In Acts 1:14 we learn that “all these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the Mother of Jesus, and his brothers. “ The take away here would be that they all prayed together for a common goal.
Legend says that Our Lady of the Rosary appeared to Domingo de Guzman, in Prouille, Spain in 1208. She taught him the complete rosary, attaching 15 promises to those who prayed the Rosary faithfully. Some of these promises include:
1. Special protection and graces,
2. A decrease in sin
3. An abundance of mercy for souls at the reception of the sacraments before dying
When St Dominick received the Rosary from Our Blessed Mother, he formed 800 Confraternities of the Rosary which were the precursor of the Rosary Altar Society. St. Dominic founded the Dominican Friars, opened monasteries and spread devotion to the Rosary all over the world.
The format of the Rosary as was established by St. Dominick is follows:
All prayers of the Rosary are Scriptural in origin:
1. The Lord’s Prayer. From the word of God if we believe in Jesus. Historically people gathered several times a day to say the “Our Father.”
2. The Hail Mary. The first half of this prayer is scriptural from the Angel Gabriel and Elizabeth’s greeting. This prayer expresses a longing of Israel for the coming of the Savior.
3. The Second part of the Hail Mary was added later.
4. The “Glory Be: is a doxology (a hymn that praises God). We should gather together to “praise God”.
The Rosary was fashioned as an addition to the Liturgy of the Hours. The Liturgy of the Mass is the central part of the Church. The Rosary as part of the Liturgy of the Hours is linked to an early form which was the custom of the Church to pray the 150 psalms during the day. This was too much to do for the average person because firstly, you needed to be able to read. Most people could not read. So it was decided that to say the Rosary with the “Our Father”, 150 “Hail Mary’s” (then there were 15 Mysteries before the added Mysteries of Light) and the “Glory Be” would accomplish the same goal. Secondly, the Book of Psalms was too expensive to purchase for the average person. Thirdly, books were too heavy for the average person to carry around with them. And lastly, contemplation of the Mysteries of the Rosary brought a person into union with God which accomplished this important goal.
So St Dominick develops this idea of the Rosary as an extension of the Liturgy of the Hours and uses the Dominican Priests who are itinerant preachers to spread the Rosary. The Priests traveled to different towns, preached and left the Rosary beads for the towns to say on their own. A Confraternity of the Rosary (prequel to the Rosary Altar Society) spread as well as the Holy Name Society.
At the Council of Trent the Church developed a plan on how it would grow in America. In Europe the parishes grew as outshoots of the friaries and the religious communities that already existed. So in America, the Parishes with a Pastor who was trained in the faith and who could distribute the Sacraments were established.
Parishes in America were territorial where faith could grow.
The Rosary Altar Society in each Dominican Church grew where people came to say the Rosary. Eventually St. Dominic was given permission to establish in all Churches a Rosary Altar Society and a Holy Name Society.
Recommended reading of “Champions of the Rosary” by Father Calloway can be purchased on Amazon.
Saint John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter on the Most Holy Rosary states that the Rosary is a guide to the way we can live our lives. Through Mary’s example and intercession, we learn the lesson of faithful prayer, just as through our meditation on the Mysteries of the Rosary, we learn the lesson of faithful life taught by Mary and by her Son Jesus. Saint John Paul II’s devotion to the Rosary and his ideas are so touching and a learning experience for us all.
Saint John Paull II believed the Rosary is a prayer of great significance, destined to bring forth a harvest of holiness. It blends easily into the spiritual journey of the Christian Life, which, after 2,000 years has lost none of its freshness and it feels drawn by the Spirit of God to set out into a deep understanding that “Jesus is Lord and Savior, the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6).
The Rosary, though clearly Marian in character, is at heart a Christocentric prayer (Christ as the center). With the Rosary, the Christian people sit at the school of Mary and are led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love. Through the Rosary the faithful receive abundant grace, as though from the very hands of the Mother of the Redeemer.
Quoting the Venerable Bishop Fulton Sheen who said: “the power of the Rosary is beyond description!” He believed that through the Rosary we will obtain mercy, stop evil, convert nations and bring peace. He further suggested that we storm Heaven by saying the Rosary for the following intentions:
1. In reparation for all sins and offenses committed again the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
2. For an increase in the devotion to the Holy Rosary.
3. That bishops and priests will have the courage to teach the Truth and defend the Faith.
4. For all police officers that they may be guided and protected by St. Michael the Archangel in their daily duties.
5. That each of us grows in devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and comes closer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
6. For our families and the salvation of our loved ones.
I would like to offer as a suggestion something I found on line many years ago. It is called the 5 finger Rosary.
1. Your thumb is nearest you. So begin your prayers by praying for those closest to you. They are the easiest to remember. To pray for our loved ones is, as C S Lewis once said, a “sweet duty.”
2. The next finger is the pointing finger. Pray for those who teach, instruct and heal. This includes teachers, doctors, and ministers. They need support and wisdom in pointing others in the right direction. Keep them in your prayers.
3. The next finger is the tallest finger. It reminds us of our leaders. Pray for the President, leaders in business and industry, and administrators. These people shape our nation and guide public opinion. They need God’s guidance.
4. The fourth finger is our ring finger. Surprising to many is the fact that this is our weakest finger, as any piano teacher will testify. It should remind us to pray for those who are weak, in trouble or in pain. They need your prayers day and night. You cannot pray too much for them.
5. And lastly is our littlest finger, the smallest finger of all which is where we should place ourselves in relation to God and others. As the Bible says, “The least shall be the greatest among you.” Your pinkie should remind you to pray for yourself.
By the time you have prayed for the other four groups, your own needs will be put into proper perspective and you will be able to pray for yourself more effectively.
My own personal interaction with the Rosary began in my teens. I must say I was loner in this and sometimes made fun of because I prayed the Rosary every day. The beads were certainly well used because they were always breaking so as a result I became a “finger rosary” user. I truly can’t remember why I was in a habit of praying the Rosary at a young age because none of my friends did it. But somewhere in my religious education, I was set on the path. I don’t remember a Rosary Altar Society in the parishes I attended but one day when I was part of a group who said the Rosary before daily Mass at my current Parish Mary Mother of God in Middletown, I was tapped on the shoulder and asked if I would like to join the Rosary Altar Society. So now I am a card- carrying member.
Helping those who attend the Noon Mass join us in the Rosary is important to me. I suppose that is the teacher in me always wanting to bring as much information to others as I can. I have copied the Mysteries and the Prayers and through technology made large print copies so that everyone at the Mass can join in. If you look on your tables you will see what we use. I get to the Mass about 45 minutes early and I ask people as they arrive if they would like to help us with the Rosary. For those who are new at it, I have also written up a sheet which I call “Leading the Rosary” which helps them follow along. Also if I can’t be there on a given day someone can go into the sacristy pick up a copy and lead the group. I can tell you this was how the Rosary was taught to me by the people who came before me at the noon Mass. I am passing along what I have learned to the next generation of “Leaders of the Rosary”.
Last year Father Jeff gave everyone in the parish a copy of Matthew Kelly’s book “The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity” and I must tell you whenever I speak to people I always reference “Holy Moments”. For those of you who have NOT read this book, Holy Moments are the little things we do every day to make the world a better place. Maybe someone is in the hospital and you stop by with a flower, or you call them on the phone. See it’s a Holy Moment that you have brought into someone’s life. According to Matthew Kelly, we are on our way to Sainthood whenever we give someone a Holy Moment.
It is through my Rosary Altar Society that I feel I have many of my Holy Moments. I have been truly blessed to work with some wonderful women and men at St. Mary’s parish, who have made this Rosary Altar Society a ministry and an integral part of parish life. Yes, our primary purpose is to “praise and honor the Blessed Mother” as a Ministry in our parish. But we are so much more. There are so many ways our members are giving of themselves through the Rosary Altar Society.
Many of our members perform the role of caring for the linens in the Church and this is an enormous job with a Chapel that has two Masses and a Prayer Service daily, as well as a Church with 6 Masses on Saturday and Sunday. There are two Baptisms every month and a few private Baptisms. As you can image, the role of caring for the linens in our Church, is quite a job.
As an officer of Rosary Altar Society I assist in the hosting an Annual America Needs Fatima Rosary Rally in October which this year had more than 200 participants. We have a sharing afterwards so as to get to know the people who have joined us. Sometimes we can recruit from those who attend. The attendees always thank us so much for a spiritually wonderful afternoon.
About 5 years ago, we began an off-shoot called Junior Rosarians. These young teens work with us to do charitable work with the poor. They organize the “blessing bags” given out to the homeless in January. The Junior Rosarians monthly collect snacks which we bring over to the homeless students at Brookdale College. In November we collect hats and scarfs for the homeless in Asbury Park. The Junior Rosarians help the Rosarians bake for when we host the Church-sponsored hospitality every 3 months in our Narthex. Our Junior Rosarians also make Rosary beads to be distributed in Red Bank by the Street Evangelizers of St Paul. I truly feel that it is important to give our teens a way to learn empathy and charity and of course the giving of Holy Moments.
I am so proud of the financial support t that our organization gives monthly to a Missionary Sister Mercedes. She is in a teaching order in Pakistan. Our monthly donation to her helps people who are so desperate in such a poor country especially women and children who have been abandoned by husbands and fathers. Sister Mercedes visits us every two years when she comes to the States and we host a Tea for her and her family. She always brings us an accounting of the works she and her Missionary Sisters are performing.
We have a group of our Rosarians who go to our local Assisted Living Complexes in Middletown to weekly lead the Rosary. Also a group of our Rosarians visit these complexes on Sundays to lead a prayer service and distribute the Eucharist to the elderly.
As a fund-raiser our Rosarians sell the Little Blue, Black and White Books. Besides helping us raise fund, we are encouraging our congregation to get spiritually into the Christmas, Lent and Easter seasons by learning more about our faith.
The Rosarians and the Junior Rosarians hold a Crowning of the Blessed Mother the first Sunday in May at St. Mary’s Chapel. I have a prepared beautiful ceremony along with a benediction. At the May Crowning we give a Rosary Altar Society Scholarship of $750 to a graduating senior/or seniors from our Parish. I am involved in composing the essay question and preparing the application form. I also send the applications to the High Schools in Monmouth and Ocean County. I and 4 other Rosarians, are on the Committee to choose the winner/winners. The winner/winners of the Scholarship join us at our May Crowning and actually Crowns the Blessed Mother. If anyone is interested in seeing a copy of the ceremony that I have prepared, let me know and I will send it off to you.
As you can see our Rosary Altar Society is truly a Ministry at Mary Mother of God Parish. We praise and honor Our Blessed Mother with the recitation of the Rosary and we go about doing God’s work by our charitable endeavors which in reality brings Holy Moments to those in need. In John’s Gospel Chapter 10:37-38 Jesus says “If I do not perform my Father’s works, do not believe me, but if I perform them, even if you do not believe in me, believe the works so that you may realize and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father”. I believe that as Rosarians we are setting an example for our parish because in doing our Father’s good works and providing our community with Holy Moments.