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Panel discusses rosary as a mighty tool for evangelization

A woman holds a rosary during the Pope Francis’s Mass opening the assembly of the Synod of Bishops in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Oct. 4, 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

By SueAnn Howell, OSV News

(OSV News) — “Unleash the Power of the Rosary,” a panel discussion hosted by Paradisus Dei and the Dominican friars of the Province of St. Joseph, offered a lively discussion about the rosary as a powerful tool for evangelization that connects people to Jesus through Mary and guides them on a journey to the center of Jesus’ Sacred Heart.

“Every time we pray the rosary with the heart of Our Lady we are contemplating the face of Christ,” said panelist Sister Alexia Maria, a member of the Servants of the Pierced of Hearts of Jesus and Mary. “As we pray the rosary we are really living (the) life of Christ and we are entering deeply into each mystery.”

The Sept. 27 virtual panel discussion was offered by the Dominican friars, who sponsored the Sept. 30 Dominican Rosary Pilgrimage, and Paradisus Dei, a Catholic apostolate that supports marriage and family life, which is about to release the second season of a video series about the rosary.

Michael Gormley, a mission evangelist for Paradisus Dei and successful podcaster, led the hourlong conversation between Sister Alexia Maria and Dominican friars Father John Paul Kern and Father Aquinas Guilbeau.

During the discussion, Sister Alexia Maria, who shared her moving testimony about the rosary in the newest installment of Paradisus Dei’s “Mysteries of the Rosary: The Joyful Mysteries,” spoke of her community’s Marian charism and daily devotion to the rosary.

“We are called to be the living presence of Our Lady in the heart of the church,” Sister Alexia explained. “It’s a joy to be a part of the ‘Mysteries of the Rosary,'” especially “‘The Joyful Mysteries,’ as in a sense, like Our Lady, I can sing my own Magnificat and share what the Lord has done in my own life.”

She noted that she and the members of her religious community wear a rosary as part of their religious habits. At their home In Miami, they pray a daily rosary together and daily contemplate an image of Our Lady for 15 minutes. Additionally, each sister is given one specific mystery of the rosary to contemplate daily for the rest of their lives.

Sister Alexia Maria received the fifth glorious mystery, the crowning of Mary, which she said was “a joy.”

“All I truly want to be is a star in the crown of Our Lady, and I have always understood that, and so when I received that mystery it was a great gift and also a great task,” Sister Alexia Maria said.

The rosary is a devotion of memorized prayers used to reflect on one of four sets of “mysteries” — specific events in the life of Jesus — known as the joyful mysteries, the luminous mysteries, the sorrowful mysteries and the glorious mysteries. The rosary has been prayed in times of trial, distress and joy. Battles have been won, hearts have been converted and prayers have been answered, with millions of people around the world using this spiritual tool to pray to Jesus and seek Mary’s intercession for matters great and small.

The church dedicates the month of October to the rosary. The feast of Our Lady of the Rosary is Oct. 7, commemorating the rosary’s role in the Holy League’s defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the 1571 Battle of Lepanto, a pivotal naval engagement off the coast of southwestern Greece.

According to tradition, Mary gave the rosary to St. Dominic (1170–1221), the founder of the Order of Preachers, commonly known as the Dominicans, to help him fight a heresy prevalent in southern France that viewed the world as a cosmic battle between good spiritual forces and evil material forces, and understood the human person to be a spirit trapped in a material body.

Father Guilbeau, university chaplain and director of campus ministry at The Catholic University of America in Washington, said the Dominican order’s devotion to Mary and the rosary is foundational to its charism.

“The Order of Preachers has had the privilege from our very beginning, with St. Dominic himself being dedicated to Our Lady,” Father Guilbeau said. “Our Lady shows up prominently in the life of St. Dominic in terms of his inspiration of the order, but also is seen in the first generation of preachers. … The dedication to Our Lady and fidelity to Our Lady shape the very soul of our Dominican order, and we preach devotion to the rosary as part of our observance of our religious life.”

Father Kern, who is the executive director of the Dominican Friars Foundation in New York City as well as the director of the Rosary Shrine of St. Jude in Washington, lives across the street from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, and was preparing to help lead the Dominican Rosary Pilgrimage that took place there Sept. 30. He spoke of Mary’s desire to intercede for the faithful.

“She is going to lead us to Jesus; intercede on our behalf for him to give us the things that only he can give that we need. Then her final instruction, ‘Do whatever he tells you,’ is good, motherly instruction,” he said, referring to Mary’s words to the servants during the wedding at Cana about Jesus, recorded in John 2:5.

“Nobody wants you to love and know Jesus more than Mary,” Father Kern said. “She draws you right to her son. So be not afraid.”

Father Guilbeau added: “As Christians praying the rosary, we want to imitate her, see what she sees, think what she thinks, feel what she feels. Everything the rosary offers us has that as its goal — to know God, to worship God.”

SueAnn Howell writes for OSV News from North Carolina. Follow her on X (formerly Twitter) @SueAnnHowell.

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