Pray the Rosary

April 23 2015 | by

POPE FRANCIS has proved to be a pope of surprises. One could never accuse the Holy Father of changing the Faith, but nobody could deny that he has a real gift for presenting Catholicism in a new and interesting way. While he has a talent for symbolic gestures and colourful examples, personally he has a very traditional faith, more akin to a grandmother’s than a theologian’s. One aspect of this faith is his strong devotion to our Blessed Mother.

The Rosary forms an important part of the life of Pope Francis, indeed, in a recent interview with a Mexican television station, he revealed that he was praying the rosary when the cardinals elected him as pope, “During the vote,” he said, “I was praying the rosary… and I felt great peace.”

The Holy Father traces his strong devotion to Mary and the Rosary to two specific events in his life. First of all, he has shared how the Blessed Mother helped him during a very difficult period of his life. His service as Jesuit Provincial in Argentina had coincided with the country’s Dirty War and the stress of his responsibilities had taken their toll on him. After his term of office ended he was emotionally drained and couldn’t see clearly how he should continue his ministry. In this state he visited the Shrine of Our Lady Untier of Knots in Germany and had a life-changing experience of Mary’s maternal protection there. Since then he has spread this little known devotion to Mary as Untier of Knots (we dedicated our article in May 2014 to this beautiful devotion).


Daily practice


The other event that was fundamental for Pope Francis’ Marian devotion was a prayer service he attended with St. John Paul II while he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires. In an interview on his personal recollections of John Paul II published in the magazine Thirty Days, Cardinal Bergoglio said how he was inspired to pray the rosary by his saintly predecessor. “If I remember well it was 1985,” Cardinal Bergoglio said. “One evening I went to recite the Holy Rosary that was being led by the Holy Father. He was in front of everybody, on his knees. The group was numerous; I saw the Holy Father from the back and, little by little, I got lost in prayer. I was not alone: I was praying in the middle of the people of God to which I and all those there belonged, led by our Shepherd.” During the prayer he “became distracted, looking at the figure of the Pope: his piety, his devotion was a witness.” Pope Francis recalls how he “began to imagine the young priest, the seminarian, the poet, the worker, the child from Wadowice… in the same position in which he knelt at that moment, reciting Ave Maria after Ave Maria. His witness struck me.”

As he prayed he was inspired to join the witness of the Polish Pontiff to the experience of one of the most important American saints. “I felt that this man, chosen to lead the Church, was following a path up to his Mother in heaven, a path set out on from his childhood. And I became aware of the weight of the words of the Mother of Guadalupe to Saint Juan Diego: ‘Do not be afraid… Am I not here, I, who am your Mother?’ I understood the presence of Mary in the life of the Pope.” Pope Francis has never forgotten this profound experience of prayer, and he shared that “from that time on I recite the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary every day.”




As Pope Bergoglio has continued to promote the devotion to Mary and the rosary. In November 2013 he surprised the crowd of 80,000 people gathered to participate in the Sunday Angelus with a special gift. The Holy Father joked with the crowd that he is not a pharmacist, but nonetheless he distributed what looked like white medicine boxes with an anatomical drawing of the human heart on it. “I want to recommend some medicine for all of you,” he said “it’s a spiritual medicine.” The boxes contained a rosary, a holy card of the Divine Mercy picture of Jesus, and a guide on how to pray the rosary and the Divine Mercy chaplet in the style of the instructions sheet which usually comes in a box of medicine.

“It is a special medicine which will help you,” Pope Francis said. “It is a medicine that consists of 59 threaded beads; a “spiritual medicine” called Misericordin. A small box containing 59 beads on a string. This little box contains the medicine, and will be distributed to you by volunteers as you leave the Square. Take them! There is a rosary, with which you can pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, spiritual help for our souls and for spreading love, forgiveness and brotherhood everywhere. Do not forget to take it, because it is good for you. It is good for the heart, the soul, and for life in general!”


No adverse side effects


The instructions are somewhat tongue in cheek, describing the rosary as a course of 59 tablets (one ‘tablet’ for every bead of the rosary), it states that no adverse side effects have been reported by anyone who has prayed the rosary. They also recommend that both adults and children use the ‘medicine’ of the rosary daily, and that they can repeat it as often as necessary. Finally, they also encourage a regular reception of the Sacraments to increase the efficacy of the prescription and recommend that the ‘patient’ contact a priest if they need further details or assistance.


Our Lady of Aparecida


The Holy Father, being the first non-European pope in more than twelve hundred years, also brings some traditions and devotions from his native Latin America to the Church. The cover photo of this issue shows him holding the statue of Our Lady of Aparecida during World Youth Day in 2013. This is the main Marian shrine of Brazil; the small statue the pope is holding has an immense shrine built around it. Pope Francis is very fond of that shrine, as it was there that he participated in a general assembly of the Conference of Latin American Bishops in 2007. Cardinal Bergoglio was one of the main authors of the blueprint for the New Evangelization in Latin America produced by the bishops there. He has spoken about how inspired the bishops were as they discussed the best way forward for the Church in their lands in a room under the Shrine – not only were they helped by the prayers of so many members of the faithful, but they could even hear the comforting murmur of those prayers being prayed by thousands of pilgrims as they were deliberating!

During his visit to Brazil for World Youth Day, which was also his first visit outside of Italy since his election, the Pope made sure to return to the Shrine of Aparecida, there he preached how he had “come to knock on the door of the house of Mary – who loved and raised Jesus – that she may help all of us, pastors of God’s people, parents and educators, to pass on to our young people the values that can help them build a nation and a world which are more just, united and fraternal.” He then spoke of three attitudes that we ought to learn from the Blessed Virgin Mary: “hopefulness, openness to being surprised by God, and living in joy.”


Wine of hope and joy


Reflecting on being surprised by God, he spoke about the surprise of the three fishermen who discovered the statue of Our Lady of Aparecida as they were working on the Parnaíba River. He then applied this attitude of surprise to our lives, “God always surprises us… God always saves the best for us. But he asks us to let ourselves be surprised by his love, to accept his surprises. Let us trust God! Cut off from him, the wine of joy, the wine of hope, runs out. If we draw near to him, if we stay with him, what seems to be cold water, difficulty, sin, is changed into the new wine of friendship with him.” He concluded his homily exhorting his listeners to come to Jesus through Mary. “Dear friends, we have come to knock at the door of Mary’s house. She has opened it for us, she has let us in and she shows us her Son. Now she asks us to ‘do whatever he tells you.’ Yes, Mother, we are committed to doing whatever Jesus tells us! And we will do it with hope, trusting in God’s surprises and full of joy.”


Mary’s house


The Rosary is one of the best ways we have to “knock at the door of Mary’s house.” On the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 2013, the Pope recommended the Rosary to us during the Mass. He was reflecting on the struggle between good and evil suggested by the reading from the Book of Revelation for the Mass. This reading speaks of a pregnant Woman being attacked by a Dragon. The Dragon tries to devour the newborn child of the Woman, but is repelled by St. Michael. The Pope reflected on how every Christian has to face struggles. But we are not alone in our struggles for “the Mother of Christ and of the Church is always with us. She walks with us always, she is with us… Mary accompanies us, struggles with us, sustains Christians in their fight against the forces of evil. Prayer with Mary, especially the rosary – but listen carefully: the Rosary. Do you pray the Rosary every day? But I’m not sure you do [the people shout ‘Yes!’]… Really? Well, prayer with Mary, especially the Rosary, has this ‘suffering’ dimension, that is of struggle, a sustaining prayer in the battle against the evil one and his accomplices. The Rosary also sustains us in the battle.” May the Blessed Mother help all of us, especially in this month dedicated to Mary and may the Rosary be our ‘spiritual medicine’ that helps us all to overcome whatever spiritual sickness or problems oppress us!



Updated on October 06 2016