Last month, I encouraged fathers to spend a little time meditating on the life of St. Joseph and asking him for help. This month, I’m encouraging you to deepen your relationship with someone very close to him—his wife. The need to develop a personal relationship with Jesus has certainly been the most beneficial area of theological concentration since the Second Vatican Council. But it must also be stressed that especially among men, and especially now, it is vital that we develop a personal relationship with Mary, the Mother of God.
Catholics are often criticized for venerating the saints, but as St. Jerome explained in the fourth century: “If the Apostles and Martyrs, while still in the body, can pray for others, at a time when they must still be anxious for themselves, how much more after their crowns, victories, and triumphs are won!”
Because we can ask the saints for intercession, it follows that we should ask the saints for intercession; and just as there is a rank in honor among the saints, there is also a rank in intercessory power. The Church teaches that the Blessed Virgin, as the Mother of God, has a separate, unique, and absolutely super-eminent rank among the saints.
As Pope Leo XIII wrote:
“Truly the Immaculate Virgin, chosen to be the Mother of God, and thereby, associated with Him in the work of man’s salvation, has a favor and power with her Son greater than any human or angelic creature has ever obtained, or can ever gain.
“And, as it is her greatest pleasure to grant her help and comfort to those who seek her, it cannot be doubted that she would deign, and even be anxious, to receive the aspirations of the universal Church.”
As Pope Leo explains, the Mother of God is not only willing to listen to our petitions, she is anxious to hear our petitions. Sadly, few people ask her, and Our Lady has revealed that this is a great sorrow to her.
When Mary appeared to St. Catherine Laboure in 1830, Our Lady appeared standing on a globe, dressed in white, wearing rings with precious jewels that showed brilliant rays of light. She explained this vision to Saint Catherine:
“These rays symbolize the graces I shed upon those who ask for them. The jewels that give no rays symbolize the graces that are not given because they are not asked for.”
Another instance occurred in the seventeenth century, in a revelation to Venerable Mary of Agreda, and later recorded in the book The Mystical City of God. As recorded in this book, Our Lady expressed her sorrow that more men do not call upon her for salvation.
Our Lady said:
“In this state of affairs, when the Almighty has granted me so many privileges as His Mother…solely for the benefit of mortals…it is a great cause of sorrow to me to see mortals force me to remain idle, and that, for want of calling upon me, so many souls should be lost. But if I cannot experience grief now, I may justly complain of men, that they load themselves with eternal damnation and refuse me the glory of saving their souls.
“…The Most High still wishes to give liberally of his infinite treasures and resolves to favor those who know how to gain my intercession before God…”
God wishes to favor those who know how to gain Mary’s intercession before God. How do we gain Mary’s intercession?
The answer is simple: the Rosary. Catholic Fathers often say: “I don’t say the Rosary. But I do say other prayers every day.” What fathers need to recognize is that the Rosary is incomparable to other forms of devotional prayer. The discussion of the Rosary has invited superlatives from the highest ranks. The Rosary has received unique praise from the popes, saints, and Mary herself for hundreds of years.
Pope Leo XIII wrote:
The Rosary is the most excellent form of prayer…and the most efficacious means of attaining eternal life. It is the remedy for all our evils, the root of all our blessings. There is no more excellent way of praying.”
Pope St. Pius X wrote:
The Rosary is the most beautiful and the richest of all prayers to the Mediatrix of all grace; it is the prayer that touches most the heart of the Mother of God.”
What St. Pius is telling us is simply this: a Rosary said well is a love-letter to the Mother of God.
The Rosary has received superlative praise from the saints for hundreds of years.
St. Padre Pio said, “the Rosary is the weapon…against the evils of the world.”
St. Louis de Montfort taught: “Never will anyone who says his Rosary every day be led astray…This is a statement that I would gladly sign with my blood.”
Francisco Suarez, a Spanish scholastic who is considered one of the most learned men in the history of the Church, declared on his deathbed that he would willingly sacrifice all the books he ever wrote, and all his life’s labors, for the merit of one Hail Mary said well.
Most importantly, Our Lady herself has been asking the faithful to pray the Rosary for at least eight centuries.
In modern times, in 1858, in her apparition at Lourdes, Our Lady made the sign of the cross with her Rosary and moved the beads as St. Bernadette prayed.
At Fatima in 1917, Our Lady continually asked the children not just to pray, but to pray the Rosary.
The origin of the Rosary, and Mary’s impression of the Rosary, might be made clear by looking a little further back.
As St. Dominic knelt in prayer in the year 1208, frustrated that he was unable to convert any of those who espoused the satanic heresy of Albigensianism, Our Lady appeared to him and said:
Wonder not that you have obtained so little fruit by your labors. You have spent them on barren soil, not yet watered with the dew of Divine grace.
When God willed to renew the face of the earth, He began by sending down on it the fertilizing rain of the Angelic Salutation. Therefore preach my Psalter composed of 150 Angelic Salutations and 15 Our Fathers, and you will obtain an abundant harvest.”
Saints, the popes, and Our Lady herself agree that the power and efficacy of the Rosary as a devotional prayer is incomparable and unique.
Leading the Rosary
As a father, it is not enough that you simply issue a directive for your children to say the Rosary. You need to say it with them.
In the time I have been giving talks on the Rosary, several women have mentioned to me that their husbands or fathers don’t pray the Rosary with their families, but say their prayers silently and privately. This is a mistake.
You might think that your faith is a private thing. It isn’t. Your faith stopped being a private thing when you agreed to be a father.
You must say it aloud with your children. Vocal prayer has been perpetually recommended by the Church, and was, after all, recommended by Christ Himself.
The psychological impact of a father kneeling down in front of Mary and praying aloud is powerful. It is an act of love and humility.
It also teaches children a great lesson: strong men pray.
Strong men ask for Mary’s help.
To encourage my little children to pray the Rosary, I ask that they remember my personal final judgment before the throne of Christ. When I stand before the awesome judgment seat of Christ, the devil will be there, providing a laundry list of reasons why I should not be admitted to heaven.
I tell my children that, at that moment, the devil will speak loudly. However, if my children are praying the Rosary for their father, Jesus will say that He cannot hear the words of the devil. Jesus will say that He hears only the innocent prayers of children saying His Mother’s favorite prayer, asking Jesus to have mercy on their father.
A Great Catch
If you’re having trouble getting started praying the Rosary, read the 21st chapter of the Gospel of John. The account takes place after the Resurrection, when the Apostles were out fishing. They had no luck fishing all night. Then the Lord appears to them. Despite their lack of fishing success, Our Lord instructs them: “Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and you shall find.”
And what did they find?
St. John tells us. “One hundred and fifty three fish.”
This is the exact number of Hail Marys in a full Rosary.
Fathers, when all seems bleak in your life, cast your net on the right side, and send a love letter to a Queen.