The Rosary and Ordinary Holiness

In order better to appreciate the influence which the Rosary exercises over our spiritual life, we must consider the three degrees of holiness: ordinary holiness, perfect holiness, and heroic holiness. Ordinary holiness consists in the observance of the commandments and precepts by a soul in the state of grace. It is the first degree of charity, it is that wedding garment without which we cannot be present at the banquet of the father of the household.

To attain to this first degree in the spiritual life, it is not necessary to perform extraordinary actions, or even a multiplicity of actions. The Rosary will make this clear for the simplest minds. Jesus Christ, our model, Who is holiness itself, did nothing but the most ordinary actions during His life at Nazareth and these He did in a quiet, unobtrusive way. Mary and Joseph, next to Jesus our models in the way of perfection, led a hidden and obscure life. Therefore, holiness does not consist in the accomplishment of wonderful and glorious deeds. To work and to suffer is the necessary condition of man's existence here on earth. Holiness consists in knowing how to work and how to suffer.

The Rosary is the true school of labour and suffering. In the Joyful Mysteries we contemplate the little home at Nazareth. There we find a workshop, a carpenter and his Assistant. It is almost incomprehensible. The Son of the Eternal Father does not wish to reign on a throne or to dwell in a palace, but to become a humble artisan and to be called a workman. The Jews said of Him: Is not this the carpenter's son?, Is not this the carpenter, the Son of Mary? Ah! if the Christian labourer would only learn from these great lessons he would say to the rich ones of this world: I do not envy you your wealth because God Himself thought nothing of it and became a poor workman like me, toiling all day and earning His bread by the sweat of His brow. If both employer and employee would only remember the relations which existed between Jesus and Joseph the social problem would quickly be solved, and peace and happiness would soon be restored to firesides now grown desolate. If the lessons to be learned from the Rosary were put into practice, every workshop would resemble the home at Nazareth, gladness would enter into every family, the golden age of the world would return, because holiness would be practiced by all.

The Sorrowful Mysteries teach us how to sanctify our sufferings. One who meditates rightly on the Rosary dares not complain of his lot. You may be overcome by fatigue, covered with perspiration, but did you ever, like Jesus Christ, sweat even unto blood? Your body is writhing in pain; but had you ever to endure the torture of scourging? Your mind is troubled with anxiety; but had you ever to wear a bloody crown of thorns? Did thorns ever pierce your forehead, were your eyes ever filled with blood, as were those of Jesus? Your shoulders are bent under heavy burdens; but had you ever to bear the heavy weight of a cross as Jesus did on the way to Golgotha? Your hands and feet are weary with labouring; but were they ever pierced by terrible nails which broke every fibre and nerve? Your soul is desolate and lonely; but did such an abyss of anguish ever descend on your soul such as forced this cry of agony from Our Redeemer: My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me? Oh no, a soul meditating wisely on the Rosary will not dare to lament and complain.

Sometimes we hear people saying: I would not mind if I deserved this suffering. But did Our Redeemer deserve His agony, His scourging, His crucifixion? We are blessed if we suffer without having deserved our suffering. A trial is only a chastisement which we justly merit. Suffering which we have not deserved is a proof of God's love of us, it is His special way of showing His care for us.

We cannot estimate the injury we do ourselves by refusing the cross. Suffering, say the holy Doctors, does a three-fold work in the soul: it expiates, it impetrates, it sanctifies. Nothing purifies the soul like suffering supernaturally borne; it is a most efficacious means of enduring our purgatory here on earth. All you, then, who suffer and labour, rejoice! You are on Calvary, but you are very near to heaven, to God. God can refuse no request to a soul who offers to Him its sufferings with resignation. There is no beauty here below comparable to that of a soul transfigured by suffering. Christian suffering, accepted in a right spirit, detaches us from the earth, elevates us to heaven, makes us participate a little in the beauty of Christ Crucified. This, then, should be the outlook on suffering of a person who has meditated on suffering in the school of the Rosary. He will find Jesus in every sorrow, and will cry out with the Psalmist: Calix mens inebrians quam praeclarus est! My chalice which inebriated me, how goodly is it!

Holiness, therefore, is within the reach of everyone. All we have to do is to model our actions on each of the actions of Our Blessed Lord as portrayed for us by the Mysteries of the Rosary. If we suffer physically let us unite ourselves to the Word Incarnate, as He was scourged at the pillar. If we suffer mentally, let us endeavour to bear it in the same spirit as He endured the Agony in the Garden and the Crowning with Thorns. When we are tempted to impatience, let us remember the meek Lamb of God who carried His cross to Calvary. In prayer let us unite ourselves to Him, Who says we ought always to pray. In our study let us reflect on the infinite knowledge of Wisdom Incarnate, Who revealed Himself to the doctors in the Temple. Children of Mary, Knights of her Guard of Honour, the Kingdom of God is truly within you. You can become saints without working miracles or doing extraordinary deeds. Your Rosary is the secret of perfection.

You men of sorrow and labour, meditate on the Joyful Mysteries. Remember you are working for an eternal inheritance; unite yourselves with the Carpenter of Nazareth, and ask Jesus, Who was a workman like you, to lighten a little the weight of your burden. You learned men, who devote yourselves to study, stop for an instant and raise your thoughts to heaven. Both body and mind will find renewed energy and courage after repeating this simple prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven, I offer you my fatigue, my weariness, my suffering, my study. Work thus accomplished will be blessed and made fruitful by God; each evening you will be able to say: to-day we have amassed treasures for heaven, more splendid than any this world can produce. If your path in life is a thorny one, if you are more frequently on Calvary than on Thabor, enter into the spirit of the Sorrowful Mysteries, unite yourself with the God of Gethsemani and Golgotha, offer your tears, your love, your very blood, to Him who redeemed the world.

Lastly, if your life is free from sorrow or suffering, you have great need of the Rosary for you are exposed to great dangers. Remember we are only wayfarers on this earth, we have not here a lasting city, but look for one that is to come. The Glorious Mysteries will remind you of your future life and destiny, they will urge you not to be led astray by the false pleasures of this world. The very first Mystery, in recalling the glorious triumph of Our Saviour, will also make us mindful of the Resurrection of the Dead: that terrible and solemn day when the Angel of the Lord will stand upon the ruins of the world and cry out: Tempus non erit amplius. Time shall be no longer.

Saint Jerome, in the solitude of the desert, used to imagine that he heard the call of the last trumpet summoning the dead to judgment. Meditation on the Glorious Mysteries will produce the same salutary effect in us. If we live in the midst of pomp and wealth, let us reflect that all this worldly vanity will one day come to an end; we are here one day and gone the next.

The Rosary, then, will help us to sanctify riches and pleasures if we possess them, as it likewise helps us to sanctify suffering and labour, if such is God's will for us. The working classes can recall the home at Nazareth; the afflicted can remember Golgotha; the rich ones of this world can remember that all things pass, that the mocking brightness of earthly show will melt away as morning shadows before the rising glory of the Sun of Justice, shining on the elect in the day of triumph.

- taken from Sanctity Through the Rosary, by Father Edouard Hugon