Rosary and Other Marian Devotions

And More on «The Mystery of Faith»

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and dean of theology at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q1: I would like to know the days of the week fixed for each set of mysteries of the rosary, and how rigid is such an arrangement. Is it acceptable to change when we wish to? — M.R., Hong Kong. Q2: Is praying the rosary the only way to have recourse to Our Lady? What are the other possible ways? — C.M., Nairobi, Kenya

A: Since October is the month of the rosary, it seems especially appropriate to answer these questions now.

After the publication of Pope St. John Paul II’s apostolic letter «Rosarium Virginis Mariae,» the weekly cycle of meditations on the mysteries of the rosary are as follows:

— The joyful mysteries: Monday and Saturday

— The luminous mysteries: Thursday

— The sorrowful mysteries: Tuesday and Friday

— The glorious mysteries: Wednesday and Sunday.

This distribution is customary and not set in any legal code, and there is fairly wide leeway left for personal devotion. It is also customary to pray those mysteries that are most appropriate on the respective feasts. For example, if the Annunciation falls on a Friday, it would usually be considered as more appropriate to pray the joyful rather than the sorrowful mysteries.

Likewise, there may be other good reasons for not following the customary cycle. During retreats and spiritual exercises, for instance, the mysteries are sometimes prayed according to the themes of the day. There may also be personal reasons that lead individuals to choose to vary the cycle.

Needless to say, it is also possible to pray more than one set of mysteries on a given day and even the full rosary. St. John Paul II, in spite of all his duties, frequently prayed the full daily rosary. In this case it is recommended to pray continuously at least the five mysteries of the day, as this is required to obtain the indulgence associated with the rosary. According to the Enchiridion of Indulgences:

«A plenary indulgence is granted if the Rosary is recited in a church, a public oratory, a family group, a religious Community, or pious Association; a partial indulgence is granted in other circumstances.»

If more than five mysteries are prayed, they may be done one or two decades at a time.

Although the rosary is the Marian and Christological prayer par excellence, and the one which has been most recommended by the popes over the centuries, there are other valid ways of honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The Enchiridion of Indulgences offers various suggestions which the Church has officially approved by endowing them with plenary and partial indulgences.

Among these are: reciting the Magnificat; praying the Angelus or the Regina Caeli; and the prayers «Mary Mother of Grace,» the «Memorare» of St. Bernard, the «Salve Regina,» «Sancta Maria Sucurre Miseris» and the «Sub Tuum Praesidium.» The latter is perhaps the oldest known invocation of Mary with the title Mother of God.

A plenary indulgence, in terms similar to the rosary, was also granted by John Paul II to those who pray or attend a recitation of the Byzantine Akathist hymn, one of the most beautiful poetical expressions of love for Our Lady.

There are, of course, many other legitimate prayers and hymns dedicated to Our Lady which foster devotion and veneration toward her and inspiration to imitate her virtues — which is the greatest honor we can offer her.

* * *

Follow-up: «The Mystery of Faith»

Pursuant to our Oct. 7 piece on the «mystery of faith,» a New Jersey reader made an interesting query.

«Before your most recent column, I thought that I had correctly perceived a parallel between ‘The mystery of faith’ and ‘The Gospel of the Lord,’ both being cases of the minister stating, without syntax, a mode of the Lord’s presence at Mass which has just been realized, and thereby offering the congregation an opportunity to address Jesus with their acclamation. Are these moments meant to be thought of as parallel?»

From the history of the text expounded in the original article, I do not think there was a deliberate intention to create such a parallel.

Likewise, as I mentioned, the expression refers not just to the Eucharistic real presence but to the presence of the entire paschal mystery.

Part of the difficulty arises from the use of the word «mystery.» In theology «mystery» has several shades of meaning. One common meaning is that of a reality of faith that goes beyond the possibilities of a full human comprehension, and so we speak of the mystery of the Trinity, of the Incarnation and the like. In some cases, this is also applied to the Eucharist, such as before the mystery of transubstantiation.

Another, earlier meaning is one in which mystery is practically synonymous with sacrament, and this is very likely the meaning in the expression «The mystery of faith.» Indeed, in Spanish one official translation is «This is the sacrament of our faith.» Here the expression takes in the whole of salvation history, since for St. Paul a mystery was not something hidden but rather something hidden insofar as it is revealed. The mystery of Christ is the revelation of the Father’s secret plan to save us through the incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension of his Son and at the same time the carrying out of this saving plan.

The Eucharist, as mystery of faith, is the making present of this entire saving plan through the celebration which makes this eternal sacrifice present in the here and now. In a way, each Mass is the most recent moment in salvation history.

Therefore, although some readers have insisted that the expression refers primarily to the Real Presence, I must beg to differ. The Real Presence is a truth of faith, but it does not exist for itself. Christ becomes present — body, blood, soul and divinity — as a necessary condition for the realization of the whole salvific mystery which is the center of our faith and which is made present in each Eucharistic sacrifice.

Although the Real Presence remains in any hosts left over after the sacrifice has been completed, the Mass is celebrated for its own infinite value and not just to obtain the Real Presence.

In no way do I wish to suggest that devotion to the Real Presence should be weakened. I simply propose that this great and wonderful reality be always seen in its proper perspective and inseparable relationship with the true center, that is, the celebration of Christ’s eternal sacrifice. Indeed, when this is done, true devotion to Christ in the tabernacle or the monstrance is greatly enriched and enhanced.

* * *

Readers may send questions to Please put the word «Liturgy» in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

Fr. Edward McNamara

Padre Edward McNamara, L.C., è professore di Teologia e direttore spirituale

Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation