Archive for October, 2011

The Heart of the Gospel:

The Pharisees of Jesus’ days were those who kept the law, and were rightly known as the ‘pious’ Jews. It is probable that Joseph and Mary, Zechariah and Elizabeth, Simeon and the widow, Anna, and of course many other pious Jews would have been associated with this group. I have heard the comparison with today’s Catholics who come quite often to weekday Mass, many of them on a daily basis.

Picture of a man at prayer

They were good people, and Jesus, himself, may have been involved in that group. Certainly he was used to visiting the synagogue, in Nazareth, for Luke, the Evangelist, wrote that Jesus was accustomed to be in the synagogue each Sabbath (Lk 4: 16). In Matthew’s Gospel, there is a fascinating sentence that opens up a huge vision about the ‘heart’ of the teaching of Jesus, in the Gospel. It goes like this:

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to them, ‘“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’ (Mt. 22: 34-40)

The Pharisees and the Sadducees

The first little phrase does hint at the Pharisees being rather pleased that Jesus had silenced their rivals, the Sadducees. Interestingly enough, the Sadducees were like the upper classes in the Jewish Society, and Jesus, son of a carpenter / builder would be, in our terms, a working man. In England, the working man is mostly regarded as having a ‘provincial’ accent, whilst those of the English ‘nobility’ most often speak with an ‘upper-class’ accent that is hard to define; invariably, it is given the accolade of an ‘Oxford’ accent – an accent that is universally accepted as markedly different from those of the provincial accents, found throughout the length and breadth of island Britain.

I doubt if things were precisely like that in the Palestine of Jesus’ day, but the comparison may help us with an insight, into the kind of ‘class’ divisions that Jesus faced, in his own day. The fact remains that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, who were chiefly among the priests of the temple in Jerusalem, in charge of administration of their country; they organised the collection of taxes, equipped the army and were responsible for official Jewish relationships with the Roman rulers and occupiers.

Those Sadducees must have been ‘galled’ that they had lost the argument with Jesus – a man from a much lower social level. At the same time, the ordinary people followed Jesus, a man, whom, they realised, was genuine and authentic, unlike these ‘leaders’ of the Jewish people. It is a sad fact that, even today, most ordinary people in our country are not too trusting of the leaders in politics, banking, sport, fashion, commerce – even, at times, in the Church – despite the high and noble calling it is to be a leader, in different spheres of the country’s life. When one comes to think about it, nothing much changes – there’s nothing much new under the sun!

Then the Pharisees ‘gathered together’ and I can imagine them in a little ‘huddle’, rejoicing in the discomfort of the Sadducees and so it became their turn to think out a question to ‘test’ Jesus. They were those who represented the pure Jewish religion: by comparison today’s parallel might be with those who regard themselves as ‘sticklers’ for what are the Church rules – rules that are never bent to accommodate the needs of the people, despite those needs becoming desperate at times. It could be the rather harsh ‘tut-tutting’ in Church, these days, when a harassed mother is trying to control her young child, who is making a noise, and the ‘good’ Christians are a bit ‘put-out’.

There is a wonderful example, given in the Gospel, of the lady who for eighteen years, had been bent double, virtually crippled. Jesus saw her and called her over to him; then, quite simply, he said to her: “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.”

 The Lady Doubled-up in Pain

When he laid his hands on her, she stood up straight, immediately, and began praising God. Well, no wonder that lady gave praise to God, as eighteen years of misery was taken away from her by Jesus”

At this point, we are introduced to the leader of the synagogue, who would have been a Pharisee with a mission for ritual purity, and perfection in the ‘law’. He was angry with Jesus because Jesus he had cured on the Sabbath, and he spoke to the crowd that surrounded Jesus: “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured and not on the Sabbath day”. Jesus’ reply, in perfect charity, went straight to the point: “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan bound for eighteen long years be set free from this bondage on the Sabbath day?” The crowds rejoiced at Jesus, and all his opponents were put to shame. (Luke 13, 10-17).

How much more wonderful, it is, when somebody has had something on their conscience for years, and years, often becoming a burden too heavy to bear, and then, at last, it is removed by God’s power, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. That great joy has been mine to give out on various occasions. One man I knew, from Bamber Bridge, had been burdened for over 40 years, as I remember; soon after his release from his own sense of unworthiness, before God, he died and went to his eternal reward.

Man – in Freedom

The heart of the Gospel of Jesus is to love God totally, (in Latin, ‘totus tuus’ – completely yours), and your neighbour, as yourself. What all this implies would be the subject of another blog, but of one thing we can be certain – it is freedom from being ‘shackled’ by fear and scrupulosity, giving each man, and each woman, the chance to hold his, or her head, up high, in that sure and self-confident knowledge of utter dependence on God, and his love, in company with others who belong to the same family of God.

Woman – in Freedom

 To put things in a ‘nutshell’, the heart of the Gospel is ‘LOVE’

In e-mailing the blog, ‘Word Press’ tends to distort the original formatting of the document.  Readers may wish to visit the website to read it in its original format.



Fr. Jonathan is away on retreat and has seen this blog. He writes:

“Reading the scriptures there seem to be different stages in the journey of faith. At some point, like Mary Magdalene in the Garden of the Resurrection, we actually meet Jesus, and so our faith is not just a ‘blind’ belief, but rather is personal knowledge of God and his love. To reach this stage, requires the good-will to be open to God, his love and mercy. Peter and John ran to the tomb, after Mary Magdalene told them news, the stone had gone. Peter went in to the tomb, and it does not say he believed; perhaps, he was too self-preoccupied, after his betrayal of Jesus. John went in second; he did believe, perhaps because he remained with Jesus, and his mother, at the Cross, and Jesus had said to him from the Cross: ‘Behold your mother’. He was at that stage more open.  Later on they all saw the risen Jesus. We, ourselves, meet him through the different circumstances of life. Yet our faith, even if it is ‘knowledge’, always needs nurturing, and may even disappear if we do not practice it. Pope Benedict, aware that faith is a challenge in our culture, has called for a year dedicated to faith, from October 2012 to November 2013. Let us ask the Lord, as this blog says, to strengthen our weak faith”.  

Fr. Jonathan.

What a perfectly lovely gift it is to have faith – ‘faith that can move mountains’.  Well, it may be that not all of us are so strongly gifted, but, faith enough to believe in the existence of an Omnipotent and Supreme Being – God our Father – who created heaven and earth, all things visible and invisible, who made us in his own image and likeness, to serve him in this life and to be happy with him for ever in the next – well that is quite enough to be going on with, I think. 

A week ago, Father Jonathan included in his blog concerning Martin Kevill, the subject’s own line: 

“My only hope is that if there is a God living up there in Heaven –

He’ll understand that at least I tried.” 

I think a line like that – built on a life of ‘trying’ is enough to get one through ‘St. Peter’s Gates’, but Martin was, at the same time, being honest and expressing some of the doubts he had felt in his life.  It is not always so easy to have unshakeable faith, all of one’s life, and I am sure that many of the great saints felt invaded by doubts from time to time, especially when they were undergoing some very severe testing periods.  But, look into the eyes of an innocent child and see there the faith he, or she has, knowing that they are safe in your hands, safe and loved so that no harm will come to them.  That look cannot be bought – it is so precious – but it mirrors, in some respects, the faith some of us can have in God and his goodness.  Observe the faith that Father Ambrose had when nearing his death, in June of this year.  He had known for some months that he was dying, but this he was prepared to face, with great love and cheerfulness, secure in the faith that he had loved God all his life and had always tried to do God’s will, to the best of his ability. 

I suppose it is not possible for all of us to have perfect faith, but faith is a gift from God, and the imperfections may to a large extent be due to the way in which we receive and handle that gift.  How wonderful it is then to see something approaching perfect faith in the words of St. Teresa of Avila:

So, what is faith?  The poet, William Wordsworth, must have been pondering the same question when, in 1850, he wrote a short poem entitled, “On the Banks of a Rocky Stream”.  His words are quite the opposite of those used by St. Teresa.  They speak of ‘eddies’ and ‘whirlpools’ not to mention ‘disquietude’, and then, lo and behold, he goes to God for help: 

On the Banks of a Rocky Stream

(Published 1850)  

Behold an emblem of our human mind

Crowded with thoughts that need a settled home,

Yet, like to eddying balls of foam

Within this whirlpool, they each other chase

Round and round, and neither find

An outlet nor a resting-place!

Stranger, if such disquietude be thine,

Fall on thy knees and sue for help divine. 

William Wordsworth 

Faith, in the ordinary sense, is all to do with trust and belief in someone, or something, to the effect that that placement of belief will prove to be true and well-founded, now, or at some time in the future.  It is very closely connected with that other virtue, called ‘hope’, because, in placing one’s faith and trust in that someone, or something, one very much ‘hopes’ that the trust has not been misplaced, as a misplacement would, inevitably, lead to a betrayal of that trust.  In entrusting one’s faith, there is no requirement for proof, in the first instance; indeed, it is most often the case that, it is in the absence of proof, that faith in that someone, or something, and in the expected outcome, is called forward.  Faith is most often called for, and resorted to, in terms of religious beliefs.  In this sense, faith is almost invariably taken to mean trust (belief) in the existence of a Supreme Being, or Deity – a transcendent reality – though it is also applied, very often, to a set of religious teachings – and to articles which form the very basic principles of a person’s religious make-up.  In this religious sense, faith is far beyond that range of normal physical activities in which proof can be used – in a realm that is off-limits to material measurement and the rigors of all scientific enquiry.

In all the monotheistic religions that I can bring to mind, the most important common factor concerns faith in the existence of one Supreme Being – an all-powerful deity, we Christians call God – though there are alternatives allied to other religions.

Leaving aside other faiths, faith, in Christianity, is based in, and on, the words of the Bible, and the work and teachings of Jesus, himself.  It is a supernatural gift that enables us to believe, first, that there is One God, the Father of us all, an all-powerful and loving Creator, who made all things in heaven and on earth, all things visible and invisible.  It tells us that God made man in his own image and likeness, to love him and serve him in our lives upon earth, and then to be happy with him forever in heaven, after we have died.  The gift of faith has its origin in God, and is dynamic in its essence.  This means that those who receive it – and accept its reality – begin to understand the mystery of God and his grace – then go on and seek to learn more, to become obedient to him and his will, thus growing in his grace and favour.  Secondly, faith leads us to believe in the ‘fall’ of mankind because of our first parents’ Original Sin, and then God’s love and redemption of the human race, through the gift of his Son, Jesus, who was born on earth as a man, lived, suffered grievously and died in expiation of Adam’s sin.  Jesus, the ‘Second Adam’ rose ‘from the dead’, and in so doing, he gives us our ‘resurrection’ to new life, and saves us from the perils of an everlasting enmity with God. 

Faith, an ‘allegory’ by the Spanish sculptor Luis S. Carmona (1752 – 53)

(The veil symbolizes the impossibility of knowing sacred evidence directly)

None of this is capable of proof by physical means, and, without faith, one would be right to dismiss it ‘out of hand’, or otherwise be deemed a ‘nutter’ – and rightly so!  To illustrate, I can picture in my mind an alien from Planet Sentaur, landing on earth, then to be told about God – his power, and place, way above everything alive and dead – then about Jesus and his saving power.  I can see the alien, sans trust, sans faith, sans all credibility, beginning to ‘double up’ with laughter at our total naivety.  I can see him turn, and walk back to his space-craft, muttering to himself: “Come on; we want no more of this kind of rubbish.  If they’re all like this, here on this planet, then let’s be off.  Let’s get back to some sanity on Sentaur, (or wherever!).

However, on the positive side, some philosophers have defended the gift, and use, of ‘Faith’, claiming that life is ‘well nigh’ impossible without it.  Most of these people have held that life, as we know it, is so full of evidence gaps, all of them requiring some leap of faith in order to carry on, in any normal way, that such beliefs, without proof, should, and must, be accepted.  William James, an American philosopher, (1842 – 1910), held that any belief that assists in an individual’s functionality is a good thing, per se, and should not be dismissed, even if what was required to be proved cannot be proven.  So much for ‘Quad erat demonstrandum’, (that which was required to be proved)!

For my own part, I do not pretend to be a philosopher (except, perhaps, one of the ‘home-spun’ variety), and I am certainly not from Sentaur (or so my faith would have me believe), and, therefore, according to the definitions of some, they might well call me a ‘nutter’.  Be that as it may, the following few lines of my own blank verse, may help to illustrate my deeply-held feelings on this subject, and, at the same time, serve to underline all that has gone before:

“… … The answer lies in our lack of Faith, Hope,

And wavering Trust in the Word of God,

For we are human, after all, and doubt

Magnifies our imperfections.   The time

Is now, my friend, to mend our ways, …. believe

With all that strength of mind, and heart, and soul,

In God, His Word and promise of support,

Even unto the end of time, on earth,

And into Paradise.” 


In e-mailing the blog, ‘Word Press’ tends to distort the original formatting of the document.  Readers may wish to visit the website to read it in its original format.

People Who Leave a Lasting Impression:

It is a rather strange phenomenon, that often, when a person dies, we see them in a ‘different light’ than when they were alive. I well remember a parishioner, who looked after her mother when her mother lived just across the road, from her. In her old age, the mother was very demanding, and three to four times each day, her daughter would cross the street to tend to her mother. It was a seemingly caring ‘chore’ until the old lady died. The daughter then felt ‘lost’, without her constant caring for her mother, a mother she valued so much more. Time passes, and we can then look, quite realistically, at our past experiences, but it remains true to say, that when a person dies, often we see them in a different light; in my experience, it is then a ‘better, warmer and often more appreciative light’, than when they were alive, though there is no ‘hard and fast’ rule to this.

Martin Kevill

Very recently, I officiated at the funeral of a local man – not strictly speaking a parishioner – but one who often came to Church here. His name was Martin Kevill, who for years, lived at Bradwell Farm, Croston, where he became a successful business man. He was ever unconventional in his life-style; his attitude to things, his attitude to people, in his whole being, he refused to ‘conform’. Even in his clothes, he dressed without concern for looking ‘smart’, and although he came from the best of Lancashire’s ‘social circles’, he was most ‘at home’ with those who, we might say, were the lesser important people, in the eyes of the world. He would challenge all, from the top, to the bottom of society, by what he believed and what he talked about; in this, he was never afraid to let others know his own opinions, on important matters, e.g. faith, or moral issues. He wrote a short autobiography called, “The Haunted Man”, and its title provides an insight into the author, himself.

As a priest, one is privileged to preside at the funeral of a person, who has, so recently, left this world behind; in this, it is very helpful to get to know something about the deceased. In the planning, I was not meant to be the priest-in-charge at Martin’s funeral, as he had arranged the whole etiquette some years ago, with Fr. Ambrose. However, Fr. Ambrose died in June of this year – pre-deceasing Martin by about three months. I did get to know Martin, to some extent, personally, and had met various members of his family – nephews, his brother Roger Kevill, who lived in Bamber Bridge, when I was there as a curate. However, Martin’s health had, more latterly, deteriorated and the last period of his life was spent, very happily, with the Augustinian Sisters, at Boarbank Hall. In fact, his last trip from the Hall was when he attended the funeral of Fr. Ambrose, 30th June 2011, in our Church. Once that quite beautiful ceremony was ended, Martin asked me to preside at his funeral Mass; he then told me, what I already knew, as Fr. Ambrose, when dying, had also suggested that I should take care of Martin’s funeral. I will never forget the goodness and charity, embodied in his personal request to me, at the same time, placing in me his complete trust; I was also struck by his ‘matter-of-fact’ manner, and the frank way in which he talked about it. It was also on this occasion that I met with Tony Calderbank, a friend of Martin’s for 40 years, and with whom he had discussed, in detail, all these funeral arrangements, and with whom, I should be in touch when ‘anything happened’.

 Before the funeral, I had the opportunity to meet with Martin’s niece, with Tony Calderbank and his wife, Margaret, from Chorley. By this time, I felt then I had got to ‘know’ Martin, much better than in the past, and after my fairly brief encounters with him. It was only after he had died that I began to realise why he had never married – a realisation that he was immensely shy. I also came to understood, on reading his very brief auto-biography, why he was such a ‘philanthropic man’, loving all those in need, especially the poor. At heart, he was deeply religious, having been ‘reared’ in a devout and well-to-do Lancashire family; from his childhood, his mother helped him to respect and understand the people of Lisieux Hall – those with ‘learning difficulties’ he’d encountered as a young boy; she taught him that each one of those people were brothers to be loved and cherished. This is how he put it:

“When I was younger, in the early 1930’s, we were taken for a walk every Sunday afternoon through the delightful village of Whittle-le-Woods, near Chorley, and into the Whittle hills. The walk always seemed to coincide with a large group, walking in ‘crocodile fashion’ from Lisieux Hall, the home for physically and mentally disabled men, run by the Brothers of Charity. I was only four and a half years old, but I used to ask my mother: “Why do they seem different to other people?”

She replied: “They are not as lucky as you are; they have been left with great difficulties of mind and body.” She went on to describe what a ‘straight-jacket’ was, before explaining that they lived in a ‘perpetual straight-jacket’ throughout the whole of their lives. My mother was strong on the point, that we must always be kind and generous to them, as they would always be dependent on other people to look after them – carers to help them throughout their lives. Without this help, she said, they would lead very unhappy and sad lives.

“She taught me never to be unkind to them, and always to help them, whenever possible. In the eyes of God, she said, they were, probably, much more highly thought of than we were. She told me never to laugh at them, as their ‘condition was through no fault of theirs, and, in any event she warned, one never knew, in life, what could happen, at any time. A sports injury, a car accident, brain damage, or a stroke, as one gets older, could leave a person finding out, late in life, what these residents from Lisieux Hall, have endured throughout the whole of their lives; it also may well leave one with the feeling that one might wish one had helped them whilst one were able.”

Martin learned to call this group ‘people with learning difficulties’, because, at that time, the name had more dignity attached to it. He also discovered that, in the world at large, there are about 250 million such people, and it was here that I discovered why he called himself, ‘a haunted man’; it was because the ‘sadness’ of some such people, together with ‘others in need’ haunted him all his life. I believe the root of this was because of his own ability to ‘identify’ with the ‘simple’ and ‘uncomplicated’ needs of such people. His own personal shyness, probably, assisted him in this, as did his clear belief in God, who taught us, through Jesus, that whatever we do to the least of our brothers, or sisters, we do to Jesus, himself.

However, Martin was, certainly, no conventional saint. In his unconventional ‘other’ direction, he loved a good and long drink; he loved to go into the pub and have a ‘skin-full’ and he loved’ generously’ helping people. He had his own self-discipline, however, never drinking on his own, but only in the company of others.

After his schooling, which took him to Ampleforth College, Martin joined the Welsh Guards, in 1944. He was in Northern Germany, after Peace was declared in 1945, and had some ‘strong’ experiences seeing mentally, and physically-handicapped children, saved by peace, from the ‘gas chambers’ of the Belsen Concentration Camp. Around the time, he also almost accidentally lost his life, in Gdansk, and, in regard to this, he wrote: “Many of us were thrown into the water when the quayside gave way and I was knocked on the back by a piece of concrete, which knocked me unconscious. Apparently, a Russian sailor fished me out and, presumably, saved my life. I would have loved to have met him”. When he arrived home, in Britain, the prognosis was paralysis of the legs, for life. One day he was feeling ‘very low’, and one of the gentlest monks of our Abbey, Fr. Gerard Sitwell, went to visit him in the Wheatly Hospital, Oxford – a hospital for head and spinal injuries. Martin ‘blurted out’ to Fr. Gerard: “Father I will try my vocation, as a Benedictine monk, if I regain the use of my legs”. He continues his story: “As luck would have it, there was a famous neuro-surgeon, Sir Hugh Cairns, a brilliant Scotsman, and he operated on me; it was a dangerous operation on my central-nervous system; after the operation, though ‘cast’ in a ‘plaster jacket’, I began to get the use back into my legs, and eventually, I made a substantial recovery”. Martin then entered Ampleforth Abbey, in 1948, and remained there for 14 months; his fellow novice, Fr. Nicholas Walford, remained his friend, and used to come and visit him, right to the end of his life. It was Abbot Herbert Byrne, who told Martin, after the recurrence of a nervous complaint, that ‘he had served his contract with God’, and who said to Martin: “You may leave the monastery. God bless!” That was in 1950.

Martin tried to share his ideas, and ideals, in imaginative ways. He built his own ‘millennium dome’ which had both the ‘Beatitudes’ and the ‘Ten Commandments’ displayed on it, as well as the contrast between the very rich, and the very poor, of the world. I remember, he showed me Bill Gates (of ‘Microsoft’ fame), who had a personal wealth, way in excess of the whole annual budget of many poor countries, in our world. He gave away his farm, and his money – almost a half-million pounds – then teaming up with the ‘Sons of Divine Providence’, to live in a caravan, at the back of his property, surrounded by a huge number of Garden Gnomes. He remained loyal to the British Legion, to the Welsh Guards, to his Benedictine background and to his love for his country. He had a very strong love of Our Lady, and I have memories of him coming to Mass, at 12.15, in St. Mary’s, Leyland – always late, and always with a huge rosary in his hands. Georgie, his niece, told me he was late, because he was so shy! Tony Calderbank said to me, he was quite liable to urge himself, and his friend, to go to Confession on a Saturday evening, at Brownedge Church, and then, afterwards, think it a good idea, to go for a ‘couple of pints’ in the local pub.

 Everyone I spoke with, about Martin, while preparing his funeral service, had felt ‘touched’ by Martin’s goodness. He was buried on the feast of Our Lady of Walsingham – the ‘English Mary’ – so to speak, which was a sure sign, and blessing from heaven, as is also the fact that this blog, will appear on the 13th October – a special day for Our Lady of Fatima. In the papers left for his funeral, and amid all his goodness, there was a marvellous statement of his faith, despite a lingering sense of doubt. Regarding this last comment, one can ask how many great ‘believing’ people have also felt God to be a bit remote! It is worth quoting Martin in full, to end this short, and authentic, piece of writing.

  • How I envy those who know without doubt that there is somebody called ‘God’ who lives in Heaven and can make them feel secure.
  • From the earliest possible age, I was taught there was a friend for little children who would send me to hell if I did not behave.
  • Later I read the Bible went to Church and listened to the knowledgeable – and now as an old man I still read the Bible, go to Church and listen to the knowledgeable.
  • Sadly, I’m further from understanding any of it than when I was a child, when, I truly believed there was someone called God, who lived in Heaven and makes me a good person, Amen.
  • I shall go on trying to understand and maybe all will be revealed. But time is drawing short. My only hope is that if there is a God living up there in Heaven – He’ll understand that at least I tried.
  • PS. The recent Easter Journal 2006 – Sons of Divine Providence helps me greatly. Pope Benedict says, ‘immersed like everyone else in the dramatic complexity of historical events, Christians remain unshakeably certain that God is our Father and loves us, even when his SILENCE remains INCOMPREHENSIBLE.

I never knew what devotion he might arouse in others, like the two middle-aged ‘bikers’ who came to his funeral, and who had been Welsh Guardsmen in the Falkland’s War. I never knew of his utter commitment to serving, and helping others, when he, himself, felt doubts as outlined above. But, I got to know, after his death, and, as I reflected on my own experiences, with him, and heard others, I realised that here was a man who truly loved his brothers, and sisters, with the kind of love God has for us, and who, consequently, got to know God himself.

 As for me, I will side with Martin Kevill, as he sides with Pope Benedict.

To access the blog with its original formatting, you may wish to go to 

The Catholic Church traditionally celebrates 7 October as the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary; moreover, the whole of the month of October is also dedicated to the very same sequences of prayers and meditations to Our Blessed Lady, all part of the Church’s veneration of Mary, the Mother of God, and Mother of Our Saviour. 

From early childhood, I remember the month of May as the Month of Our Lady, and October as the Month of the Holy Rosary. In those days, many years ago now, I think it true to say that we, as members of the Church congregations, used to recite the Rosary much more frequently than we do today, this change in use largely coming about with the changes and practices in the Church’s liturgy – not forgetting changes in our societies.  Yes, of course, the Rosary still forms a very important part of our present-day devotions to Our Lady – I am sure that this is the case for most Catholics – but nowadays, these prayers, recognised as one of Our Lady’s favourites, are said mostly in small prayer groups, in the home as a family group, or perhaps just as an individual’s praise and supplication to Our Blessed Mother.  

One cannot be certain as to the origins of the Rosary, but traditionally, it was attributably given to St. Dominic in an apparition by Our Lady, in the year 1214; this is said to have taken place at the Church in Prouille, located in France’s Languedoc region, and the apparition was then given the title of ‘Our Lady of the Rosary’. Over the ensuing centuries, Rosary devotions to Our Lady were strengthened by holy men and women; St. Alan of the Rock, Dominican priest and theologian established the ‘15 Rosary Promises’ and started many Rosary Confraternities; Dominic of Prussia, a Carthusian monk focused attention on these prayers by beginning the practice of meditating when saying the Hail Marys; he called it the ‘Life of Jesus Rosary’.  In 1569, Dominican Pope, Pius V, officially established the devotion to the Rosary in the Catholic Church by introducing the Rosary and the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary to the Liturgical Calendar.  Pope Leo XIII became known as the ‘Rosary Pope’, no doubt because of his frequent references to the Rosary; he issued twelve encyclicals and five apostolic letters on the subject, and it was he who added the title; ‘Queen of the most Holy Rosary’ to the Litany of Our Lady, and much more recently, Pope John Paul II placed the rosary at the very centre of Christian spirituality and called it “among the finest and most praiseworthy traditions of Christian contemplation”.  In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI said: It is one of the most eloquent signs of love that the young generation nourishes for Jesus and his Mother.”  He added the rider that the Rosary is a meditation on all the important moments of our salvation history.

Our Lady of Lourdes – Appearing with Her Rosary Beads

The Rosary (from the Latin rosarium,  meaning ‘rose garden’ or ‘garland of roses’) is the name given to a ‘garland’ of beads, used to keep count of the repetitive series of prayers that make up the decades – each decade consisting of one ‘Our Father’, followed by ten ‘Hail Marys’ and a ‘Glory Be to the Father’.  In most cases, there are beads for five decades set out on the garland, though some rosaries have been made to cope with the full traditional total of fifteen decades – the five Joyful Mysteries, the five Sorrowful Mysteries and the five Glorious Mysteries.  In 2002, Pope John Paul II introduced the five (optional) Luminous Mysteries, bringing the present total of a full rosary to twenty Mysteries of the of the Rosary. Each decade is accompanied by a meditation of one aspect of the life of Christ, and when put together, they effectively add up to all the most important points in His, and Mary’s lives:

The Joyful Mysteries:

1  The Annunciation.

2  The Visitation

3  The Nativity.

4  The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple.

5  The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple. 

The Luminous Mysteries:

1  The Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan.

2  The Wedding at Cana.

3  Jesus Proclaims the Kingdom of God.

4  The Transfiguration.

5  The Institution of the Eucharist. 

The Sorrowful Mysteries:

1  The agony in the Garden.

2  The Scourging at the Pillar.

3  The Crowning with Thorns.

4  The Carrying of the Cross.

5  The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus. 

The Glorious Mysteries:

1  The Resurrection.

2  The Ascension.

3  The Descent of the Holy Spirit.

4  The Assumption of Our Lady.

5  The Crowning of Our Lady in Heaven.


Picture Depicting the Fifteen Decades of the Rosary

(from the sixteenth century onwards, rosary recitations often involved ‘picture texts’ that assisted meditation)

To repeat and emphasize the point, if one takes into account the entirety of the 15 – 20 Decades, they set out all the main facets of the lives of Jesus and Mary, taking us from the Incarnation, through the Birth and Childhood of Jesus, his Ministry on this earth, to his Death, Resurrection and then to the inauguration of His Church and beyond – marking out for us all the precepts of our Faith.  Mary, as we know is ever united with her Son, Jesus – she was always ‘at one’ with him – and if we give our hearts and minds to the saying of the Rosary, meditating on the mysteries the while, then we participate in the life of Mary, and through her, find our way to becoming one with Him also.  Mary’s focus was always Jesus. Through Mary, we can come to focus on Jesus, also.   

Many similar prayer practices exist in other Christian communities, each with its own set of prescribed prayers and its own form of beads. The Rosary is used by other Christian denominations, e.g. Anglicans.  In these more modern times, they have also found their usefulness in other directions – not just for use in connection with the 15-20 Mysteries, as tradition dictates – but also to assist with other series of repetitive prayers e.g. in the reciting of the Prayers for Divine Mercy. And one further point may well be worthy of note, and this concerns the Crucifix, the two large beads and three smaller beads, all of which are ‘added’ on a ‘short strand’ to the beads for the five decades, on most Rosaries.  My humble experience tells me that this adjunct may not be used, perhaps, quite so much as the main ‘garland’ and their main purpose may have escaped the notice of many.

A 16th Century Rosary from the wreck of the ‘Mary Rose’ and modern Rosary in sterling silver

On this ‘short strand’, we should recite the ‘Apostle’s Creed’ at the Crucifix, an ‘Our Father’ at the first large bead, three ‘Hail Marys’ on the next three beads (for faith, hope and charity), then a ‘Glory be to the Father’ on the next large bead. We then progress to the praying of the decades.

Our Lady of the Rosary – Pray For Us

In e-mailing the blog, ‘Word Press’ tends to distort the original formatting of the document.  Readers may prefer to visit the website to read it in its original format.