I was born and raised in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in Our Lady of Grace Parish in Penndel.  Our parish school was served by the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Dressed in traditional long blue habits, white wimples and black veils, the Sisters who taught us wore rosaries at their side.  

I owe those Sisters a great deal as my vocation matured.  

My earliest “Catholic memories” include praying the Rosary with them in school, a habit of prayer that I continue to the present day.  I must confess that something deep inside of me takes real spiritual comfort as I “pray the beads” each day.  The Rosary serves the purpose that Mary intended when she revealed it to St. Dominic in a legendary apparition in the early 13th century: It leads me to her Son by reflecting on the mysteries of his life.

Knotted prayer ropes were part of the spiritual life of the Desert Fathers, dating back to the fourth century.  Originally used to recount the 150 psalms, these knotted ropes gradually took on the recollection of other common Christian prayers, including devotion to the Mother of God over the centuries since the Middle Ages.  Popes and saints throughout the history of the Church developed their Marian focus and mentioned the Rosary in their writings and homilies.  

Through repetition, touching the knots and beads of the Rosary became a means of prayerfully, reverently considering the life of the Lord Jesus through the eyes of Mary.  In the 16th century, Pope Pius V organized the Rosary prayers into the three groups of mysteries we still use: the Joyful, the Sorrowful and the Glorious Mysteries.  Pope St. John Paul II added the Luminous Mysteries to the Rosary in 2002.

Devotion to the Mother of God is a distinctive element of the Catholic spiritual tradition. As she was the human channel and means through which the Son of God entered the world, the Rosary has become the spiritual channel and means through which generations of priests, consecrated religious and lay faithful have come to know and prayerfully reflect upon his life and the mysteries of our faith and salvation.  

This beautiful prayer accompanies our growth as we pursue our Catholic Christian life.  It has become a prayer of our common memory and our rich spiritual heritage as sons and daughters of the Blessed Mother and as brothers and sisters of her Divine Son in the Church he has given us.  She is, as the Second Vatican Council proclaimed, “Mother of the Church, Mater Ecclesiae.”

My brothers and sisters, it is difficult to imagine any progress in our spiritual life without her grace-filled presence, her powerful intercession, her loving maternal embrace.

In a general audience of Pope Francis, he once asked those gathered, “How many of you carry the Rosary?” Most of the crowd raised their hands.  He then asked, “How many of you pray the Rosary?”  I invite you to answer his questions.

As we celebrate this Eucharist, the last decade of the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary, on this Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, we participate in the life of Mary and the purpose and focus of her life, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Pray the Rosary often, my brothers and sisters, every day.  And say with trust and confidence, “Ave Maria ... pray for us now, and at the hour of our death.  Amen.”