by Margaux Salcedo
Our family poon or image of the Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary (Nuestra Señora del Santisimo Rosario), fondly referred to as Sto. Rosario, is out for the month of October and the Feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary.
The tradition and image were passed down from our great grandmother, Celedonia Torres Reyes, then taken care of by her children, particularly our maternal grand aunt, Carmen Reyes Perez, then later by her grandchildren, especially my mom Carmelita Vargas Salcedo, and her sisters Cory and Bernadette. During the pandemic, our uncle Jesus Reyes Vargas, bravely fulfilled the duty of dressing up the Sto Rosario amidst the fear of COVID, as my mom was battling cancer and my aunt had just had a quintuple bypass.
My mom passed away last February so my sister Goldee and I have taken up the honor of preparing the image for the Feast (bibihisan/dressing up the image). It was a surreal experience getting the image out of her case and dressing her up.
But this has had a great impact on me and has created enormous interest on my part in the Rosary. So I have been seeking out the masses of the Provincial of the Dominicans -- after all, legend has it that St. Dominic was the author of the Rosary -- to listen and learn about this devotion.
Why Pray the Rosary? This is the question that was posed to us by Fr. Filemon 'Deng' dela Cruz, Jr. OP, Prior Provincial of the Order of Preachers aka the Dominicans, at first Friday mass at our office this week. The question drew a raucous response from the mass goers. Some said it was so that their prayer request would be granted. Others said they didn't know. Others said they did not pray the rosary at all. Here are the two answers that I picked up from Fr Deng's homilies from his mass celebrating the month of the Holy Rosary held at the Manila Cathedral on October 2, 2023, and at his mass at the Chapel of St Joseph at our office on October 4, 2023.
First, it is to accompany us.
As the XVI Synod of Bishops opened in Rome, Fr. Deng in his homily at the Manila Cathedral reminded us:
The Rosary is a Synodal prayer.
He said that the Holy Rosary or Sto. Rosario captures the whole spirit of Synodality because when we talk about participation, communion and mission, these are all embodied in the Holy Rosary.
"... ang Santo Rosaryo is a prayer that captures the whole spirit of Synodality. Puwede kong sabihin, siya ay isang synodal prayer. When we talk about journeying together, when we talk about participation, communion, and mission, lahat po ito ay napapaloob sa panalangin ng Santo Rosaryo." (The Holy Rosary is a prayer that captures the whole spirit of Synodality. I can therefore say that it is a Synodal Prayer. When we talk about journeying together, when we talk about participation, communion, and mission, all of these are embodied in the prayers of the Holy Rosary.)
He also referenced the concept of "journeying together" which is the meaning of Synodality, explaining:
"We are journeying together and we are not praying alone, even if you sometimes think that you are praying alone ... we are always walking and journeying with Mary."
At his mass at the Chapel of St Joseph, Fr Deng reminded us that Mary accompanied Christ not only as he was born but even at the foot of the Cross.
And aside from Mary, Fr. Deng reminded us in his earlier homily that not only Mary but Christ himself is in this journey with us, too:
"Mary, through the mysteries of the Rosary, would always place Jesus at the center of our lives. Or walking ahead of us. Or beside us, leading us."
Second, the Rosary gives us DIRECTION.
Fr Deng explained that the Mysteries of the Rosary parallel the liturgical seasons, which are expanded in Holy Mass but abbreviated for the Rosary. This gives you the opportunity to review the Paschal Mystery of Christ wherever you are because you can bring the Rosary with you.
St. Pope John Paul II explained this as well so poetically in his Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae:
"Against the background of the words Ave Maria the principal events of the life of Jesus Christ pass before the eyes of the soul ... They take shape in the complete series of the joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries, and they put us in living communion with Jesus through ... the heart of his Mother."
Hence, in contemplating the mysteries of the life of Christ, Fr. Deng says, the Rosary gives us a panoramic view of where we are going. We are pilgrims, the Prior Provincial reminded us, and at the end of our journey, we want to be with the Lord.
St. Pope John Paul II called this TRAINING IN HOLINESS.
He encouraged praying the Holy Rosary "as a means of fostering among the faithful that commitment to the contemplation of the Christian mystery ... as a genuine 'training in holiness'". Noting that this is how it was for many saints, that they "discovered in the Rosary a genuine path to growth in holiness" (Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 8). In particular, he gave the examples of St. Padre Pio; St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, the author of Secret of the Rosary; and Blessed Bartolo Longo, who dedicated his life to the Rosary and Mary, building a Church dedicated to Our lady in Pompei, and establishing the practice of 'Fifteen Saturdays' (pledging oneself to live, for fifteen consecutive Saturdays, the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary).
But in order to grow in holiness through the Rosary, we must pray it not in mindless repetition but in contemplation. St. Pope Paul VI said,
"Without (contemplation), the Rosary is a body without a soul ..."
He added, "By its nature the recitation of the Rosary calls for a quiet rhythm and a lingering pace, helping the individual to meditate on the mysteries of the Lord's life as seen through the eyes of her who was closest to the Lord. In this way the unfathomable riches of these mysteries are unfolded." (Marialis Cultus, 47).
May we, pilgrims of faith, find our way to the Lord, led by Christ, accompanied by Mary and Joseph, through the Holy Rosary.
Happy Feast of the Most Holy Rosary!
Read the full transcript of the homily of Fr. Filemon dela Cruz Jr, OP at the Manila Cathedral here: https://www.dominusest.ph/post/si-maria-at-ang-mga-misteryo-ng-santo-rosaryo
Photos: Margaux Salcedo