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Homily from Legion of Mary Celebration

This homily was preached by Bishop Paul S. Loverde at the Legion of Mary Diocesan Celebration at St. Ann Church in Arlington. The beauty of the Rosary, the power of the Rosary, the value of the Rosary lies in the fact that the Rosary is "a veritable school of Christian life." That is how St. Louis de Montfort described this prayer in the opening pages of his spiritual classic: The Secret of the Rosary. We modern-day Catholic Christians, we contemporary disciples of Jesus Christ are being invited — more deeply and more insistently — to rediscover the secret of the Rosary, that is, to learn again — this time more carefully and more realistically — how the Rosary can truly become for us "a … school of Christian life." We need to say the Rosary; more precisely, we need to pray the Rosary; ultimately, we need to live the Rosary. Daily we must say the Rosary, at least five decades and if possible, the entire fifteen. We need to say the Rosary slowly enough to make its recitation devout and reverent. As we are saying the Rosary, we are, in fact, in contact with two of the most basic prayers in our Christian tradition: the Lord’s Prayer (the Our Father) and the Angelic Salutation (the Hail Mary). The first is fully rooted in the Scriptures, taught to us by Jesus Himself. The second is largely rooted in the Scriptures, its first half echoing the words of the Archangel Gabriel and of Elizabeth as each addressed Mary. The third prayer — the Glory Be to the Father — ancient in its wording — surely reflects the unceasing prayer of adoration and praise found within the Book of Revelation. As we say the Rosary, then, we are making our own these words full of grace — grace-filled because they are grounded in God’s Word, revealing His saving power and inviting our grateful praise. But, we must do more than say the Rosary each day. Each day we must pray this beautiful Marian devotion. In other words, to our saying the words, we must add our reflecting or meditating on the various mysteries of the Rosary. As our lips form words, our minds and hearts ponder events in the lives of Jesus and Mary — events more familiarly called the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries. As we ponder these events, we are led to a more profound and more basic understanding; our prayer grows deeper. We see with the eyes of faith how Jesus and Mary responded to God’s Word and Will, how they coped with life’s circumstances and situations, sometimes so unexpected and oftentimes so confusing and painful. As we see with the eyes of faith, our hearts are transformed and our spirits strengthened. What once seemed just historical events become teachable moments. We learn not so much in the head but in the heart. And that kind of learning makes all the difference. But it is not enough even to pray the Rosary each day. If this prayer is "a veritable school of Christian life," each day ultimately we must live the Rosary. Saying grace-filled words while at the same time pondering events in the lives of Jesus and Mary, we gradually but surely come to live out in our own very concrete lives these very events. Like Mary, we begin to discover God’s Will in the existential circumstances of daily living and we begin to pray: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word." Like Mary, we bring Christ enfleshed within us by faith to those we meet and to those in need: to the young and the old, to the unborn and born, to the close-minded and to the open-hearted. Like Mary, we perceive the presence of the Divine in the ordinary and routine aspects of life even as she beheld divinity hidden beneath the humanity of the newborn Child. We sometimes feel that God is remote and distant; like Mary, we go searching for Him and when we find Him, even if we do not understand, we continue to cling and to ponder, keeping all these things in our hearts. Like Jesus, we can become afraid, broken by hardship and heartache; all is strangely and silently dark and we cry out: "save me!" As the silence continues with no answer or solution forthcoming, like Jesus, we pray all the more earnestly, whispering "Your will, not mine, be done." Like Jesus, we experience bodily pain and mental anguish; we experience ridicule and rejection; we experience the weight of the cross, falling again and again; we face death — those countless deaths-to-self all life long and that final separation called human death; and like Jesus, with Jesus, we do this with trust — the way He did — "Father, into Your hands, I commend my spirit." Like Jesus and precisely because of Jesus, we His Mystical Body await our own resurrection and our own entrance into eternal life, that life begun at Baptism by the coming down into us of the Holy Spirit. We, the Mystical Body of Christ, look forward in joyful hope to the resurrection of the body and life everlasting, a promised reward already experienced by one of our race: Mary, the Mother of God and the Mother of the Church. These and so many other lessons for living the Christian life we learn through praying the Rosary. The various events in the lives of Jesus and Mary are differing expressions of the one basic and foundational mystery of the Christian faith: the Paschal Mystery, that is, that dying and rising first lived out by Jesus and then by all His followers, beginning with the first and best: His own mother. So it is that, by praying the Rosary, we come to live out the Paschal Mystery in our lives, thereby being authentic disciples of Jesus, people who really follow in His footsteps, dying with Him so as to rise with Him. Yes, here is the secret of the Rosary: it teaches us how to live genuinely the life of faith because it enables us to desire and then to live out in our real lives each day all that Jesus and Mary lived out in theirs. What a beautiful prayer because it belongs to our family tradition! What a powerful prayer because its words are grace-filled! What a transforming prayer because it enables us to live the Paschal Mystery here and now! We gather together to affirm our love for Mary, Mother of God and Mother of the Church. We gather together to profess our faith in Her Son Jesus the Lord. May we learn better through this prayerful celebration how beautiful, how powerful, how authentically Christian is the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Even more, may we recommit ourselves to saying the Rosary each day, to praying the Rosary each day, to living the Rosary each day. If we do, as we do, we shall experience for ourselves the truth of these words: "meditating on the mysteries of the most holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, may we imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise." Amen.

Copyright ?2001 Arlington Catholic Herald.  All rights reserved.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2001