Reflections on a talk by Fr Chad Ripperger
The sad event that recently took place on a baseball field in Northern Virginia has moved many to think that we are a society at war. Well, one need not be a Sherlock Holmes to gather that much from a mere reading of the national headlines. That war is a lot more obvious than the other, more dangerous war raging around us, the daily war against the usual temptations. It is almost scary to compare the temptations that I knew half a century ago (yes, I am that old) to the temptations and dangers available to anyone today. One does not have to be a theologian to conclude that the world has entered a period of great spiritual darkness I dare say, unprecedented spiritual darkness. The spiritual battle rages everywhere: politics, religion, finance, academia, the media, south, north, east, and west. Quiet spots are becoming increasingly rare.
St Pio of Pietrelcina, better known as St Padre Pio, said long ago that he was aware of an increasing number of spiritual entities gathering around our planet. Padre Pio passed away in 1968, the year many of us remember as the turbulent beginning of the Progressive Age we are still enduring. Looking back I can see that the battle got really serious from that year on. We have been in this battle since the days of Calvary. Ever since those days, the fight took different shapes and various weapons were used. I have good reason to believe that the best weapon available today is the Holy Rosary.
The Rosary is a Sacramental. You probably remember that Sacramentals work ex opere operantis. The person praying the Rosary has to have faith in its efficacy for it to “operate” properly. However, faith is not enough, one has to be in a state of grace for the prayers to merit anything. That means that one has to be clearly and unambiguously “on the side of God” for one’s prayers to be effective. We learn that from Jesus: “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” (Matthew 12:30) For God to reward us for doing a good deed, we have to be “playing in His team” so to speak. A person in a state of mortal sin cannot reach the benefits of grace by his or her own efforts. One has to be “participating in God’s nature” to merit any benefit from God. To the best of my understanding that is what we usually mean when we refer to “being in a state of grace”. Fighting a spiritual war requires weapons but it also requires us to be in shape and to be part of the right army. No one wants to be caught on the wrong side of the battle bearing the right arms but the wrong uniform.
The power of our prayers is directly proportional to our holiness. We are holy when we “hold” within the vessel of our souls as much grace as we can possibly receive. The holiness of Mary, for example, is complete. That is why the Angel sent to her in the Annunciation call her kecharitomene, full of grace. Holiness is added to the soul possessing all of the Christian virtues.
Human holiness is not a state of mere equilibrium or contentment. No soldier has the luxury of having a nice cocktail, or a meal, rest, or pleasure in the middle of battle. For us humans, holiness is attached to the acceptance of the Cross of Christ, our example of Perfect Holiness along with Our Blessed Mother of Sorrows. St Paul could not put it more clearly: if we want the life that Jesus promises, we have to carry Christ’s Cross as well.
“But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh.” (2 Corinthians 4:7-11)
Now, “for Jesus’ sake” means exactly that. If we are praying for consolation our prayer has a natural motivation. The idea is to reach a supernatural motivation, to pray for Jesus’ sake forgetting the consolations of this world, forgetting our own, surrendering all to the power of the Cross by entering with Jesus in the mystery of redemption. The closer we are to the Cross, the holier we become, the more effective our prayers will be.
The Rosary has a supernatural origin, it was given to St Dominic by Our Lady. Do not believe anyone who tells you otherwise. There are many revisionists that are trying to dismiss the Rosary as mere popular piety. Please have nothing to do with that. Compare the number of Hail Marys in the Three-Mystery Rosary given by Our Lady to St Dominic (153) to the number of fish caught by the disciples (also 153) after Jesus commanded them to cast the nets on starboard in John 21:4-11.
“Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, ‘Children, you have no fish, have you?’ They answered him, ‘No.’ He said to them, ‘Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’ So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the lake. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off. When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.’ So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn.”
The Rosary is the right weapon for evangelization, to bring in sinners, to contain enemies, or to conquer temptation. Fish come from the depths of the sea that Scripture identifies as the place where the enemies of God reside. (See Matthew 8:28-32; Isaiah 27:1) St Padre Pio says the Rosary is “the weapon” to defeat the powers of Hell in spiritual combat. The Rosary promotes a life of meditation, and it helps us to gradually enter into the mystery of Mary’s Sorrows. Mothers can greatly benefit from praying the Rosary, looking at the various mysteries through the eyes of Mary Mother of God.
Meditation while praying the Rosary is a powerful aid to keep the forces of darkness at bay. Demons cannot stand the images projected by an imagination that is properly subordinated to God through the habit of prayer. Praying the Rosary directs our mind to Mary Most Holy, the greatest of all Saints. Mary’s grace is said to exceed the combined graces of all the saints. The Holy Angels do not call her Kecharitomene just to be nice. Mary is the most perfect example of grace among all the creatures of God. Being so close to such a high source of grace can only be beneficial for our spiritual life. Those who recite the prayers of the Legion of Mary will know this:
“Who is she that comes forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in battle array?” She is the nemesis, the declared enemy of the devil, and the one destined to crush the head of that serpent. Mary is the destroyer of demons and vanquisher of the powers of darkness.
The Rosary is the most powerful weapon in conquering vice and sin. If a person struggling against a specific mortal sin prays the Rosary devoutly every day for a year after a year, that person would either give up the sin or give up the praying of the Rosary.
The Rosary was given to St Dominic to fight the Albigensian heresy. Today we are struggling against what has been rightly called “the synthesis of all heresies” that is Modernism, condemned by Pope Pius X in his Encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis (Feeding the Lord’s Flock). In the conclusion of that document, we find the following exhortation: “may the Immaculate Virgin, the destroyer of all heresies, be with you by her prayers and aid.”