The countless challenges that besiege the continent of Africa definitely demand solutions from socio-political actors. However, the invocation of our Blessed Mother, Mary, as Our Lady of Africa, is something that should never be ignored.
Fr. Enobong Paulinus Udoidiong – Nigeria & Italy.
The months of May and October have come to be known as the months of the Holy Rosary. This is because in these two months the Catholic Faithful organise special devotions during which the Holy Rosary is prayed devotedly, daily.
We are still in the month of October, and this devotion is ongoing in the whole Catholic world. The devotion to our Blessed Mother Mary, especially through the praying of the Holy Rosary is an enduring tradition within the Church that dates back to the days of St. Dominic. The Holy Rosary is an important composite prayer in the Catholic that is elaborate and all-embracing.
Sitting at the school of Mary
According to Saint Pope John Paul II in the Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, of 16 October 2002, the Holy Rosary is Marian in Character, this means that the Holy Rosary is a devotion in honour of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Still, at heart, it is a prayer centred on Christ. Hence it is Christocentric. The Saintly Holy father continued, “With the Rosary, the Christian people sits at the school of Mary and is led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love. Through the Rosary the faithful receive abundant grace, as though from the very hands of the Mother of the Redeemer.” (Rosarium Virginis Mariae, no. 1) In the Holy Rosary we, together with the Blessed Mother Mary, contemplate the earthly life of Christ from the annunciation of his birth to the coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Heaven and Earth.
We contemplate with Mary the mysteries of the life of Christ
We often call it, the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the praying of the Hail Mary on the beads is so pronounced that one could wrongly think it is only in praise of Our Blessed Mother Mary. No, we contemplate with Mary the mysteries of the life of Christ, and we invoke her intercession. It is also beautiful to note, without error, that the Blessed Virgin Mary, is the only human actor that is in the salvific history. Mary saw it all and lived it all. The salvific mission of Christ cannot be complete without the mention of Mary. Hence, the Holy Church, in her wisdom under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, has meticulously preserved this devotion and accorded it the universal character it has.
Journeying with the Blessed Mother through Covid-19
This reflection is meant to bring to light the importance of the invocation of our Blessed Mother Mary as Our Lady of Africa and the efficacy of the Holy Rosary in the life of every Christian in Africa and the world at large. In a very special way, it aims at seeing how we in Africa can benefit from this knowledge of who the Blessed Virgin Mary is in the plan of our salvation and what we can achieve through praying the Holy Rosary especially in the face of economic crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic, wars, violence, killings, insecurity and terrorism in Africa. Let us journey with Mary through the mysteries of the Holy Rosary.
Mysteries of the Holy Rosary
The Holy Rosary is made up of the four mysteries, namely, the Joyful, the Luminous, the Sorrowful and the Glorious. Each of these contains five mysteries. In the Joyful mysteries, we contemplate with Mary, the annunciation, the visitation of Elisabeth, the birth of Jesus, the presentation of Jesus in the temple and the finding of Jesus in the temple among the teachers. The Luminous Mysteries, also known as (The Mystery of Light) contemplates the public life of Christ. These are: the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, Jesus reveals himself at the wedding feast at Cana, Jesus proclaims God’s Kingdom, Jesus is transfigured and then the Institution of the Holy Eucharist. In the Sorrowful mysteries, we contemplate, the passion, agony and death of Christ and they consist of, the suffering of Christ in the garden of Gethsemane, the scourging at the pillar, the crowning with thorns, the carrying of the cross and then the crucifixion of Christ. In the Glorious Mysteries, we meditate on the Resurrection of Christ, His Ascension into heaven, the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles, the Glorious Assumption of Mary, body and soul, into heaven and the Coronation of Mary Queen of heaven. In all these mysteries, the one person who was involved from the beginning to the end is the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb!
Mary, the Virgin Mother of Christ, was a humble young woman growing up with so great a favour from God which no one on earth has ever had. She was conceived without sin. Yes, it really shows that God was bent on saving humankind, hence at the appointed time, He sent his Son born of a woman. The young woman, Mary, was preserved by God from original sin so that the One to be born of her would be holy and spotless. Human beings have always venerated angels or heavenly beings in the scriptures upon discovering who they were. But it was the opposite in the case of Mary. It was instead the Angel Gabriel sent by God who had to offer homage to this young maiden. The Angel could not ignore the One whom God has blessed and highly favoured. In his words, “Hail Mary, Full of Grace the Lord is with you.” (Lk. 1, 28) She remained a virgin during and after the birth of her Son. A privilege granted to her by God.
At a very tender age, her elderly cousin Elizabeth was able to acknowledge how highly favoured she was, and so gave her homage. It is not common in our African culture, to see an elder paying homage to a child unless such a child is a royalty. In this case, Mary was carrying in her womb Jesus, God Incarnate: The King of kings and the Lord of lords and this made her worthy of the homage paid her by Elizabeth. Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth filled with the Holy Spirit exclaimed, “Blessed are you among women; and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (Lk. 1, 42)
Mary’s child born in poverty understands the plight of poor people
We also contemplate and acknowledge the role she played during the actual moment of delivery. The evangelist Luke recounts how there was no room in the inn for Joseph and Mary on that cold winter night in Bethlehem, so they had no other option than to stay in the manger with the animals. O, what a better way for the Lord of hosts to come into our world! Jesus chose the option of the poor. He understands the plight of the poor. He knows what it means to go without shelter, food and clothing. Therefore, when the poor in Africa cry out to Him through His Mother, the Virgin Mary, He hearkens to their cry. This is to support what the psalmist says, “this poor man called, and the Lord heard him and rescued Him from all his distress.” (Ps. 34, 6) The plight of the poor does not escape the watch of God. However, some of us may ask why the poor are still suffering if God has heard their cry. Yes, we are still suffering because every one of us as Christians who contemplate the redemptive mystery of Christ through the mysteries of the Holy Rosary and according to the teaching of Christ and the Church, is not yet ready to do what Mary did. What did Mary do? She accepted to be part of the salvific event by the words: “Let It Be Done to Me According to Your Word” (Luke 1, 38).
Mary is our defender and maternal protector against danger
She defended, with her life, the life of this God-man when Herod wanted him dead. She fled with Jesus and Joseph in the cold winter to Egypt. Here, we see, the heart of a loving mother who desperately wants to preserve the life of her child. Mary will do the same for us as her children by adoption. Through Christ, we have become children of Mary. While Jesus was hanging on the cross, he saw the disciple whom he loved with his Mother standing by the foot of the cross he said to his Mother, “Woman, behold your son.” And to the disciple, he said, “Behold your mother.” And from that moment the disciple took her to his own home. (Jn. 19, 26-27). This is the very reason she will do everything she can to protect us from the powers that seek to destroy us because she is our Mother. Whenever we pray the Holy Rosary, we are invoking this maternal protection of Our Blessed Mother. Yes, it was at her intervention that Jesus performed His first miracle at the wedding feast at Cana where He turned water into wine. This event prominently presents the intercessory role of our Blessed Mother Mary. She is always ready to ask her Son to help, and the Son would never refuse her whatever she requests of Him.
Like Mary, African mothers witness their children being killed.
Mary stood by Jesus throughout His agony and passion and was there at the foot of the cross till He breathed His last. Yes, the pains and sorrows she endured throughout the earthly life of Christ confirmed the words of the holy Simeon in the temple at the presentation of Jesus, who said to Mary, his Mother, “Know this: your son is a sign; a sign established for the falling and rising of many in Israel, a sign of contradiction; and a sword will pierce your own soul, so that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.” (Lk. 2, 34-35). Mary understands what pains and sorrow are. When a mother witnesses the murder of her child in cold blood, the pain is enormous. Mary experienced this. So when, African mothers witness their children murdered in cold blood due to insecurity, violence, wars and terrorism, and these mothers seek justice from heaven, the Blessed Mother Mary, will always add her voice to their pleas. As we know, for many African mothers, violence in retaliation is something they would never contemplate.
We invoke Mary, the Queen of peace
Through the Holy Rosary, we can combat violence and killings perpetrated against the innocent, by seeking the peace-loving heart of Mary for the conversion of hearts. We contemplate through the Holy Rosary the mystery of Christ who “is our peace”, since he made “the two of us one, and broke down the dividing wall of hostility” (Eph 2:14). Consequently, says Saint John Paul II, “one cannot recite the Rosary without feeling caught up in a clear commitment to advancing peace, especially in the land of Jesus, still so sorely afflicted and so close to the heart of every Christian.” (Rosarium Virginis Mariae no. 6). This is that weapon we need to fight the evil of war, nepotism, tribalism, and ethnicity in Africa. Meditating on the mysteries of the Holy Rosary, especially in the context of the family, promotes love and unity. It is so beautiful to see the family praying the Rosary together. I recall, my childhood days when we prayed the Holy Rosary every night at home, each person would cheerfully lead in the recitation of each mystery while everyone responded accordingly. The joy of praying the Holy Rosary together helps to unite the family, which is the nucleus of the human society.
A quiet rhythm and a lingering pace
The recitation of the Holy Rosary is never to be a mechanical thing. Saint John Paul II, using the words of Pope Sant Paul VI, warns thus: “Without contemplation, the Rosary is a body without a soul, and its recitation runs the risk of becoming a mechanical repetition of formulas, in violation of the admonition of Christ: ‘In praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think they will be heard for their many words’ (Mt 6:7). By its nature the recitation of the Rosary calls for a quiet rhythm and a lingering pace, helping the individual to meditate on the mysteries of the Lord’s life as seen through the eyes of her who was closest to the Lord. In this way, the unfathomable riches of these mysteries are disclosed.” (Rosarium Virginis Mariae no. 12). Therefore, we contemplate and make the events meditated upon in the mysteries of the Holy Rosary count in our daily lives as Christians.
There have been miracles attributed to reciting the Rosary
In conclusion, The Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary is Marian by nature, but centres on the Mysteries of Christ, and its efficacy cannot be underestimated. There have been many miracles attributed to the sincere and pious recitation of the Holy Rosary by the Faithful. This has been the reason why Our Blessed Mother Mary has always during her apparitions recommended the recitation of the Holy Rosary to obtain God’s favours. The Holy Rosary has been an effective weapon against the devil and his agents. In praying the Holy Rosary, we not only devote ourselves to the maternal care and protection of Our Blessed Mother Mary, but we also invoke her to accompany us in the difficult moments of life.
Mary Our Lady of Africa, pray for us
In Africa, we need so much the intercessions of the Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Africa. As a people, we are plagued by hunger, drought, pestilence, violence, tribal crisis, killings, corruption and terrorism. We need to beseech heaven with our prayers. The Popes have enjoined us to pray the Holy Rosary daily invoking her intercession. It has been a favourite prayer of many great saints in the history of the Church, St. Dominic, Padre Pio, Saint Teresa of Calcutta, Pope Saint John Paul II, and many others. Many families pray the Rosary every day without relenting. There are pious associations in parishes whose apostolate involves the daily recitation of the Holy Rosary, associations like, the Legion of Mary, the Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatma, the Block Rosary and many others. Finally, let us pray the Holy Rosary unceasingly for peace in Africa because we have Our Blessed Mother Mary at the right hand of her Son in Glory interceding for us. May Our Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Africa intercede for us.