I therefore proclaim the year from October to October the Year of the Rosary. I leave this pastoral proposal to the initiative of each ecclesial community. It is not my intention to encumber but rather to complete and consolidate pastoral programmes of the Particular Churches. I am confident that the proposal will find a ready and generous reception. The Rosary, reclaimed in its full meaning, goes to the very heart of Christian life; it offers a familiar yet fruitful spiritual and educational opportunity for personal contemplation, the formation of the People of God, and the new evangelization.
The timeliness of this proposal is evident from a number of considerations. First, the urgent need to counter a certain crisis of the Rosary, which in the present historical and theological context can risk being wrongly devalued, and therefore no longer taught to the younger generation.
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There are some who think that the centrality of the Liturgy, rightly stressed by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, necessarily entails giving lesser importance to the Rosary. Yet, as Pope Paul VI made clear, not only does this prayer not conflict with the Liturgy, it sustains it , since it serves as an excellent introduction and a faithful echo of the Liturgy, enabling people to participate fully and interiorly in it and to reap its fruits in their daily lives.
Perhaps too, there are some who fear that the Rosary is somehow unecumenical because of its distinctly Marian character. The Rosary belongs among the finest and most praiseworthy traditions of Christian contemplation. A number of historical circumstances also make a revival of the Rosary quite timely. First of all, the need to implore from God the gift of peace. The Rosary has many times been proposed by my predecessors and myself as a prayer for peace. Consequently, one cannot recite the Rosary without feeling caught up in a clear commitment to advancing peace, especially in the land of Jesus, still so sorely afflicted and so close to the heart of every Christian.
A similar need for commitment and prayer arises in relation to another critical contemporary issue: the family , the primary cell of society, increasingly menaced by forces of disintegration on both the ideological and practical planes, so as to make us fear for the future of this fundamental and indispensable institution and, with it, for the future of society as a whole. The revival of the Rosary in Christian families, within the context of a broader pastoral ministry to the family, will be an effective aid to countering the devastating effects of this crisis typical of our age.
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Well-known are the occasions in the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries on which the Mother of Christ made her presence felt and her voice heard, in order to exhort the People of God to this form of contemplative prayer. I would mention in particular, on account of their great influence on the lives of Christians and the authoritative recognition they have received from the Church, the apparitions of Lourdes and of Fatima; 11 these shrines continue to be visited by great numbers of pilgrims seeking comfort and hope.
It would be impossible to name all the many Saints who discovered in the Rosary a genuine path to growth in holiness. We need but mention Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, the author of an excellent work on the Rosary, 12 and, closer to ourselves, Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, whom I recently had the joy of canonizing. As a true apostle of the Rosary, Blessed Bartolo Longo had a special charism. The Gospel scene of Christ's transfiguration, in which the three Apostles Peter, James and John appear entranced by the beauty of the Redeemer, can be seen as an icon of Christian contemplation.
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To look upon the face of Christ, to recognize its mystery amid the daily events and the sufferings of his human life, and then to grasp the divine splendour definitively revealed in the Risen Lord, seated in glory at the right hand of the Father: this is the task of every follower of Christ and therefore the task of each one of us. In contemplating Christ's face we become open to receiving the mystery of Trinitarian life, experiencing ever anew the love of the Father and delighting in the joy of the Holy Spirit.
The contemplation of Christ has an incomparable model in Mary. In a unique way the face of the Son belongs to Mary. It was in her womb that Christ was formed, receiving from her a human resemblance which points to an even greater spiritual closeness. No one has ever devoted himself to the contemplation of the face of Christ as faithfully as Mary.
The eyes of her heart already turned to him at the Annunciation, when she conceived him by the power of the Holy Spirit.
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In the months that followed she began to sense his presence and to picture his features. Thereafter Mary's gaze, ever filled with adoration and wonder, would never leave him. Jn At other times it would be a look of sorrow , especially beneath the Cross, where her vision would still be that of a mother giving birth, for Mary not only shared the passion and death of her Son, she also received the new son given to her in the beloved disciple cf. On the morning of Easter hers would be a gaze radiant with the joy of the Resurrection , and finally, on the day of Pentecost, a gaze afire with the outpouring of the Spirit cf.
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Acts The memories of Jesus, impressed upon her heart, were always with her, leading her to reflect on the various moments of her life at her Son's side. Even now, amid the joyful songs of the heavenly Jerusalem, the reasons for her thanksgiving and praise remain unchanged. They inspire her maternal concern for the pilgrim Church, in which she continues to relate her personal account of the Gospel. In the recitation of the Rosary, the Christian community enters into contact with the memories and the contemplative gaze of Mary.
The Rosary, precisely because it starts with Mary's own experience, is an exquisitely contemplative prayer. By its nature the recitation of the Rosary calls for a quiet rhythm and a lingering pace, helping the individual to meditate on the mysteries of the Lord's life as seen through the eyes of her who was closest to the Lord. It is worth pausing to consider this profound insight of Paul VI, in order to bring out certain aspects of the Rosary which show that it is really a form of Christocentric contemplation.
Mary's contemplation is above all a remembering. We need to understand this word in the biblical sense of remembrance zakar as a making present of the works brought about by God in the history of salvation. The Bible is an account of saving events culminating in Christ himself.
This making present comes about above all in the Liturgy: what God accomplished centuries ago did not only affect the direct witnesses of those events; it continues to affect people in every age with its gift of grace. Christians, while they are called to prayer in common, must also go to their own rooms to pray to their Father in secret cf. Mt ; indeed, according to the teaching of the Apostle, they must pray without ceasing cf. By immersing us in the mysteries of the Redeemer's life, it ensures that what he has done and what the liturgy makes present is profoundly assimilated and shapes our existence.
Christ is the supreme Teacher, the revealer and the one revealed. 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 cf. Jn ; ; 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.
We can imagine that she would have done likewise for the disciples after Jesus' Ascension, when she joined them in awaiting the Holy Spirit and supported them in their first mission. Christian spirituality is distinguished by the disciple's commitment to become conformed ever more fully to his Master cf. Rom ; Phil , The outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Baptism grafts the believer like a branch onto the vine which is Christ cf.
Jn and makes him a member of Christ's mystical Body cf. Rom ; Gal In the spiritual journey of the Rosary, based on the constant contemplation — in Mary's company — of the face of Christ, this demanding ideal of being conformed to him is pursued through an association which could be described in terms of friendship. We are thereby enabled to enter naturally into Christ's life and as it were to share his deepest feelings.
In this process of being conformed to Christ in the Rosary, we entrust ourselves in a special way to the maternal care of the Blessed Virgin.
As such, she continually brings to birth children for the mystical Body of her Son. She does so through her intercession, imploring upon them the inexhaustible outpouring of the Spirit. Mary is the perfect icon of the motherhood of the Church. The Rosary mystically transports us to Mary's side as she is busy watching over the human growth of Christ in the home of Nazareth. Gal Hence the most perfect of all devotions is undoubtedly that which conforms, unites and consecrates us most perfectly to Jesus Christ.
Mary lives only in Christ and for Christ! The basis for this power of prayer is the goodness of the Father, but also the mediation of Christ himself cf.
Rom Jas In support of the prayer which Christ and the Spirit cause to rise in our hearts, Mary intervenes with her maternal intercession. The Rosary is both meditation and supplication. Insistent prayer to the Mother of God is based on confidence that her maternal intercession can obtain all things from the heart of her Son.
Lk , she intercedes for us before the Father who filled her with grace and before the Son born of her womb, praying with us and for us. The Rosary is also a path of proclamation and increasing knowledge , in which the mystery of Christ is presented again and again at different levels of the Christian experience. Its form is that of a prayerful and contemplative presentation, capable of forming Christians according to the heart of Christ. When the recitation of the Rosary combines all the elements needed for an effective meditation, especially in its communal celebration in parishes and shrines, it can present a significant catechetical opportunity which pastors should use to advantage.
In this way too Our Lady of the Rosary continues her work of proclaiming Christ. The history of the Rosary shows how this prayer was used in particular by the Dominicans at a difficult time for the Church due to the spread of heresy. Today we are facing new challenges.
Why should we not once more have recourse to the Rosary, with the same faith as those who have gone before us? The Rosary retains all its power and continues to be a valuable pastoral resource for every good evangelizer. What is needed, then, is a revelation from above. The Rosary is one of the traditional paths of Christian prayer directed to the contemplation of Christ's face.
Its most characteristic element, in fact, the litany- like succession of Hail Marys , becomes in itself an unceasing praise of Christ, who is the ultimate object both of the Angel's announcement and of the greeting of the Mother of John the Baptist: 'Blessed is the fruit of your womb' Lk We would go further and say that the succession of Hail Marys constitutes the warp on which is woven the contemplation of the mysteries.
A proposed addition to the traditional pattern. Of the many mysteries of Christ's life, only a few are indicated by the Rosary in the form that has become generally established with the seal of the Church's approval. The selection was determined by the origin of the prayer, which was based on the number , the number of the Psalms in the Psalter.