II. Why the Rosary Is So Effectual
The spontaneous, constant love of Catholics for the Rosary, and the remarkable results attributed to it, are easily understood when we carefully consider the nature of this devotion.
The great means of salvation and sanctification, the means which God has established for procuring efficacious grace to resist every temptation and acquire every virtue, the means that fertilizes, so to say, the sacerdotal ministry, is prayer. We need but read the Gospels attentively to be persuaded of this truth. Now, there are two kinds of prayer, mental and vocal, which consist respectively in pious reflection or meditation on the mysteries of our faith, and in earnest petition for graces both for ourselves and for others. The Rosary beautifully unites these two kinds, and is thus a perfect form of prayer. And it derives special efficacy from the fact that it is directed to the Mother of God, whose intercession on our behalf before the Throne of Grace is endowed with extraordinary power, so that Mary is fittingly called “Mother of Divine Grace,” and “All-powerful Suppliant.”
In the Rosary we survey, or rather ponder on, the entire series of mysteries enacted in the lives of Jesus and Mary from the moment of the Incarnation until the Coronation of the Queen of Heaven. In the Joyful Mysteries we contemplate Mary becoming the Mother of the Word made flesh, visiting her cousin St. Elizabeth, bringing forth the Saviour of men, offering to God the Infant Jesus as a tender victim, and finding Him, after the three days’ loss, in the temple of Jerusalem. The Sorrowful Mysteries set before our minds the Incarnate Word agonizing in the Garden of Olives for love of us, undergoing an inhuman scourging in Pilate’s hall, wearing a thorny crown of ignominy, laden with a heavy cross, and finally sacrificing His life, in supreme anguish, on Calvary for our redemption. In the Glorious Mysteries we consider Christ’s triumphant resurrection and ascension, the coming of the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, and the assumption and coronation of the Virgin Mother.
Who shall measure, or even describe the salutary influence which the successive prayerful contemplation of these fifteen mysteries exercises on the soul? Do we not thereby literally steep our mind and will and heart in the most sacred truths of Christianity, and thus flood our souls with celestial light, strengthened them with supernatural unction?
While our mind is engaged in the contemplation of the mysteries of the Rosary, we devoutly recite the Hail Mary; which is at once a salutation and an invocation—a salutation that was first addressed to the Holy Virgin by an Archangel inspired by the Blessed Trinity, and an invocation imploring Mary’s constant protection during life, and her powerful assistance in our dying moments. The Hail Mary is as it were the heavenly anthem whose sweet strains accompany the contemplation of the touching mysteries of the lives of Jesus and Mary. It is the prayer that gives most honor to the Immaculate Maiden, and which most effectually procures for us her powerful help, and hence it is a prayer that Mary’s children delight in offering their heavenly Mother.
“The Hail Mary,” writes Blessed Grignon de Montfort, “is a heavenly dew which waters the soul, and renders it fruitful in all virtues; a soul not watered by this prayer, brings forth no fruit, nothing but briars and thorns. . . . The Hail Mary is the sanctification of the soul, the joy of the Angels, the song of the predestined, the canticle of the New Testament, the pleasure of Mary, the glory of the most Holy Trinity. The Hail Mary is a loving kiss we give to Mary; it is a brilliant rose we present to her; a special pearl we offer to her; a cup of ambrosia and divine nectar we give to her. All these comparisons are made by the saints.”