N°71 : The Living Rosary

Newsletter n°71 (17 March 2018)

Dear friends,

The two principal requests from the Fatima message are to say the Rosary every day for peace in the world (see newsletters n°35 and n°59) and to offer the sacrifices of our daily lives for the conversion of sinners (see newsletters n°6 and n°7).  Helping those who have trouble saying the Rosary should therefore be a preoccupation as important as praying for the conversion of sinners.  While being aware of the importance of the Rosary, many people have difficulties in saying it every day.  This should not surprise us unduly:  Sister Lucia often warned that the devil makes war against the Rosary.  For example, in December 1917, she spoke to her friend, Mother Martins, of “the insistence with which she [Our Lady] recommended we pray the Rosary.  For she already knew that these times would come in which the devil and his followers would fight so much against this prayer to lure souls away from God.”  Our Lady would not have asked for this so much during each of her apparitions (see newsletter n°31) if it had not been one of the most efficient means, and all the apostles of the Rosary have taught that it is a formidable weapon against the devil.  

This is why we can only encourage those who have trouble praying their Rosary to persevere in their determination to learn to say it well, by being convinced that it is the will of our Heavenly Mother, and that, if we don’t take to this prayer, it’s not because our Mother was mistaken, but because the devil cleverly hides from us the essence and the power of this prayer.  We should not be put off by this difficulty.  In other domains, we know how to put up with problems to obtain a greater good.  For example, regarding our health, would we refuse a strong medication for an illness because it tasted bad?  We should therefore seek to have a great devotion to the Rosary and to spread this devotion as much as possible.

So, what can we do to help those who have trouble saying the Rosary?  Here are two suggestions:

  1. Those who are used to saying it should offer their Rosary for those of us who have problems with it.  We will form a little community and be committed to praying for each other even if we are dispersed throughout the four corners of the world.
  2. As for those with difficulties, there is a simple way to say the Rosary, but which requires, nevertheless, a little organisation:  applying the venerable Marie-Pauline Jaricot’s idea of the living Rosary.

As perhaps not all readers are familiar with Marie-Pauline Jaricot, here are a few elements regarding her life.  The youngest of eight children in a family from Lyon, Marie-Pauline Jaricot (1799-1862) was a laywoman, a member of the Dominican Third Order, declared venerable in 1963.  Strongly influenced by the spiritual disaster resulting from the French Revolution, she was motived by an ardent desire to spread the light of the Gospel and the grace of Redemption to all those who did not have, or no longer had, the Faith, with the help of prayer, in particular the Rosary. This idea led her to found, at Lyon in 1826, the Living Rosary because, she said, “this beautiful devotion [to the Rosary] has been left to professional devotees, and on condition that they be old or have nothing else to do:  which is a very false prejudice, and which, unfortunately, exists everywhere.  ( … )  What matters is to have the Rosary accepted by everyone.”  This is precisely our own preoccupation:  that the Rosary be appreciated by those amongst us who only say it with reluctance.

How did Marie-Pauline Jaricot go about this?  Realising that it was difficult for a lot of people to say fifteen decades of Hail Marys, she encouraged them to begin saying the Rosary little by little.  She had the idea of forming volunteers into groups of fifteen, with each person committing to:  1) saying a decade of the Rosary each day and 2) meditating on the mystery which had been assigned to that person each month by drawing lots.

The fifteen associates are thus linked albeit invisibly, but in reality, in saying a Rosary between them every day.  And in fifteen months, each of them will have meditated on a full Rosary.  Despite initial difficulties (as with many good works), the Living Rosary was rapidly very successful.  Five years after it was launched, it crossed the frontier and spread throughout Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, England, and even America and Asia.  In 1834, in France alone, the organisation had a million members.

Pope Gregory XVI approved the Living Rosary in 1832, only six years after its beginning.  And on the 17th of August 1877, by the brief Quod jure haereditario, Pope Pius IX placed it under the immediate jurisdiction of the Master of the Order of Preachers.  Thus, the Living Rosary, after only fifty years, became completely recognised and recommended by the Church.  It was enriched with indulgences.  For example, each member received, every day, the indulgence pertaining to the complete recitation of the Rosary.  And the indulgence is gained even if, sometimes, one or other of the associates happens to forget to fulfil his obligation.

In this way, the Living Rosary spread to people of all backgrounds, particularly children, as an initiation to the Rosary, and to people who were isolated and to whom it brought much spiritual comfort, as they felt part of a real community.  This, then, is the Living Rosary, and how it came about.

It can sometimes be difficult to find 14 others to make up 15 people to form a Living Rosary.  But it’s not impossible to find 4 others to make up a group of 5 to constitute what we could call a “living chapelet”.  [A chapelet is the recitation of five decades of Hail Marys whilst meditating either the joyful, sorrowful or glorious mysteries.]  This seems all the more legitimate in that, at Fatima, the Holy Virgin only asked for the daily recitation of the chapelet.  Moreover, it is relatively easy to transform this living chapelet into a living rosary over three days.  For this, all that needs to be done is to organise which mysteries should be recited on which day so that after three days a full Rosary has been said.  It’s also possible to join with two other ‘living chapelets’, so as to form a living Rosary:  simply organise the groups a little by dividing up the mysteries to be said.

Perhaps some people will raise the objection:  “It’s too easy!  How is it that those who only say a decade of the Rosary each day can receive as much as those who have recited a full Rosary?”  At first sight, this is indeed astonishing, but it’s in perfect conformity with divine economy.  Did not the workers of the eleventh hour receive as much as those of the first hour?  It pleases God to give as much to fifteen people who, together, have said a Rosary by saying only a decade each day, as to those who say a full Rosary:  are we going to be “evil because God is good”? (Matthew 20:15)  And did Jesus not praise the intelligence of the dishonest steward?  But the intention of Marie-Pauline Jaricot was not to be dishonest.  On the contrary, she had the intelligence to imagine a means of leading people in an organised way to, little by little, saying their Rosary, beginning with the recitation of only a decade.

Moreover, this practice is drawn from several of Our Lord’s words, particularly:  “Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.  For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”  (Matthew 18:19-20)  And in a commentary on this passage, Saint Thomas Aquinas affirms:  “It is impossible that the prayers of a multitude are not granted if these numerous prayers form but one.”  This is precisely wherein lies the efficacity of the Living Rosary:  the prayers of many become one prayer.  With a living chapelet, five people are united by the recitation of a mystery every day to obtain the graces associated with this.  And Our Lord Himself has affirmed that, in this case, our prayers will be granted.

The two means of spreading the daily recitation of the Rosary that we have just proposed are doubtless not the only means possible.  Everyone is free to choose the way he prefers according to his tastes and the qualities which God has bestowed upon him.  But, we must do something!  We should put in place concrete means for learning to say the Rosary well, to spread it around us, to say it every day for the love of Our Lady, in order to respond to her unceasing request so as to obtain the conversion of sinners and peace in the world.

However, Marie-Pauline Jaricot’s idea was recommended by the Church and in six years it succeeded in having more than a million people in its Living Rosary.  So her example deserves to be followed, or at least to serve as a guide for us.  We should pray that all those amongst us who have trouble saying the Rosary every day find four other people to form together a living chapelet and thereby respond more fully to the requests of our Heavenly Mother.

In union of prayer in the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
Yves de Lassus.

Nota:  To help with the organisation of living rosaries we are going to create a page on this website to facilitate this.  If you wish, you can already register on the page Living Chapelet.  Anyone can register including those who already say their chapelet every day, but would like to say an extra decade to take part in a living rosary.

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