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."
Today, May 13, is the feast day of Our Lady of Fatima—also known as Our Lady of the Rosary-- marking the first apparition of Our Blessed Mother to three Portuguese shepherd children in 1917. The Fatima visionaries, Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta (discussed here), were graced with six visitations from the Blessed Virgin, as well as three apparitions of the “Angel of Portugal,” all of which culminated in the spectacular “Miracle of the Sun,” witnessed by tens of thousands of the faithful.
“We went on that occasion to my parents' property, which is at the bottom of the Cabeco, facing east. It is called Chousa Velha. About the middle of the morning it began to drizzle and we climbed up the hill, followed by our sheep, in search of a rock that would shelter us. And so it was that we entered for the first time into that blessed place. It is in the middle of an olive grove that belongs to my godfather, Anastacio. From there one can see the village where I was born, my father's house, and also Casa Velha and Eira da Pedra. The olive grove, which really belongs to several people, extends as far as these places.
We spent the day there, in spite of the fact that the rain had stopped and the sun was shining in a clear sky. We ate our lunch and began to say the Rosary. After that we began to play a game with pebbles. We had only been at it a few moments when a strong wind began to shake the trees and we looked up to see what was happening, since it was such a calm day.
And then we began to see, in the distance, above the trees that stretched to the east, a light whiter than snow in the form of a young man, quite transparent, and as brilliant as crystal in the rays of the sun. As he came near we were able to see his features. We were astonished and absorbed and we said nothing to one another. And then he said:
“Do not be afraid. I am the angel of peace. Pray with me.”
He knelt, bending his forehead to the ground. With a supernatural impulse we did the same, repeating the words we heard him say:
“My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love You. I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope, and do not love You.”
After repeating this prayer three times the angel rose and said to us:
“Pray in this way. The hearts of Jesus and Mary are ready to listen to you.”
And he disappeared. He left us in an atmosphere of the supernatural that was so intense we were for a long time unaware of our own existence. The presence of God was so powerful and intimate that even among ourselves we could not speak. On the next day, too, this same atmosphere held us bound, and it lessened and disappeared only gradually. None of us thought of talking about this apparition or any pledge of secrecy. We were locked in silence without having willed it.
His words sank so deeply into our minds that we never forgot them, and ever after we used to spend long periods on our knees repeating them, sometimes until we fell down exhausted.”
“I don't know why, but the apparitions of our Lady produced in us effects quite different from the angel's visitations We felt in both instances the same intimate happiness, peace and joy, but instead of the physical prostration the angel imposed, our Lady brought a feeling of expansion and freedom; and instead of this annihilation in the divine presence, we wished only to exult in our joy. There was no difficulty of speech when our Lady appeared; there was rather on my part a desire to communicate.”
The angel appeared to the children three times. Of the second apparition, which occurred some months later, Lucia wrote:
Suddenly we saw the same angel near us.
“What are you doing? You must pray! Pray! The hearts of Jesus and Mary have merciful designs for you. You must offer your prayers and sacrifices to God, the Most High.”
"But how are we to sacrifice?" I asked.
“In every way you can offer sacrifice to God in reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication for sinners. In this way you will bring peace to our country, for I am its guardian angel, the Angel of Portugal. Above all, bear and accept with patience the sufferings God will send you.”
This apparition renewed the same profound effect which the first one had on them. Francisco, who throughout the appearances of the angel and Our Lady would see but not hear, was unsuccessful in prying from the girls the words which the angel had spoken until the following day. Lucia wrote”
“The Angel's words sank deeply into our souls like a gleaming torch, showing us Who God is, what is His love for us, and how he wants us to love Him too; the value of sacrifice and how it pleases Him; how He receives it for the conversion of sinners. That is why from that moment we began to offer Him whatever mortified us.”
In autumn of that same year (1916), the angel of peace returned for the third and final apparition, preparing the children for the visitations of the Blessed Virgin in the following year. Lucia remembered the event, writing:
“After we had repeated this prayer I don't know how many time we saw the shining over us a strange light. We lifted our heads to see what was happening. the Angel was holding in his left hand a chalice and over it, in the air, was a host from which drops of blood fell into the chalice. The Angel leaves the chalice in the air, kneels near us and tells us to repeat three times:
“Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore You profoundly, and I offer You the Most Precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifferences by which He is offended. And by the infinite merits of His most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg the conversion of poor sinners.”
After that he rose, took again in his hand the chalice and the host. The host he gave to me and the contents of the chalice he gave to Jacinta and Francisco, saying at the same time:
“Eat and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ terribly outraged by the ingratitude of men. Offer reparation for their sakes and console God.”
Once more he bowed to the ground repeating with us the same prayer thrice: Oh, Blessed Trinity etc. and disappeared. Overwhelmed by the supernatural atmosphere that involved us, we imitated the Angel in everything, kneeling prostrate as he did and repeating the prayers he said.”
As was their custom, the children ate their lunch, followed by praying the Rosary, although they did so in a truncated fashion so as to finish more quickly. During their prayer, they were startled by what they later described as “lightening in the sky,” and debated amongst themselves whether to move the sheep into a more protected pasture. In Lucia’s own words:
“And we began to go down the slope driving the sheep towards the road. When we were half-way down, near a holm oak, there we saw another flash of lightening, and after a few steps we saw on a holm oak a lady dressed in white, shining brighter than the sun, giving out rays of clear and intense light, just like a crystal goblet full of pure water when the fiery sun passes through it. We stopped astounded by the Apparition. We were so near that we were in the light that encircled her, or which she radiated, perhaps a meter and a half away.
“Please don't be afraid of me, I'm not going to harm you,” the beautiful woman stated softly.
Lucia responded for all three, as she would throughout the apparitions.
"Where are you from?"
“I come from heaven.”
The Lady wore a pure white mantle, edged with gold and which fell to her feet. In her hands the beads of a rosary shone like stars, with its crucifix the most radiant gem of all.
Lucia felt no fear, she would later relate. The Lady's presence produced in her only gladness and confident joy.
"And what do you want of me?"
“I want you to return here on the thirteenth of each month for the next six months, and at the very same hour. Later I shall tell you who I am, and what it is that I most desire. And I shall return here yet a seventh time,” Our Lady of the Rosary answered.
"And shall I go to heaven?"
“Yes, you will.”
“She will go too.”
“Francisco, too, my dear, but he will first have many Rosaries to say.”
By Lucia’s report, following her statement, Our Blessed Mother gazed upon Francisco with compassion and sadness for a few moments before continuing. Lucia then asked about some friends of hers who had recently died.
"Is Maria Neves in heaven?"
“Yes, she is,” the Blessed Virgin answered.
“She is in purgatory. Will you offer yourselves to God, and bear all the sufferings He sends you? In atonement for all the sins that offend Him? And for the conversion of sinners?”
"Oh, we will, we will!" Lucia exclaimed with great delight.
“Then you will have a great deal to suffer, but the grace of God will be with you and will strengthen you.”
Lucia related that as the Lady pronounced these words, “she opened her hands, and we were bathed in a heavenly light that appeared to come directly from her hands. The light's reality cut into our hearts and our souls, and we knew somehow that this light was God, and we could see ourselves embraced in it. By an interior impulse of grace we fell to our knees, repeating in our hearts: "Oh, Holy Trinity, we adore You. My God, my God, I love You in the Blessed Sacrament."
The children remained kneeling in the flood of this wondrous light, until the Lady spoke again, mentioning the war in Europe, of which they had little or no knowledge.
“Say the Rosary every day, to bring peace to the world and an end to the war,” she instructed.
“After that she began to rise slowly in the direction of the east, until she disappeared in the immense distance. The light that encircles Her seemed to make a way amidst the stars, and that is why we sometimes said we had seen the heavens open.”
Following her departure, Lucia encouraged the others to keep the visitation a secret, worried that they might be separated from each other or prevented from returning, as promised, on the thirteenth day of the next six months. Of course, being children, and being overwhelmed with the excitement and joy of their glimpse of heaven, the visitations of the beautiful lady did not stay secret for long!
"My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love you, and I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love you."