There has been a little criticism (in some quarters) of our late Pontiff, John Paul II, adding mysteries to the Rosary. After reading his Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae , yesterday, I can guess see why he did so.
It is quite clear in reading the letter that John Paul had a deep and long-lived devotion to our Lady and especially the Rosary. And I think in some sense, he may have been dismayed by the fact that not many people say the Rosary, and that others treat it more as a talisman than a means of meditation.
Thus, knowing that new mysteries would bring interest back to this traditional and effecatious means of prayer, he proposes a new set of mysteries to rejuvanate this lost tradition. I am sure he was aware that his cult of personality would contribute to this rejuvanation (in true Catholic spirit, we use everything we are given to direct people towards God.)
Some other thoughts on the letter...The emphasis on the rosary being a contemplative prayer:
Without contemplation, the Rosary is a body without a soul, and its recitation runs the risk of becoming a mechanical repetition of formulas, in violation of the admontion of Chirst: 'In praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think they will be heard for their many words' (Mt 6:7). [No. 12]
This is a real temptation. How many times have I 'got my Rosary done' and nary a thought of God or the mysteries passed through my mind as I recited the prayers mindlessly as I daydreamed about my next endeavor. Prayer is work-not magic. Yet I think we (maybe just I) approach the Rosary as a little magic. Simple say it and your obligation is fulfilled and your prayer submitted.
Chapter III gives some wonderful tips on saying the Rosary. Some of the tips are well-known (i.e. to use scriptural passages after the mystery to help you meditate), some are less substantial, but also less known-at least here. For instance-to sing the Glory Be at the end of each decade. Wonderful.
The centre of gravity in the Hail Mary, the hinge as it were which joins its two parts, is the name of Jesus. Sometimes, in hurried recitation, this centre of gravity can be overlooked, and with it the connection to the mystery of Christ being contemplated. Yet it is precisely the emphasis given to the name of Jesus and to his mystery that is the sign of a meaningful and fruitful recitation of the Rosary. Pope Paul VI drew attention, in his Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus, to the custom in certain regions of highlighting the name of Christ by the addition of a clause referring to the mystery being contemplated. [No. 33]
This strikes home in many ways. Some years ago my boys and I went on camping trip with a friend and his sons. We sat around the campfire that first night saying the Rosary-each boy taking a turn leading a decade. My sons were able to get through their decade in a couple minutes flat-each word pronounced as it sped through their lips at 60 mph. Yet my friends boys carefully recited each Hail Mary. My boys got this from me. I knew I could say a Rosary in 10 minutes or less-but realized I had seldom prayed the rosary and was teaching my boys to only say it also. I don't know that we have had much sustained improvement during those years, but this letter was another wakeup call. John Paul writes:
By its nature the recitation of the Rosary calls for a quiet rhytm and a lingering pace.... [No. 12]
Recommended reading...I know I will be sharing some of this with the family later today also.
(One more note: I had never heard of Blessed Bartolo Longo and his Supplication to the Queen of the Most Holy Rosary. Something more to look into.)
From Bethany, the small holdin in Bethune....Oremus pro invicem!