Joseph Pronechen is staff writer with the National Catholic Register since 2005 and before that a regular correspondent for the paper. His articles have appeared in a number of national publications including Columbia magazine, Soul, Faith and Family, Catholic Digest, and Marian Helper. His religion features have also appeared in Fairfield County Catholic and in major newspapers. He is the author of Fruits of Fatima — Century of Signs and Wonders. He holds a graduate degree and formerly taught English and courses in film study that he developed at a Catholic high school in Connecticut. Joseph and his wife Mary reside on the East Coast.
Did Venerable Pius XII get a glimpse into our future too as he spoke of his times in the encyclical Ingruentium Malorum he released for October, the Month of the Holy Rosary? Its official title in English is, “On Reciting the Rosary.” It’s literal translation: “In the Face of Approaching Evils.”
First, remember he was the first pope to popularize Fatima, but often forgotten even though he was one of the greatest of all Marian popes. Then in the 13th year of his pontificate, he wrote this particular encyclical for October and the Rosary. He released it on Sept. 15, 1951— the Feast of the Sorrows of the Virgin Mary. The connections are no coincidence, especially in light of today. Her sorrow can be turned to joy if we heed what he has to say.
His words are very clear, right to the point, as he wrote:
“You know well, Venerable Brethren, the calamitous conditions of our times. Fraternal harmony among nations, shattered for so long a time, has not yet been re-established everywhere. On the contrary, here and there, we see souls upset by hatred and rivalry, while threats of new bloody conflicts still hover over the peoples.”
Sure it was true then. But doesn’t today mirror and magnify that? He went on:
“To this, one must add the violent storm of persecution, which in many parts of the world, has been unleashed against the Church, depriving it of its liberty, saddening it very cruelly with calumnies and miseries of all kinds, and making the blood of martyrs flow again and again.”
No need to comment there. And if this next was true in 1951, hasn’t it multiplied times over today?
“To what and to how many snares are the souls of so many of Our sons submitted in those areas to make them reject the Faith of their fathers, and to make them break, most wretchedly, the bond of union which links them to this Apostolic See!”
Look at the low percentage of U.S. Mass goers on Sundays. Europe is worse. The next thing Pius XII says has recently exploded in society as brings out he can’t “pass over in silence a new crime…the iniquitous campaign that the impious lead everywhere to harm the shining souls of children. Not even the age of innocence has been spared, for, alas, there are not lacking those who boldly dare to snatch from the mystical garden of the Church even the most beautiful flowers, which constitute the hope of religion and society. Considering this, one cannot be surprised if peoples groan under the weight of the Divine punishment, and live under the fear of even greater calamities.”
How are we to respond to all these dangers of body and soul? First, it “must not depress your souls…Instead, mindful of that Divine teaching: ‘Ask and it shall be given to you; seek and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you’ (Luke 11, 9), fly with greater confidence to the Mother of God.”
Facing These Dangers
What’s he going to do as the Holy Father? What we should also do.
“[L]ook forward with joyful expectation and revived hope to the coming month of October, during which the faithful are accustomed to flock in larger numbers to the churches to raise their supplications to Mary by means of the Holy Rosary.”
Then what he said of 1951 is doubled and tripled and quadrupled for us today. “We desire that, this year, this prayer should be offered with such greater fervor of heart as is demanded by the increased urgency of the need.”
“We well know the Rosary's powerful efficacy to obtain the maternal aid of the Virgin.” He mentioned that there isn’t only one way to pray to get aid. By no means is there only one way to pray to obtain this aid. Then comes the definitive answer:
“However, We consider the Holy Rosary the most convenient and most fruitful means, as is clearly suggested by the very origin of this practice, heavenly rather than human, and by its nature. What prayers are better adapted and more beautiful than the Lord's Prayer and the angelic salutation, which are the flowers with which this mystical crown is formed?”
The Rosary is the advantage for everyone because even “most simple and least educated” have this easy, speedy way to nurture and sustain their faith. Meditating frequently on the mysteries means the soul starts absorbing the virtues contained in them and “becomes strongly and easily impelled to follow the path which Christ Himself and His Mother have followed.” We get confidence praying the Rosary too, he says.
With October as the month of the Holy Rosary, he urges all brother bishops to see the faithful “should use this most fruitful form of prayer with the utmost possible zeal, and that it become always more esteemed and more diligently recited.” They need to tell the people of the “dignity, the power, and the excellence of the Rosary.”
The Battleground, Then and Now
With the unbelievable foresight he had, and in the seed of the problem then is his day, Pius XII put this priority front and center. It’s especially urgent in light of what Sr. Lucia said about the final battle: “The final battle between the Lord and the kingdom of Satan will be about Marriage and the Family.”
So what did Pious XII urge so strongly? He tells us like a mighty leader mustering the troops with the best weapon they could have:
“But it is above all in the bosom of the family that We desire the custom of the Holy Rosary to be everywhere adopted, religiously preserved, and ever more intensely practiced. In vain is a remedy sought for the wavering fate of civil life, if the family, the principle and foundation of the human community, is not fashioned after the pattern of the Gospel.”
He really expands on this next.
“To undertake such a difficult duty, We affirm that the custom of the family recitation of the Holy Rosary is a most efficacious means. What a sweet sight — most pleasing to God — when, at eventide, the Christian home resounds with the frequent repetition of praises in honor of the august Queen of Heaven! Then the Rosary, recited in common, assembles before the image of the Virgin, in an admirable union of hearts, the parents and their children, who come back from their daily work. It unites them piously with those absent and those dead. It links all more tightly in a sweet bond of love, with the most Holy Virgin, who, like a loving mother, in the circle of her children, will be there bestowing upon them an abundance of the gifts of concord and family peace.”
There was a time when that did happen. His words were heeded. He saw mighty leaders help put that into practice, like Servant of God Father Patrick Peyton with his Family Rosary Crusade.
If families followed his fatherly leadership and words of wisdom, he says, “Then the home of the Christian family, like that of Nazareth, will become an earthly abode of sanctity, and, so to speak, a sacred temple, where the Holy Rosary will not only be the particular prayer which every day rises to heaven in an odor of sweetness, but will also form the most efficacious school of Christian discipline and Christian virtue.”
How will it affect parents?
“This meditation on the Divine Mysteries of the Redemption will teach the adults to live, admiring daily the shining examples of Jesus and Mary, and to draw from these examples comfort in adversity, striving towards those heavenly treasures ‘where neither thief draws near, nor moth destroys’ (Luke 12, 33).”
And what about their children?
“This meditation will bring to the knowledge of the little ones the main truths of the Christian Faith, making love for the Redeemer blossom almost spontaneously in their innocent hearts, while, seeing, their parents kneeling before the majesty of God, they will learn from their very early years how great before the throne of God is the value of prayers said in common.”
Victory in a Sling of Beads
As he’s said many times before this major, prophetic work, Pius XII says inspiringly, “We put great confidence in the Holy Rosary for the healing of evils which afflict our times.”
That is the radiant theme, the banner that calls us to fight the good fight for the victory, to be on God’s side in this final battle.
Padre Pio emphasized, “The Rosary is The Weapon.”
Pius XII is of like mind, comparing it to the sling of David. “Not with force, not with arms, not with human power, but with Divine help obtained through the means of this prayer, strong like David with his sling, the Church undaunted shall be able to confront the infernal enemy, repeating to him the words of the young shepherd: ‘Thou comest to me with a sword, and a spear, and with a shield; but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of Hosts, the God of armies . . . and all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear, for this is his battle, and he will deliver you into our hands’ (I Kings 17, 45-47).”
We need to ponder and practice these words more than ever today. As if he were standing in our midst today, Pius XII urges:
“If the evils and the assaults of the wicked increase, so likewise must the piety of all good people increase and become ever more vigorous. Let them strive to obtain from our most loving Mother, especially through this form of prayer, that better times may quickly return for the Church and society.”
Remember that at Fatima Our Lady of the Rosary directed to say the Rosary every day in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary, to obtain the peace of the world and the end of the war, because only she can obtain it.
So what does Pius XII conclude? “May the very powerful Mother of God, moved by the prayers of so many of her sons, obtain from her only Son — let us all beseech her — that those who have miserably wandered from the path of truth and virtue may, with new fervor, find it again; that hatred and rivalry, which are the sources of discord and every kind of mishap, may be put aside, and that a true, just, and genuine peace may shine again upon individuals, families, peoples, and nations.”
On this 100th anniversary year of Fatima, and beginning in October, the Month of the Holy Rosary, it’s time to grab our rosaries, give them to our children, and start the only sure way to defeat evil, cap the cataclysms, be on the winning side in this decisive battle, and help Our Lady of the Rosary bring sorely needed peace to the world.