Was the 15-Decade Rosary Complete Enough?     

     At one time, not all that long ago, there were 15 mysteries of the Rosary. In 2002 Pope John Paul II recommended an additional five, known as the Luminous Mysteries. It might be thought that the Rosary we'd previously known, didn't cover enough events for meditation. But was this really the case?

     I'd read some time in the past about the Rosary being "the compendium of the entire Gospel." I decided to look up the quote, and check and verify its origin. I had an idea where I'd read it, but couldn't find the book. I looked and looked, and was frustrated in discovering its whereabouts. The following day, however, it came to mind to look in certain boxes on the lower shelves of a table in the basement, that had been upstairs in my room.

     Happily, I came across it. Titled, 17 Papal Documents on the Rosary, it lists on the back cover documents by Popes Paul VI, John XXIII, and Leo XIII. I found it within Paul VI's Apostolic Exhortation of February 2nd , 1974: "For the Right Ordering of the Development of Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary."

     He said, "We wish now, venerable Brothers, to dwell for a moment on the renewal of the pious practice which has been called 'the compendium of the entire Gospel' " 110: the Rosary."     The 110th footnote said: "Pius XII. Letter to the Archbishop of Manila 'Philippinas Insulas,': AAS 38 (1946), p. 419. "

     Pius XII had called it a compendium. A compendium is a summary so it seems he saw a breadth in the Rosary, a completeness.   This might seem at odds with Pope John Paul II who added more mysteries, those called the Luminous.

    When John Paul II added more, he added more specifics of Christ's life on earth, bringing these to the fore,  and thereby, bringing these episodes of Christ's life more readily to mind  

     I'm not sure in what way Pius XII saw this fullness of the Gospel when he spoke of a compendium, but I do see a place where the mysteries that John Paul II added could be contemplated in the older set of mysteries.

     The entry point is in the Fifth Joyful Mystery, where Jesus is found in the Temple, and answers His mother and St. Joseph. As recorded in the Gospel of John, His mother Mary said, "Son, why has thou done so to us?  Behold, in sorrow thy father and I have been seeking thee." He said to them: "How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father's business?"

       His life on earth was His Father's business and these words can open up for us Christ's world for our contemplation.  The Father's business our salvation included Jesus suffering and dying for us, His founding His church, His telling parables and all His teachings.

     In a verse that came before the one about "His father's business," we get a glimpse of His teaching role: "And it came to pass after three days, that they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who were listening to him were amazed at his understanding and his answers." Jesus would teach not only by word of mouth, but by His example, the Word of Himself!

     St. John uses the term Word for Christ. We see it at the beginning of the Prologue of his Gospel: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God; and the Word was God." It occurs again in verse 14: "And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us." And in the Apocalypse, 19:13, "He is clothed in a garment sprinkled with blood, and His name is called The Word of God."

     The infernal one might want us to think that Jesus was thoughtless in being lost to His parents, and causing them to seek Him in sorrow.  But if that happens, don't fall for it.  We must not be allow ourselves to be tempted to even think this. This all happened within the will of God: their separation was for a reason: a purpose. You can plumb the depth of this as a meditation, if you feel so inclined.

     Jesus wasn't inconsiderate, nor were his parents neglectful in losing track of Him. Believe this in your heart of hearts, as part of your Rosary meditation. Mary and Joseph didn't understand, and neither may we fully grasp it at a distance, but it is an opportunity to trust to Divine Wisdom.

     One thing that did fit nicely with the 15 mysteries is the number of days between the first appearance of Mary at Fatima, on May 13th, 1917, and the last one on October 13th, 1917. Count the days: 18 days left in May, 30 days in June, 31 days in July, 31 days in August, 30 days in September and 13 days in October. It adds up to 153 days. If you count the number of Hail Marys in the full Rosary of 15 mysteries, prayed one mystery after another, along with the three preliminary Hail Marys of the first Rosary, these also add up to 153 This can be associated with the idea of saying the Rosary every day, and can even add emphasis to the daily Rosary that Our Lady of Fatima requested.   On July 13th, 1917, she said, "You must recite the Rosary every day in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war for only she can obtain this."  

                                                                             John Riedell

Note: Pope John Paul II, in his apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae (October 2002), recommended the Luminous Mysteries.

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