Why pray the Rosary every day for a year?


Each time the Blessed Virgin has appeared-- whether it be to Saint Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes; to Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco at Fatima; or to Mariette Beco at Banneux-- she has asserted the importance, saving grace, and power of praying the Holy Rosary on a daily basis. Based upon her words, the Rosary is penance and conversion for sinners, a pathway to peace, an end to war, and a powerful act of faith in Jesus Christ. Pope Paul VI presented the Rosary as a powerful means to reach Christ "not merely with Mary but indeed, insofar as this is possible to us, in the same way as Mary, who is certainly the one who thought about Him more than anyone else has ever done."

To show us how this is done, perhaps no one has been more eloquent than the great Cardinal Newman, who wrote: "The great power of the Rosary consists in the fact that it translates the Creed into Prayer. Of course, the Creed is already in a certain sense a prayer and a great act of homage towards God, but the Rosary brings us to meditate again on the great truth of His life and death, and brings this truth close to our hearts. Even Christians, although they know God, usually fear rather than love Him. The strength of the Rosary lies in the particular manner in which it considers these mysteries, since all our thinking about Christ is intertwined with the thought of His Mother, in the relations between Mother and Son; the Holy Family is presented to us, the home in which God lived His infinite love."


As Mary said at Fatima, "Jesus wants to use you to make Me known and loved. He wishes to establish the devotion to My Immaculate Heart throughout the world. I promise salvation to whoever embraces it; these souls will be dear to God, like flowers put by Me to adorn his throne."


Lourdes: Personal Reflections: Rock

Posted by Jacob

A pilgrimage is a journey toward the Lord with a purpose. It is not a destination, but a process. It is not the visitation of a place, but a deep experience felt in the internal kingdom of God, the soul. It is not tourism, but purposeful exploration. Although, in my case, the purpose at the time was somewhat unclear. As I wrote before, I felt called to the grotto by the Blessed Mother, and I answered, somewhat unsure of what I would find. In many ways, the pilgrimage that started at Lourdes is still underway—a journey, with the ultimate destination being God, where all our journeys begin and end!

I have previously written about my experience with water at Lourdes—both bathing in the spring and drinking the water, as instructed by Our Blessed Mother. Here, I turn my attention to the grotto itself-- the rock, if you will.

At Lourdes, pilgrims are encouraged participate in three specific actions. First, we enter the grotto, and touch and venerate the rock. Second, pilgrims drink and bathe in the spring, as instructed by the Holy Mother. And finally, at evening processional, pilgrims carry a candle, praying together and singing the hymns of Lourdes. These three actions are human gestures, but for Christians, rock, water, and light are tied to Jesus Christ, for He is the Rock on which we build our lives, He gives the Water of Life, and He is the Light of the world. In this way, the Blessed Virgin, through her apparitions in Lourdes, invites us to perform these actions, which become a meeting with Jesus.

I arrived at Lourdes fairly late in the day. By the time I traveled from the airport to my hotel, it was nearing nightfall, and admittedly, I was tired. But given that I had only a short time in Lourdes, I decided to walk down the hill, through the bustling streets of gift shops and cafes, and visit the information booth at the gates of the Sanctuary. My intent was simply to find out when Masses were the following morning, and to “make a plan” to ensure that I was able to participate as fully as possible in the pilgrims’ journey.

Like I have written before, I was called to Lourdes by the Blessed Mother. And like Bernadette, as I approached the sanctuary, I started to feel an urge, an indescribable draw toward the grotto. It may sound strange, or even supernatural, but those are the best words I can use to describe it. Of course, in my stubborn humanity, this urge pulling me to the grotto didn’t really fit with my plan, and I resisted. Instead, I visited the information booth (as planned), and wandered a bit, getting the lay of the land, but avoiding the grotto. I was taken by the mosaics on the basilicas, the statues of saints, the countless pilgrims speaking a variety of languages, and the general respect and sanctity that permeated the sanctuary.

Somehow, in all of this, it got dark. And then the Marian Candlelight Processional—the very procession that began with Saint Bernadette at Our Blessed Mother’s urging, and continues to this day—began. And I found myself, with lighted blessed candle, surrounded by pilgrims, praying in various languages (but more on that in a future post!). And through all of this, I had yet to visit the grotto… because it wasn’t in my plan.

It wasn’t until the conclusion of the processional, and some quiet adoration of a mosaic of Our Lady of Lourdes, that I gave in to the draw, and found myself moving toward the grotto along the banks of the Gave. As I approached, passing by lit candles and pilgrims talking in hushed voices, I realized that it was nearly midnight, and I was no longer tired.

And then I was in the grotto. Despite the late hour, despite the pilgrims still kneeling in prayer before the candles, the rock, the spring, the statue of the Immaculate Conception, it was perfectly still. Peaceful.

And I was overcome. It was the closest thing to a supernatural experience I have ever encountered. Standing in the quiet of the grotto, I felt a wave of peace and acceptance wash over my body, a literal visceral reaction to the space, which caused my knees to buckle. I dropped to a kneeling position on the cold concrete (bruising my knees in the process, I should mention!), and gazed in adoration at the statue lit by the flicking of candles. I prayed the Rosary, alternately stopping just to sit in the presence of such peace and tranquility, such acceptance despite my sinfulness. And I cried, although for some time I wasn’t aware of the tears. When I did notice, of course, I was instantly back in my body, human, and concerned about what others would think. But glancing around at my fellow pilgrims, I noted that I was not alone, the others experiencing similar emotions, similar reactions. And I was again at home in the Church of Christ.

Acceptance.
Peace.
Love.
Confidence.
Faith.

These are the messages of Christ, and these are the emotions that sprang forth from the grotto. Hours later, although it seemed like only a moment, I moved to the rock face of the grotto, running my hands along the surface where the Blessed Virgin appeared—now smooth from the hands of more than six million pilgrims who visit each year. It is from this rock that these messages come—the Rock of Christ, upon which His Church is built, upon which we base our lives. It is upon this Rock that we take refuge, that we come home to—even after a long absence.
1 I love you, O LORD, my strength.
2The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.
He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (Psalm 18: 1-2)

The grotto of Massabielle literally means “old rock” (pictured left, in 1858). It was a place of disrepair, where garbage was thrown and pigs grazed. From this maligned and unimportant spot came the message of Lourdes, brought by the first disciple of Christ, his mother, Our Blessed Mother. She appeared to the poorest and most uneducated, in the most blighted and forgotten place. Her purity, always present, transformed the dirt and mud into a clear flowing spring, reminding us of the physical transformation accomplished through her Son, Jesus Christ-- that through Him, all things would be made new, all things would be made spotless and clean, all sins would be forgiven. Through Him, we are born anew, but not without sacrifice. Touching the rock at Lourdes reminds us of this, makes our creed tangible, reconnects us to the physicality of our beliefs.

We are reminded that despite our own brokenness, our own sinfulness, that the Lord loves and forgives us. He is our rock, our salvation. Our lives built upon the foundation of His love will not waver. We just need to listen to His call, and follow where it may lead us. In my case, His call came through Our Lady of Lourdes, the Blessed Virgin who mediates the grace of God for us. The peace and love of Christ felt at the grotto is like nothing I have since experienced, although some part of that feeling remains with me-- a spiritual transformation of the physical experience of Lourdes.





A prayer for the Grotto at Lourdes


O Lord, you are my God,
and for you I long with all my heart.
As I stand before you in this place where the Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette,
I renew my desire to follow wherever you may lead.
Take me and use me for your Gospel.
Grant me the grace to overcome my weaknesses;
to bear my burdens lightly;
to be attentive to your voice;
and to be zealous in your service.
Give me that faith which will never remain silent,
that hope which will never cease to trust,
that love which will burn always brightly,
and that joy which delights in your church.
Amen

(prayer adapted from The Lourdes Pilgrim: A Prayerbook and Guide by Oliver Todd)

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