IT WAS FOREGONE, the resounding result of the two-hour webinar organized by the Senatus of Northern Philippines with the able assistance of the young legionaries of Sta. Teresita Parish, represented by Sis Jackie Lou Foster and Bro Michael Simon Bucad. I never doubted the erudite Fr. Sherwin Nuñez, SMM, their guest speaker, whom I’ve heard twice, and who has absolutely convinced me of his deep Montfortian spirituality, particularly with respect to his devotion to Mary. Obviously constrained (again) by (zoom) time (like at a recent recollection where he was evidently spoiling for a workshop but didn’t have the luxury for the same), he seemed effortlessly able to slow down while (visibly) segueing up to his concluding strain only a fan/follower can discern. I didn’t stay for the open forum (I had to complete my vespers) but, judging from UtoLiza’s uber favorable summation of the exercise, Fr. Sherwin must’ve doubled his following (the zoom room was filled to capacity and those who could no longer be accommodated there moved to fb). I also have to hand it to the brilliant mind who coined the webinar theme “The Beauty and Love of the Ros(M)ary,” which was a faithful, fitting accolade to our spiritual mother!
I could not get enough of the nuggets Fr. Sherwin was spewing. He apologized for being more Cebuano than Tagalog although his fluency (wait till he hangs your jaw with French) couldn’t have fooled me. Just when I was certain I’ve heard some of his words of wisdom, he’d take a new spin on the familiar. That now I know the original 150 psalms that presently comprise the three 50 Hail Marys of what used to be three mysteries (until the inclusion of the luminous ones). What surprised me was that he admitted being a Protestant then until he converted into the Catholic faith when he was in Grade III, all because he was enamored with the Block Rosary, the vessel by which the Blessed Virgin Mary took him and his whole family to the Catholic Church.
Starting off with the history of the rosary, he disclosed that there used to be only the Our Father, and the Hail Mary. The “O my Jesus” part was included by St. John Paul II, in deference to the apparition of the BVM to St. Dominic, however undocumented, but officially written by the Dominicans. St. Louis Marie de Montfort also inspired his fan, St. John Paul II, to adopt “Totus Tuus” as his slogan in many encyclicals.
The evolution of the rosary started in the 7th century, when the contemplative monks started the original prayer. But their lay followers could not pray along because they could not read or understand the original Latin that it was said in. So they devised the 150 psalms, and the lay people prayed them with the “Our Father” using beads to keep correct count.
While there was no account of the apparition, St. Dominic was certainly commissioned by then Pope Pius V to Albies, South of France, to counter the heresy being perpetrated by the Albigensians who believed that man is a spirit trapped in a physical body. Before Dominic, the Pope sent a thin army of warriors who fought the heretics but failed. Then he sent Dominic, in 1206, who used the certain tradition of prayer – and the rosary – that converted the pagans and non-believers there. From that tradition, the Dominic devotion continued and spread in Europe from the 13th to the 15th centuries. It was helped by the English Anchorites, initially using 50 Hail Marys (with the Our Father) towards the 16th century, spreading across Europe in France, the the Netherlands, Germany, and Italy. And even if St. Dominic ceased to be the origin of the psalms, he was instrumental in combatting the heresy of the Albigensians through friendship and – yes – the rosary, which also won the Battle of Lepanto!
The Battle of Lepanto was won on October 7, 1571, by the Christians against the Turks of the Ottoman Empire. The Turks were gaining ground so they asked help from Pope Pius V. He responded by sending a shipload of 80,000 Christian warriors. The middling number was up against a staggering 120,000 combatants! However, a miracle happened which did not necessitate violence. It is documented that when he sent the outnumbered troops, the Pope and his companions prayed, up until the battle began. Then the wind direction and the water course changed, giving the Christians a miraculous victory. Which initially gave the date the attribute “Feast of Our Lady of Victory.” Over time, it changed from Victory to La Naval to Lepanto to the present Our Lady of the Rosary, which we owe to Pope Pius V.
In 1569, the same Pope declared the official devotion to the rosary. We owe to him, St. Dominic, and the Dominicans the propagation of praying the rosary, and the miracle it spawned.
It was Alain de la Roche, a noted Roman Catholic theologian, who was famous for his views on prayer, who deepened rosary praying. With the Brothers of the Rosary, they used to call the rosary the Psalter of the Blessed Virgin. Because, to him, rosary meant a rose garden, a bouquet, or a crown, like in the mindstset of Montfort. Another reason he did not take part at first was that rose also referred to Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess (Roman counterpart Venus), which Blessed Alain considered a profane attribute, if alluded to Mary. Lastly, the rosary used to be celebrated by ancient Romans in the spring to commemorate the dead. For which I don’t blame him.
The rosary is not contrary to Liturgy. It is Christocentric, Marian in character, and made in heaven. Here, Fr. Sherwin confirmed my deepest feelings (and probably those of most of his audience). First off, the “Our Father” was taught by Jesus to his apostles, which was brought down to us. “Hail Mary” was originally uttered by the angel Gabriel, in salutation to the virgin, which directly came from God who sent him. “Holy Mary” was exclaimed by her cousin Elizabeth, who was carrying the child John, who was caused by God’s choosing her to conceive at an advanced age. Moreover, St. Peter of Canisius, a renowned Dutch Jesuit priest known for his strong support for the Catholic faith, is credited for adding to the “Hail Mary” the supplication: Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners. Accounts attest that this addition was meant to counter the damage wrought by the abuses in the Catholic Church. Further, the Christocentric rosary addresses hypocrisy. I was heartened that Fr. Sherwin cited as an example the popular ditty “Banal na Aso, Santong Kabayo,” as representative of some of us saying the rosary at Mass or not attentive to the homily because chatting up a seatmate. At first he thought of it as a mockery of the church, until he agreed that many of us who do pray the rosary are grouchy when we hear noise or distractions and, in being so, distance ourselves from people insted of love them. The rosary gloriously ends with an affirmation of the Holy Trinity, ergo, it started and ended with Jesus, the Prince of Peace. There will always be bashers who will groan that the rosary is repetitive. I’ve countered this back then with, “Yes, because breathing is the same.” But Fr. Sherwin’s take made mine outdated, “Because (repetitive) God never gets tired (of us, His mercy, and forgiving us). Then, too, at least three popes (Leo XIII, John XXIII, Paul VI) say the rosary has an evangelical character, with Pope Paul II coming in as the fourth. And because it is Christocentric and Marian, Legionaries and Montfortian missionary priests and their lay associates pray it. My Montfortian influence substituted “Hail” with “Rejoice,” my ultimate goal, joy, in heaven, whence the rosary sprung.
My memory of Sto. Domingo Church is vague I have to visit it one day soon to confirm what Pads said about its beautiful statue of Our Lady of the Rosary.
He could not be refuted when Fr. Sherwin pronounced that the rosary is the life of Jesus, on one hand, and the bible in a nutshell, on the other. He fills in considerable gaps in my daily audience with the Scriptures for which I cannot thank enough. He and his fellow Montfortian missionary priests do us all, lay associates and followers, a humongous spiritual favor by consenting all the – and every – time they are requested to lend us their Catholic, nay, Marian, mouth.