“A woman clothed with the sun…” Rev. 12:1


Guest editorial by Fr. Ron MacDonell, S.F.M.

As I child I experienced a form of prayer common to many Catholic families. Each evening, my parents would call us to kneel and pray the rosary. At the end of the rosary, or “the beads,” my mother would pray the Litany to Our Lady. For me, praying the rosary was a wonderful way to end the day. Soothed by the repetition of the Our Father and Hail Mary, I usually had a feeling of great peace at the end of the prayer. I felt closer to my own family and a part of God’s larger family.

The rosary began initially in the Middle Ages as a simplified way of praying the 150 Psalms that religious orders recited during the day in order to remember Jesus. For the common, illiterate folk, a string of 150 beads represented the psalms and for each bead a prayer such as the Our Father, or what eventually developed as the Hail Mary, was prayed. Over time, sets of mysteries were created to help people ponder each day the main events of Jesus’ life. (www.personalizedrosaries.com/history) 

The mysteries of the rosary invite us to deepen our understanding of the lives of Jesus and his mother Mary. There is a movement through four emotional spheres: joy, light, sorrow, and glory. First, there are the Joyful Mysteries through which we feel the joy of the angel’s annunciation to Mary, of her visitation to her cousin Elizabeth, of the birth of her Son Jesus, of his presentation in the temple, and then of the finding of the child Jesus in the temple. 

We then meditate on the Luminous Mysteries introduced by Pope John Paul II in 2002. The Luminous Mysteries concentrate on Jesus’ ministry: his baptism in the river Jordan, his first miracle at the wedding of Cana, his preaching of God’s Kingdom, his transfiguration on the mountain and finally his gift of the Eucharist to the Church. 

Jesus’ transforming ministry of light provokes opposition and leads to sorrow, represented in the Sorrowful Mysteries: his agony in the Garden before his arrest, his torture in the scourging at the pillar and at the crowning of thorns, and his carrying of the cross, which ends in his death by crucifixion. 

Dark sorrow turns to blissful glory and we begin our meditation on the Glorious Mysteries: God our Creator, the God of life, glorifies his Son Jesus by the resurrection, raising his Son to new life. The Risen Lord spends 40 days with his disciples and then ascends to heaven, sending in turn the Holy Spirit of Pentecost, marking the founding of the Church. God honours Mary, the mother of Jesus, by her assumption into heaven and by crowning the Blessed Virgin as Queen of Peace.  

The word “mystery” has its root in the Greek words mysterion, meaning “secret rite or doctrine,” and mystes, “one who has been initiated.” (www.etymon.com) A mysterion is something not readily understood by logic. The mysteries are meant to be pondered, to be grasped intuitively, to be returned to time and again. Slowly they lead us to a deeper understanding of who Jesus is and what his life means. Through our prayer we let him transform our lives. By meditating on the mysteries, we learn to appreciate Mary and her role in Jesus’ life and in our lives. The mysteries are revealed to us by God’s grace. 

In this brief presentation of the 20 mysteries of the rosary, we offer three reflections: first, some thoughts and questions about each mystery; then, some ideas on how we as missionaries often understand the mystery; and finally, an Amazon Word. Scarboro missionaries have worked in the Brazilian Amazon since 1962 in the Prelacy of Itacoatiara and the Diocese of Roraima. The Amazon rainforest has come into focus in recent years, as humanity grows in awareness of our planet’s fragility and of our call to be responsible for our Creator’s gift to us, mother Earth. Each mystery of the rosary is accompanied by a photo from a country where Scarboro missioners labour; these images from other lands represent the universality of our faith. We hope that these short reflections will help you in praying the rosary and in deepening your sense of Jesus and Mary acting in your life. May you be blessed as you pray the rosary. We ask that you remember us in your prayers.∞

[Biblical quotes from the “Good News Bible”, The Bible Societies/Collins, 2005 edition.]