“All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer with.. Mary, the Mother of Jesus..” (Acts 1:14)
The Holy Father had asked the Church to pray the Rosary throughout the month of May for an end to the pandemic and to ask the intercession of the Blessed Virgin in all our needs and those of the Church and the world. This ‘Rosary Marathon’ concluded yesterday evening, the final day of the month which the Church dedicates to the Blessed Virgin.
Pope Francis gathered with about three hundred people in glorious sunshine within the Vatican Gardens before a painting of ‘Our Lady, Untier of Knots’ and there, the simple prayer of the Rosary was offered to Heaven.
United to the Holy Father, various Marian shrines across the world broadcast their own recitation of the Rosary, including our own Scottish shrine at Carfin Grotto, and also at the original Schöenstatt shrine in Germany. Many people went to Carfin yesterday to take part in person. And a great many more people across the world were united with the Pope through online media, as I was, watching at home and praying along with him.
The Joyful Mysteries were prayed, which was appropriate as yesterday was also the feast of the Visitation. Introducing each Mystery, the corresponding passages from the Bible were read out to set the scene and to assist in our meditation, before specific intentions for each Mystery were offered.
The Scripture passages were a very real reminder to us all that the Rosary – contrary to what some might think – is a deeply Biblical and scriptural prayer; both in the particular prayers which form it’s ‘body’, and in the meditations on Scripture which give it ‘soul’. It is from this deepest of wells that the holy Rosary draws it’s strength, it’s vitality and it’s power.
At the conclusion of the Rosary, the Holy Father solemnly adorned the image of Our Lady, Untier of Knots, with a golden crown – this canonical crowning draws our attention in a special way to this particular representation of the Blessed Virgin, one to which the Holy Father has been specially devoted for a long time. In these days, Her intercession under this title is sought in a particular way by the Church and for the Church, and for the needs of each of us and of all the world.
To conclude the service, the Litany of Loreto was prayed in honour of Our Blessed Lady and then the Salve Regina was sung to Her.
Throughout, those taking part at the Marian shrines across the world were shown on large video screens – it was heartening to see that so very many people had gone to the Grotto at Carfin to be part of this lovely event. It was wonderful, too, to see the shrines on other continents and in other countries.
For that hour, I had the wonderful sense that the Church truly is one across the entire world, gathered around the Holy Father in Rome – whether physically there or present in spirit and united with him in prayer. Sitting alone here in my study the United Kingdom, I very much felt united to the Pope and to all those praying along with him. I felt very much part of a living, praying Church – a community of faith. It was a wonderful sense – but also (and far more importantly), a very real and true sense. The Church was one, united in prayer, gathered around the Mother of God and asking Her help. It was impossible not to think of those earliest days of the praying Church.
This is what the Church does well – she prays as one and that prayer is intensely powerful.
It is perhaps also a salutary reminder to all of us that no matter what divides us as a Church – and sadly, there is much – still, there is far more that unites us as one.
Whatever knots exist presently in our world, in our Church, in our lives and within our own hearts, the Blessed Virgin has heard the cry of Her Son’s Church; and She whom the Church calls the Mother of Mercy will not fail us. In one way or another, She will come to the aid of each of us, both individually and collectively.
I give thanks to God that so many of us were simply and powerfully united in prayer as one Church across the world; may the Lord hear and answer our prayer as He sees fit.