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In October 1973, on the occasion of the 4th centenary of the Feast of the Rosary, the future Pope John-Paul I, Albino Luciani, then Patriarch of Venice, gave a homily suited to the occasion.

It revealed a spirituality of «
becoming like children again » and how the recitation of the rosary can help us in this sense. We give extracts of the homily most useful for animators and children.

« What would happen if during a meeting of Catholics someone asked you ladies and gentlemen to show the contents of your briefcases or handbags? One would certainly find combs, mirrors, lipsticks, purses, wallets, cigarette lighters and other objects more or less useful. But how many rosaries? Some years ago things were better. In the house where Manzoni lived in Milan, you can still see his beads at the head of his bed: he recited the rosary regularly and Lucia, one of the main characters in his book « The engaged couple », brings our her beads and recites the rosary at moments of difficulty.

Non practising friends once asked Windthorst, a German statesman, to show them his beads.

It was a joke : one of them had taken the rosary beads from his left pocket. Windthorst, not finding it in his left pocket plunged his hand into his right pocket and his face brightened. He always carried a second rosary! The great musician Christophe Gluck, used to withdraw for a few minutes during receptions in Vienna to recite the rosary. Whenever Blessed Contardo Ferrini, professor at the University of Pavia, went out to dinner he would invite his hosts to recite the rosary with him. Saint Bernadette said that the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to her wearing a rosary beads on her arm and she asked Bernadette if she had a her beads too and if she and the other two children would like to pray the rosary.

Why did I start with these examples? Because some people criticise the rosary. They say it is a childish prayer, superstitious, not good enough for adult Christians. Or, it is an automatic prayer, a mere monotonous and boring repetition of the Hail Mary. Or again : it is not for our day, today we can do better: read the Bible for example which compared to the rosary is like good flour compared to bran !

Allow me to offer you a couple of impressions on this matter as a pastor of souls.

First impression : The crisis of the rosary will occur later. In our day it is preceded by a general crisis in prayer. People are totally absorbed in by their material interests; they hardly ever think of their soul, noise has invaded our life. Macbeth could say once again: "I have killed sleep, I have killed silence!". It is difficult for us to find a brief moment for our spiritual life, for a "dulcis sermocinatio" ‘sweet conversation’ with God. This is a great pity. Donoso Cortes used to say : "Our world today is in a poor state because there are more battles than there are prayers". Community liturgies are celebrated. This is very good but not sufficient: personal conversation with God is also necessary.

Second impression. When we speak of "adult Christians" in prayer, at times we exaggerate. Personally when I speak tête-à-tête with God or with the Blessed Virgin Mary, more than an adult I prefer to think of myself as a child. The mitre, skullcap and ring disappear; I give a holiday to the adult and the bishop and also to heavy burdens, sober and pondered, and let myself go with the spontaneous tenderness of a child in front of his papá or mamma. To be – at least for half an hour – before God as I truly am with my wretchedness and also with the best of myself: to feel rising from the depths of my being the child of other days who wants to talk and chat with the Lord and love him and who sometimes feels the need to cry that he may be granted mercy, all this helps me to pray. The rosary, a simple and easy prayer, helps me to be at times a child again and of this I am not in the least ashamed.

The rosary a prayer of repetition ? Père de Foucauld used to say : "Love is expressed in a few words, always the same, repeated time and time again " ».