a School of Contemplation
by Fr Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange O.P.
After Holy Mass, the Rosary is one of the most beautiful and efficacious forms of prayer, on condition of understanding it and living it.
It sometimes happens that its recitation becomes a matter of routine. The mind, not being really gripped by the things of God, finds itself a prey to distractions. Sometimes the prayer is said hurriedly and soullessly. Sometimes it is said for the purpose of obtaining temporal favours [which is not in itself bad, but] desired out of all relation to spiritual gain. […]
It is sure that to pray well, it is sufficient to think in a general way of God and of the graces for which one asks. But to make the most out of our five mysteries, we should remember that they constitute but a third of the whole Rosary, and that they should be accompanied by meditation – which can be very simple – on the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries, which recall the whole life of Jesus and Mary, and their glory in heaven.
The Rosary is a true school of contemplation
The fifteen Mysteries of the Rosary thus divided into three groups are but different aspects of the three great Mysteries of our salvation : the Incarnation, the Redemption, Eternal Life. […]
Thus, the Rosary is a Credo : not an abstract one, but one concretised in the life of Jesus who came down to us from the Father, and who ascended to bring us back with Himself to the Father. It is the whole of Christian dogma in all its splendour and elevation, brought to us that we may fill our minds with it, that we may relish it and nourish our souls with it.
The Rosary is also a very practical form of prayer
The Rosary is also a very practical form of prayer: for it recalls all Christian morality and spirituality, by presenting them from the sublime point of view of their realisation in Jesus and Mary.
The Mysteries of the Rosary should be reproduced in our lives. Each of them is a lesson of virtue – particularly in the virtues of humility, trust, patience and charity.
* There are three stages in our progress towards God:
1. The first stage is to have knowledge of the final end, whence comes the desire of salvation and the joy to which that desire gives rise. This stage is symbolised in the joyful Mysteries, which contain the good news of the Incarnation of the Son of God who opens to us the way of salvation.
2. The next stage is to adopt the means – often painful to nature – to be delivered from sin and to merit Heaven. This is the stage of the sorrowful Mysteries.
3. The final stage is that of rest in the possession of eternal life. It is the stage of Heaven, of which the glorious Mysteries allow us to some anticipated glimpse.
* The Rosary is therefore most practical:
1. It takes us from the midst of our too human interests and joys, and makes us think of those which centre on the coming of the Saviour.
2. It takes us from our meaningless fears, from the sufferings we bear so badly, and reminds us of how much Jesus has suffered for love of us, and teaches us to follow Him by bearing the cross which divine Providence has sent us to purify us.
3. It takes us finally from our earthly hopes and ambitions, and makes us think of the true object of Christian hope: eternal life and the graces necessary to arrive there. […]
Try to recite the Rosary the eyes of faith fixed on the living Jesus who is always making intercession for us, and who is acting upon us in accordance with the Mysteries of His childhood, or His Passion, or His glory. He comes to us to make us like Himself. Let us fix our gaze on Jesus who is looking at us. His look is more than kind and understanding: it is the look of God, a look which purifies, which sanctifies, which gives peace. It is the look of our Judge, and still more the look of our Saviour, our Friend, the Spouse of our souls. A Rosary said in this way, in solitude and silence, is a most fruitful intercourse with Jesus. It is a conversation with Mary too, which leads to intimacy with her Son.
* But the Rosary is more than a prayer of petition :
— it is a prayer of adoration inspired by the thought of the Incarnate God (Joyful Mysteries) ;
— it is a prayer of reparation in memory of the Passion of Our Lord (Sorrowful Mysteries) ;
— it is a prayer of thanksgiving that the Glorious Mysteries continue to reproduce themselves in the uninterrupted entry of the elect into glory.
Objections and Answers
1. It has sometimes been objected that one cannot reflect on the words and the Mysteries at the same time.
The answer is that it is not necessary to reflect on the words if one is meditating on, or looking spiritually at one of the Mysteries.
The words are a kind of melody which soothes the ear and isolates us from the noise of the world around us, the fingers being occupied meanwhile in allowing one bead after another to slip through. Thus the imagination is kept tranquil and the mind and the will are set free to be united to God.
2. It has also been objected that the monotony of the many repetitions in the Rosary leads necessarily to routine.
This objection is valid only if the Rosary is said badly. If well said, it familiarises us with the different Mysteries of salvation, and recalls what these Mysteries should produce in our joys, our sorrows, our hopes.
ANY PRAYER CAN BECOME A MATTER OF ROUTINE! – even the Ordinary of the Mass. The reason is not that the prayer is imperfect, but that we do not say them as we should – with faith, confidence and love!
(From the book of Fr Garrigou-Lagrange O.P., The Mother of the Saviour and our interior life, Saint-Louis (Missouri), Herder Book Company, 1948, Part II, Chapter VI, Article II.)
- It means: understood firstly as a meditation and contemplation of the Mysteries of the life of Our Lord. (Note of the Editor.)
- That’s why it is the Rosary which keeps the faith of so many people all around the world today, especially in the poor countries, in spite of the crisis in the Church. That’s why, too, Our Lady insisted so much in Fatima on the DAILY recitation of the Rosary. (Note of the Editor.)