The Rosary & Victory

The apostles said to the Lord “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5) I found a poem that might help:

The road of life was bright
It stretched before my sight.
The Lord was at my side
to be my friend and guide.
And so I started out.

But then the sky grew dark,
and the road grew steep and stark.
Rocks and ruts cut my feet.
My legs grew sore and weak.
I scarce could travel on.

I turned and cried “My Lord!
Why this pain; why this plight?
Why these ruts; why these rocks?
Why this darkness? Where’s the light?
I cannot carry on.”

The Lord replied, “My child!
Why this fear; why this fright?
Where’s your faith? Where’s your trust?
Love chose this road for you.

Just trust and travel on.”

This anonymous poet gives us a challenge for today. “Lord, increase our faith,” we say. We need faith, of course, but that word can be so empty, so void in meaning. Faith in what? Faith in whom? And faith, I propose, displayed how?

Pope Pius V prayed through the night, Rosary beads in hand, on that October day back in 1571. He knew how significant the next day’s naval battle was going to be. It was going to be huge. Yes, the largest naval battle since classical antiquity with over 400 warships in the west side of Greece. The battle we know as Lepanto. It was the turning point to slowing the Ottoman Turks from taking over Western Europe. And it was also that which lead to the freedom of over 12,000 Christian slaves, included among them one whom we know of as Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote. All with, at least according to Pope St. Pius V—the intercession of Our Lady—Our Lady of Victory, or as we now know her, Our Lady of the Rosary. It’s now been 450 full years and we still mark the anniversary of that battle on the seventh of October each year. The Rosary had been around for centuries before but that day Pope Pius announced would be known as Our Lady of the Rosary, this month dedicated to the Rosary, and I can’t recommend it enough.

I thank the folks that gather and pray the Rosary for Life, those that come for Adoration and pray the Rosary, and those for whom it’s just become a regular part of your life. One spiritual writer speaks of it like being a lasso that Our Lady uses to draw us into Heaven, or like a lifeline sharing grace. I hope that you know all of those prayers, those Hail Mary’s and Our Father’s represented by the beads of the Rosary, they’re good in and of themselves but just focusing on those makes us sound like the unprofitable servants. (Luke 17:10) It’s good, that’s what we do, but there’s so much more depth. Those prayers are to be the background music, if you will, of the meditation on what we call the mysteries of the Rosary.

Case in point, the Gospel tells us of that absurd scenario of a servant coming in from the fields and the master telling him to rest for a bit and he would take off his outer garment and put on an apron and serve them (Luke 17:7). How absurd until you reflect on the fifth luminous mystery and the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper when our Lord, our master, did that very same thing. He took off His cloak, He put on that apron and He served the apostles, He served us, washing their feet, giving them the food—the Bread of Life and the chalice of salvation (John 13:5).

The witness is huge through the centuries. On a personal note it was huge for me when I was growing up, probably in junior high, when I realized what was in my father’s work truck. I was just getting to the point where I wanted to explore trucks and, much to my surprise, right in the little console of dad’s truck was rosary beads. Dad was not a very outwardly pious man but that was a part of his daily life, his witness, not by what he said but what he did. And you don’t have to go to my father or five hundred years back.

Just recently, when my parish was having a day of mercy, a day of Confessions, I usually have some free time in the midst of that last hour from 9:00 – 10:00 p.m. So, I was doing a Rosary at that point and even walking around the chapel to keep myself from falling asleep. And as I was doing so, I was praying for someone particularly who is a friend of mine but not Catholic, and who is asking some darn good questions. Well, don’t you know, I get to the last Hail Mary of the Rosary and my eyes fall down on one of the books that is there on the bookshelf. Something just told me to pick it up. Don’t you know, right there in the introduction to that book, was stuff that she was searching out. I gave the book to her this week and I tell you now of that witness of the Rosary, that lasso.

Some would say it was just a coincidence but I don’t buy it, because we keep walking, not just in little chapels, but we keep walking through the days of our life, walking for what is important to us. In the newspaper today—for breast cancer, the rights of indigenous people, in the Life Chain—the cause of life in this Respect Life month. What we hold dear to us needs to be cherished, needs to be cared for. And so we keep walking, as the poet said through those ruts and through those rocks, but always doing so with faith in our Lord.

So, I challenge you in the midst of your walk this month of the Rosary, to walk with Our Lady of the Rosary. If you’ve never prayed a Rosary, this is your time. And if you have already, make it a regular part of your life. When Mary appeared to the children in Fatima, Portugal way back in 1917, she made it very clear that they were to pray a Rosary each day. And she invited them to share that message with us—for peace, for healing, for happiness. It’s hard to do so because of the distractions of life, there are so many distractions that plague us today, but never so much that those beads of Our Lady that are so small—like the mustard seeds of the Gospel—can lead us into great things, into great relationship, into those great mysteries, so that we can walk all the way to the peace of the Lord.

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Father Bryan Stitt has been the pastor of St. Mary’s in Canton, New York since June of 2017. He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Ogdensburg in 2003 and currently serves as director of Worship. Before coming to Canton he served in multiple parishes across the North Country, as well as in the Vocations Office for nine years. When he’s not proclaiming the Kingdom in Canton, he enjoys spending time in the Adirondack Mountains hiking, skiing, and fishing and doting on his 6 nieces and nephews.

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