The rosary is much more than an optional Catholic devotion for the old and dying. In fact, it is a vibrant and powerful intercessory tool in the hands of valiant spiritual warriors. From the moment Our Lady entrusted it to St. Dominic early in the thirteenth century, the rosary has been at the heart of authentic Catholic devotion. And yet it has also been an indispensable weapon in the hands of intercessors and those who actively resist the workings of the devil. In The Rosary, Johnnette Benkovic, founder and president of Living His Life Abundantly and the founder of Women of Grace, teams up with Thomas K. Sullivan, the creator of the Warrior Rosary, to explore why the rosary is the weapon for such a time as this. Together, they’ve gathered some of the most astonishing historical and contemporary accounts of victories associated with the rosary, along with their own inspiring personal experiences. Readers will discover insights that will enhance their own experience of the rosary, including special prayers based on the lives and writings of the saints who understood the power of this classic Catholic devotion.
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About the Author
Johnnette Benkovic is founder and president of “Living His Life Abundantly”®, a Catholic evangelization apostolate that ministers through television, radio, print, and online communications. She is also founder of “Women of Grace”® a Catholic apostolate for Christian women. The executive producer of EWTN television’s Women of Grace and and EWTN radio’s Women of Grace Live, Johnnette is also author of several books including Full of Grace: Women and the Abundant Life, Grace-Filled Moments, and Living Life Abundantly, Experience Grace in Abundance, and Graceful Living. She is also the developer of the Women of Grace Foundational Study and the Young Women of Grace Study, both based on her book Full of Grace. Thomas K. Sullivan is the Director of Operations for “Living His Life Abundantly”® and the “Women of Grace”® apostolate. He is the Producer for EWTN television's “Women of Grace” program and the author of Called to Knighthood: The Sacrament of Confirmation in the Kingdom Family of God. He is the designer and creator of The Warrior’s Rosary™.
Read an Excerpt
Your Weapon for Spiritual Warfare
By Johnnette Benkovic
Franciscan MediaCopyright © 2017 Johnnette S. Benkovic and Thomas K. Sullivan
All rights reserved.
A Weapon for All Time
Some people are so foolish that they think they can go through life without the help of the Blessed Mother. Love the Madonna and pray the Rosary, for her Rosary is the weapon against the evils of the world today. All graces given by God pass through the Blessed Mother.
— St. Padre Pio
Today we face unprecedented challenges on every front. The evils of "this present darkness" weigh heavy against us. Perhaps this is what makes the advice of St. Padre Pio, a holy man from our own age, so valuable and insightful. He reminds us of the Rosary's power against the devil and his minions, and he reminds us of the efficacy of the Blessed Virgin's mediation for us through it. Pope Pius XII's words, too, seem right and fitting: "We put great confidence in the Holy Rosary for the healing of evils which afflict our times."
What makes this prayer so powerful and effective? One indication may be found in its earliest reference. It seems it was born out of the strife, sacrifice, and persecution of the early Church martyrs. The term Rosary comes from the Latin Rosarium, which means "crown of roses" or "garland of roses."
As young virgins prepared to walk into the arena of the Coliseum to face the beasts that would tear them asunder, they made ready to meet Jesus Christ, King of Kings, for whom they were offering their lives. They fittingly adorned themselves in festive garments, with crowns of roses for their heads. Thus bedecked, they joined their Savior in His Passion. At night, the faithful would gather up the martyrs' crowns and say their prayers on them, one prayer for each rose. Their prayer was a journey, perhaps, into the mystery of what they had witnessed.
Using a device to count prayers was common in the Church. In the fourth century, the Desert Fathers kept track of their devotions on prayer cords. In the fifth century, St. Brigid of Ireland strung pieces of stone and wood together to form a little wreath, and upon these pieces, she would pray the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Creed.
During this same time, it became the custom of Christians in both East and West to divide the psalter into three groups of fifty psalms each and pray or chant them in public. The custom was adapted for those who were uneducated or poor, or who toiled in the fields far away from the churches. These substituted fifty repetitions of the Angelic salutation (Ave Maria) for the fifty psalms. These Aves were recited along with verses from the Gospel relating to the joys of Mary, such as the Annunciation, Nativity, Resurrection, Ascension, and Assumption.
This style of prayer became known as a Rosarium. According to writings by the Venerable Bede, churches in England and France were making prayer beads available to the faithful by the eighth century.
The first clear historical reference we have to the Rosary as we know it today dates back to the thirteenth century, from the life of St. Dominic, founder of the Order of Preachers, or Dominicans. According to tradition, Dominic devised the Rosary after Our Lady appeared to him and told him to pray in this manner as an antidote for heresy and sin. He obeyed, and he preached the Rosary with great success in France during the time of the Albigensian heresy.
One of the most famous miracles of the Rosary was performed at the hands of St. Dominic. He expelled thousands of demons from a possessed man in front of a crowd of twelve thousand, after putting a Rosary around the man's neck.
In spite of this and many other spectacular miracles, the Rosary fell into disuse until two centuries later, when a Dominican theologian named Blessed Alain de la Roche (d. 1475) made it his life's mission to restore the devotion. He is credited with establishing Rosary confraternities to promote the Rosary and developing what is known as the "Dominican Rosary." This Rosary included three groups of mysteries related to the Incarnation, the Passion, and the Resurrection of Christ. This became the most popular form of the Rosary.
The beads underwent many changes over time with special devotions, local customs, and even the latest fashions impacting the style in use. For instance, a short form of the Rosary, containing only ten beads and known as a "tenner" (also called a "decade Rosary"), was a favorite among men. Women liked the longer version, and they often adorned their Rosaries with gems, pearls, miniature figurines, and even scented fruits and flowers.
Rosaries have been made of everything from pure gold to painted apricot pits. Filigree Rosaries were popular in the eighteenth century, and chain-stitched Rosaries were the rage during the nineteenth. Also during this time, the three beads for the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity were added to the beginning of the Rosary.
No matter the enhancements, adornments, and forms that have graced this sacramental over the years, we cannot lose sight of the fact that the Rosary is first and foremost a powerful spiritual weapon. It has been credited with some of the greatest triumphs in history. Here are just a few of them!
The Battle of Lepanto, 1571
The Rosary grew in popularity and became the spiritual weapon of choice in the 1500s. At this time, Moslem Turks were ravaging Eastern Europe. In 1571, when it seemed as though the whole continent would fall under their control, Pope St. Pius V stepped into action. Perceiving the great threat posed by the forward advancement of the Ottoman Empire, he formed the Holy League, an alliance of most of the Catholic maritime forces of the Mediterranean. He then asked all of the faithful to say the Rosary and beg for Mary's intercession for victory over the Turks.
The famous battle, known as the Battle of Lepanto, took place October 7, 1571. It is recognized by historians as the most important naval contest in human history. Pope Pius V would commemorate the date by making it a feast day of the Church, in honor of the one whose intercession made the victory possible.
The pope chose Don Juan of Austria to be the general of the League. He was the illegitimate son of the late Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and the half-brother of Philip II, King of Spain. Though only twenty-four, Don Juan was a capable leader. He was a great swordsman and horseman, and he had distinguished himself in battle against the Barbary corsairs in the Morisco rebellion of Spain. He was handsome, popular with the ladies of the court, and deeply devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary! He was known to use his sword valiantly and swiftly when needed but to prudently and justly resist when not.
Brandon Rogers, commenting on G.K. Chesterton's epic poem Lepanto, says that Pope Pius V had both a physical and spiritual plan of attack. The Holy Father was counting on the Turkish fleet to accept the challenge of the Holy League. He told Don Juan, "I take it for certain that the Turks, swollen by their victories, will wish to take on our fleet, and God — I have the presentiment — will give us the victory."
The pontiff knew this was a holy war with high stakes. Islam's goal was to take Europe and most specially to conquer Rome. For this war, then, the pope knew he would need both "the prayers of priests of pure life" and holy warriors. God granted him both.
To Don Juan, the pope's words could not have been clearer. He took command of his fleet with a series of orders and an invitation: No women could be aboard the fleet, blasphemy would be punishable by death, and the crew was welcome to join him in a three-day fast. On the decks of the Holy League galleys, priests of various religious orders offered Mass and heard confessions.
Many of the oarsmen were criminals. Promising them their freedom in exchange for fighting bravely, Don Juan released them from their fetters, armed them, and then gave each the most powerful weapon of all — a Rosary. He told the men that the battle they faced was as much spiritual as it was physical.
The night before engagement, the men of the Holy League knelt on the galley decks and prayed the Rosary. They were joined up and down the Italian peninsula, as well as throughout Europe, by the faithful, who had filled the churches at the request of Pius V. These faithful, too, plied their beads with fervent petition for a victorious outcome. Our Lady was listening.
At predawn on the morning of October 7, 1571, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was celebrated on the decks of the Holy League's galleys. Pope Pius V had directed the priests to grant general absolution to each man who would serve and die that day.
From the beginning, the odds seemed to be against the forces of Don Juan. Fog, mist, and strong headwinds made for a difficult journey through the choppy sea. The fleet worked its way south into the Gulf of Patras. As they rounded into its narrows, they saw in the distance the enormous war galleys of the Ottoman Empire, coming from the east in full battle array. Their formation was that of a giant crescent, the symbol of Islam.
As the Holy League struggled to make its approach, the men could see the battle pennant of Muezzinzade Ali Pasha, the Muslim commander, flying from the mast of his ship. Green and gold, it was covered with verses from the Qur'an and embroidered with the name "Allah" nine hundred times in gold calligraphy. It was the very banner the prophet Mohammed had taken into battle. This symbol, sacred to the Muslims, had never been captured.
Don Juan observed the situation and decided to engage. He ordered the Holy League's battle pennant, previously blessed by the Holy Father, to be run up the mast of the Real, his command ship. The banner unfurled to reveal the crucified Christ. Priests moved through the galleys blessing the men with raised crucifixes and hearing last-minute confessions. The men, Rosaries in hand, implored the help of the Blessed Virgin.
The fleet fell into a cruciform battle position. The cross and the crescent were about to engage.
Don Juan reminded the men of their mission: They had come to defend Christianity. "Do your duty," he exhorted them, "and you will secure a glorious immortality." With the winds buffeting him, he raised his eyes to heaven and begged God to bless his people with victory. Observing his example, the officers and men on every vessel followed suit.
And then the miraculous happened. Our Lady intervened! The headwinds did an about-face and began to blow directly against the Muslim fleet! Holy League sails were raised. Ottoman sails were dropped. Then propelled as if by heaven's breath, the Holy League closed in on its adversary.
It was midday when the fleets engaged. They fought for five long hours. In the end, the Turks' bows and arrows were no match against the guns of the Holy League. Key to the win was the head-on collision of the two flagships. Both generals broke with the convention of galley warfare that commanders' ships would not engage. The Holy League's Real, commanded by Don Juan, and the Turks' Sultana, commanded by Ali Pasha, collided with tremendous force, and a deadly duel commenced. It was a fight to the finish, with much bloodshed.
Don Juan was wounded, but Ali Pasha mortally so. A musket ball to the forehead felled him. One of Don Juan's men severed Pasha's head and carried it to the quarterdeck of the Real as a symbol of victory. The men of the Sultana capitulated when they saw their leader's grisly end. The prophet's sacred banner came down, and the papal banner was raised to the Christians' cheers and cries of "Victory."
Interestingly, on the day of the battle, Pope Pius V was in a meeting with his cardinals. In the midst of their deliberations, he paused and walked to the window. As he gazed at the sky, a vision from Our Lady showed him the victory of the Holy League. He turned to his cardinals, saying, "Let us set aside business and fall on our knees in thanksgiving to God, for he has given our fleet a great victory." In thanksgiving, the pope established the Feast of Our Lady of Victory to forever memorialize the great triumph wrought by the powerful intercession of the Mother of God. In time, October 7 became known as the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.
Our Lady of Fatima, 1917
In 1917, the powerful prayer of the Rosary took on another urgent moment. The "Great War," which came to be known as World War I, was raging. With over seventy million military personnel engaged, it was to become one of the largest wars in history. At this point, the Mother of God appeared to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal, with a warning and a request that was meant to save the world.
For six consecutive months, from May 13 to October 13, the Blessed Mother appeared to Lucia dos Santos, age nine, and her cousins, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, ages eight and six. The children tended sheep in the Cova da Iria, a portion of land owned by Antonio dos Santos, Lucia's father. On May 13, something like lightning flashed in the blue sky and frightened them. The children ran for cover. Another flash, very close, and they ran again. When they stopped, there on top of a small evergreen tree was a large ball of light engulfing a beautiful woman, "a Lady of all white, more brilliant than the sun dispensing light."
The beautiful woman told the children not to be afraid. Lucia asked her where she had come from and what she wanted. The lovely lady said she was from heaven, and she wanted them to return at the same time on the thirteenth day for the following five months. At the last visit, she would identify herself and tell the children what she wanted.
Lucia then asked if she and her cousins would go to heaven. The woman said yes but advised that Francisco would need to pray many Rosaries first.
The lady asked the children if they were willing to offer themselves to God and to bear the sufferings He would send. He desired that they offer their sufferings as an act of reparation for the sins by which He was offended and as an act of supplication for the conversion of sinners.
Lucia thought about another heavenly being who had visited her and her cousins. An angel who identified himself as the "Angel of Peace" had appeared to them three times — in the spring, summer, and autumn of 1916. He gave them Holy Communion and exhorted them to pray and make sacrifices. It seemed as if the Angel of Peace had prepared the children for their response to the Lady's question. Lucia answered for all three of them, "Yes."
"Then you are going to have much to suffer, but the grace of God will be your comfort," the Lady replied.
At that moment, the children were infused with a heavenly light. They felt the presence of God and offered prayers of adoration. When they were finished, the Lady said, "Say the Rosary, to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war." With that, the beautiful woman rose from the bush and glided away into the sky. That was Sunday, May 13, 1917.
When the day arrived for the second apparition, several people accompanied the children to the Cova. Our Blessed Lady asked the children to recite five decades of the Rosary each day and told them they were to learn to read. She told Lucia she would live a long life, but her cousins would go to heaven soon. When Lucia expressed her sorrow at this, Our Lady said that her Immaculate Heart would be her refuge.
Then Our Lady extended her hands, and great shafts of light poured upon the children. All three of them saw a vision of the Immaculate Heart and were filled with indescribable joy and peace.
On July 13, the date of the third apparition, nearly three thousand people gathered at the Cova da Iria. When the Blessed Mother appeared to the children, she reminded them to pray the Rosary for peace. And then something remarkable occurred. Shafts of light flowed from Our Lady's hands through the children to the earth below them. The ground seemed to roll back, and the three visionaries stared into the pit of hell. Years later, Lucia wrote of what they saw: "A sea of fire; and plunged in this fire the demons and the souls, as if they were red-hot coals."
Our Lady explained to the children:
You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace. The war [World War I] is going to end: but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the Pontificate of Pius XI. When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that he is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine, and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father. To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart and the Communion of reparation on the First Saturdays. If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred; the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated. In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she shall be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.
This prophetic word was astonishing for a number of reasons. First of all, the Blessed Mother accurately predicted the elevation of Pope Pius XI, who would not become pontiff until 1922. Secondly, at the time of this apparition, the Russian Revolution had not occurred. The Bolsheviks would take over the following October, and they would legalize abortion without restriction, institute no-fault divorce, and strive to squelch belief in God.
Excerpted from The Rosary by Johnnette Benkovic. Copyright © 2017 Johnnette S. Benkovic and Thomas K. Sullivan. Excerpted by permission of Franciscan Media.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1 The Rosary: Weapon for All Time A Rosary Story: Why I Pray the Rosary: An Adoptive Mother's Story Heidi Hess Saxton 1
Chapter 2 Why the Rosary? Why Now? A Rosary Story: A Priests Spiritual Weapon Father Donald Calloway, MIC 28
Chapter 3 Before Time Began: The Primordial Battle A Rosary Story: The Rosary and the Vocation to Love Father Wade Menezes, CPM 46
Chapter 4 In the Beginning: The Garden, Man, and Woman A Rosary Story: A Mother's Prayer Alike Aquilina 59
Chapter 5 All Was Well Until It Wasn't: The Fall of Man and God's Amazing Provision A Rosary Story: My Wonderful Rosary Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle 75
Chapter 6 Engaging the Battle: Entering the Power and Mystery of the Rosary A Rosary Story: Hail, Holy Queen Scott Hahn 94
Chapter 7 Your Special Forces Team: Knights of the Kingdom A Rosary Story: The Heating Mysteries Dion DiMucci 111
Chapter 8 Your Special Forces Team: Valiant Women of the Kingdom A Rosary Story: Learning Christ Diane Bates 136
Chapter 9 Your Special Forces Team: Warrior Heroes of Recent Times A Rosary Story: One More Day of Rosaries David Calvillo 160
Chapter 10 Our Lady's Militia Today: A Call to the Church Militant A Rosary Story: Seek First His Kingdom Thomas K. Sullivan 185
Chapter 11 The Warrior's Rosary: Meditations for the Battle A Rosary Story: Christ to Bishop: Pray Rosary to Defeat Terrorism Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme, as reported Susan Brinkmann 200
Chapter 12 Using Your Spiritual Weapon: Praying the Rosary Well A Rosary Story: The Rosary of Intercession Vinny Flynn 217