Saint Augustine says quite emphatically that there is no spiritual exercise more fruitful or more useful to our salvation than continually turning our thoughts to the sufferings of Our Savior.
Blessed Albert the Great, who had Saint Thomas Aquinas as his disciple, learned in a revelation that by simply thinking of or meditating on the passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, a Christian gains more merit than if he had fasted on bread and water every Friday for a whole year, or had beaten himself with his discipline once a week until the blood flowed, or had recited the whole Book of Psalms every day. If this is so, then how great must be the merit that we can gain by the Holy Rosary which commemorates the whole life and passion of Our Savior!
One day Our Lady revealed to Blessed Alan that, after the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which is the most important as well as the living memorial of Our Blessed Lord’s passion, there could not possibly be a finer devotion or one of greater merit than that of the Holy Rosary, which is like a second memorial and representation of the life and passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Father Dorland says that in 1481 Our Lady appeared to Venerable Dominic, the Carthusian, who lived at Treves, and said to him: “Whenever one of the faithful who is in a state of grace says the Rosary while meditating on the mysteries of the life and passion of Jesus Christ, he obtains full and entire remission of all his sins.”
Our Lady also said to Blessed Alan:
“I want you to know that, although there are numerous indulgences already attached to the recitation of my Rosary, I shall add many more to every fifty Hail Marys (each group of five decades) for those who say them devoutly, on their knees—being, of course, free from mortal sin. And whosoever shall persevere in the devotion of the Holy Rosary, saying these prayers and meditations, shall be rewarded for it; I shall obtain for him full remission of the penalty and of the guilt of all his sins at the end of his life. Do not be unbelieving, as though this is impossible. It is easy for me to do because I am the Mother of the King of heaven, and He calls me full of grace. And, being full of grace, I am able to dispense grace freely to my dear children.”
Saint Dominic was so convinced of the efficacy of the Rosary and of its great value that, when he heard confessions, he hardly ever gave any other penance…. Saint Dominic was a great saint and other confessors should be sure to walk in his footsteps by asking their penitents to say the Rosary together with meditation on the sacred mysteries, rather than giving them other penances which are less meritorious and less pleasing to God, less likely to help them advance in virtue and not as efficacious as the Rosary for helping them avoid falling into sin. Moreover, while saying the Rosary, people gain countless indulgences which are not attached to many other devotions.
And, as Abbe Blosius says:
“The Rosary, with meditation on the life and passion of Jesus Christ, is certainly most pleasing to Our Lord and His Blessed Mother and is a very successful means of obtaining all graces; we can say it for ourselves as well as for others for whom we wish to pray and for the whole Church. Let us turn, then, to the Holy Rosary in all our needs, and we shall infallibly obtain the graces we ask of God to save our souls.”
Means of Salvation
Saint Denis said that there is nothing more noble and more pleasing to God than to cooperate in the work of saving souls and to frustrate the devil’s plans for ruining them. The Son of God came down to earth for no other reason than to save souls.
He upset Satan’s empire by founding the Church, but the former rallied his strength and wreaked cruel violence on souls by the Albigensian heresy, by the hatred, dissensions and abominable vices which he spread throughout the world in the XIth, XIIth and XIIIth centuries.
Only stringent measures could possibly cure such terrible disorders and repel Satan’s forces. The Blessed Virgin, Protectress of the Church, has given us a most powerful means for appeasing her Son’s anger, uprooting heresy and reforming Christian morals, in the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary. It has proved its worth for it has brought back charity and frequent reception of the Sacraments which flourished in the first golden centuries of the Church, and it has reformed Christian morals.
Pope Leo X said in his Bull that this Confraternity had been founded in honor of God and of the Blessed Virgin as a wall to hold back the evils that were going to break upon the Church.
Gregory XIII said that the Rosary was given us from heaven as a means of appeasing God’s anger and of imploring Our Lady’s intercession.
Jules III said that the Rosary was inspired by God in order that heaven might be more easily opened to us through the favors of Our Lady.
Paul III and Saint Pius V stated that the Rosary was given to the faithful in order that they might have spiritual peace and consolation more easily. Surely everyone will want to join a confraternity which was founded for such noble purposes.
Father Dominic, the Carthusian, who was deeply devoted to the Holy Rosary, had this vision: Heaven was opened for him to see and the whole heavenly court was assembled in magnificent array. He heard them sing the Rosary in an enchanting melody and each decade was in honor of a mystery of the life, passion or glory of our Lord Jesus Christ and of His Blessed Mother. Father Dominic noticed that whenever they said the sacred name of Mary they bowed their heads and at the name of Jesus they genuflected and gave thanks to God for the great good that He had wrought in heaven and on earth through the Holy Rosary, which the Confraternity members say here on earth. He noticed too that they were praying for those who practice this devotion. He also saw beautiful crowns without number which were made of gorgeous perfumed flowers held in readiness for those who say the Holy Rosary devoutly. He learned that by every Rosary that they say they make a crown for themselves which they will be able to wear in heaven.
This holy Carthusian’s vision is very much like that which Saint John the Beloved Disciple had. He had a vision of a very great multitude of angels and saints who continually praised and blessed Our Savior Jesus Christ for all that He had done and suffered on earth for our salvation. This is precisely what the devout, members of the Rosary Confraternity do.
It must not be thought that the Rosary is only for women and for simple and ignorant people; it is also for men and for the greatest of men. As soon as Saint Dominic acquainted Pope Innocent III with the fact that he had received a command from heaven to establish the Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary, the Holy Father gave it his full approval, urged Saint Dominic to preach it and said that he wished to become a member himself. Many Cardinals embraced the devotion with great fervor too, which prompted Lopez to say: “Neither sex nor age nor any other condition has kept anyone from devotion to the Holy Rosary.”
Members of the Confraternity have always been from all walks of life: dukes, princes, kings, as well as prelates, cardinals and Sovereign Pontiffs; it would take too long to give all their names in this little book, which is but a summary. If you join the Confraternity, dear reader, you will share in the devotion of your fellow members and in the graces that they gain on earth as well as in their glory in heaven. “Since you are united to them in their devotion you will share in their dignity.”
Blanche of Castille—Alphonsus VIII
Blanche of Castille, Queen of France, was deeply grieved because twelve years after her marriage she was still childless. When Saint Dominic went to see her he advised her to say her Rosary every day to ask God for the grace of motherhood, and she faithfully carried out his advice. In 1213 she gave birth to her eldest child, Philip, but the child died in infancy.
The Queen’s fervor was nowise dulled by this disappointment; on the contrary, she sought Our Lady’s help more than ever before. She had a large number of Rosaries given out to all members of the court and also to people in several cities of the Kingdom, asking them to join her in entreating God for a blessing that this time would be complete. Thus, in 1215, Saint Louis was born—the prince who was to become the glory of France and the model of all Christian kings.
Alphonsus VIII, King of Aragon and Castille, had been leading a disorderly life and therefore had been punished by God in several ways, one of these being that he was worsted in battle and had to take refuge in a city belonging to one of his allies.
Saint Dominic happened to be in this city on Christmas Day and preached on the Holy Rosary as he always did, pointing put how great are the graces that we can obtain through it. He mentioned, among other things, that those who said the Rosary devoutly would overcome their enemies and would regain all that they had lost in warfare.
The King listened attentively and sent for Saint Dominic to ask if what he had said about the Rosary was really true. Saint Dominic assured him that nothing was more true, and that if only he would practice this devotion and join the Confraternity, he would see for himself. The King firmly resolved to say his Rosary every day and persevered for a year in doing so. The very next Christmas Our Lady appeared to him at the end of his Rosary and said: “Alphonsus, you have served me for a year by saying my Rosary devoutly every day, so I have come to reward you: I have obtained the forgiveness of your sins from my Son. And I am going to give you this rosary; wear it, and I promise you that none of your enemies will ever be able to harm you again.”
Our Lady vanished leaving the King overjoyed and greatly encouraged; he immediately went in search of the Queen to tell her all about Our Lady’s gift and the promise that went with it. He held the rosary to her eyes (she had been blind for some time) and her sight was instantly restored.
Shortly afterwards the King rallied some troops with the help of his allies and boldly attacked his enemies. He forced them to give back the territory that they had taken from him and to make amends for their other offences against him, and put them completely to rout. In fact, he became so lucky in war that soldiers rushed from all sides to fight under his standard because it seemed that whenever he went to battle the victory was sure to be his.
This is not surprising because he never went to battle without first saying his Rosary devoutly on his knees. He made certain that all the members of his court joined the Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary and he also saw that his officers and servants were devoted to it
The Queen joined the Confraternity and started saying the Rosary too, and she and her husband persevered in Our Lady’s service and lived really holy lives.
Saint Dominic had a cousin named Don Perez, or Pedro, who was leading a highly immoral life. When he heard that his cousin was preaching on the wonders of the Rosary and learned that several people had been converted and had amended their lives by means of it, he said: “I had given up all hope of being saved but now I am beginning to take heart again. I really must hear this man of God.”
So one day he went to hear one of Saint Dominic’s sermons. When the latter caught sight of him he struck out against sin more zealously than ever before, and from the depths of his heart he besought Almighty God to enlighten his cousin and to let him see what a deplorable state his soul was in.
At first Don Perez was somewhat alarmed, but he still did not resolve to change his ways. He came once more to hear Saint Dominic preach and his cousin, realizing that a heart as hard as his could only be moved by something quite out of the ordinary, cried out with a loud voice: “Oh Lord Jesus, grant that this whole congregation may actually see the state of the man who has just come into Your House.”
Then everybody suddenly saw that Don Perez was completely surrounded by a band of devils in the form of hideous beasts who were holding him in great iron chains. People fled hither and thither in abject terror and Don Perez himself was even more appalled than they when he saw how everyone shunned him.
Saint Dominic told them all to stand still and said to his cousin: “Unhappy man that you are, acknowledge the deplorable state you are in and throw yourself at Our Lady’s feet. Take this Rosary; say it with devotion and with true sorrow for all your sins, and make a firm resolution to amend your life.”
So Don Perez knelt down and said the whole Rosary; he then felt the need of making his confession and did so with heartfelt contrition. Saint Dominic ordered him to say the Rosary every day; he promised to do so and he entered his name on the Rosary Confraternity list in his own hand.
When he left the Church his face was no longer horrible to behold but had a glow like that of an angel’s. Thereafter he persevered in devotion to the Holy Rosary, led a well-ordered Christian life and died a happy death.
A Diabolical Possession
When Saint Dominic was preaching the Rosary near Carcassone, an Albigensian was brought to him who was possessed by the devil. Saint Dominic exorcised him in the presence of a great crowd of people; it appears that over twelve thousand had come to hear him preach. The devils who were in possession of this wretched man were forced to answer Saint Dominic’s questions in spite of themselves. They said that:
1. There were fifteen thousand of them in the body of this poor man, because he had attacked the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary;
2. They went on to testify that by preaching the Rosary he put fear and horror into the very depths of hell and that he was the man they hated most throughout the whole world, because of the souls which he snatched from them through devotion to the Holy Rosary;
3. They then revealed several other things.
Saint Dominic put his rosary around the Albigensian’s neck and asked the devils to tell him who, of all the saints in heaven, was the one they feared the most, and who should therefore be the most loved and revered by men. At this they let out such unearthly screams that most of the people fell to the ground, faint from fear. Then, using all their cunning, so as not to answer, the devils wept and wailed in such a pitiful way that many of the people wept also, out of purely natural pity. The devils spoke through the mouth of the Albigensian, pleading in a heartrending voice:
“Dominic, Dominic, have mercy on us—we promise you that we will never hurt you. You have always had compassion for sinners and those in distress; have pity on us, for we are in grievous straits. We are suffering so very much already, so why do you delight in heightening our pains? Can’t you be satisfied with our suffering without adding to it? Have pity on us! Have pity on us!”
Saint Dominic was not one whit moved by the pathos of these wretched spirits and told them that he would not let them alone until they had answered his question. Then they said they would whisper the answer in such a way that only Saint Dominic would be able to hear. The latter firmly insisted upon their answering clearly and out loud. Then the devils kept quiet and refused to say another word, completely disregarding Saint Dominic’s orders—so he knelt down and prayed thus to Our Lady:
“Oh, all powerful and wonderful Virgin Mary, I implore you by the power of the Most Holy Rosary, order these enemies of the human race to answer me.”
No sooner had he made this prayer than a glowing flame leaped out of the ears, nostrils and mouth of the Albigensian. Everyone shook with fear, but the fire did not hurt anyone. Then the devils cried:
“Dominic, we beseech you, by the passion of Jesus Christ and by the molts of His Holy Mother and of all the saints, let us leave the body of this man without speaking further—for the angels will answer your question whenever you wish. After all, are we not liars? So why should you want to believe us? Please don’t torture us any more; have pity on us.”
“Woe unto you wretched spirits, who do not deserve to be heard,” Saint Dominic said, and kneeling down he prayed to Our Lady:
“Oh most worthy Mother of Wisdom, I am praying for the people assembled here who have already learned how to say the Angelic Salutation properly. Please, I beg of you, force your enemies to proclaim the whole truth and nothing but the truth about this, here and now, before the multitude.”
Saint Dominic had hardly finished this prayer when he saw the Blessed Virgin near at hand, surrounded by a multitude of angels. She struck the possessed man with a golden rod that she held and said: “Answer my servant Dominic at once.” (Remember, the people neither saw nor heard Our Lady, but only Saint Dominic.) Then the devils started screaming:
“Oh you who are our enemy, our downfall and our destruction, why have you come from heaven just to torture us so grievously? O Advocate of sinners, you who snatch them from the very jaws of hell, you who are the very sure path to heaven, must we, in spite of ourselves, tell the whole truth and confess before everyone who it is who is the cause of our shame and our ruin? Oh woe unto us, princes of darkness.
Then listen well, you Christians: the Mother of Jesus Christ is all-powerful and she can save her servants from falling into hell. She is the Sun which destroys the darkness of our wiles and subtlety. It is she who uncovers our hidden plots, breaks our snares and makes our temptations useless and ineffectual.
We have to say, however reluctantly, that not a single soul who has really persevered in her service has ever been damned with us; one single sigh that she offers to the Blessed Trinity is worth far more than all the prayers, desires and aspirations of all the saints.
We fear her more than all the other saints in heaven together and we have no success with her faithful servants. Many Christians who call upon her when they are at the hour of death and who really ought to be damned according to our ordinary standards are saved by her intercession.
Oh if only that Mary (it is thus in their fury that they called her) had not pitted her strength against ours and had not upset our plans, we should have conquered the Church and should have destroyed it long before this; and we would have seen to it that all the Orders in the Church fell into error and disorder.
Now that we are forced to speak we must also tell you this: nobody who perseveres in saying the Rosary will be damned, because she obtains for her servants the grace of true contrition for their sins, and by means of this they obtain God’s forgiveness and mercy.”
Then Saint Dominic had them all say the Rosary very slowly and with great devotion, and a wonderful thing happened: at each Hail Mary that he and the people said together a large group of devils issued forth from the wretched man’s body under the guise of red-hot coals.
When the devils had all been expelled and the heretic was at last entirely free of them, Our Lady (who was still invisible) gave her blessing to the assembled company, and they were filled with joy because of this.
A large number of heretics were converted because of this miracle and joined the Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary.
Simon de Montfort, Alan de Lanvallay and Othère
It is almost impossible to do real credit to the victories that Count Simon de Montfort won against the Albigensians under the patronage of Our Lady of the Rosary. These victories are so famous that the world has never seen anything to match them. One day he defeated ten thousand heretics with a force of five hundred men and on another occasion he overcame three thousand with only thirty men. Finally, with eight hundred horsemen and one thousand infantrymen he completely put to rout the army of the King of Aragon which was a hundred thousand strong, and this with the loss on his side of only one horseman and eight soldiers!
Our Lady also protected Alan de Lanvallay, a Breton Knight, from great perils. He too was fighting for the Faith against the Albigensians. One day when he found himself surrounded by enemies on all sides Our Lady let fall one hundred and fifty rocks upon his enemies and he was delivered from their hands. Another day when his ship foundered and was about to sink, the Blessed Mother caused one hundred and fifty small hills to appear miraculously above the water and by means of them they reached Brittany in safety.
He built a monastery at Dinan for the religious of St. Dominic, in thanksgiving to Our Lady for all the miracles that she had worked on his behalf in answer to his daily Rosary. Having become a religious himself he died a holy death at Orleans.
Othère was also a Breton soldier, from Vaucouleurs, and he often put whole companies of heretics or robbers to flight unaided, wearing his Rosary on his arm or carrying it on the hilt of his sword. Once when he had beaten them his enemies admitted that they had seen his sword gleam and that another time they had noticed a shield on his arm which had pictures of Our Lord and Our Lady and the saints upon it This shield made him invisible and gave him the strength to attack well.
Another time he defeated twenty thousand heretics with only ten companies and without losing a single man. This so impressed the general of the heretics’ army that he came to see Othère afterwards, abjured his heresy and declared publicly that he had seen him surrounded by flaming swords during the battle.
Blessed Alan says that a certain Cardinal Pierre, whose titular Church was that of St. Mary-beyond-the-Tiber, was a great friend of Saint Dominic’s and had learned from him a deep devotion to the Most Holy Rosary. This resulted in his loving it so much that he never ceased singing its praises and encouraging everyone he met to embrace it.
Eventually he was sent as Legate to the Holy Land, to the Christians who were fighting the Saracens. So successfully did he convince the Christian army of the power of the Rosary that they started saying it one and all, to storm heaven for help in a battle in which they knew they would be pitifully out-numbered. This resulted in victory for them, and three thousand Christians triumphed over an enemy of one hundred thousand.
As we have seen, the devils have an overwhelming fear of the Rosary. Saint Bernard says that the Angelic Salutation puts them to flight and makes all hell tremble.
Blessed Alan says that he has seen several people delivered from Satan’s bondage after taking up the Holy Rosary, even though they had previously sold themselves to him in body and soul by renouncing their Baptismal Vows and their allegiance to Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Freed from Satan
In 1578 a woman in Anvers had given herself to the devil and had signed the contract with her own blood. Shortly afterwards she was stricken with sincere remorse and had an intense desire to make amends for this terrible deed. So she sought out a kind and wise confessor who advised her to go to Father Henry, one of the Fathers of the Dominican Friary, who was Director of the Rosary Confraternity in that town, to ask him to enroll her in it and hear her confession.
Accordingly she went to ask for him but met, not Father Henry, but the devil disguised as a Dominican Father. The latter scolded her pitilessly and said that she could never hope to receive Almighty God’s grace again as long as she lived, and that there was absolutely no way in which she could regain possession of her contract. This grieved her greatly but she did not quite lose hope of God’s mercy and sought out Father Henry once more, only to find the devil a second time, and to meet with a second rebuff. She came back for the third time and then at last, by Divine Providence, she found Father Henry in person—the priest whom she had been looking for—and he treated her with very great kindness, urging her to throw herself upon the mercy of Almighty God and to make a good confession. He then received her into the Confraternity and told her to say her Rosary frequently.
One day while Father Henry was saying Mass for her Our Lady forced the devil to give her back the contract which she had signed. In this way she was delivered from the devil by the authority of Mary, and by her devotion to the Most Holy Rosary.
A Monastery Reformed
A nobleman who had several daughters entered one of them in a lax monastery where the nuns were very proud and thought of nothing else but worldly pleasures. The nuns’ confessor, on the other hand, was a zealous priest and had a great love for the Holy Rosary. Wishing to guide this nun into a better way of life he ordered her to say the Rosary every day in honor of the Blessed Virgin while meditating on the life, passion and glory of Jesus Christ.
She joyously undertook to say the Rosary and little by little she grew to have a repugnance for the wayward habits of her sisters in religion. She developed a love for silence and prayer and this in spite of the fact that the others despised and ridiculed her, and called her a fanatic.
It was at this time that a holy priest, who was making the visitation of the convent, had a strange vision while he was making his meditation: he saw a nun in her room, rapt in prayer, kneeling in front of a Lady of breathless beauty who was surrounded by angels. The latter had flaming spears with which they repelled a crowd of devils who wanted to come in. These evil spirits then fled to the other nuns’ rooms under the guise of vile animals.
By this vision the priest became aware of the lamentable state the monastery was in, and he was so upset that he thought he might almost die of grief. He immediately sent for the young religious and exhorted her to persevere.
As he pondered on the value of the Rosary, he decided to try to reform the sisters by means of it. He bought a supply of beautiful rosaries and gave one to each nun, imploring them to say the Rosary every day, even going so far as to promise them that, if they would only say it faithfully, he would not try to force them to alter their lives. Wonderful and strange as it may seem, the nuns agreed to this pact and were glad to be given the rosaries and promised to say them.
Little by little they began to give up their empty and worldly pursuits, letting silence and recollection come into their lives. In less than a year they all asked that the monastery be reformed.
So the Holy Rosary worked more changes in their hearts than the priest could have worked by exhorting and commanding them.
A Bishop’s Devotion
A Spanish countess, who had been taught the Holy Rosary by Saint Dominic, used to say it faithfully every day, with the result that she was making wonderful strides in her spiritual life. Since her one and only thought was how she might attain to perfection, she asked a Bishop who was a renowned preacher for some practices that would help her become perfect.
The Bishop told her that, before he could give her any counsels, she would have to let him know the state of her soul and also what her religious exercises were. She answered that her most important exercise was the Holy Rosary which she said every day meditating on the Joyous, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries, and that her soul was greatly helped by so doing.
The Bishop was overjoyed to hear her explain what priceless lessons the mysteries contain. “I have been a doctor of theology for twenty years,” he exclaimed “and I have read many excellent books on various devotional practices. But never before have I come across one better than this—for it is of the essence of Christianity and is a devotion which cannot but bear fruit. I shall follow your example and from now on I shall preach the Rosary.”
The Bishop’s preaching met with great success, for in almost no time his diocese changed for the better. There was a notable decline in immorality and worldliness of all kinds, as well as in gambling. There were several striking instances of people being brought back to the Faith, or sinners making restitution for their crimes, and of others sincerely resolving to give up lives of vice. Religious fervor and Christian charity began to flourish. These changes were all the more remarkable because this Bishop had been striving to reform his diocese for some time but with hardly any results.
To better inculcate devotion of the Rosary, the Bishop also wore a beautiful rosary at his side and always showed it to the congregation when he preached. He used to say:
“My dear brethren in Jesus Christ, I am a Doctor of Theology and a Doctor of Canon as well as Civil law, but I say to you, as your Bishop, that I take more pride in wearing Our Lady’s Rosary than in any of my episcopal regalia or academic robes.”