The Rosary is the favourite prayer of Popes and saints alike. It is therefore not surprising that we find a very powerful image that symbolises the power of the Rosary in Michelangelo’s Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel, which is the Main Chapel of the Popes. Looking closely at the detail we can see two souls being hauled up to heaven by what looks like a rope. However, on closer inspection we can see it is the Rosary. This image reflects popular Catholic magisterial teaching that the Rosary has the power to lift us up to God.
There are many ways in which the Rosary lifts us up towards heaven.
During the recitation of the Holy Rosary we can contemplate the face of Christ accompanied by His Blessed Mother. This constant repetition of the Hail Mary’s whilst thinking of the central events of Our Lord’s birth, death and resurrection allows us to start to imitate the virtues that the Gospel message teaches us. By watching with Mary, the life of her Son we can imitate Him making His ways our ways. In short, making us holier which raises us towards God. Indeed, we say during the prayer that concludes the rosary, through the contemplation of Christ’s mysteries, we hope to “imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise.”
The practice of contemplating the Rosary places us in the “School of Mary” (St Pope John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, no 1) to learn about the faith. Through the contemplation of the mysteries of salvation God reveals their truths that are reserved for the meek and poor of heart (cfr. Gospel of St Matthew Chapter 5). Guided by Our Lady we can come to the full knowledge of the truth.
Blessed Bartolo Longo called the rosary, “a “chain” which links us to God.” The image in the Sistine Chapel reminds us that this chain is a powerful bond to God, a sign of our destiny of eternal beatitude, which is to say our eternal happiness. We can look heavenwards sending our constant prayer to God using the formula of the Rosary. This prayer brings us to an ever-closer bond of love with God.
The Rosary works as a chain that pulls down to earth the graces that we need to live the Christian life. In times of tribulation the Rosary has the power to lift us up over our difficulties because Mary, Our Mother, intercedes for us. The Rosary is a prayer of intercession. During the apparitions at Lourdes, Fatima and Tre Fontane Our Lady has encouraged us to “always pray the Holy Rosary”. In history, the Rosary has overcome heretics such as at the time of St Dominic. The Rosary has won battles as during the Battle of Lepanto or Vienna. Also, the Rosary has helped countless Christians obtain graces to help them in their earthly pilgrimage. Through the Rosary we can obtain the intercession of Our Lady for all our difficulties in life. St John Paul II reminds us, “to pray the Rosary is to hand over our burdens to the merciful hearts of Christ and his Mother.” (St Pope John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae,no 25). Once we cast our burdens on the Lord our load is lighter and we are lifted up.
United in prayer to Our Lady, Queen of the Rosary, we may take in our hands those beads of hope so that through this prayer we may be raised up ever closer to God.