The Rosary and the saints

An article from Fr. Noel Molloy, published in Charisindia, Vol. 2, Issue No. 11, November 2003
Fr. Noel Molloy, OP is an Irish Dominican Priest of the Indian Province who arrived in India in 1969. He is well known Retreat Preacher and teaches Dogmatic Theology in St. Charles Seminary, Nagpur
At Lourdes (1858), Mary and Bernadette recited the Rosary together. Mary had her own beads, and, as Bernadette said the “Hail Marys”, Mary slipped the beads through her fingers- though Bernadette noticed that her lips did not move. The Rosary figured even more prominently at Fatima. Already on the occasion of the first apparition (13th May 1917) Mary, who manifested herself carrying the beads in her right hand, requested that the Rosary be said every day, and during the next four apparitions she repeated this request. In the course of the final apparition (13th October) she revealed her name: “I am Our Lady of the Rosary… Continue to say the Rosary every day”. The Church, of course, will never oblige us to accept the authenticity of the apparitions at Lourdes and Fatima, and yet the institution of feasts of Our Lady of Lourdes and of Our Lady of Fatima, as well as the canonization of Bernadette and the beatification of Jacintha and Francisco, are indications of “the authoritative recognition they have received from the Church” (John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, para 7) If we accept, then, that Mary did really appear at Lourdes and Fatima, we can say that Rosary is a prayer special to Mary.

Down through the centuries, the Rosary has been a prayer dear to saints of every sort. Among simple, unlettered saints we might mention St. John Macias. St John, who died in 1645 and was canonized in 1975, was for most of his religious life the door-keeper of the Dominican priory of St. Mary Magdalene in Lima (Peru). The Rosary beads were always in his hands. He had committed himself to reciting at least three full rosaries (45 decades) every day, and in fact went beyond that. The Rosary was his pathway to God. Among the great mystic saints, we might mention St. Teresa of Avila (d. 1582). We read in her standard biography: “Before going to sleep, even when she had been dealing with her correspondence or working at one of the books her confessors ordered her to write, she would say her Rosary, pronouncing each word slowly, lovingly, with the full awareness that sprang from her sanctity” (Auclaire, St. Teresa of Avila, p. 414) So one can say that even when one has reached the heights of the mystical life there is still a place for the Rosary in one’s spirituality. Among the saints marked by their great theological wisdom, we might point to St. Francis de Sales (d. 1622), a Doctor of the Church: “He said the Rosary very slowly and devoutly, spending about an hour at it, no matter how late the hour. When necessary work kept him busy until very late, he would hold the beads in his hand, lest he might forget the recitation. Onlookers were impressed by the intensity of his devotion when he was reciting it” (Lajeunie, St. Francis de Sales, vol. 1, p. 154-155) On one occasion he confided to St. Vincent de Paul that “if he had not been bound to say his Office, he would have said no other prayer than the Rosary” (Lajeunie, vol. 2, p. 19-20). So the Rosary is a prayer that adapts itself to every type of sanctity. We never go beyond it.