My mother was very proud of her roses. She knew them by name: the American Beauty rose, the John F. Kennedy rose, and so on. When roses were in season, her kitchen table was never without at least one gorgeous rose from her garden gracing it. Roses are the most popular flower. We present them to loved ones as a sign of our love, to the sick, to graduates, and to others who have achieved success. Roses are not only beautiful, but they have a lovely fragrance. For good reason they are known as the queen of flowers. We associate roses with the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is queen of heaven and earth. One of her titles is “Mystical Rose.” In 1947, during appearances at Montichiari, Italy, to Pierina Gilli, Mary asked that we celebrate July 13 in honor of her as mystical rose. St. Bernard wrote, “Eve was a thorn, wounding, bringing death to all. In Mary we see a rose, soothing everybody’s hurts, giving the destiny of salvation back to all.” A rose’s thorns could also stand for her sacrifice in accepting the role of Mother of God.
Clearly our Blessed Mother favors roses too. She appeared to St. Bernadette at Lourdes with a golden rose on each foot. As Our Lady of Guadalupe, the sign she gave St. Juan Diego was a bouquet of roses gathered from a barren hill in winter.
We’ve given roses meanings according to their colors. Red roses symbolize romance, love, beauty, and courage. Yellow roses symbolize friendship, joy, and new beginnings. Pink roses stand for appreciation. White roses represent innocence, purity, silence, secrecy, and reverence. Orange roses symbolize fascination, desire, and sensuality.
Praying the rosary is like giving Mary a whole garland of roses. It is a gift of love. An old legend holds that once when a monk was praying it, the prayers from his lips became roses in the form of a crown. Praying the rosary pleases God, who likes to hear us praising his mother. The rosary has an interesting history. Originally illiterate people who couldn’t pray 150 psalms instead prayed 150 Our Fathers on a circle of beads called “paternosters” (Latin for “our father”). Gradually they added to Elizabeth’s words praising Mary the name Jesus and the second part to pray to Mary. Then Hail Marys on beads replaced the Our Fathers. In 1569, the Church made the Hail Mary an official prayer. According to a legend, Mary gave St Dominic the rosary, but people probably prayed it before his time. The mysteries were added 200 years after he lived. The Dominican order, however, did much to promote the rosary.
In 1571, Muslims were attacking Catholic countries and the Turks were sailing to Italy. Pope Pius V, who was a Dominican, urged the praying of the Rosary, and the Turks were defeated on October 7 in the Battle of Lepanto. The pope declared October 7 the Feast of Our Lady of Victory. Soon after, this was changed to the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.
At Lourdes, Mary appeared with a rosary suspended from her arm and told St. Bernadette to pray her rosary. Our Blessed Mother joined in on the Our Fathers and Glory Be prayers. At Fatima, Our Lady urged the three children who saw her to pray the rosary for peace. She called herself Our Lady of the Rosary. St. John Paul II declared that the Rosary was his favorite prayer. After September 11, 2002, he asked families to pray it every day for peace.
The Rosary is actually a Scriptural prayer, for while we are saying the formula prayers, we focus our minds on a set of mysteries, events drawn from the Gospels. St. Teresa of Calcutta said, “In praying the Rosary with devotion, we are reliving the life of Christ.” We are pondering Jesus with the heart of Mary. St. Louis de Montfort compared the two forms of prayer in the Rosary to the two parts of a human being: we are both body and soul.
In this month dedicated to the rosary, we might renew our practice of praying this prayer. We would be in good company. The composer Haydn prayed it whenever he got “composer’s block.” The scientist Louis Pasteur prayed it. Martin Luther prayed this “Catholic prayer” every day until he died. Why not offer Mary a bouquet of fifty roses?
Has a rose or roses played a special role in your life?