I learned to pray the Rosary as many Catholic children through the centuries have done, sitting with and listening to the (striving-to-be) holy matriarchs of my family. My mamá and my abuelas taught me about the love of the Holy Mother of God, who is our Mom too. In their motherliness toward me, they were even icons of Mother Mary. And looking back on my childhood, I recognize how their devotion to the Holy Rosary was an essential part of their communication to me of Mary’s immense love.
In my family’s particular stylistic permutation of this most wonderful prayer, we always concluded by reciting the Litany of Loreto. The litany entreats Mary by her varied titles, asking her to pray for us. Recently the last three titles caught my eyes: Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, Queen of Families, and Queen of Peace. Their apparent oddity as a triplet struck me and led me to wonder how they fit together.
Happily I found Pope St. John Paul II already made some of these connections in his Rosary encyclical by calling the devotion a prayer for the family and a prayer for peace (see nos. 6, 40-42). He calls on the Church of the third millennium to recognize how much families are attacked by the culture of death and how much suffering they undergo. He also stresses the horror of continuing violence, terrorism, and war, and how fragile and inaccessible peace can seem. The Pope exhorts us to turn to the Rosary, the school of Mary, so that with her we might contemplate her Son who is the Prince of Peace and the Heart of the Holy Family, the Church.
I found these insights present in the preaching of yet another great and recent apostle of the Rosary. The Servant of God Fr. Patrick Peyton, the “Rosary Priest” and founder of the Family Rosary Crusade, has two famous and memorable phrases that cut to the chase. First, he famously said that “the family that prays together, stays together.” Now, both Fr. Peyton and St. John Paul knew how deeply the pains of family life cut. They would warn against thinking of the Rosary as an easy incantation to dispel all troubles. However, in promoting the Rosary they sought to communicate their unshakeable confidence in Jesus and His Blessed Mother. For the Lord and the Queen of Families watch over us, protect us, and accompany us through the mysteries of our life. Through their loving presence they heal and unite the prayerful family.
“A world at prayer is a world at peace” is Fr. Peyton’s second and less well-known phrase. He used this especially in the international Rosary Rallies that he organized for many decades. Both our Rosary Pope and Rosary Priest lived through the bloody 20th century, seeing the destruction brought about by war. They recognized that the horrors of the age stemmed from a profound spiritual crisis, from rebellion against or despair of God. The call of these two men for a return to prayer thus came as a remedy for this grave ill. Hoping in the Lord’s promise of mercy, they counseled people to implore the Mother of Mercy for peace. The world can only come to true peace if we seek our refuge under her mantle.
So mothers, aunts, grandmothers—teach little children to pray the Holy Rosary, share with them the love of Mary. Fathers, uncles, grandfathers, young people—join them! That way we all will learn how to contemplate and receive the love of God. It’ll be a step toward the eternal peace of God’s family reunion in Heaven.
Regina Sacratissimi Rosarii, Regina Familiae, Regina Pacis. Ora pro nobis.
Image: Caravaggio, Madonna of the Rosary (detail)