05 April 2014


"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 96

So far in this readalong of The Secret of the Rosary, we've discussed the main reasons for praying the rosary, reviewed the formula prayers which make up its "body," and the imitation of Jesus and Mary which are its very "soul." And amazingly, St. Louis de Montfort isn't finished yet!

Dear reader, I promise you that if you practise this devotion and help to spread it you will learn more from the Rosary than from any spiritual book. And what is more, you will have the happiness of being rewarded by Our Lady in accordance with the promises that she made to Saint Dominic, to Blessed Alan de la Roche and to all those who practise and encourage this devotion which is so dear to her. For the Holy Rosary teaches people about the virtues of Jesus and Mary, and leads them to mental prayer and to imitate Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It teaches them to approach the Sacraments often, to genuinely strive after Christian virtues and to do all kinds of good works, as well as interesting them in the many wonderful indulgences which can be gained through the Rosary.

In the next "decade," he writes about some truly remarkable miracles granted through praying the rosary, so it's worth looking back at the Tenth Rose of this book, in which he anticipates the reactions of the "freethinkers and ultra-critical people of today" (who exist in ours, too!). St. Louis clarifies that there are three kinds of faith with which we believe different stories: divine faith for the Scriptures; human faith for ordinary stories that are backed up by common sense and the trustworthiness of their authors; and pious faith for stories about holy subjects that do not contradict faith, reason or morals. I hope you have your pious faith ready!

The Fourth Decade

These ten roses are about some effects of devotion to the rosary. We have the expected miracles of childbirth after a long wait, conversion after a life of sin, spiritual renewal of lukewarm parishes, reform in lax religious houses, and of course, exorcism of demons. But perhaps the most controversial examples are those related to warfare.

It is almost impossible to do real credit to the victories that Count Simon de Montfort won against the Albigensians under the patronage of Our Lady of the Rosary. These victories are so famous that the world has never seen anything to match them. One day he defeated ten thousand heretics with a force of five hundred men and on another occasion he overcame three thousand with only thirty men. Finally, with eight hundred horsemen and one thousand infantrymen he completely put to rout the army of the King of Aragon which was a hundred thousand strong, and this with the loss on his side of only one horseman and eight soldiers!

I think modern Catholics are generally turned off by the idea of praying for a martial victory--and not just because it has lately become a mark of Evangelicalism. (How embarrassing.) Remember one of those (literally) bulletproof rosaries given to some American soldiers, which one devotee allowed to hang from his rifle? I'm sure it was a source of scandal to many--and not merely those who might have opposed the war. There's something off putting about praying for victory over our enemies, when our victory means their death. But it's worth recalling that the original title of Our Lady of the Rosary was Our Lady of Victories, for a reason as steeped in spiritual sensibility as any of her other names.

Another war story that St. Louis might have considered for The Secret of the Rosary is that of La Naval de Manila. In 1646, the Netherlands tried to invade the Philippines and sent eighteen of its warships against a naval force of two Spanish galleons. Incredibly outnumbered and outgunned, the Spanish soldiers and Filipino volunteers were convinced by four Dominican chaplains to do three things before the battles: to go to confession, to receive Holy Communion, and to put themselves under the patronage of Our Lady of the Rosary. As a mark of devotion, they also said the rosary together in choirs. Meanwhile, on shore, the Manila parishes run by Dominicans prayed the rosary over and over for a decisive Spanish victory and as few casualties as possible. And as you've already figured out, all these prayers were answered. A few years later, an ecclesiastical investigation declared the victories to be "miraculous," it became traditional for Manilenos to celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of La Naval de Manila every second Sunday of October, and Nick Joaquin wrote one of his best essays about this turning point in Philippine culture. (Before you ask, Christopher, I sadly don't have a copy of the essay.)

There is at least one other big event in national history in which Mary and the rosary played a conspicuous role, but to take a leaf out of St. Louis's book now, I shall not tell you about it because I don't want to make this post too long.

Now, I'm willing to accept that the superseding of the old title, Our Lady of Victories, with the new title, Our Lady of the Rosary, reflects a welcome development in our understanding of what Mary's motherhood means. (But can you tell that I struggled a little? =P) And personally, when I feel that someone is wrong and that I happen to be in the right, I hesitate to pray for his "defeat." I believe that it is in prayer that we can see most clearly that we are not opponents, but actually members of one body. So I ask that God's will be done not just in that person's life, but also in my relationship with that person, and trust that He knows best. Nevertheless, I refuse to revise history and to deny that Mary's intercession obtained military victories for her devotees, for whom battle may have been the last resort . . . and not just because there's a consistent pattern of these military men going on to be life-long devotees.

What do you think of Roses 31 to 40?

1) Which of the holy stories shared by St. Louis did you find most striking?
2) Do you have a favourite story of an effect of devotion to the rosary?

Image Source: Our Lady of La Naval de Manila


Brandon said...

I liked the Thirty-Seventh Rose, perhaps because it reads a bit like a parable.

I was struck, too, though, by the prominence of the martial stories. I think that such stories are indications of the genuinely popular character of the devotion -- nothing brings out what people think is important so much as a war does, when common soldiers have to prepare for something that may kill them and common people have to worry at home for them. Distaste for them is, I think, usually the luxury of a leisure class that doesn't have to face such situations.

Enbrethiliel said...


It also makes sense that the devotions that survive a war by getting people through them would be those with the most staying power.