Our Lady of the Rosary – 7th October 2023

In the first week of October we have commemorated and celebrated the lives of three of the  greatest saints in the church – Saints Thérèse, Francis and Bruno. Each of them bring a special grace and genius – the so-called ‘Little Flower’ who promised to shed roses on the earth from heaven, a tender gesture of gentle and gracious love; if Thérèse longed to be love at the heart of the church Francis is the most loved of all Christian saints, his poverty and simplicity of life so attractive and appealing to people of all faiths and none. Bruno is the least known of the three, probably because he founded the Carthusians and they are a constant (though not conspicuous) reminder of Saint Paul’s half line that ‘your life is hidden with Christ in God’ (Colossians 3:3).

Mary possesses and practices pre-eminently each of these virtues – love, poverty and hiddenness. Her love of God and of His only-begotten Son knows no bounds which is the basis of her love for the church. Mary’s poverty of spirit is proclaimed in her Magnificat – ‘My soul magnifies the Lord for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant’. The hiddenness of her home life and care for Jesus from childhood through to adulthood is done in an almost absolute anonymity with Nazareth both a seed and symbol for the contemplative life in the church. Today’s Memorial adds another title – Our Lady of the Rosary –  to the honours and holiness of the Mother of God. The Second Vatican Council placed her with and within the church so that Our Lady is with the church in history and hopefully in heaven. The focus today is on prayer. The recitation of the rosary with its four cornerstones – Joyful and Sorrowful, Glorious and Mysteries of Light  – reveals how her intimate involvement with the Son of God helps to relate to our sorrows, joy and hope of seeing the glorious light of heaven.

The prayer of the Ave (Hail Mary) falls into two parts, praise and petition. Acknowledged as being ‘full of grace’ and announcing the double blessing of both herself and ‘the fruit of [her] womb’, Mary is assured of God’s presence and power. It is God who has given this absolute grace which allows us in turn to address her as ‘holy Mother of God’ and ask for her assistance ‘now and at the hour of death’. Acknowledging on our part that we are sinners recalls the reply of Pope Francis who, in his first interview, identified himself as a sinner. Without sin herself ‘by her motherly love she cares for her Son’s sisters and brothers who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led into their blessed home’ (Second Vatican Council, The Church). All the more then can we approach her as her children in confidence, coming and standing before her ‘sinful and sorrowful’ asking in her ‘mercy [to] hear and answer’ us (Memorare).

Writing in the Jesuit magazine America after the death of the Cistercian Fr Thomas Keating in October 2018, Tim Shriver recalled his instruction about the Ave: ‘And say just one Hail Mary, but say it slowly so you can feel the unconditional trust that made it possible for Mary to allow God’s love to take over her life…Meet her and understand her model of trust in God and let her heal you’. 

Fr Kevin O’Gorman SMA


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