October 6, 2019 – Ruminations by Fr. Pat

We are now starting the month of October, so I thought I’d give a beginning thought for the month. Along with the month of May, October is a month devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. When we think of devotion to the Mother of God, one of the images that we naturally think of is the rosary. I thought I would give a little history about it. My source of information is from the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Let us first look at the life of a typical monk. Let’s use the Benedictines, especially since they were the first monastic order in the West. A monk’s first and foremost priority is prayer. That is why they enter the monastery to begin with. The Benedictine motto is Ora et Labora — Pray and Work. People realized this fact and asked the monks to pray for them. Thus, we have the origins of Mass Intentions, where the priest would pray for the soul of a particular person. When all of these practices started, you might have had a priest who would pray Mass after Mass all day. Since he couldn’t work in the fields to support himself, people would offer money for his support.

The rosary had its beginning with this practice. Originally the monks may have said 150 psalms for a person’s soul or sung 150 Lord have mercy’s, while others prayed the mass or recited repetitively the Passion from Scripture. These psalms were divided up into groups of 50. However, there were monks who were illiterate and could not read; they couldn’t pray Mass because they were not ordained as priests. These monks were given simple prayers to pray, especially if they were in the fields and could not attend official prayer in the monastery. To help count the prayers, a simple rosary was made, with, for example 150 beads for each kyrie they had to pray.

At a time when Chivalry was coming into play, with the emphasis on Courtly Love and the platonic devotion to women (for example, the knight in shining armor rescuing the damsel in distress), Mary, the mother of God, came to be seen as the highest model a woman could attain. In the church a popular devotion was to re-cite the various salutations to the Blessed Mother. One of these was the beginning of the Hail Mary. Over the course of time the full prayer of the Hail Mary developed as we know it today. The idea of meditating on the mysteries of Christ’s life, death and resurrection also developed over time, until today where we have our cur-rent form.

Legends have it that Our Lady appeared to Saint Dominic and gave him the rosary in its present form. Historically that is probably inaccurate. However, St. Dominic, who originally was sent to preach to heretics and bring them back into the faith, used the simple prayers of the rosary and helped it develop into a popular devotion it is today.

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