ex libris — Rosary bookshelf

In the following books a variety of authors discuss the Rosary and the Church’s Marian teachings. This bookshelf also include a number of magisterial documents on the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Mary and the Fathers of the Church:
The Blessed Virgin Mary in Patristic Thought

by Luigi Gambero, S.M.
Ignatius Press, San Francisco, California
ISBN 0-89870-686-0

Written by a patristics scholar, Mary and the Fathers of the Church offers a survey of the development of Marian doctrine and devotion to the Blessed Virgin during the first eight centuries of the Church, beginning with St. Ignatius of Antioch who was martyred at the end of the 1st century, and concluding with St. John Damascene, who died around 750. The book covers the formative period for the Church in the East and the West, and anyone interested in Church history will appreciate that it allows the patristic authors to speak in their own voices through excerpts from their works, some of which have not previously been published in English.

“The witness of the Fathers might give the impression that Marian doctrine and piety passed through a rather long and slow process of evolution. We must, however, recall that the times of the Lord’s grace are different from our own. The Lord knows how to adapt himself to the rhythms of the continual development of each individual and of humanity as a whole, and he awaits our answer with goodness and patience. Beneath the sobriety that veils the Marian doctrine of the earliest Fathers, the fertile seeds of future developments were planted, developments that profoundly influenced the Christian authors of the golden period of patristics as well as those of its closing years.”

Fathers of the Church on Mary
by Marco Pappalardo
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, D.C.
ISBN: 978-1-60137-149-2

The author’s stated purpose in writing this small book is “to get the Fathers out of the libraries or the patristic anthologies in order to present them to all, including those who are not specialists, scholars, or enthusiasts.” Each one of the 31 patristic quotes in the book features an introduction designed to set the stage for understanding the original Marian reflection. The writings of these ancient Fathers are considered to be one of the treasures of Church tradition, and they include this commentary written by St. Augustine on the Gospel According to John:

“Why therefore [at Cana] did the Son say to the mother: ‘What have I to do with you, woman? My hour has not yet come?’ Our Lord Jesus Christ was God and man; as God, he did not have a mother; as man, he did. She was therefore the mother of his flesh the mother of his humanity, the mother of the infirmity that he made his own for our sake. …With that response, therefore, the Lord intends to distinguish, in the faith of believers, who he is and how he came. He came by means of a woman, who is his mother, he who is God and Lord of heaven and earth. … He is, at the same time, Mary’s Lord and Mary’s Son. Do not be amazed that he is, at the same time, Son and Lord: He is called Son of Mary as he is also called Son of David, and he is Son of David because he is Son of Mary.”

Mary: Mirror of the Church
by Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M.
The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota
ISBN 0-8146-2059-0

This is an essential handbook for anyone struggling to understand the Blessed Virgin Mary and her place in contemporary Christianity. The author serves as preacher to the papal household, and his work is steeped in Scripture. He sidesteps the usual argumentative defense of Marian doctrine, and instead he looks at what can be learned about the Mother of Jesus from reading about her in the Bible.

“Mary appears as a sign of a Church not yet divided, not even in Jews and Gentiles, and therefore as the strongest possible call to unity. This ecumenical purpose we wish to follow is greatly favored by starting to study Mary from the Bible instead of starting with formal principles, theological theses, or the dogmas. The dogmas were formulated to explain the Bible and not vice versa. They are the exponent, not the basis. When dogma is the basis and Scripture the exponent, the dogmatic affirmation is placed first and biblical verses are used to demonstrate the argument, often far from the context and in a subordinate role as proof ex Scriptura. When Scripture is the basis, the starting point is God’s Word, and in expounding its meaning the dogma is reached as the true interpretation given by the Church. This is the way truth came down to us.”

Mary: The Second Eve
by Blessed John Henry Newman
TAN Books and Publishers, Inc., Rockford, Illinois
ISBN 0-89555-181-0

Consisting entirely of excerpts from John Henry Cardinal Newman’s works, this small book demonstrates the insights and logic typical of this learned convert from Anglicanism who later became a Cardinal. Mary: The Second Eve is especially helpful for those who are looking for more information about the scriptural foundations of Marian doctrine.

“I grant that devotion toward the Blessed Virgin has increased among Catholics with the progress of the centuries. I do not allow that the doctrine concerning her has undergone a growth, for I believe that it has been in substance one and the same from the beginning.”

Mysteries of the Virgin Mary: Living Our Lady’s Graces
by Peter John Cameron, O.P.
Servant Books, Cincinnati, Ohio
ISBN 978-0-86716-925-6

Mysteries of the Virgin Mary approaches the task of increasing understanding of the theology behind Marian doctrine by looking at reasons behind each of the Marian feasts throughout the liturgical year. The author includes chapters about the Birth of Mary, her Presentation, her Immaculate Heart, her Holy Name, and her role as Queen of Heaven, and he examines her titles of Our Lady of Sorrows, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and, of course, Our Lady of the Rosary.

“Thus the aim of true devotion to the most Blessed Virgin is none other than to establish more perfectly the worship of Jesus Christ, and to provide an easier and safer way by which we can find Jesus Christ. ‘Devotion to the Blessed Virgin,’ St. Louis [de Montfort] insists, ‘is a secure way of reaching Jesus Christ and of acquiring perfection through uniting ourselves with him.’ Conversely, he holds that ‘one of the reasons why Jesus Christ is not known as he deserves to be known’ is because ‘Mary has been but very imperfectly known until now.’ In sum, ‘whoever desires to have the fruit of life, Jesus Christ, must have the tree of life, which is Mary.'”

Theotokos: Woman, Mother, Disciple
by Pope St. John Paul II
Pauline Books & Media, Boston, Massachusetts
ISBN 0-8198-7401-9

Based on talks by Pope St. John Paul II, volume five of this collection explores who the Blessed Virgin Mary is for Christians today. Other volumes in the set address God the Father, Jesus the Son, the Holy Spirit, and the Church. In explaining Marian doctrine, Pope St. John Paul II points out that everything about Mary is related to Christ and is intended to lead the faithful into deeper relationship with Jesus. The Mother of God appears as an example of faith and love, and a model of the Church at prayer.

“On the one hand, the Church recognizes the Theotokos as guaranteeing the reality of the Incarnation because—as St. Augustine says—’if the Mother were fictitious, the flesh would also be fictitious . . . and the scars of the resurrection.’ On the other hand, [the Church] also contemplates with wonder and celebrates with veneration the immense greatness conferred on Mary by the one who wanted to be her Son. The expression ‘Mother of God’ is used as referring to the Word of God, who in the Incarnation assumed the lowliness of the human condition in order to raise men to divine sonship. But in the light of the sublime dignity conferred on the Virgin of Nazareth, this title also proclaims the nobility of woman and her loftiest vocation. God treated Mary as a free and responsible person and did not bring about the Incarnation of his Son until after he had obtained her consent.”

The following are links to magisterial documents about the Rosary.

Rosarium Virginis Mariae
The Rosary of the Virgin Mary (October 16, 2002)JP2 WEB

This apostolic letter of Pope St. John Paul II was written at the beginning of the 25th year of his pontificate to renew interest in the Rosary and to introduce the Year of the Rosary (October 2002 to October 2003). The first three lessons in Scripture and the Rosary: New Testament Mysteries, Old Testament Parallels focus on Rosarium Virginis Mariae. During his pontificate, Pope St. John Paul II published 1,600 messages and documents pertaining to the Blessed Virgin, more than three times as many as any other pope in history. In comparison, Pope Pius IX wrote five such messages or documents, Pope Leo XIII wrote 56, Pope Pius X wrote 37, Pope Benedict XV wrote 30, Pope Pius XI wrote 309, Pope Pius XII wrote 470, Pope John XXIII wrote 501, and Pope Paul VI wrote 315 Marian messages and documents. The following excerpt from Rosarium Virginis Mariae explains the reason behind Pope St. John Paul II’s dedication to promoting the Rosary among faithful Catholics.

“The most important reason for strongly encouraging the practice of the Rosary is that it represents a most effective means of fostering among the faithful that commitment to the contemplation of the Christian mystery which I have proposed in the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte as a genuine ‘training in holiness’: ‘What is needed is a Christian life distinguished above all in the art of prayer.’ Inasmuch as contemporary culture, even amid so many indications to the contrary, has witnessed the flowering of a new call for spirituality, due also to the influence of other religions, it is more urgent than ever that our Christian communities should become ‘genuine schools of prayer’.”

Redemptoris Mater
The Mother of the Redeemer (March 25, 1987)

Written by Pope St. John Paul II, this encyclical addresses the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the life of the Pilgrim Church.

“It is a fact that when ‘the fullness of time’ was definitively drawing near – the saving advent of Emmanuel – he who was from eternity destined to be his Mother already existed on earth. The fact that she ‘preceded’ the coming of Christ is reflected every year in the liturgy of Advent. Therefore, if to that ancient historical expectation of the Savior we compare these years which are bringing us closer to the end of the second Millennium after Christ and to the beginning of the third, it becomes fully comprehensible that in this present period we wish to turn in a special way to her, the one who in the ‘night’ of the Advent expectation began to shine like a true ‘Morning Star’ (Stella Matutina). For just as this star, together with the ‘dawn,’ precedes the rising of the sun, so Mary from the time of her Immaculate Conception preceded the coming of the Savior, the rising of the ‘Sun of Justice’ in the history of the human race.”

Marialis Cultus
Devotion to Mary (February 2, 1974)

This apostolic exhortation by Pope Paul VI was written to enhance devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary in connection with the liturgical reform promoted by the Second Vatican Council.

“Today it is recognized as a general need of Christian piety that every form of worship should have a biblical imprint. The progress made in biblical studies, the increasing dissemination of the Sacred Scriptures, and above all the example of Tradition and the interior action of the Holy Spirit are tending to cause the modern Christian to use the Bible ever increasingly as the basic prayerbook, and to draw from it genuine inspiration and unsurpassable examples. Devotion to the Blessed Virgin cannot be exempt from this general orientation of Christian piety, indeed it should draw inspiration in a special way from this orientation in order to gain new vigor and sure help. In its wonderful presentation of God’s plan for man’s salvation, the Bible is replete with the mystery of the Savior, and from Genesis to the book of Revelation, also contains clear references to her who was the Mother and associate of the Savior. We would not, however, wish this biblical imprint to be merely a diligent use of texts and symbols skillfully selected from the Sacred Scriptures. More than this is necessary. What is needed is that texts of prayers and chants should draw their inspiration and their wording from the Bible, and above all that devotion to the Virgin should be imbued with the great themes of the Christian message. This will ensure that, as they venerate the Seat of Wisdom, the faithful in their turn will be enlightened by the divine word and be inspired to live their lives in accordance with the precepts of Incarnate Wisdom.”

Christi Matri
Mother of Christ (September 15, 1966)

This encyclical was written by Pope Paul VI to encourage prayers for peace, especially in southeast Asia where the Vietnam War raged in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1955 to 1975.

“Nothing seems more appropriate and valuable to us than to have the prayers of the whole Christian family rise to the Mother of God, who is invoked as the Queen of Peace, begging her to pour forth abundant gifts of her maternal goodness in midst of so many great trials and hardships. We want constant and devout prayers to be offered to her whom we declared Mother of the Church, its spiritual parent, during the celebration of the Second Vatican Council, thereby winning the applause of the Fathers and of the Catholic world, and confirming a point of traditional doctrine. For the Mother of the Savior is, as St. Augustine teaches, ‘surely the mother of His members,’ and St. Anselm, to mention only one other, agrees with him in these words: ‘What could ever be deemed more suitable than for you to be the mother of those whose father and brother Christ deigned to become?’ She was called ‘most truly the mother of the Church’ by our predecessor Leo XII. Hence we have good reason to place our trust in her in the midst of this terrible disorder.”

Grata Recordatio
With Joyful Recollection (September 26, 1959)

Pope John XXIII fondly remembers the encyclicals of Pope Leo XIII urging Catholics to pray the Rosary during the month of October. Grata Recordatio  encourages prayers for Church missions and international and social problems facing the world at the time the encyclical was written.

“These pleasant memories of our younger days have not faded or vanished as the years of our life have passed. On the contrary, we want to declare in complete frankness and simplicity that the years have made Mary’s rosary all the dearer to us. We never fail to recite it each day in its entirety and we intend to recite it with particular devotion during the coming month. During our first year as pope—a year which is almost over—we have several times had occasion to urge the clergy and laity to public and private prayer. But today we make this same request with even greater emphasis and earnestness.”

Ingruentium Malorum
In the Face of Approaching Evils (September 15, 1951)

In this encyclical, Pope Pius XII urges the recitation of the Rosary as a weapon against “the calamitous conditions” plaguing the world during his reign as Vicar of Christ.

“However, consideration of a situation so pregnant with dangers must not depress your souls, Venerable Brethren. 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. There, the Christian people have always sought chief refuge in the hour of danger, because ‘she has been constituted the cause of salvation for the whole human race’ (St. Irenaeus).”

Ingravescentibus Malis
Ever-Growing Evils (September 29, 1937)

On the brink of World War II, Pope Pius XI seeks to bring about a return to Jesus Christ and the precepts of the through pious praying of the Rosary.

“And so much more must it be done since the enemies of the Divine Name – that is, those who have rebelled against and denied and scorned the Eternal God – spread snares for the Catholic Faith and the liberty due to the Church, and finally rebel with insane efforts against divine and human rights, to send mankind to ruin and perdition. Through efficacious recourse to the Virgin Mother of God, may they be finally bent and led to penance and return to the straight path, trusting to the care and protection of Mary.”

Eleven More Encyclicals about the Rosary from Pope Leo XIII

Diuturni Temporis
Through the Eternity of Time (September 5, 1898)

In the last encyclical he wrote about the Rosary. Pope Leo XIII presents a brief overview of the devotion of previous popes to the Blessed Virgin Mary and summarizes his own previous encyclicals.

“Looking back over the long space of time, which by God’s will we have passed in the Supreme Pontificate, we cannot but acknowledge that, in spite of our demerits, we have enjoyed the most singular protection of Divine Providence. This we believe must be attributed principally to the united, and therefore most efficacious, prayers, which, as of old for St. Peter, so now also for ourselves, as constantly being poured forth by the universal Church. Wherefore we first of all give profound thanks to God, the giver of all good things, and we shall continue as long as life lasts to cherish in mind and heart gratitude for each and every favor. And next, there comes to our mind the sweet remembrance of the motherly protection of the august Queen of Heaven; and this memory likewise we shall cherish and preserve inviolate, ever thanking her and proclaiming her benefits. From her, as from an abundant spring, are derived the streams of heavenly graces.”

Augustissimae Virginis Maria 
The Most August Virgin Mary (September 12, 1897)

In his desire to promote devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Pope Leo XIII honors the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary and urges continued reliance on praying the Rosary as a weapon in the Church’s battle against evil in the world.

“From the fact that this warfare of prayer is ‘enrolled under the name of the Mother of God,’ fresh efficacy and fresh honor are thereby added to it. Hence the frequent repetition in the Rosary of the ‘Hail Mary’ after each ‘Our Father.’ So far from this derogating in any way from the honor due to God, as though it indicated that we placed greater confidence in Mary’s patronage than in God’s power, it is rather this which especially moves God, and wins his mercy for us.”

Fidentem Piumque Animum 
On the Rosary (September 20, 1896)

In this encyclical, Pope Leo XIII appeals to the minds and hearts of the faithful to bring about an increase of religion and to stimulate within Christians the hope of eternal reward.

“It is here the place to add a remark respecting the duties of those virtues which faith rightly postulates. Among them is the virtue of penance, and one part of this is abstinence, which for more reasons than one is necessary and salutary. It is true that the Church is growing more indulgent towards her children in this matter, but they must understand they are bound to take all care to make up for this maternal indulgence by other good works. We rejoice for this reason also to propose particularly the use of the Rosary, which is capable of producing worthy fruits of penance, especially by the remembrance of the sufferings of Christ and his Mother.”

Mightiest Helper (September 5, 1895)

Adiutricem lauds the Blessed Virgin Mary for the great assistance she is able to offer Christians and urges the faithful to call upon her with confidence.

“Since faith is the foundation, the source, of the gifts of God by which man is raised above the order of nature and is endowed with the dispositions requisite for life eternal, we are in justice bound to recognize the hidden influence of Mary in obtaining the gift of faith and it salutary cultivation of Mary who brought the ‘author of faith’ into this world and who, because of her own great faith, was called ‘blessed’.”

Iucunda Semper Expectatione
Always with Joyful Expectation (September 8, 1894)

In this encyclical, Pope Leo XIII writes of the joy with which he awaits the month of October, since it is consecrated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and is a time of renewed emphasis on praying the Rosary.

“A soul that shall devoutly repeat these prayers, that shall ponder with faith these mysteries, will, without doubt, be filled with wonder at the divine purposes in this great Virgin and the work of the restoration of mankind. Doubtless, this soul, moved by the warmth of love for her and of confidence, will desire to take refuge upon her breast, as was the sweet feeling of St. Bernard: ‘Remember, O most pious Virgin Mary, that never was it heard that any who fled to thy protection, called up on they help, and sought thy intercession, was left forsaken.’ But the fruits of the Rosary appear likewise, and with equal greatness, in the turning with mercy of the heart of the Mother of God towards us.”

Laetitiae Sanctae
Of Holy Praise (September 8, 1893)

Offering appreciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary for her intercession throughout his life, Pope Leo XIII encourages others to express their devotion to Mary through the prayers of the Rosary for the benefit of the world, especially in overcoming the three influences seen as negatively affecting society: 1) the distaste for a simple and laborious life, 2) repugnance to suffering of any kind, and 3) forgetfulness of the future life.

“For evils such as these let us seek a remedy in the Rosary, which consists in a fixed order of prayer combined with devout meditation on the life of Christ and his Blessed Mother. Here, if the joyful mysteries be but clearly brought home to the minds of the people, an object lesson of the chief virtues is placed before their eyes. Each one will thus be able to see for himself how easy, how abundant, how sweetly attractive are the lessons to be found therein for the leading of an honest life.”

Magnae Dei Matris
The Great Mother of God (September 8, 1892)

In this encyclical, Pope Leo XIII describes his personal experience confiding in the Blessed Virgin Mary and seeking refuge with her from “many dreadful events of every kind,” and he urges others to turn to her in prayer.

“The Rosary offers an easy way to present the chief mysteries of the Christian religion and to impress them upon the mind; and this commendation is one of the most beautiful of all. For it is mainly by faith that a man sets out on the straight and sure path to God and learns to revere in mind and heart his supreme majesty, his sovereignty over the whole of Creation, his unbounded power, wisdom, and providence.”

Octobri Mense
The Month of October (September 22, 1891)

The suffering of the Church is the theme of this encyclical, in which the faithful are urged the to pray the Rosary with renewed fervor and devotion.

“Now among the several rites and manners of paying honor to the Blessed Mary, some are to be preferred, inasmuch as we know them to be most powerful and most pleasing to our Mother; and for this reason we specially mention by name and recommend the Rosary. The common language has given the name of corona to this manner of prayer, which recalls to our minds the great mysteries of Jesus and Mary united in joys, sorrows, and triumphs. The contemplation of these august mysteries, contemplated in their order, affords to faithful souls a wonderful confirmation of faith, protection against the disease of error, and increase of the strength of the soul.”

Vi E Ben Noto
To You It Is Known (September 20, 1890)

This very short encyclical primarily is addressed to the Church in Italy but opens by beseeching the entire Church to pray the Rosary.

“You know how we place amid present dangers our confidence in the glorious Virgin of the Holy Rosary, for the safety and prosperity of Christendom and the peace and tranquility of the Church. Mindful that in moments of great trial, pastors and people have ever had recourse with entire confidence to the august Mother of God, in whose hands are all graces, certain too, that devotion to Our Lady of the Rosary is most opportune for the needs of these times, we have desired to revive everywhere this devotion, and to spread it far and wide among the faithful of the world.”

Superiore Anno
Last Year (August 30, 1884)

Writing to commemorate the one-year anniversary of honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary through increased devotion to the Rosary during the month of October, Pope Leo XIII decrees that the practice be repeated.

“Last year, as each of you is aware, we decreed by an encyclical letter that, to win the help of heaven for the Church in her trials, the great Mother of God should be honored by the means of the most holy Rosary during the whole of one month of October. In this we followed both our own impulse and the example of our predecessors, who in times of difficulty were wont to have recourse with increased fervor to the Blessed Virgin, and to seek her aid with special prayers. That wish of ours has been complied with, with such a willingness and unanimity that it is more than every apparent how real is the religion and how great is the fervor of the Christian peoples, and how great is the trust everywhere placed in the heavenly patronage of the Virgin Mary. For us, weighed down with the burden of such and so great trials and evils, we confess that the sight of such intensity of open piety and faith has been a great consolation, and even gives us new courage for the facing, if that be the wish of God, of still greater trials.”

Supremi Apostolatus Officio
The Supreme Apostolic Office (September 1, 1883)

It was with this encyclical that Pope Leo XIII introduced the practice of praying the Rosary with increased fervor and devotion during the month of October.

“Not only do we earnestly exhort all Christians to give themselves to the recital of the pious devotion of the Rosary publicly, or privately in their own house and family, and that unceasingly, but we also desire that the whole of the month of October in this year should be consecrated to the Holy Queen of the Rosary. We decree and order that in the whole Catholic world, during this year, the devotion of the Rosary shall be solemnly celebrated by special and splendid services.”