Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization

"Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization"

Check out the revised edition of this exciting and unique prayer book, filled with prayers that are sure to nourish the soul as we undertake the New Evangelization.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Pope Saint Pius V

This past Saturday was the feast of Pope Saint Pius V.  As a member of the Order of Preachers, he exemplified Dominican life.  He knew the power of prayer and experienced victory through the Rosary and Mary's intercession at the Battle of Lepanto.  He shared the fruits of his contemplation in the administration of the Church and in his role as teacher of the faith. 


Following the Council of Trent, Pius V undertook the publication of the Roman Catechism, Missal and Brievary, and codified the practices of the universal Church.  This meant that various liturgical rites celebrated in different countries and in religious orders (e.g. Sarum Rite, Mozarabic Rite, Gallican Rite, Dominican Rite) were suppressed and the Roman Liturgy was mandated universally.  This change had the benefit of preserving continuity in the Church but also eliminated much beauty and variety in liturgical expression.  The Mass established by Pius V remained essentially unchanged until 1970 - 400 years. 


Interestingly enough, this past week we heard that Pope Francis has extended an olive branch to the Society of Pius X and that reconciliation is more possible than ever before.  The Society remains convinced of the authenticity of the Tridentine Mass - the Mass of Trent and of Pius V - and believes strongly in preserving the true faith against perceived innovations by the Second Vatican Council.  The conflict and division stem from the actions of Archbishop Lefebvre, who ordained priests and bishops without permission a number of years ago.  There is another group, even more radically traditional, called the Society of Saint Pius V.  They have also performed their own ordinations without permission and remain in schism. 


Regarding the Society of Saint Pius X, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI lifted the excommunication against their members and, in the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, opened the way for universal celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.  However, beyond liturgical spirituality, theological questions remain, which need to be ironed out before authentic reconciliation can take place.  SSPX members are hesitant to assent to all the teachings in the documents of Vatican II.  In the commentaries on the ongoing discussions, I have not so far seen mentioned the importance of distinguishing between the teaching of the council and its inconsistent and inauthentic implementation.  To this day, fifty years later, I hear people say that Vatican II eliminated or mandated things when these claims find no basis in the 16 documents.  If the council is understood in the context of a "hermeneutic of continuity," as Benedict XVI so remarkable taught us, there is necessarily less about which anyone needs to be concerned.  It appears, however, that there is an openness in the Vatican to "lowering the bar" concerning that which needs to be assented to in order to be reconciled to Christ and the Church.  That would be a mistake.  "Getting along" at the expense of vigorous orthodoxy is not authentic unity. 


This feast day of a great pope gives us an opportunity to reflect on the significance of consistency and continuity in the life of the Church.  May we always listen to the voice of Christ in prayer and defend what He has revealed to us. 


For Pius V, the Holy Rosary was a powerful weapon against evil.  Along with his living example of praying the Rosary as the Christian army battled the Turks at Lepanto, he codified the original 15 mysteries we know today.  Before he was able to do so, a rich tradition of prayer had developed. 


There are three stages of development to the history of the Rosary.  The first consists of two separate tracks, developing simultaneously.  On the one hand, the prayers of the Rosary are compiled and, on the other hand, the use of beads to count prayers is invented. 


1. The Hail Mary

By the 7th Century, prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary is common practice all over the world. 

By 1050, the "Hail Mary" has been compiled from the words of Mary and Elizabeth in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 1, with the addition of the petition "Holy Mary, pray for us..."

In the 1100s, there is evidence of people praying the Hail Mary 50x per day in 5 sets of 10 or 150x per day, as a means for the illiterate to pray alongside the monks, who chanted the 150 psalms from the Bible. 

Saint Louis (1214-1270) prayed the Hail Mary 50x per day with a genuflection at each one.

Others prayed it 150x per day, 100 with a genuflection and 50 with a full prostration. 


2. Beads

The use of beads to count prayers transcends the Rosary. 

A regular discipline of prayer throughout the day existed in the Christian life from the time of the Apostles and people used beads to help the count their prayers in order to maintain a consistent rule of prayer. 

In the East, the Jesus Prayer (Jesus, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner.) was prayed using the 33 or 100 "chotky beads" as early as the late 3rd Century. 

In 1075 there is a record of Lady Godiva threading stones on a cord to count her prayers. 

These two tracks, the writing of prayers and the use of beads, which spring organically from the human desire to praise God and seek His help, blend together as the Rosary becomes a regular part of the Church's prayer. 


The second stage of development is initiated by Heaven.  In 1208, Saint Dominic receives a vision of Mary, who presents to Dominic the Rosary and promises him it will be a powerful weapon of prayer. 

Heaven itself confirms the Church's writing of the Hail Mary and the use of beads to count prayers in a numbered pattern.  From then on, devotion to the rosary flourishes. 

In 1514, Gaspar Loarte wrote the first instruction for Catholics on how to pray the Rosary. 


The third stage brings us back to Pius V, who established the mysteries and made the Rosary as we know it today popular throughout the whole Church.  The mysteries make the Rosary a "Compendium of the Gospel," in the words of Pope Saint John Paul II, because they focus our attention on the principal events in the lives of Jesus and Mary.  The word "Rosary" itself is coined by 1597.  The essence of the devotion is established. 


As time has passed, additions are made which expand the richness of this great prayer.

The Fatima Prayer is added in 1917 at the request of Mary herself.

Pope Saint John Paul II adds the Luminous Mysteries in order to include the stories between Jesus' adolescence and Passion.

All of this came to pass because Pius V saw the importance of promoting the growth of the Rosary, which itself began in the hearts of the faithful and was confirmed by Heaven in the vision of Mary to Saint Dominic. 


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