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Votive Mass of the Most Holy Rosary

Sisters Adorers of the Royal Heart of Jesus Christ the High Priest
Convent of Saint Thomas Aquinas at Barra

Prov 8, 22-24. 32-35
Lk 1, 26-38

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

I shall always remember the first time I was privileged to view the Last Judgment of Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican. Having arrived at the Pontifical North American College in Rome in September of 1971, to begin my last four years of study and formation before priesthood ordination, I could not wait to see so many great works of art, about which, up to that point, I had only read. Very soon after my arrival, I had the occasion to visit the Vatican Museums, a significant part of which is the visit to the Sistine Chapel.

On the wall behind the altar of sacrifice in the Sistine Chapel is the magnificent fresco of Michelangelo: the Last Judgment depicting the Final Coming of Our Lord, at which the bodies of the just will be received into the eternal joy of Heaven and the bodies of the impenitent will be consigned to the eternal punishment of Hell. In studying the fresco, I was struck by the figure of two of the just, whose bodies are being drawn up into Heaven by the Holy Rosary.

This figure led me to reflect again upon what a powerful prayer the Rosary is in the Church and upon the many graces which I have received through the praying of the Rosary. Commenting on the Feast of the Most Holy Rosary and, in particular, upon the Epistle taken from the Book of Proverbs, Dom Prosper Guéranger reminds us of the strong graces with which this privileged prayer has been endowed by God. Regarding the gift of the Holy Rosary, bestowed upon the Church in the thirteenth century, through Saint Dominic Guzman, heroic warrior against the massive heresy and violence of the time, Dom Guéranger writes, citing one of Pope Leo XIII’s many encyclicals on the Holy Rosary:

Such was the divine expedient, simple as the eternal Wisdom that conceived it, and far-reaching in its effects; for while it led wandering man to the Queen of Mercy, it obviated ignorance which is the food of heresy, and taught him to find once more ‘the paths consecrated by the Blood of the Man-God, and by the tears of His Mother.’[1]

In truth, the Rosary is a most concrete and efficacious daily reminder of the way of eternal salvation, which is only found in God the Son Incarnate in the womb of the Virgin Mary.

On October 16, 2002, Pope Saint John Paul II published his Apostolic Letter “On the Most Holy Rosary.” He did so to commend to us the praying of the Rosary in carrying out a new evangelization within the Church and throughout the world, that is, in studying and living the Catholic faith with new enthusiasm and new energy, with the enthusiasm and energy of the first disciples of Our Lord. For Pope John Paul II, the Rosary “is nothing other than to contemplate with Mary the face of Christ.”[2] It is a privileged way of contemplation of the face of Christ through prayer, by which we are able to bring Christ more fully into our lives and into the world, in order that He may transform us and the world.

Through the Rosary, our Blessed Mother herself assists us to look upon the face of Christ as she did from the moment of His Birth, throughout His public ministry, at His Passion and Death, and in His Resurrection and Ascension to the right hand of the Father. Praying the Holy Rosary, we like the Apostles who prayed in the Cenacle for the Descent of the Holy Spirit devote ourselves “with one accord to prayer, together with … Mary the Mother of Jesus, …”[3]

Pope John Paul II reminded us that the Rosary, while Marian in character, “is at heart a Christocentric prayer.”[4] In other words, although the prayer consists of a repetition of the Hail Mary, it centers on the mystery of the Redemptive Incarnation, the mystery of the coming of God the Son in our human flesh, in order to free us from sin and everlasting death. It is the contemplation of the Mystery of Faith declared to the Blessed Virgin Mary by the Archangel Gabriel at the Annunciation:

Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end… The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.[5]

With his predecessors, Pope John Paul II rightly called the Rosary a compendium of the Gospel, for the mysteries of the Rosary are the essential events of the work of our Redemption, especially as they were lived by the Mother of God.[6]

Praying the Rosary, we, with Mary, reflect upon the events of the Redemptive Incarnation and, thereby, look upon the face of Christ, as she did from the moment of His Birth to His appearance to her after His Resurrection. Looking upon the face of Christ, we hear His invitation to unite our hearts to His Sacred Heart, to unite our lives to His, and, with Mary, we give our fiat to our vocation and mission, which is daily conversion of life to Christ in Whom we are alive from the moment of our baptism. Contemplating the mysteries of the life of Christ, we reflect upon Christ alive in the Church over the centuries and in the lives of individuals, the Church and the world today. In praying the Rosary, we place ourselves in closest contact with what the Pope John Paul II called “the rhythm of human life.”[7]

My dear Sisters, the Rosary is at the heart of your prayer as women totally consecrated to Christ through the profession of the evangelical counsels, as true brides of Christ. The Rosary is a powerful daily reminder of the heart of your vocation lived in the Royal Heart of Christ the High Priest,[8] your vocation to adore the Royal Eucharistic Heart of Christ, praying, in a special way, for priests who are called to be, as Saint John Mary Vianney declared, “the love of the Heart of Jesus.”[9]

Adoring the Royal Heart of Christ the High Priest, you have also in your hearts the universal Church and, indeed, the world, beset in our time by so much confusion and error, with their inevitable fruits of division and violence. The Rosary is our means of looking upon Christ Who alone brings us peace. At the same time, the praying of the Rosary has fortified many Christian faithful to be true martyrs and confessors of Christ in our time. The Roman Pontiffs have frequently urged the faithful to pray the Rosary for peace, even as Our Lady pleaded with us, both in her apparitions at Lourdes and at Fatima. Through the Rosary, peace will be attained in our personal lives and in the world. Recall the tremendous power of the Rosary to save the Christian people at the Battle of Lepanto on October 7, 1571. In our time, when so much confusion, error, violence and death beset the world and indeed the Church herself, let us, under the guidance of the Mother of God and Saint Dominic Guzman, become Rosary Warriors.

Your prayer for peace must embrace, in a particular way, the family, “the primary cell of society” and the first place in which we come to know, love and serve God. The family is under constant attack today and needs the help which comes from praying the Rosary. In our time, when an ever greater confusion and error regarding the Church’s teachings on marriage and its incomparable fruit, the family, spreads throughout the entire Body of Christ, procuring grave harm to souls and undermining totally the mission of a new evangelization, let us turn especially to Our Lady, asking her intercession by praying the Holy Rosary.

Let us now, one with the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church, lift up our hearts to the Royal Eucharistic Heart of Christ the High Priest. Let us place in the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus all of our prayers for the reparation for sins and for the peace of souls. Let us then extend, throughout the day, our union of Heart with the Divine Heart by praying the Holy Rosary by which we contemplate the face of Christ and, thereby, discover the deepest truth about ourselves and our world.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] “Divin expédient, simple comme l’éternelle Sagesse qui l’avait conçu, et dont la portée fut grande ; car en même temps qu’il amenait à la Reine de miséricorde l’humanité dévoyée, il écartait d’elle l’ignorance, nourricière d’hérésie, et lui réapprenait «les sentiers consacrés par le sang de l’Homme-Dieu e les larmes de sa Mère».” Prosper Guéranger, L’Année liturgique, Le temps après la Pentecôte, Tome V, 12ème éd. (Tours: Maison Alfred Mame et Fils, 1925), p. 341. English translation: Prosper Guéranger, The Liturgical Year, Time after Pentecost, Book V, tr. The Benedictines of Stanbrook Abbey (Fitzwilliam, NH: Loreto Publications, 2000), p. 296.

[2] “... nihil aliud plane est nisi Christi vultum una cum Maria contueri.” Ioannes Paulus PP. II, Epistula Apostolica, “Episcopis clero fidelibus de Mariali Rosario data,” 16 Octobris 2002, Acta Apostolicae Sedis 95 (2003) 7, n. 3. [RVM]. English translation: Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae of the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II to the Bishops, Clergy and Faithful on the Most Holy Rosary (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, nd), p. 6, no. 3. [RVM Eng].

[3] Acts 1, 14.

[4] “… precatio tamen ex animo oritur christologico.” RVM, 5, n. 1. English translation: RVM Eng, p. 6, no. 1.

[5] Lk 1, 31-33. 35.

[6] Cf. RVM, 5, n. 1. English translation: RVM Eng, p. 1, no. 1.

[7] “... eundem ictum ac vitae humanae pulsat.” RVM, 6, n. 2. English translation: RVM Eng, p. 2, no. 2.

[8] Cf. adoratrices.icrss.org.

[9] “… l’amour du Cœur de Jésus.” A. Monnin, Esprit du Curé d’Ars Saint J.-B.-M. Vianney dans ses Catéchismes, ses Homélies et sa Conversation (Paris: Pierre Téqui éditeur, 2007), p. 90.