20 November 2010

Archbishop Lucas: Rosary is a simple contrast to modern culture

A few weeks ago His Excellency the Most Reverend George J. Lucas, Archbishop of Omaha, penned on a piece on the rosary for The Catholic Voice. The text of his article follows, with my

During the month of October, the Church invites all of us to take up the prayerful devotion of the rosary. The rosary is a good way to pray at any time of the year, in any circumstance. If you have never been used to praying the rosary, this is a good time to take it up and learn it - it is not burdensome or difficult. You may want to take it up again if you have put it aside for a while.

In any case, I invite you to make use of this age-old Catholic prayer with a renewed consciousness and reflection on the mysteries of God's love for us in Jesus Christ.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, is our spiritual guide through these mysteries. No one in the communion of saints is closer to Jesus than she is. We imagine Mary at prayer when, in the fullness of time, the angel announced to her God's plan for her participation in the salvation of the world.

Although Mary had been prepared for her unique role in God's plan, she had the freedom to accept it or not. God had made her full of grace. She made her life a gift back to God, "Let it be done to me according to your word." The "Word" which shaped Mary's whole being from then on is Jesus, the Son of God.

At the time that Mary put her life in God's hands, she could not have known everything that her gift would mean. She walked by faith through the mysteries of Jesus' birth, life teaching, suffering, death and resurrection. She learned at every step what it meant not only to be the mother of Jesus, but also to be his disciple. At Pentecost, she received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the midst of the infant Church. Her ongoing fidelity strengthened the apostles to carry out the mission, given to them by the Lord, to bring the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

Mary remains with us in the communion of saints
. She is called "Mother of the Church," and that title describes not just an honor, but an active role she plays in the life of the Church in every age. She helps guide us today, as she guided the first followers of Jesus. With Mary, we learn and then live the various aspects of Jesus' saving mission. Having been claimed by Christ in baptism, we learn, as Mary did, how to give ourselves to Him more freely all the time, cooperating with the grace that is God's gift to us.

All of that can seem very abstract. The rosary helps make our journey with Mary through the mysteries of faith more concrete. The rosary is called a "popular" devotion. This is not only because it is prayed by so many. It is a people's devotion. It can be learned and prayed by anyone. It is literally in the hands of the people. It came into wide use in some places when people looked for a way to follow the example of monks who prayed the Liturgy of the Hours at times throughout the day. Most of the faithful would not have had access to books containing, the 150 Psalms, and many would not have been able to read in any case. The rosary provided a means of prayer that was portable and accessible to all.

The beauty and simplicity that attracted people to the rosary centuries ago still draw us to this devotion in our time. The format is a simple contrast to the complexity of modern culture. Whether we pray the rosary alone or in a group, it draws us out of the isolation that our world often encourages. We meet Mary in this prayer, which is clearly offered to God and not to her. She helps us face the particular challenge we may find at the moment in our journey of faith. As Mary learned, we also learn that our saying yes to God must be renewed each day.

We can never know all there is to know about how God loves us in His Son, Jesus Christ. We are never finished, in this life, being conformed freely to Christ. This is a process that Mary herself experienced as she cooperated with grace. She is able and she desires to assist us by her own example and prayers. She is with us as we pray the rosary at home, in the car, while taking a walk, when praying before the Blessed Sacrament. We welcome her into our homes and our lives, as St. John welcomed her after the crucifixion of Jesus.

Catholic bookstores and websites have available simple guides for praying the rosary. There are many helps for meditating on the glorious, joyful, sorrowful and luminous mysteries of our faith. Someone who prays the rosary regularly is always happy to teach it to another.

Whenever anyone asks me to bless a new set of rosary beads, I am happy to do so. I always invite that person to pray a decade for me when they have the chance. I am asking you to do the same during this month of the rosary. I promise to pray for you, too. We know we can count on Mary's prayers as we learn to be more faithful disciples of her son, Jesus Christ.

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