In the above “MaryCast,” Rev.Dr. Mark Miravalle, professor of Theology and Mariology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, provides a marvelous introduction to Our Lady’s Holy Rosary, the single most powerful and efficacious prayer after the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The late, great Blessed Pope John Paul II, speaking on the Most Holy Rosary of Our Lady in his Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, stated the following: ” The Rosary has accompanied me in moments of joy and in moments of difficulty. To it I have entrusted any number of concerns; in it I have always found comfort. Twenty-four years ago, on 29 October 1978, scarcely two weeks after my election to the See of Peter, I frankly admitted: “The Rosary is my favourite prayer. A marvellous prayer! Marvellous in its simplicity and its depth. […]. It can be said that the Rosary is, in some sense, a prayer-commentary on the final chapter of the Vatican II Constitution Lumen Gentium, a chapter which discusses the wondrous presence of the Mother of God in the mystery of Christ and the Church. Against the background of the words Ave Maria the principal events of the life of Jesus Christ pass before the eyes of the soul. They take shape in the complete series of the joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries, and they put us in living communion with Jesus through – we might say – the heart of his Mother. At the same time our heart can embrace in the decades of the Rosary all the events that make up the lives of individuals, families, nations, the Church, and all mankind. Our personal concerns and those of our neighbour, especially those who are closest to us, who are dearest to us. Thus the simple prayer of the Rosary marks the rhythm of human life” (Rosarium Virginus Mariae, 2).
Continuing the tradition of his great predecessor, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, in a recent “Angelus” address, spoke of the importance and necessity of “re-discovering the Rosary” of Our Lady, particularly as the Church prepares to celebrate both the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on October 11, 2012. Thus, His Holiness has chosen this most important anniversary to officially mark the beginning of a “Year of Faith.”
This “Year of Faith” provides us with a marvelous opportunity to deepen our understanding of our one, holy, catholic and apostolic faith, specifically as the latter is lived and expressed in the various traditions, beliefs, morality and worship services that we may, occasionally, take for granted. It should be noted that our Catholic faith, not unlike other belief or faith traditions, is comprised of three fundamental elements: creed, code, and cult. Our “Creed” summarizes or encapsulates the most essential and fundamental tenets of our faith. Our “Code” consists of those moral axioms according to which we are called to live our lives as Catholic Christians; thus, the ten commandments revealed by God to Moses would be a good example of the comprehensive system of morality from which we, as a society and as individuals, may derive certain moral and ethical norms that guide our daily behavior and actions. Finally, “Cult,” contrary to the more popular and common usage of the term (which carries a very pejorative connotation and conjures up images of radical, relatively small groups of persons, most of whom are under the powerful influence of a highly charismatic leader who, more often than not, has very evil intentions), more accurately pertains to how we, both collectively and individually, engage in the “worship” of our God. For Catholics, the objective center, source and summit of our lives as Christians is both signified and truly brought about in the Sacred Liturgy, or the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, whereby the ordained priest, acting in Persona Christi, truly makes present the “once for all” sacrifice of Christ on Calvary in an “unbloody” fashion. Thus, after participating in the Liturgy of the Word, whereby Sacred Scripture, or the “Word of God,” is read aloud to all the faithful, we are prepared to enter into the Liturgy of the Eucharist, which is that most vital aspect of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, whereby the priest, praying the “Eucharistic Prayer,” makes present the perfect offering of Christ to the Father, and the gifts of bread and wine, which we offer, are literally and substantially transformed into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ.
This is the apex of our worship, the source from which we receive all the grace and mercy necessary to live out our lives as disciples of Christ, and the summit toward which all of our activity as Christians tends or is oriented. Holy Mass ought to be at the center of each day, the center of our lives, the reason we live and, simultaneously, the reason we die. Thus, we can better comprehend the significance of Christ’s words in the Gospel of John: “Jesus said…, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn 14:6). Jesus teaches us, through both His words and deeds, the Way we ought to live, or the Code of conduct befitting a child of God; Jesus reveals the Truths of our faith, which are summed up in our Creed, as He states, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9). Finally, the Lord, during the “last supper” celebration of the Passover, sets the definitive example of how we are to worship our heavenly Father (and this constitutes the “cult” of our faith), and regarding Christ’s offering of bread and wine, pre-figured in the ancient offering of the priest and king Melchizedek, Christ states the following: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (Jn 6:51). Thus, we see how Christ’s self-identification as “the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” perfectly corresponds to those three elements that should characterize any and every belief system: namely, creed, code and cult.
Moreover, knowing that after the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the highest and best form of prayer is the Holy Rosary of Our Lady, each of us would do well to make a committment to pray at least five decades of the Rosary each day, as a concrete gesture of the living of our total consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This “Year of Faith” affords us a marvelous opportunity to grow in our union with Christ, our Lord, through, with and in the Immaculate Heart of His Most Holy Mother, Mary, who, in addition to being the Mother of Christ, is also the Spiritual Mother of all of humanity. Let us, then, take to heart the words of Blessed Pope John Paul II and his successor, Pope Benedict XVI, as these two Vicars of Christ and Shepherds of the Church both point to Mary and the Rosary as the most efficacious methods of growing in faith in Christ and His holy Gospel (after the Holy Mass, of course!), in this upcoming “Year of Faith.”