The Rosary and the Fatima Prayer in the Life of the Faithful

Pope Francis leads a nighttime prayer vigil the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The Rosary has been a significant and widely popular form of prayer throughout the Church ever since the devotion was developed and came into general use centuries ago.  With prayers rooted in scripture and meditation on the saving events at the heart of our faith, the Rosary has been called an “echo of the prayer of Mary,” and a way to experience with her the beauty and depths of Christ’s love (Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 1).  “It is also the prayer of simple people and saints,” explains Pope Francis and, no doubt expressing the sentiment of countless others, he adds, “It is the prayer of my heart.”

The essential prayers of the Rosary are among the Church’s oldest and the practice of using beads in aid of prayer likewise goes back to the early Church.  Jesus himself gave us the Our Father, and the Glory Be, which was modeled after the angels’ song at Bethlehem, has been exclaimed throughout Christian history. The Hail Mary developed over time and seems to have reached the present form in the Middle Ages. Combining the greetings of the angel and Saint Elizabeth at the Annunciation and Visitation with an intercessory prayer, it is the loving, confident prayer of people who know themselves to be brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ.

By the 13th century, these various elements came together to form the basic structure of the Rosary and eventually meditation on the mysteries of Jesus were added.  Saint Dominic is credited with popularizing the Rosary when he preached this prayerful devotion in his missionary work.  In the 1570s, the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary was established to remember and celebrate the powerful intercession of our Blessed Mother.

Then, on this day one hundred years ago, July 13, 1917, it is reported that an additional prayer by Our Lady during her third apparition at Fatima to the shepherd children Saints Jacinta and Francisco Marto, and their older cousin Lucia Santos.  Following that maternal request, many now add this prayer at the end of each decade of the Rosary, saying: “O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell.  Lead all souls to heaven, especially those most in need of thy mercy.”

The Rosary has offered special comfort that sustains people through times of trial.  In our prayers while meditating on the holy mysteries, we experience the saving events of salvation in a way that touches our hearts and illumines our minds.  Thus it is that as we pray, we are drawn more deeply into the mystery of Jesus Christ who, in his mercy, forgives and saves and leads souls to heaven. As we cry out, the Lord hears us, knows us and responds to us with his infinite love.