(LifeSiteNews) – Christmas is nearly here, and with it the inestimable joy of being drawn so near a God who makes Himself small for us, asking only for our love in return.
And yet, all around we see this Great God – so loving and so easy to love – shamefully “spurned and rejected” even on His Own Birthday. Christ descends to us and is again met with shuttered churches and complacent flocks, a war on Christmas in nations once won for the Church, and all manner of previously unthinkable sins and crimes, seemingly more common everyday.
What can we do for Our Lord, so disregarded even on His Blessed Nativity? What gift can we offer Him in loving reparation? Along with reverent attendance at the Holy Mass, there’s one that surpasses all others: the Holy Rosary, especially prayed together as a family.
Many are aware of numerous (largely unheeded) appeals of the Church and Our Lady to take up the Rosary, but fewer know the special significant of the Rosary specifically when recited in the home.
Our Lady Herself told St. Teresa of Calcutta to promote the family Rosary and “all will be well”: “Teach them to say the Rosary, the family Rosary,” She said, “and all will be well. Fear not, Jesus and I will be with you and your children.”
And the holy popes of modern times have been unanimous in their extraordinarily high praise of the practice, which has produced some of the greatest saints of our age, Padre Pio and Blessed Bartolo Longo among them.
As Blessed Pope Pius IX said, for example: “If you desire peace to reign in your hearts and families, gather together each evening to recite the Rosary.” “We strongly urge all the faithful, whether it be publicly in the churches or in private homes and within the family, to pray the rosary and, as far as possible not to relent in his holy exercise,” Pope Leo XIII concurred.
Pope St. Pius X considered the family Rosary powerful enough to save the world he had grievously lamented as “more than in any past age, suffering from a terrible and deep-rooted malady … developing every day and eating into its inmost being.”
“If there were one million families praying the Rosary every day, the entire world would be saved,” said the saintly pontiff, who during his papacy endorsed the Pious Union of the Family Rosary. “The Rosary is the most beautiful and the most rich in graces of all prayers; it is the prayer that touches most the Heart of the Mother of God … and if you wish peace to reign in your homes, recite the family Rosary,” he said.
Pope Benedict XV, Pius X’s successor, also backed the Pious Union of the Family Rosary, recalling that he had “always recited the Rosary in common with the people with whom I lived. Even now, in the evening when the day’s work is done, we assemble in my private chapel, and in unison we recite the blessed beads of Our Lady.”
And again, Pope Pius XI, who had observed “society in a word, shaken to its foundations and on the way to ruin” and “the unity and stability of the family undermined,” demanded families turn to the Rosary in his 1937 encyclical Ingravescentibus Malis:
The fathers and mothers of families particularly must give an example to their children, especially when, at sunset, they gather together after the day’s work, within the domestic walls, and recite the Holy Rosary on bended knees before the image of the Virgin, together fusing voice, faith and sentiment. This is a beautiful and salutary custom, from which certainly there cannot but be derived tranquility and abundance of heavenly gifts for the household.
What better time than Christmas to heed this call, immersing our families in Jesus and Our Lady for all those who don’t? Ven. Pope Pius XII offers an exceptionally beautiful example of what the Catholic family in prayer could look like this Christmas season, joining in “a sweet bond of love with the most Holy Virgin” through Her Holy Rosary.
“[I]t is above all in the bosom of the family that We desire the custom of the Holy Rosary to be everywhere adopted, religiously preserved, and ever more intensely practiced,” he wrote:
What a sweet sight – most pleasing to God – when, at eventide, the Christian home resounds with the frequent repetition of praises in honor of the august Queen of Heaven! Then the Rosary, recited in common, assembles before the image of the Virgin, in an admirable union of hearts, the parents and their children, who come back from their daily work. It unites them piously with those absent and those dead. It links all more tightly in a sweet bond of love with the most Holy Virgin, who, like a loving mother, in the circle of her children, will be there bestowing upon them an abundance of the gifts of concord and family peace.
Then the home of the Christian family, like that of Nazareth, will become an earthly abode of sanctity, and, so to speak, a sacred temple, where the Holy Rosary will not only be the particular prayer which every day rises to heaven in an odor of sweetness, but will also form the most efficacious school of Christian discipline and Christian virtue.
Pope St. John XXIII a few years latter offered similar reflections on the family Rosary, which his household had recited every evening during his childhood:
When parents and children gather together at the end of the day in the recitation of the Rosary, together they meditate on the example of work, obedience and charity which shone in the house of Nazareth; together they learn from the Mother of God to suffer serenely; to accept with dignity and courage the difficulties of life; and to acquire the proper attitude to the daily events of life. It is certain that they will meet with greater facility the problems of family life. Homes will thereby handle with greater facility the problems of family life. Homes will thereby be converted into sanctuaries of peace. Torrent of divine favors will come to them, even the inestimable favor of a priestly or religious vocation.
Pope St. Paul VI “recommend strongly” the family Rosary as well, as in his Marian apostolic letter Marialis Cultus: “We exhort all Catholic families to introduce this devotion into their lives, and to encourage its propagation,” he once said.
And in his great Rosarium Virginis Mariae, in which he proclaimed the Year of the Rosary and introduced the Luminous Mysteries, Pope St. John Paul II again invoked the Holy Family at Nazareth, specifically positing the Rosary as a means to save the family and sound the depths of the Christ’s love.
John Paul lamented the family, “the primary cell of society, increasingly menaced by forces of disintegration on both the ideological and practical planes, so as to make us fear for the future of this fundamental and indispensable institution and, with it, for the future of society as a whole.”
“The revival of the Rosary in Christian families, within the context of a broader pastoral ministry to the family, will be an effective aid to countering the devastating effects of this crisis typical of our age,” said the saintly pope, who noted that the Rosary was his “favorite prayer.” “The family that recites the Rosary together reproduces something of the atmosphere of the household of Nazareth: its members place Jesus at the center, they share his joys and sorrows, they place their needs and their plans in his hands, they draw from him the hope and the strength to go on.”
“With the Rosary, the Christian people sits at the school of Mary and is led to contemplate the beauty of the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love. Through the Rosary the faithful receive abundant grace, as though from the very hands of the Mother of the Redeemer. Dear brothers and sisters, recite the Rosary every day. To pray the Rosary is to hand over our burdens to merciful hearts of Christ and His Mother.”
Could anything be more pleasing to God or fitting on the Feast of His Birth than this prayerful uniting of our families with His? Here St. John Paul II also points to the unique connection between the Rosary and Christmas. The contemplation of “the beauty of the face of Christ” distinctly recalls Mary at Bethlehem, as she “wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger.”
“We can imagine the kind of interior preparation, the kind of love with which Mary approached that hour,” Pope Benedict XVI remarked in his homily at midnight Mass in 2007. “The brief phrase: ‘She wrapped him in swaddling clothes’ allows us to glimpse something of the holy joy and the silent zeal of that preparation.”
As “the school of Mary” for the contemplation of Christ, the Rosary is an unparalleled means of entering into the Mystery of Christmas through Our Lady, who understands it like no one else.
Pope Benedict XVI, who continued the papal tradition of espousing the family Rosary, was himself a product of a Rosary-praying family.
“As a young boy, Pope Benedict XVI witnessed the tender love his parents had for Our Lady and her Rosary,” Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, recounted in his book Champions of the Rosary. “Every year during the month of May, the entire family went to Church every day to pray the Rosary.” Sr. Lucia Dos Santos’ family had a similar tradition, and the families of Padre Pio, Blessed Bartolo Longo, and Ven. Teresita Quevedo also prayed the Rosary together daily.
Another notable son of a Rosary family, Ven. Fr. Patrick Peyton, founder of the Family Rosary Crusade, attested: “Because of the daily family Rosary, my home was for me a cradle, a school, a university, a library, and most of a little church.”
“It’s in that school, in that sanctuary, in that holy home of the Rosary, that I discovered Mary! And in discovering Mary, I discovered a protector. I found a friend. I found a mother that would never die. I found a mother filled with affection for me, filled with concern for my welfare, lavishing upon me her strength, her prayers, her guidance, her protection,” he said, echoing the observations of Pope Pius XII. “I’m speaking to you of Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ, and thanks to the family Rosary, this is the greatest fruit that it gave me.”
“It is the rosary prayed by families that will keep the lights of faith glowing in the days of darkness of faith, as it has done in the past.”
May those lights glow ever more brightly in our homes this Christmas as we embrace Our Lord and His Mother through their favorite prayer.