Top Ten Instructions of St. John Paul the Great on the Rosary, "the Most Effective Means of Fostering a Christian Prayer Life"
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One of the greatest Popes of all time, whose towering sanctity and influence is based on his Marian devotion, gave specific instructions on how we can profit the most from this powerful devotion.
At the end of his life, St. Pope John Paul II strongly encouraged praying the Rosary, and the topmost reason for doing so, he said, was that the Rosary is “the most effective means of fostering…a Christian life distinguished above all in the art of prayer.”
Even when his life was waning, John Paul the Great felt that God wanted him to be the Pope who will lead the Church at the beginning of the new millennium. And moved by God, he gave the Church a master plan, in a document titled At the Beginning of the new Millennium, containing his vision on how the Church can bring about a new springtime of Christianity in this new age.
The highest priority he specified for the Church is a training in holiness, and this in turn, he said, calls for “a Christian life distinguished above all in the art of prayer.” And the most effective way is the Rosary.
Years before, St. Josemaria, a saint who John Paul II described as the apostle of the laity for modern times, taught that the Rosary is the secret to becoming great. In his book, the Holy Rosary, St. Josemaria explained the logical connection between praying the Rosary and great sanctity:
· to become great, become little
· to become little, love as children love, give yourself as children give themselves, pray as children pray
· to love as children love, love our Lady
· to love our Lady, get to know her
· to get to know her, pray her Rosary well.
Drawing from the wisest Church teachings on learning prayer and knowing the challenges of today, John Paul the Great gave specific instructions and recommendations on how we can pray the Rosary well, in the most beneficial way:
1. Do not just recite the Rosary. Contemplate the life of Jesus with the heart of Mary while praying. Without contemplation, the Pope stressed, the Rosary would lose its meaning, like a body without a soul. The Rosary is above all a meditation on the mystery of Jesus Christ, a contemplation of how he lived God’s life of love.
2. Aim at becoming friends with Christ, learning his life, and becoming one with him. John Paul II says that the “Rosary mystically transports us to Mary’s side.” It is by interacting with Jesus and Mary, listening to them, serving them, admiring them, that we learn their deepest attitudes and virtues, their way of responding to challenges and joys.
3. Meditate on each of the mysteries. All the mysteries help us to connect with the memories of Mary, who pondered these events, and to "contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and experience the depths of his love."
4. Announce each mystery and use an icon to portray it. This, he said, is “a great help in concentrating the mind on the particular mystery.” God became man precisely so we can go to the invisible God through what is visible. That is why Benedict XVI said that sacred images are “extremely effective in communicating the Gospel.” With the internet, one can easily find these icons. My personal collection is found here. The best I found are here.
5. After the announcement, read a related Biblical passage. This, he taught, allows God to speak, to speak to me, and there is no word that matches the efficacy of God’s word. Benedict XVI, who emphasized the power of meditating on Scripture to bring about a new springtime in the Church, repeated this recommendation. He said that this practice would “encourage the memorization of brief biblical passages relevant to the mysteries of Christ’s life.” Download a list of passages in one page here. A collection of best images and biblical passages in one powerpoint is here.
6. Pause for a few seconds after the announcement and reading to focus attention on the mystery. Silence has great power to help us to pray and meditate. St. Josemaria recommended a three to four second pause.
7. Lift your heart to God the Father during the Our Father. This is an important moment to remember what Pope Francis repeatedly calls “our deepest identity”, our being children of God, little ones who are totally in need of God.
8. Remember that in the Hail Marys the center of the prayer is Jesus. The whole Rosary, and especially its most repeated prayer, the Hail Mary, is a Christ-centered prayer. In the Rosary, our main purpose is to look at Jesus’ face, together with Mary whose whole heart was centered on Jesus.
9. Give importance to the Glory Be, because giving glory to the Trinity is the goal and high point of contemplation. Jesus leads us to the Father in the Holy Spirit. The Trinity is “the central mystery of Christian life”, and our whole life and eternity is a sharing in the life of the Trinity. (CCC 261; 265)
10. Ask that our prayer improves our daily life. Thus we pray at the end that “by meditating on mysteries of the Rosary, we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise.”
When we pray the Rosary as the Pope wanted, we fulfill the authentic meaning of prayer seen by the Catechism: "Christian prayer tries above all to meditate on the mysteries of Christ." (CCC 2708) At the end of John Paul II's document on the Rosary, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, he wrote: A prayer so easy and yet so rich truly deserves to be rediscovered. Confidently take up the Rosary once again in the light of Scripture … and in the context of your daily lives. May this appeal of mine not go unheard!
Download the one-page leaflet for mass distribution here.
These one-page leaflets have started going viral around the world. One leaflet was posted in the website of the Archdiocese of Westminster in London ("The Mother Church of England"), in the Corpus Christi Parish in Canada, in Kenya and in Macau. To get the full collection, please see this: One Page Leaflets for New Evangelization Going Viral!