Today, May 13, we celebrate the feast day of Our Lady of Fatima. This day recalls and commemorates the time period in 1917 when Our Lady appeared to three young children who were shepherding their sheep near Fatima, Portugal. During the six times Our Lady appeared to them, she requested they pray the rosary every day, in order to bring peace to the world and the end of World War I. We don’t have to look far today to know that Mary is still making the same request of us: pray the rosary every day to bring peace to the world and an end to war.
But why did Mary specify we pray the rosary? After all, there are many forms of prayer available to Catholics, such as the Liturgy of the Hours, novenas and chaplets, as well as Mass. But Mary only -and explicitly- asked for a daily rosary. We know that praying the rosary brings us so many graces and benefits. Five benefits of this prayer are listed below, starting with the most basic and building up to the top, best reason to pray it. Perhaps these five reasons can give us some insight into why Our Lady asked for the rosary.
5. For the physiological changes that take place in the body.
In today's over-scheduled, over-rushed world, it seems like everyone is always looking for ways to relax. Many studies have shown the effects on the body that take place when we pray the rosary. The rhythm of the words, the repeating prayers and the consoling knowledge that someone who loves you is listening all combine to slow down the heart rate, cut down the release of cortisol, improve concentration and even our breathing. While anxiousness and stress may not totally evaporate, they certainly subside. And all these benefits are on the purely physical level - we haven't even gotten to the spiritual benefits yet.
4. To practice Contemplative Prayer
Once the body is calm, the mind is much more able to practice contemplative prayer. Cortisol and adrenaline levels subside, opening the pathway to the creative and restorative areas of the brain. We can use our imagination to dwell on the mysteries of the rosary. Many spiritual pathways incorporate a well-formed imagination to dwell on the mysteries of God. The Ignatian Exercises and the Dominican Practice of Contemplation help us to remain grounded in a place of calm alertness, able to step away from our daily lives for a few minutes and obtain a greater perspective.
3. To Draw Down and Apply Graces
By lifting our hearts and minds in contemplation and supposition to God, we are able to draw down the graces won for us by Jesus as he walked the earth. Prayer unites us with God, so we can apply the graces and guidance from Jesus' life to our own. In a very real way, we can participate in the life of the Holy Family as we pray through the mysteries of the rosary and draw down those graces into our own homes and situations. The rosary assists us in incarnating the stories of Scripture.
2. To Grow In Holiness
Repeated contemplation of the lives of Jesus and his only perfect follower, Mary, his Mother, will change us. We will slowly grow in imitation of them and understanding of how to react and act in our own lives as we put on more and more of Christ.
1. To Change Our World and Build the Kingdom of God
This sounds like such a huge statement, and it is. It's also a true statement. Our prayers for world peace, for guidance and wisdom for our world leaders, are more necessary than ever today. Yet, we can also change our own corner of the world by first changing ourselves.
If you don’t consider yourself to be a devotee of the rosary, today is a good day to give it a try. Since it takes only about 20 minutes to say, there is usually a pocket of time during the day when we can pause and pray it. The rosary is also a great way to introduce communal prayer into families. Families with very young children might only say one or two decades together and add more as children grow. The point is not perfection, but practice and persistence. Just remember, no matter how well or poorly we pray it, saying the rosary in any form can only be good for ourselves, our families and the world, as we respond to Mary’s request.
Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us!
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