1. SAINT DOMINIC AND HIS BROTHERS
The devotion to the Holy Rosary has been treasured in the Church for many centuries. The Rosary developed as a popular prayer and meditation between the time of St. Dominic in the 13th Century and Blessed Alan de la Roche in the 15th Century.
St. Dominic devoted much of his life to preaching against the 'Albigensian' heresy which demeaned Christ's humanity and the mysteries of his earthly life, the world and all things bodily, marriage and the other sacraments. Moved by pity for the many who no longer knew Christ and his Church, St. Dominic set about winning them back to the faith.
In 1216 St. Dominic obtained approval to establish the Order of Preachers (also known as the Dominicans). Since the time of St. Dominic the Pope's theologian has always been a Dominican Father. The great Universities of Oxford, Paris and Bologna have their origins with the Order of Preachers.
From early in their history Dominicans promoted the Rosary throughout Europe and later the missionary lands as a meditation on the principal mysteries of the faith and a method of prayer for ordinary people. St. Pius V, the great Dominican pope who led the reform of the Church after the Council of Trent, settled the form of the Rosary as we know it.
One of the greatest gifts given to the Church by the Dominicans is the Rosary of Our Lady and the Rosary Confraternity. Pope Paul VI recognised this when he said that among those who promote the Rosary "special mention should be made of the sons of St. Dominic, by tradition the guardians and promoters of this very salutary practice." This booklet briefly describes the benefits of the Rosary and how those benefits are multiplied by joining the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary.
2. THE ROSARY
Why pray the Rosary today? The following are a few reasons why:
"Among all the devotions approved by the Church none has been so favoured by so many miracles as the devotion of the Most Holy Rosary" (Pope Pius IX).
"Say the Rosary every day to obtain peace for the world" (Our Lady of Fatima).
"There is no surer means of calling down God's blessings upon the family . . . than the daily recitation of the Rosary" (Pope Pius XII).
"We do not hesitate to affirm again publicly that we put great confidence in the Holy Rosary for the healing of evils of our times" (Pope Pius XII).
"No one can live continually in sin and continue to say the Rosary: either they will give up sin or they will give up the Rosary" (Bishop Hugh Doyle).
"The Rosary is a magnificent and universal prayer for the needs of the Church, the nations and the entire world" (Pope John XXIII).
"The Rosary is the compendium of the entire Gospel" (Pope Paul VI approving a quote from Pope Pius XII).
"Meditation on the mysteries of the Rosary . . . can be an excellent preparation for the celebration of those same mysteries in the liturgical actions [i.e. the Mass] and can also become a continuing echo thereof" (Pope Paul VI).
"My impression is that the Rosary is of the greatest value not only according to the words of Our Lady at Fatima, but according to the effects of the Rosary one sees throughout history. My impression is that Our Lady wanted to give ordinary people, who might not know how to pray, this simple method of getting closer to God" (Sister Lucia, one of the seers of Fatima).
"How beautiful is the family that recites the Rosary every evening" (Pope John Paul II).
Pope John Paul II has called the Rosary his "favourite prayer," after the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours.
St. Louis de Montfort warns us against both the ignorant and scholars who regard the Rosary as something of little importance..."the Rosary is a priceless treasure inspired by God."
Why is the Rosary so effective? Because it is a simple, humble prayer and forms those who pray the Rosary spiritually in humility, gentleness and simplicity of heart.
3. CONFRATERNITY OF THE MOST HOLY ROSARY
Origins of the Confraternity
The origin of the Confraternity, like the beginning of many great works, is shrouded in obscurity. No definite date can be given to the birth of the Confraternity. It is thought that, like the Rosary, it owes its foundation to St. Dominic. Pope Leo XIII voices this tradition when he says: "Its origin is distinguished by its antiquity, for St. Dominic himself is said to have been its founder." Certainly the Dominican Friar Blessed Alan de la Roche promoted these confraternities when he went from place to place preaching popular missions in the 15th Century.
Remember also that the Rosary Confraternity is the Confraternity officially appointed by the Church for the promotion of the Rosary.
Privileges of Membership
The Confraternity of the Holy Rosary offers its members the following immense advantages:
1. The special protection of the Mother of God (Pope Leo XIII in Lætitiæ Sanctæ, 8 September 1893).
2. Participation during life, at the hour of death and after death in all the good works of the members of the Confraternity.
3. A share in the Masses, Divine Offices and good works of the Fathers, Brothers, Contemplative Nuns, Sisters and Laity of the whole Dominican Order. This includes all the good works of all the saints and beati of the Order: martyrs, pastors, doctors and holy men and women over 400 in number, including St. Dominic, St. Albert the Great, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Martin de Porres, the Vietnamese Martyrs, St. Rose of Lima and St. Catherine of Siena. This sharing continues after death.
4. An immense treasure of indulgences which are applicable to the souls in Purgatory. The Rosary is the "Queen of indulgenced devotions," and the Confraternity is the most indulgenced pious association of the faithful. This is what led St. Alphonsus to say: "After Holy Mass the best means of relieving the souls in Purgatory is to join the Confraternity."
Subject to the Church's rules concerning indulgences , plenary indulgences are available to members on the day of enrolment, Christmas Day, Easter Sunday, the Assumption, Our Lady of the Rosary, the Immaculate Conception. A plenary indulgence is also available daily, on the usual conditions, to those members who recite five decades of the Rosary at once.
Remember the full benefits of the Rosary are only available to those enrolled in the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary. Such a small effort for so many benefits!
How Membership Multiplies the Benefits of the Holy Rosary
Popes have described the Rosary Confraternity as the leading pious association of Catholics and have exhorted the members of the Church to encourage the growth of this association diligently and strenuously. They have granted its members many privileges and blessings down through the centuries.
Pope Leo XIII was a great enthusiast for the Rosary Confraternity. He pointed out that it multiplies the value of the Rosary because it involves praying the Rosary in a way which is: (i) public; (ii) communal; (iii) constant; and (iv) unanimous.
Rosarians, members of the Confraternity, often pray this prayer together and in public; but even when alone they pray the Rosary officially, on behalf of the Church, as members of a public association of Christ's faithful. There is always a fellow Rosarian somewhere in the world praying the Rosary and, wherever they are, Rosarians are praying as of one heart and mind "like a single chorus of supplication" (cf. Acts 1:14).
As a public association in the Church, a Rosarian's prayer has that special quality characteristic of Christian prayer, described by St. Cyprian: "Our prayer is public and in common; and when we pray, we pray not for one, but for the whole people, for we, the entire people, are one" (On the Lord's Prayer). Historically the Church has often prayed this prayer publicly at times of need, such as at the time of the Battle of Lepanto (7th October 1571) when St. Pius V called on all Christian people to pray that Christianity be saved from the onslaught of the Moslems. This is celebrated even today as the Feast of Our Lady of Victories or Our Lady of the Rosary.
Pope Leo XIII seems to have had in mind the value of human beings, who are social by nature, and Christians, who are communal by baptism and by spirituality, joining together when they pray. Older readers will remember a time when fraternities were like Christian trade unions, but with a different object. There were many of them around: the Holy Name Society, the Children of Mary, the Rosary Confraternity, and so on, each with its own particular charism, a God-given inspiration confirmed by the Church. In the case of the Rosary Confraternity the object is praying the Rosary for one's own needs, those of the other members, and those of all God's people. It is a prayer club or prayer group.
But more than just a club for people with a common interest, the Rosary Confraternity has a mission, a special office, ministry or work for the Church. That is why until modern times popes were inclined to talk of Rosarians in almost military terms. They were, the army of prayer, conscripted by St. Dominic, marching under the banner of the Mother of God, united as comrades, the enemies of evil both within and without" (Pope Leo XIII in Lætitiæ Sanctæ and Augustissimæ Virginis Mariæ ).
Put simply, once you enroll in the Confraternity it is no longer a matter of just saying the Rosary. A Rosarian has an official standing and has a new right to be heard! Our Lady asked St. Dominic not just to get people to say the Rosary, but to come together in a united prayer, and the prayers of Rosarians have this quality.
But isn't all this focus on the Rosary unbalanced?
Sometimes Rosarians are accused of having an unbalanced devotion to Mary and the Rosary rather than to God and the sacraments. No doubt this has been true at some times and places, or for some individuals. But to accuse the average Rosarian of this is most unjust. Far from being a substitute for the Liturgy of the Church it is often used as a preparation or thanksgiving before or after Mass or Confession or the Anointing of the Sick or Funerals. Furthermore the very structure of the Rosary focuses on the Blessed Trinity and Christ in particular. In the Rosary we profess our faith (in the Creed), we praise the Blessed Trinity (especially in the Glory Be), we pray to God the Father in the words our Saviour gave us (the Our Father), we meditate on the mysteries of Christ's incarnation, passion and glorification, and we pray with and through the Mother of God (in the Hail Mary). The Hail Mary, far from replacing prayer directly to God, recalls God's grace and blessings, God's incarnation ("Blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus"). We ask Our Lady to intercede for us, to pray with us, on our team as it were, as we call upon her Son Jesus Christ, like those at Cana, hoping that Mary will intercede on our behalf before the fruit of her womb.
Intercessory prayer like this derives from the strong Christian sense of the communion of saints, the solidarity of all God's people, the sense that we are all in this together. Just as we pray for the needs of our friends and relatives, and the needs of the world, so we hope that others will pray for us, whether they are our friends and relatives, other members of our Rosary Confraternity, or our friends and relatives in heaven, including Mary our Mother and the other saints.
Meditation like this invites the person praying to enter more deeply into the mystery upon which he or she is meditating, and thereby invites a conversion of heart and mind. Thus St. Pius V praised the Rosary Confraternity for transforming people from heresy and sin into children of light (Consueverunt Romani Pontifices, 17 September 1569).
Duties of Members
1. To say at least one complete Rosary of fifteen mysteries each week. This promise does not bind under the pain of sin. The fifteen decades may be said alone or with others, with or without Rosary beads. The fifteen decades may be spread over the week; for example, two decades each weekday and three on Saturday and Sunday. Of course five decades each day is preferable and is encouraged.
2. To include in this Rosary the intentions of fellow members throughout the world.
3. To have one's name inscribed on the Register of a Confraternity.
How to join the Confraternity
You are invited to join the Confraternity by sending your baptismal name and family name (not initials) with your address. If you are already enrolled elsewhere you are enroled for life. There is no charge for enrolment. If desired a small offering may be made to promote the Rosary Crusade. Enrol in only one Register. On the last page there is an Application Form.
What the Saints and Popes say about the Confraternity
St. Charles Borromeo esteemed the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary so highly that he ordered it to be erected in all parishes of his large Archdiocese of Milan.
St. Alphonsus de Liguori wrote on the usefulness of the Confraternity: "In the many missions I have preached, I have come to the conclusion that there are more sins in one single person who does not belong to the Confraternity of Mary than in twenty that do!"
The Curé of Ars said: "If anyone has the happiness of being in the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary, they have, in all corners of the globe, brethren who pray for them." He added: "For a member of the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary to succeed in losing their soul, they would have to do as much violence to themselves as the other faithful do to save their souls, so abundant are the graces of this Confraternity."
Pope Innocent VIII called it "a most devout Confraternity" (Splendor Paternæ Gloriæ, 26 February 1491).
Pope Leo XIII insisted very much on the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary, especially in the encyclicals Lætitiæ Sanctæ of 1893 and Augustissimæ Virginis Mariæ of 1897. Among the different associations," he wrote in Augustissimæ Virginis Mariæ, we do not hesitate to give the place of honour to the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary." After explaining how the Confraternity multiplies the benefits of the Rosary, he appealed to priests: "You ought to apply yourselves with the greatest zeal to founding, developing and directing these Confraternities of the Holy Rosary. This appeal is not only addressed to the sons of St. Dominic, for whom this is an important duty of their state, but to all priests who have the care of souls. It is also our earnest desire that missionaries, those who take the Gospel to pagan lands and those who preach in Christian countries, give themselves with equal zeal to this activity." These appeals are still applicable today.