Rosary as Family Prayer
Reflections on the Holy Father's Apostolic Letter
Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo President of the Pontifical Council for the
In the recent Apostolic Letter Rosarium
Virginis Mariae, the Holy Father John Paul II once more urged Christian families
to pray in their home by reciting the Rosary: "We need to return to the practice
of family prayer and prayer for families, continuing to use the Rosary" (n. 41).
Already at the end of the Great Jubilee he had said: "it is especially necessary
that listening to the word of God should become a life-giving encounter, in the
ancient and ever valid tradition of lectio divina, which draws from the biblical
text the living word which questions, directs and shapes our lives ... we must
rekindle in ourselves the impetus of the beginnings and allow ourselves to be
filled with the ardour of the apostolic preaching which followed Pentecost"
[Novo Millennio ineunte, nn. 39 and 40).
It is first of all a question of
re-applying, if not in its form, certainly in its spirit, the living, fervent
spiritual atmosphere that marked the meetings at home of the first Christian
communities. Indeed, the first disciples, "went to the temple area together
every day, while in their homes they broke bread ... praising God" (Acts 2, 46).
Through this witness, "day by day the Lord added to their number those who were
being saved" (Acts 2, 47).
This family dimension of prayer and
Christian worship is rooted in the faith experience of the people of the Old
Covenant, which has been inherited by the Christian community. Indeed, it is
well known that the paschal supper was celebrated in the home, and was a family
The wave of secularization that has
swept through the life of our communities in recent decades has brought a deep
crisis, even in the context of the family, and hence in family prayer as an
expression of communion and an indispensable source for the mission the family
is called to carry out in the Church and in society.
Family prayer, use the Rosary
Confronted by this disturbing
situation, pastors in recent centuries have not ceased to recommend the devout
practice of the Rosary, which Pope Pius XII described as "the compendium of the
entire Gospel", to implore the Lord, giver of all good things, through the
intercession of the Blessed Virgin, Queen of the Rosary, for the gifts of faith
and peace in families and among nations.
We know well how deeply rooted Marian
devotion is in the heart of Peter's Successor. He placed his ministry under her
protection, "Totus tuus", and we know that the Rosary has a special place in his
devotions. We are used to seeing him with the Rosary beads between his fingers.
His desire is for the Rosary to become popular again, especially in families.
Rosary takes us to the heart of the
The Rosary, in its simplicity and
depth, goes to the heart of Christian experience in the dialogue of faith
expressed in prayer. It has a strong evangelizing impact. The members of the
family can contemplate the central events at the heart of the faith through the
mysteries. Now, we have the mysteries of light, in which we are invited to
reflect on the wedding of Cana and on the beginning of a new family. We could
say that in the Our Father and Hail Mary, we find a synthesis in which a
dynamic, effective transmission of the faith passes through it that fortifies
the experience of the family community in a special union that is a powerful aid
because it is also stable and solid before the Lord of the Covenant.
With this Letter on the Rosary the Holy
Father has touched the hearts of the faithful. Indeed, the recitation of the
Rosary does not only "go to the very heart of Christian life, offering a
familiar yet fruitful spiritual and educational opportunity for personal
contemplation" (cf. n. 3), but also enables people to recover "the ability to
look one another in the eye, to communicate, to show solidarity, to forgive one
another and to see their covenant of love renewed in the spirit of God" (cf. n.
Captures spiritual atmosphere
The recitation of the Rosary in the
family captures something of the spiritual atmosphere of the household at
Nazareth, "because its members place Jesus at the centre, they share his joys
and sorrows, they place their needs and their plans in his hands, they draw from
him the hope and the strength to go on" (n. 41). There, in fact, as Paul VI said
on his pilgrimage to Nazareth, one learns "to be resolute in good thoughts,
focused on the interior life and ready to understand clearly the secret
inspirations of God and the exhortations of the true teachers" (Insegnamenti di
Paolo VI, II, 1964, p. 24). Serves to neutralize widespread harmful trends
This prayer also serves to neutralize
the most varied and disorienting messages and unpredictable experiences that are
rapidly making their way into children's' lives. These experiences are a source
of anxiety to parents because young people are exposed to dangers while they are
growing up. Praying the Rosary is certainly a spiritual aid in finding the
solution to many problems, and is a protection against many temptations and
difficulties. As this Pontifical Council for the Family said in the Final
Statement of the 15th Plenary Assembly, today we are living in a situation
marked by "the fear of commitment, the practice of cohabitation, the
trivialisation of sex", as John Paul II has described it. "Life styles, women's
fashions, films, TV sitcoms make people question the value of marriage and go so
far as to spread the idea that the reciprocal gift of spouses until death would
be unrealistic. They weaken the family institution and even manage to discredit
it, to the advantage of other pseudo-family 'models'" (ORE, 20 November 2002, p.
9, II). Indeed, the same document deplores the "invasion of many areas of human
activity by a radical individualism: economic life, excessive competition,
competition in all fields of human activity, disregard of the marginalized,
etc." (ibid.). In the face of these problems, prayer is a fundamental,
indispensable response, the living witness of parents. As the Holy Father says
consortio: "only by praying together with their
children can a father and mother - exercising their royal priesthood - penetrate
the innermost depths of their children's hearts and leave an impression that the
future events in their lives will not be able to efface" (n. 60).
As everyone knows, an important purpose
of the prayer of the domestic church is to serve as the natural introduction for
children to the liturgical prayer of the whole Church, both in the sense of
preparing for it and of extending it into family and social life (cf. Familiaris
consortio, n. 61). Thus family prayer is not an escape from social commitment,
but a strong incentive to the Christian family to assume fully all its
responsibilities as the primary and basic cell of human society.
Reinforces stability, solidity of
In this way prayer reinforces the
spiritual soundness and solidity of the family, helping to ensure that it shares
in the strength of God. Indeed all the power of the Rosary lies in its Gospel
character and in its distinctly Christological orientation, for it makes us
think specifically and in our own way of the most important events of salvation
that were brought about in Christ, seen through the heart of Mary, who was
closest to the Lord Jesus. Indeed, the main feature of the Rosary is
contemplation, without which it would be like a body without a soul; the typical
features are constituted by the petition of the Our Father, the praise in the
litany-like succession of Hail Mary's, the adoration of the doxology, Glory [be]
to the Father. It is also characterized by the simplicity that favours the
tranquil rhythm and a lingering in thought which fosters meditation. As John
Paul II has said, "fruitful nourishment of personal piety, the Rosary is in a
certain sense the typical prayer of the Christian family.... In reciting the
Rosary, the domestic church savours its own unity, enjoys the sharing of
affections, is elevated to the contemplation of the divine, places its own
needs, concerns and the conquests of daily living in this higher dimension"
(Address to youth, Reggio Calabria, 7 October 1984, n. 7; ORE, 5 November 1984,
From this fervent Gospel spirit, from
the contemplation of the mysteries of our redemption in this Year of the Rosary
(October 2002 - October 2003), a renewed commitment is expected, so that the
preparation of engaged couples for marriage will include a witness of greater
fidelity to the definitive commitments that they are about to make before God
and men. May educators, spiritual directors and Christian couples help young
people to discover in themselves an authentic love, with all that it involves,
feeling, attachment and passion itself and also the use of reason. May the
Church's message on responsible parenthood be understood and better received,
and may the special attention that must be paid to children who come from broken
homes be given to them with loving tenderness.
In this way the pastoral care towards
the family will be able to offer couples during their married life possibilities
and opportunities to reflect on their celebration of the sacrament, especially
in moments of recollection, such as in the recitation of the Rosary. Besides, it
will ensure that the feast of the Holy Family and other celebrations when
couples gather wishing to renew their matrimonial commitments in the Church, may
have a significance that has an impact on their spiritual journey. In this
light, in possible moments of crisis, all the aids that the Holy Father has
recalled in this Apostolic Letter can contribute to solving the tensions and
will enable spouses to return to the sources of their first love. From the
sacrament of Marriage they will be able to draw the energy to reawaken the great
ideals that must direct their relations and overcome their difficulties.
Revival of Rosary in family will
In this regard, Bl. Bartolo Longo said
that "whoever spreads the Rosary is saved" (n. 8). John Paul II echoes him when
he says: "the revival of the Rosary in Christian families, within the context of
a broader pastoral care of the family, will be an effective aid to countering
the devastating effects of this crisis typical of our age" (n. 6).
One writer said that in the evangelized
nations in every family, at nightfall, the recitation of the Rosary rose like a
symphony. Why should we not strive to restore this witness, imbuing the domestic
church with the Word that all may savour, sharing it with children like bread,
in an attitude that will evangelize a society that is in danger of growing cold
and falling away from God?
"As a mother who teaches her children
to speak and so to understand and communicate, the Church our Mother teaches us
the language of faith in order to introduce us to the understanding and life of
faith" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 171). This is also what praying the