“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior for He has looked with favor on His Lowly servant” (Luke 1:46)
For many people, when they hear of the way in which the Church honors Mary, the Mother of Jesus, in the liturgy, they wonder why so much attention is paid to Mary by Catholics. From a theological point of view, I think the best explanation of this is found in the Constitution for the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum concilium), from the Second Vatican Council. In this document, paragraph 103, we read: “In celebrating the annual cycle of Christ’s mysteries, holy Church honours with especial love the Blessed Mary, Mother of God, who is joined by an inseparable bond to the saving work of her Son. In her (Mary), the Church holds up and admires the most excellent fruit of the redemption, and joyfully contemplates, as in a faultless mirror, that which she desires and hopes wholly to be.” Or in much more simple words, the Church celebrates Mary because in her we see what we too hope to be and attain. It is important to note that Catholics do not worship Mary; they venerate her as one they hope to follow.
Today, as we celebrate the Assumption of Mary, this is one of the very few solemnities that can replace the regular Sunday Mass. Sundays are the days that we celebrate Christ and His Resurrection, so there are very feast days that can be celebrated when they fall on a Sunday. The Assumption of Mary is one of those. This is because what we celebrate is not so much about Mary, but what happened to her because she did God’s will and gave her “yes” to God. The reason why we venerate Mary is because she is said to be the first Christian and the example of what the Christian life is to be and what it leads us to. By saying “yes” to God, Mary became the first Christian. Because she said “yes” to God, Jesus was born to her and humanity was saved. As she remained faithful to Christ throughout her life, we celebrate today that at the end of her life, she was assumed body and soul into Heaven. Her assumption shows us what God also desires to do for us if we are faithful through the resurrection of the dead. The Church celebrates Mary’s assumption every year on August 15th and her Queenship each year on August 22nd. Just as she is crowned as Queen of Heaven, so too we are called at the end of our journey to share in the Kingdom of God through our own faithfulness to Christ.
I have often thought that today’s Solemnity is a little like the Solemnity of All Saints. On All Saints, we celebrate all those who have lived the Christian life and gone to Heaven. We look to the example of all the saints on this occasion and pray that we might follow their example. Today, on the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary the Mother of God, we focus on the perfect Christian and celebrate the example of the first one to say “yes” to Christ and the one who followed Him perfectly. We celebrate Mary, because as we celebrate that she is in Heaven, and we have an example of how we too are called to get to Heaven.
This year, as we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption, I thought I would use this occasion to speak about one of my favorite devotions in the Church and that is the Rosary. The Rosary is a beautiful Christian prayer. For those who are not familiar with the Rosary, it is a beautiful Christian biblical meditation on the life of Christ, as seen through eyes of Mary. As many people spoke to me throughout the pandemic of their anxiety and stress, I often prayed the Rosary with them over the phone and it brought them much peace. Others have found the meditative style of prayer and the physical act of passing the beads through their fingers brought them great peace. There are many other spiritual traditions that have some kind of prayer beads that are used to help people mediate and count the prayers that they are saying.
The Rosary itself consists of four sets of mysteries: 1) The Joyful; 2) The Luminous; 3) The Sorrowful; and 4) The Glorious. Each set of mysteries are made up of five decades dedicated to a particular event from the Bible in Christ’s life, as seen through the eyes of Mary. While reciting the Our Father, the ten Hail Mary’s and a Glory be to the Father, the person reciting each decade of the Rosary meditates on a particular mystery of Christ’s life and the virtue or spiritual lesson associated with that mystery.
For me, the great thing about the Rosary is that it can be prayed anywhere. It can be prayed in the church silently before the Blessed Sacrament. It can be prayed in the car, when a person is nervous or in a hospital waiting room. A person can pray a decade while walking to the bus, at some time over lunch and on the way home. It does not all have to be prayed at one time. Broken up throughout the day, it is a great way to pray and remember Christ throughout the day. Sometimes just having the Rosary and the cross in your pocket can be a reminder to pray and to trust in God.
If you think you are missing something in your spiritual life, I would really encourage you to think about the Rosary. If you have one hanging form the windshield of your car, why not take it down and consider using it to. Below I attach a little guide on how to pray the rosary from the Knights of Columbus in the hopes that it might inspire you to consider taking up this beautiful form of Christian prayer. This weekend, the Legion of Mary has provided some Rosaries for those who wish to take one and a more detailed explanation on how to pray the Rosary. Thank you to them for this gift!
May all of us follow the example of Mary and by praying the Rosary, through her intercession, grow closer to Christ and follow her to Heaven.
Fr. Michael McGourty
Pastor, St. Peter’s Church—Toronto.
- Make the Sign of the Cross and say the “Apostles’ Creed.”
- Say the “Our Father.”
- Say three “Hail Marys.”
- Say the “Glory Be.”
- Announce the First Mystery; then say the “Our Father.”
- Say ten “Hail Mary’s,” while meditating on the Mystery.
- Say the “Glory Be,” then say the “Fatima Prayer.”
- Announce the Second Mystery; then say the “Our Father.” Repeat 6 and 7 and continue with Third, Fourth and Fifth Mysteries in the same manner.
- Say the “Hail Holy Queen.” and “Final Prayer”
- Make the “Sign of the Cross”
JOYFUL MYSTERIES (Monday and Saturday)
Annunciation; Visitation; Nativity; Presentation; Finding in the Temple
SORROWFUL MYSTERIES (Tuesday and Friday)
Agony in the Garden; Scourging at the Pillar; Crowning with Thorns; Carrying of the Cross; Crucifixion
GLORIOUS MYSTERIES (Wednesday and Sunday)
Resurrection; Ascension; Descent of Holy Spirit; Assumption; Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
LUMINOUS MYSTERIES (Thursday)
Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan; Manifestation of Jesus at the Wedding at Cana; Proclamation of the Kingdom of God; Transfiguration of Jesus; Institution of the Eucharist
SIGN OF THE CROSS In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
APOSTLES’ CREED I believe in God, the Father almighty creator of heaven and earth and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. On the third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God, the Father almighty. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
OUR FATHER Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
HAIL MARY Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
GLORY BE Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
FATIMA PRAYER O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell and lead all souls to heaven, especially those most in need of Thy mercy.
HAIL HOLY QUEEN Hail Holy Queen, Mother of mercy! Hail, our life, our sweetness and our hope! To you do we cry, poor banished children of Eve; to you do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears! Turn then, most gracious advocate, your eyes of mercy toward us; and after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!
Pray for us O Holy Mother of God, That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen.
FINAL PRAYER Let us pray. O God, whose only begotten Son, by His life, death, and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life, grant, we beseech Thee, that meditating upon these mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise, through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.