Apostolic Letter “ROSARIUM VIRGINIS MARIAE” on the Most Holy Rosary

The Holy Father John Paul II published on October 16, 2002 the Apostolic Letter on the Most Holy Rosary under the title, “Rosarium Virginis Mariae”, where he also proclaims a year of the Holy Rosary, beginning today and running through the same date next year. The Holy Father asks that the Rosary be prayed particularly for the causes of world peace and the strengthening of family life. In this document, the Pope proposes five new mysteries of the Rosary under the name “luminous mysteries” or “mysteries of light”.

Introduction to Apostolic Letter “ROSARIUM VIRGINIS MARIAE”

The Pope recommends that the joyful mysteries be used on Mondays and Saturdays, the sorrowful mysteries on Tuesdays and Fridays, the glorious mysteries of Sundays and Wednesdays, and the new luminous mysteries on Thursdays. The “mysteries of light” would be drawn from the life of Christ, and his public revelation of his divine nature and mission. They are to be: the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan; the wedding feast at Cana; the announcement of the Kingdom; the Transfiguration, and the institution of the Eucharist.

The Holy Father opens his apostolic letter with a reminder that October is traditionally a month devoted to the Rosary. And he emphasizes the power of that traditional prayer, which “blends easily into the spiritual journey of the Christian life.” The Pope goes on to point out that the Rosary is a means of praying to Jesus, through and with his mother. He writes that “the Rosary, though clearly Marian in character, is at heart a Christocentric prayer.” In the mysteries of the Rosary, the faithful follow the thoughts of the Virgin Mary as they contemplate the life of Christ. Thus the Rosary is “an echo of the prayer of Mary.”

Pope John Paul repeats that fundamental message several times in his apostolic letter. He writes: “With the Rosary, the Christian people sits at the school of Mary and is led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love.” And later he adds: “To recite the Rosary is nothing other than to contemplate with Mary the face of Christ.” He even takes note that in reciting the ten “Hail Mary's” that make up each decade, or “mystery,” of the Rosary, the faithful are concentrating on Jesus. As he puts it, “the centre of gravity in the Hail Mary - the hinge as it were which joins its two parts - is the name of Jesus.”

In “Rosarium Virginis Mariae” the Pope observes that he has always been devoted to the Rosary, and has encouraged the faithful in the use of the traditional prayer. He laments that the Rosary has become less popular among the faithful, and says that the prayer “in the present historical and theological context can risk being wrongly devalued, and therefore no longer taught to the younger generation.”

Making numerous references to the teachings of Vatican II, the Pontiff insists that it is a mistake to believe that the Church has lost enthusiasm for the Rosary. On the contrary, he says, the Rosary is a natural complement to the liturgical life of the Church. While the Mass is the Church's public act of worship, the Rosary encourages private devotion and a quiet encounter with Christ. “The Rosary,” he writes, “precisely because it starts with Mary's own experience, is an exquisitely contemplative prayer.”


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