That’s a prescription for healing the wounded culture!