The Secret of the Rosary
Publication Date: August 1, 1993
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This is quite simply the greatest book on the Rosary written by the greatest Marian saint, St. Louis de Montfort. It is as comprehensive as a book can get on the Rosary, covering every aspect you could imagine:
St. Louis says that even the most hardened sinners can free themselves of sinful habits, if they say the Rosary daily. This book will incite an absolute fervor in you to grow your prayer life, to say the Rosary more, and to say it better, which is why over 5 million copies of the book have been sold. There can be no greater feat in this life than to become a saint, and the way to do that is to have a strong devotion to Our Lady and her Rosary. If you want a book on the Rosary, it is essential that you start right here with this classic!
Vincent: Today we’re going to talk about the Rosary. We've got two books on the Rosary: The Thought of Their Heart: On Devotion to the Sacred Heart and the Holy Rosary, by Solange Hertz, and, more importantly, we’ve got The Secret of the Rosary, by Saint Louis de Montfort. I've got a very old copy here, and it sold for fifty cents!
Charles: This edition— when I was young, and I was long ago— these were at the back of most churches: this cheap edition. I grew up with this. But it is the way, really, to say the Rosary.
Vincent: Is this as popular as True Devotion to Mary? Most people regard True Devotion as St. Louis's magnum opus.
Charles: Well, I would say that this is probably the most popular of his books because it's short.
Vincent: Oh, really? It's more popular than True Devotion?
Charles: Yeah. Well, it was everywhere. As I say, when I was a kid, I don't know at the back of how many churches I saw it for sale. And it wouldn’t have been there if people weren't buying it. You had fifty cents a copy, and a bargain at the price.
Vincent: So I'm assuming you've read this book?
Charles: Oh, yeah.
Vincent: And it’s pretty good? (Tongue in cheek.)
Charles: Well, let me tell you something. You will feel guilty about the way you say the Rosary when you read this because you’ll learn you really don’t say it at all well.
Vincent: That's true.
Charles: And you'll also learn— and believe me, I'm a long way from doing a good job of it myself— you will also learn, that saying the Rosary… is an art form in itself.
Vincent: Absolutely! And it has profoundly changed the way I say the Rosary. I used to do it— I don’t know, pretty normally— but after reading this book, what I do now, as part the contemplative side of it, is I picture myself as a knight in a queen’s court of old, and as I’m saying the Rosary I am kneeling before Our Lady and offering her a basket of flowers. And I think of the basket of flowers because in a lot of encounters with the saints, Our Lady uses that imagery to describe the ways to say the Rosary. If you say the Rosary poorly it’s like an ugly basket, but if you say it very well, it’s a pretty basket. But anyhow… when you think about the Rosary, and when you think about what is being said in the Hail Mary, it’s as if you’re addressing a queen. If you were to address an earthly queen when you want something, you’d kneel and say how wonderful she is, and then you’d ask for this thing. And in the Hail Mary that’s exactly what we do, and at the end we ask for her to pray for us.
Charles: Now and at the hour of our death. And notice too, that the Hail Mary, which is seemingly endlessly repeated in the Rosary, is primarily a scriptural prayer. Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. That’s what St. Gabriel said to our Lady at the Annunciation. Then, Holy Mary, Mother of God— well, now you’re just addressing her— and, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. The other thing to notice is that it requires you to meditate upon the mystery of our Lord’s life as seen by his mother. That’s the funny thing about the Rosary. It’s about Christ, from Mary’s point of view.
Vincent: Right. And an important tip from St. Louis is to slow it down. You don’t want to run through the Rosary without a pause, and just mouthing the words. Slow it down.
Charles: And he gives tips on how to do it. He doesn’t just say to slow it down.
Vincent: He gives the pauses.
Charles: Yeah. So, it’s really an amazing book.
Vincent: What also made me very fervent are two things he said. One, he encourages public recitation of the Rosary, because, as he acknowledges, it’s the hardest prayer to say, very hard with all the repetition— and when the devil is trying to distract you, if you’re alone, you’re like a stick that can be easily broken— but with a group you’re like a bundle of sticks, and so it becomes much harder for Satan. That was the metaphor St. Louis used, and I thought it was incredibly powerful. Another thing he said that’s even more exciting and that will get you even more fervent about saying the Rosary publicly, is that the efficaciousness is multiplied by how many people you’re praying with.
Charles: That’s true.
Vincent: So now, I don’t want to say the Rosary alone, I want to go to daily mass and say the Rosary with people before mass.
Charles: Or after.
Vincent: Oh, and yet another thing he says about the public recitation— you get it based off the person who’s saying the Rosary best.
Charles: So, if you’re a weakling, like me, and you hear the little old ladies saying the Rosary after mass, you stick with them!
Vincent: Yeah, because then you’re going to get it based off theirs!
Charles: Mama Petrillo over there, she knows what she’s doing!
Vincent: There you go! And we’re not even touching the surface on this book. But we have questions related to the Rosary. So, Anthony says,
Hello Charles and Vincent! Would you please explain the power and efficacy of the Holy Rosary? I am the only Catholic in my family and they think I am practicing superstition or vain repetitions. How would you guys respond to this?
Charles: Oh, well, I’d ask them how long they’ve hated God.
Charles: Well, I say that because it’s not simply the saying of the prayers, it’s also the meditation on the Mysteries thereof. Now remember what the Mysteries are. Stop and think about this. The Annunciation— when our Lord was first incarnate. The Visitation— when a child of Earth first acknowledges his divinity. The Nativity, Christmas— when our Lord is born. The Presentation of our Lord and the Purification of Our Lady in the Temple— Candlemas, in other words. Notice that so far they all have feasts of their own. And then the finding in the Temple, when he first manifests his wisdom. Those are the Joyful Mysteries. Then comes the Sorrowful. These are not pleasant. The first is the Agony in the Garden, where our Lord literally sweats blood. Then comes the Scourging at the Pillar. Then the Crowning with Thorns, the Carrying of the Cross, and his Crucifixion and Death. Those are the Sorrowful Mysteries. And then lastly you have the Glorious Mysteries. Without the Sorrowful, you can't get to the Joyful and the Glorious. You have the Resurrection of our Lord, his Ascension to Heaven, the Descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles, the Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven, and her Coronation as Queen of Heaven and Earth. Now in all of that you can see encompassed both the life of Christ and our salvation history. Because the crown that our Lady assumes is one that's, in a sense, waiting for us all. It’s not the same level of power and degree of dignity that she receives, of course, but it's pretty good. So what I would tell you to tell your family, is that if they really want to know the life of Christ and they really want to make it part of them, the Rosary is the best way to do this.
Vincent: Yeah, are they against meditating on these things?
Charles: Or maybe they hate God!
Vincent: It's not just the repetition part.
Charles: Though I’m guessing from your name that you're Italian, and it may be that a lot of your family are apostate Catholics, and believe me, if it weren't for the Rosary, they'd have to come up with something else. You’ve got to bear that in mind. Apostates, as a rule, are bitter. It might be the sort of thing to where, if you somehow knocked down the objection to repetitious prayer, then they’d say, “Well, you’re not doing it often enough.” Not to bag on your family, I don’t know them.
Vincent: So, in The Thought of Their Heart, Solange Hertz quotes Pope Leo XIII, who issued the encyclical Laetitiae Sanctae, which proposes a schema for curing the three principal ills of modern society with the Rosary. He writes, quote,
In other words, what's contained in the Rosary is the antidote for all of the ills of society. So for “the distaste for simple labor”— the laziness— meditate on the Joyful Mysteries, on St. Joseph, and on his humility and work ethic. For “the repugnance of suffering”, meditate on the Sorrowful Mysteries. And for the “the lethal forgetfulness of a future life”, for our lack of faith, to be honest— there's the Glorious Mysteries. If we had these three things, society would be so much better off. But we don't!
Charles: We don't. But we can acquire them— that's the trick. And the Rosary is the capital means with which to do so. And don't forget, it was called for by Our Lady of Fatima.
Vincent: I think Padre Pio called it the weapon. One more question, and then we’re done. Justin Weaver writes,
I have seen some traditionalist Catholics advise against the Luminous Mysteries added to the Rosary by JPII. Why were these Mysteries added and does the Pope's addition of these Mysteries obligate Catholics to pray using them?
Charles: Well that's a good question. Frankly, on the one hand, I can see you want to commemorate those five Mysteries of our Lord's life. But why do that with the Rosary… I don't know. You see, ladies and gentlemen, the Rosary was the one area where all of the Catholics of all rites— Tridentine, Novus Ordo, liberal, conservative— they all had the Rosary in common. Now it was inevitable, that if you're monkeyed with that at all, you'll be introducing dissension. And that's what happened. Do I think there's anything terrible about the five Luminous Mysteries? No. Do I say them? No. I never learned them. Do I think they're evil from the pit of Hell? No, no, no. But I think, at the very least, it was horribly inopportune for him to do this. Do you have to say them? Certainly not. Are you forbidden to say them, because they weren't part of the original? No. This is where personal freedom comes into play. But as with forgiveness versus absolution, why do that? I don't know! I really just don't know what he was thinking. But he did not make it obligatory, so….
Vincent: For me, in terms of personal preference… you have the Mystery per day— Joyful Monday, Sorrowful Tuesday, Glorious Wednesday— but sometimes you're in a part of your life, or there’s a day when you're in a great mood, like you got a bonus or whatever, and you're just ecstatic— so then, I would say a Joyful Mystery, because you're really joyful! Or maybe, one day, you’re really… like our friend Mad Monarchist… then the Sorrowful Mystery, when you can relate to the scourging, to the crown of thorns, the mortification, people pelting you with things because you follow Christ. And then the Glorious, of course, when you’ve got the consolations of God. And admittedly, with the Luminous Mysteries— I don't have that time where it's like, “Oh, I'm really feeling luminous!”, because— just the nature of the Mystery is more sacramental, in a way. You have Baptism, the Eucharist, Marriage, the Transfiguration, preaching the Gospel… it's more meditations on ecclesiastical things, perhaps. But, I don’t know— for myself, just personal preference, I don't have the mood for the Luminous Mysteries.
Charles: Well, I don’t know, I’ve seen those moods, occasionally.
Vincent: So a bit more on Solange Hertz’s The Thought of Their Heart. She’s a little— what’s the word, polemical? She points out that there’s no mention of the Rosary in Vatican II. She wrote this book in 1994, before the Luminous Mysteries were introduced, and boy, I wonder what she would have thought of that.
Charles: I don’t even want to know.
Vincent: She talks in her book about the various attempts to “amend” the Rosary— actually pretty diabolical attempts, if I do say so myself— like changing around the decades, and I remember her saying, what a diabolical plan, overnight everybody would have to throw out their Rosaries because they would be obsolete— and I thought, “Wow, that actually is a pretty clever tactic by the Devil, to make everyone's rosaries obsolete.”
Charles: Fortunately, that hasn’t happened.
Vincent: Well, she said it’s heavenly protection.
Charles: And it’s also important to bear in mind that there are a lot of other chaplets out there, like the Chaplet of the Precious Blood, the Chaplet the Sacred Heart, the Chaplet of Mercy, the Chaplet of St. Michael— there are a lot of alternate rosaries, but the Rosary is the brightest and biggest and best.
Vincent: Yes, and I’ll just say one last thing about the Rosary, because a lot of young people have asked me— they're trying to say the Rosary and they don't feel like they're saying it well and that it's displeasing to God, and they ask me, “Should I continue to say it?” And I've always told them, yes, absolutely— and the metaphor I use is, it's like going to the gym, you want to get in that habit of going to the gym every single day, and sometimes you don't give the best workout, sometimes you just take it easy on the treadmill, but you went and you want to get into a situation to where, when you don't go, you feel like crap.
Vincent: It’s the exact same thing with the Rosary. You want to feel like, “Oh, man, I didn't say a Rosary today, I feel terrible, I need to be saying a Rosary.”
Charles: Never be afraid to guilt yourself.
Vincent: And God rewards striving. Even if you come up short, there's so much… I think St. Teresa of Avila said, the most efficacious prayers are the prayers where you're suffering from distractions, perhaps there’s loud noises, but you follow through.
Charles: And you keep striving. No, it's absolutely true. Gosh, we tend to think that if something's tough we should just give up, because, why bother? Well, the why bother is because out your striving, good will come even if it's not the good you expect.
Arrived as expected. Excellent book a treasure.
I bought one for myself and for two of my sons. Please Lord make sure they read it!
I will never stop recommending this jewel.
I loved reading of conversions, the casting off of demons, gave me hope!
The reminder to rest in the mysteries to wrap myself in them, I heard before but this time it’s taking root.
I’m still reading and will continue to read this book often.
Give to all .
Literally the best book written on the Rosary, it teaches you why and how to pray the Rosary to best please our Lord and Lady. I've personally bought 80 copies of the book in total.
Highly recommend this book. Very insightful and helpful on praying the rosary
This little tome of the Rosary is full of historical facts to educate, true stories to inspire, and devotions to lift your heart to God. I have had a copy for years, but I'm buying another one for my son.
Very insightful and helped me realize I was praying the rosary round and while it takes time and practice I’m doing a much better job of praying the rosary properly now
Gave this to my mom who is not a big reader, and she could not put it down. Very valuable resource for deepening the meaning of the rosary for those already devoted to it.
Reading this book requires patience and humility. Approach it with both, and the writing of St. Louis will deliver you into a state of wonder and abandonment to the generosity of our Lord.
This book has deepened my devotion to the Rosary and inspired me to pray it more frequently and reverently. Awesome cover art as well.
For beginners - like me - in the work of developing intimacy with the Divine, I consider this book secondary in importance only to St. Francis de Sales's Introduction to the Devout Life. However, I recommend reading this book first.
If, like me, you are worried about consuming modern Modernist theology, you don't have to worry about that with de Montfort.
If Marian devotion is not yet a vital part of your devotional life, I recommend reading his True Devotion to Mary before The Secret of the Rosary.