In the Evangelical church in which I was raised, we didn’t hate Catholics, but we thought they were wrong. One of the areas we were convinced they were in error was their “Mary worship.”
As I followed the path to the Catholic Church, I came to understand that Catholics don’t worship Mary. One of the experiences that changed my mind was the discovery that praying the Rosary opened the door to Christ’s powerful healing. As I experienced the real healing power of the Rosary, I came to first understand and then love the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The journey began when I was an Anglican minister. I was in my late twenties, and I was struggling with dark forces in my life. I suffered from depression and spent time in counseling. My “soul friend” was a wise old priest who advised me to pray the Rosary.
Prayers of a mother
As I prayed the Rosary, I discovered that the joyful mysteries took me into the first stages of Jesus’ life and childhood. As I prayed through those stages, something mysterious happened. God’s love began to seep into the early stages of my own life, and I began to experience healing from the deep hurts I had received in the very earliest experiences of my life.
As I prayed I felt an abiding presence of love and concern. I felt this as a feminine presence. Because I was from a Protestant background, I didn’t know who or what this was. It was only later that my priest-counselor explained it by saying with a smile, “Our Lady’s prayers for you have been so powerful!”
Of course! I thought. The presence through all this was that of a mother. That’s what it felt like! Suddenly the floodgates opened, and the emotions I had been holding back gushed out in a fountain of healing. Only then did I begin to realize and accept the ministry of Jesus’ mother in my life, and since then my devotion and love for her activity has grown through every aspect of my life.
The curse of sin
The difficulties and wounds we experience are rooted in sin. “Sin” is an easily misunderstood word. In our mind’s eye we see it written in ominous, large, gothic letters. Sin is the great evil. We think of it as the sordid and sad things we do. It’s all that we’re ashamed, guilty, and frightened of.
However, sin is bigger—and simpler—than that. The Bible puts it simply when it says, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). This is the basic definition of sin: We were created to share in the fullness of God’s power, beauty, and glory, but we don’t. We miss the mark. We are not all we can be, and left on our own, our condition gets worse, not better.
The side effect of sin is that it causes pain and suffering. Eventually we become numb to sin, and as we become numb to sin, we also become numb to the goodness of life. The joyful, hopeful, and youthful part of us starts to die. We become confused, and the emptiness of our lives leads to despair, and eventually this inner illness causes spiritual death.
We suffer from the wrong things we do, but we’re caught up in more than just the individual sins we do. We live with other people who are also sinful, and we live in a world that is shot through with evil, like a nasty virus. We have done wrong, but we have also not done what we should, and we have been hurt by the sin of others. All of us are caught in a sticky spider’s web of sin, and the more we struggle, the more entangled we become.
The cure for sin
God saw mankind’s sinful condition and provided the cure. Two thousand years ago, a baby girl was conceived by the union of a devout Jewish couple named Joachim and Anna. God touched her life and preserved her from the stain of original sin. The little girl was named Mary. By a miracle Mary was brought into the world in the same pure condition as the first woman, Eve.
We know the story of how Mary’s “yes” to God reversed Eve’s “no.” She conceived and gave birth to her son, Jesus Christ—and the whole point of Jesus coming into the world was to solve the sin problem. Jesus was the antidote to sin’s poison. He was the cure to sin’s sickness and the warrior who defeated the dark lord of hell. It was natural, therefore, for him to confront the symptoms of sin in his ministry. That’s why he healed people, and that’s why his healing was different from any other the world had ever seen—Jesus not only healed physical illnesses, but in every case the healing was also linked with the forgiveness of sins.
We can approach Jesus’ healing power in various ways. First, we need to approach Jesus through the sacraments of the Church. If we want his healing, we first need to receive him regularly through Communion. If we want this to be a complete meeting with Christ, we also have to meet him in the sacrament of reconciliation. There Jesus meets us and deals with the sin that blocks us from the fullness of his healing love.
Jesus also wants to meet us in the more intimate and personal aspects of our lives. He invites us to walk with him in the path of healing. The best way to do this is by meditating on his life, and the person who walks with us through the life of Jesus is Mary, his mother.
Walking with Jesus and Mary
With the Rosary we go through every stage of Jesus’ life and make intimate contact with his saving love. The Gospels say that Mary saw all that was happening in her life and in her son’s life, and she “pondered these things in her heart.” As we pray the Rosary, we “ponder these things in our heart” with Mary.
As our Mother, Mary is like the nurse who helps us through the surgery conducted by Doctor Jesus. Mary is like the mother who goes with her injured child as they enter the hospital to be healed. Mary is like the loving sister or aunt who sits by our bedside as we endure a long illness. She doesn’t heal us—Jesus does. She is there as the vitally important nurse, mother, sister, aunt, and friend. Her prayers are those of a mother for her children.
Jesus’ life was all that a human life should be. It was full, complete, and whole. It was mature, fulfilled, and balanced. Because he was God in human form, Jesus was radiantly alive, totally free, and abundantly, overwhelmingly human.
Mary and St. John Paul II
Because of this, when we enter into the stages of Jesus’ life through the Rosary, we experience a life that is healthy and perfect. By entering into the wholeness of each stage of Jesus’ life, we begin to share in his wholeness and health. As this happens we are healed and made whole at a very deep level of our being. In his encyclical Rosarium Virginis Mariae St. John Paul II said, “The Rosary does indeed mark the rhythm of human life, bringing it into harmony with the rhythm of God’s own life.”
Long before I had read John Paul’s words, I had discovered this simple principle through my own experience of the healing Rosary. I unlocked the truth that, as the meditations take us through every stage of Jesus’ life, so they take us through every stage of our own lives. As we remember the stages of our own life with Jesus and Mary, all that was broken, faulty, or wounded at those stages of our lives can be healed.
By praying the Rosary in this way, we can gently pry open the dark cupboards of our hurt memories, fears, and sins. Once the injuries, sins, and painful memories from each stage are accessed, Christ’s healing can begin. As St. John Paul II teaches, “It becomes natural (through the Rosary) to bring…all the problems, anxieties, labors, and endeavors which go to make up our lives…. To pray the Rosary is to hand over our burdens to the merciful hearts of Christ and his mother.”
As we do this we are praying not only for ourselves, but for our families, our nation, and our world. If each of us as individuals go through progressive stages of growth, so do groups of people. St. John Paul II said, “At the same time, our heart can embrace in the decades of the Rosary all the events that make up the lives of individuals, families, nations, the Church, and all mankind.” Many popes and countless Christians have testified to the healing power of the Rosary. Why not join with them and begin to use the Rosary again in a new way?