“Christ is the supreme Teacher, the Revealer and the One revealed. It is not just a question of learning what He taught but of “learning Him”. In this regard could we have any better teacher than Mary? From the divine standpoint, the Spirit is the interior teacher who leads us to the full truth of Christ. But among creatures no one knows Christ better than Mary; no one can introduce us to a profound knowledge of His mystery better than His Mother.. Contemplating the scenes of the Rosary in union with Mary is a means of learning from Her to ‘read’ Christ, to discover His secrets and to understand His message. This school of Mary is all the more effective if we consider that She teaches by obtaining for us in abundance the gifts of the Holy Spirit, even as She offers us the incomparable example of Her own ‘pilgrimage of faith’. As we contemplate each mystery of Her Son’s life, She invites us to do as She did at the Annunciation: to ask humbly the questions which open us to the light, in order to end with the obedience of faith: ‘Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word’ (Lk1:38).”
– Pope St John Paul II, ‘Rosarium Virginis Mariae’
Throughout the Year of Mercy, we have sought to learn something ‘of Christ’, in the same way that St John Paul describes in the quotation above. St John Paul and Pope Francis are of a similar mind here. It is not enough to know about Christ – we need to know Christ Himself. Christ reveals to us the face of mercy, the face of the Father in Heaven – “If you know Me, you know My Father, too” (John 14:7).
In the created order, Mary, the Mother of Mercy, is the perfect teacher, for none is so familiar with this Face as She. From the moment of the birth of Her Son in Bethlehem, She began to gaze with wonder and adoration upon Him, a look which continued all throughout Her earthly life, even unto the Cross – and then, on the morning of the Resurrection, She gazed upon the resplendent face of Her Son, now risen and glorious.
And this, in essence, is what we consider and meditate upon when we pray the Rosary – that look of Mary upon the Face of Christ in every moment of His life on earth. Praying the Rosary, we see Christ through the eyes of Mary; with Her, and in Her company, we move from His early life in the Joyful Mysteries, through to His Passion and Death in the Sorrowful Mysteries, and on to the joy of the Resurrection and beyond in the Glorious Mysteries.
Not only is Mary the Mother of the Lord; She is also the Spouse of the Holy Spirit. Those moments of direct contact between the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Virgin are very powerful – at the Annunciation, it resulted in the Incarnation; while with the Mary and the Apostles in the Cenacle, the Holy Spirit descended and the Church was born and given it’s mission. In praying the Rosary in the company of Mary, She obtains for us a great outpouring of grace from Her Spouse. This grace enables us to echo Her great ‘fiat’, to consent to be docile to the will of God. In numerous small ways, we will become ever more perfectly conformed to God’s holy will for us. In other words, She leads us gently and surely along the path of true sanctity as only She can do.
St John Paul is one of numerous Saints through centuries who have proposed to us the prayerful recitation of the Rosary – this beautiful prayer, so ancient and venerable, so powerful before Heaven, such a conduit of the grace of God.
Another such Saint was Louis Marie de Montfort, who wrote a beautiful little book entitled ‘The Secret Of The Rosary’. Indeed, he wrote several great works, including ‘True Devotion To Mary’, ‘The Secret Of Mary’, and ‘God Alone’. He also composed numerous hymns and poems and established two religious orders. He became known as the ‘Apostle Of the Cross and Rosary’. It was from the writings of St Louis that St John Paul II took his papal motto – ‘Totus tuus’ (‘all yours’).
St Louis predicted that in the last days, God would raise up great saints who would surpass the other Saints in terms of deep holiness. Here is how he described them –
“They will have the two-edged sword of the Word of God in their mouths and the bloodstained standard of the Cross on their shoulders. They will carry the Crucifix in their right hand and the Rosary in their left, and the holy names of Jesus and Mary on their heart.”
Looking at some of the recent Saints given to us by the Church – St John Paul, St Faustina, St Teresa of Calcutta and various others – this prediction may be closer to the truth than we imagine.
The Rosary is certainly deeply Marian in character – but always Christocentric. This, after all, is the role of the Blessed Virgin – to lead us ever closer to Her Divine Son.
To spend time with the Mother of God in the praying of Her Rosary is a great grace in itself, as well as a conduit of further grace. In praying the Rosary, we truly learn from Mary how to gaze upon the Face of Christ.