October 6, 2017

Christ the Cornerstone

October, Mary’s month, a time for devotion, prayer

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“From the Church, Christians learn the example of holiness and recognize its model and source in the all-holy Virgin Mary”
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2030).

There are Marian feasts in every season of the Church’s calendar, but October and May are two months set aside by tradition as times for special prayer and Marian devotion. I thought I’d use this special time of the year to offer some reflections on Mary’s unique role as Mother of God and our mother.

The publication date for the column is on Friday, Oct. 6. Tomorrow, Oct. 7, the Church invites us to seek the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary under her title, Our Lady of the Rosary.

The rosary is a physical instrument, a sacramental comprising a string of beads, a crucifix and a pendant. It is also a set of prayers including the Apostles’ Creed followed by the Lord’s Prayer, the Hail Mary (repeated 10 times for each decade) and the Glory Be to the Father. Those who pray the rosary often say that touching the beads helps the mind concentrate on the “mysteries” that commemorate key events in the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As a form of devotion, the rosary became popular in the 15th century. The Dominican friars promoted this form of Marian devotion, and its popularity grew throughout the succeeding centuries until today.

Quoting from the Vatican II document, “Lumen Gentium” (“Light of the Nations”) #60, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “the Church’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship” (#971).

We Christians do not worship Mary (or any of the saints), but we honor them and look to their example, and their active intercession, as intrinsic to the adoration given to God alone.

“This very special devotion differs essentially from the adoration which is given to the Incarnate Word and equally to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and greatly fosters this adoration. The liturgical feasts dedicated to the Mother of God and Marian prayer, such as the rosary, ‘an epitome of the whole Gospel,’ express this devotion to the Virgin Mary” (#971).

I encourage all Catholics in central and southern Indiana to pray the rosary, especially during this month of October.

If you have never prayed the rosary, or if you haven’t “picked up the beads” in many years, give it a try this month. I think you’ll find that the rosary can be a great source of consolation and peace. It’s a form of meditation that helps remove us from the worries and frustrations of daily life and places us in the loving arms of our Blessed Mother. By meditating on the mysteries of Christ’s life among us, we can get outside of ourselves and join him on the Way of Life.

“Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion, and desire,” the catechism teaches. “This mobilization of faculties is necessary in order to deepen our convictions of faith, prompt the conversion of our heart, and strengthen our will to follow Christ. Christian prayer tries above all to meditate on the mysteries of Christ, as in lectio divina [holy reading] or the rosary. This form of prayerful reflection is of great value, but Christian prayer should go further: to the knowledge of the Lord Jesus, to union with him” (#2708).

To know, love and serve Jesus Christ is the object of all true Christian prayer, including the rosary. Mary’s whole life points us to her divine son. She was the first to know him as the incarnate Son of God. And she was the first to tell us, her children, to “do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5).

Mary was faithful to the bitter end, and her story inspires us to look to Jesus and to be united with him. As St. Teresa of Calcutta would say, “We come to Jesus through Mary.”

I suppose it’s true that every time in human history has had its share of distractions and anxieties, but it seems to me that our contemporary situation makes it especially difficult to concentrate on knowing, loving and serving God. We are so bombarded with “bad news” and with negative, or at least superficial, images in the various media that surround us all the time.

Praying the rosary is a positive means of getting away from it all and allowing our minds and hearts to focus on what is truly good and beautiful in our lives as missionary disciples of Jesus Christ.

This month especially, I pray that Our Lady of the Rosary will intercede for us. May she inspire us by her tenderness and her courage to set aside the things that distract us, and look to her son Jesus. †

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