By Sister Nancy Linenkugel
There are plenty of examples that the Blessed Mother made appearances while holding a Rosary and encouraging persons to pray it. The apparitions at Lourdes (1858) and at Fatima (1917) in particular prove this. In both, Mary holds a rosary and encourages all to pray for sinners and to pray for peace.
OF course we know that the Rosary is comprised almost entirely of “The Hail Mary” a prayer approved in 1568 (453 years ago), and we’re innately familiar with the words of that prayer:
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
When Mary is pictured holding the rosary in various apparitions, does she pray the rosary? If she did, she’d have to say:
Hail Me, full of grace, the Lord is with me.
Blessed am I among women and blessed is the fruit of my womb, Jesus.
Holy Me, Mother of God, pray for you sinners now and at the hour of your death. Amen.
Would Mary say that? OF course not. She’s way too humble to say that. As we call to mind artistic images of Mary, have you ever seen one in which she’s drawing attention to herself? No. Mary is usually pictured in one of these ways:
- Eyes cast down in humility
- Eyes looking to heaven
- Eyes looking at Jesus in a motherly fashion, from Bethlehem or Nazareth to Cana and to the crucifixion
- Arms extended to gather all around her in prayer
We know well the stories of the Lourdes and Fatima apparitions. In both, Mary appeared to poor, seemingly unimportant children. Bernadette at Lourdes was 14. The children at Fatima were younger: Lucia was 9, Francisco was 8, and Jacinta was 6. No wonder none of these children was believed initially.
Mary is pictured holding a rosary in both instances but she wasn’t praying to herself. Here’s an excerpt from Bernadette’s testimony about what occurred at Lourdes:
Without thinking of what I was doing, I took my rosary in my hands and fell on my knees. The Lady made a sign of approval with her head and took into her hands a rosary which hung on her right arm. When I attempted to begin the rosary and tried to lift my hand to my forehead, my arm remained paralyzed, and it was only after the Lady had signed herself that I could do the same. The Lady left me to pray all alone; she passed the beads of her rosary between her fingers but she said nothing; only at the end of each decade did She say the ‘Gloria’ with me. When the recitation of the rosary was finished, the Lady returned to the interior of the rock and the golden cloud disappeared with her. https://aleteia.org/2017/10/18/is-mary-praying-the-rosary-to-herself/
From her explanation, it’s evident that Bernadette prayed the rosary by herself and Mary joined only for the “Glory Be” prayers. And at Fatima, Mary appeared after the three children had finished praying the rosary. Mary’s message was the same in both apparitions: pray the Rosary, pray for sinners, pray for peace. Mary wasn’t praying the Rosary to herself.
In 2013, Pope Francis said, “The Rosary is a school of prayer, a school of faith.” https://aleteia.org/2017/10/18/is-mary-praying-the-rosary-to-herself/ Mary holds the Rosary to encourage and teach us, not to pray to herself.
As we Sylvania Franciscans celebrate our congregational feast of Our Lady of Lourdes on February 11, we continue to be “messengers of peace”. Like Bernadette, we pray for sinners and pray for peace.