VATICAN CITY, OCT. 12, 2004 ( The rosary is an "intensely contemplative" and powerful prayer with a long history, says a Vatican aide.

"Personally, I have seen miracles with the rediscovery of this prayer," said Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino, secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, in an interview on Vatican Radio.

He recalled encountering "people who have found in this prayer food for the soul and a reason for conversion."

At last Wednesday's general audience, John Paul II invited the faithful in this "month of the rosary" to make the Marian devotion "your daily prayer."

The recitation of the rosary began "in a very modest way in the first centuries of the second millennium," Archbishop Sorrentino said in his interview.

"At that time, the Psalms were recited in their liturgical organization, the Psalter with lauds and vespers, but there were many who could not pray ... in Latin, and the Psalms then began to be replaced by the 'Pater' and 'Ave' prayers, which little by little were given a certain organization that varied according to circumstances," the archbishop explained.

"Then, gradually, meditation of the mysteries was added," he continued. "The prayer grew until it took on the typical form that we are used to reciting, and this occurred in particular with St. Pius V, when he instituted the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, which was then linked to a special historical circumstance: the Christian victory over the Ottoman menace."

"The Pope believed that this victory was due to the insistent prayer of Christians, through the intercession of the Mother of God," Archbishop Sorrentino noted.

Since then, the rosary "has been recited by the Christian community following this scheme, until John Paul II, two years ago, with the Year of the Rosary," altered this prayer, "focusing more on its Christological and biblical aspect, in particular, by adding the 'mysteries of light,'" the archbishop said.

"If it is well understood," it "is a prayer that says much," he said. The rosary is intensely "contemplative. The repetition, which often from a distance might seem to be mechanical, in fact serves as a breath of the soul which, gazing on Jesus Christ, assumes a contemplative attitude through Mary's eyes and heart."

If understood from this perspective, one can appreciate how this Marian prayer "can really give tone to the Christian spirit, it can help a Christian in his daily living to remain well anchored in the mystery of our salvation, especially in Jesus Christ, who is the heart, the center of the life of a Christian," the prelate said.

"Sadly, sometimes this prayer is recited in the least of its possibilities," he said. "It would be good if the People of God became conscious of the potential of this prayer by following closely the suggestions made by the Pope."