It has been over a year since the coronavirus has changed our lives drastically; however, when we reflect, we should consider the hope-filled definition of the word corona.

In our Catholic faith, traditionally, the word corona refers to a crown – the Crown of Mary, who is always directing us through prayer to God. God is with us through all of our experiences, wherever we are, and whatever we do. We are never alone and we have everlasting hope. Every time we think of the virus – as we must do to protect ourselves and others – the name corona can call us to prayer.

The rosary is one of most recognized and treasured symbols of Catholicism. An early name for the rosary is “Corona del Rosario” or Crown of the Rosary. The word rosary itself comes from the Latin word rosarium, which means rose garden or garland of roses.

The story begins with a humble, secular man who would weave a garland of roses or seasonal flowers into a crown to honor Our Lady. His daily devotion led to Our Lady encouraging him to enter religious life. When he became a religious, his duties demanded so much time that he no longer had time for his daily devotion of weaving the chaplet. As he became discouraged, a priest wisely advised him to recite 50 Hail Mary prayers in place of the chaplet and convinced him that the Blessed Mother would prefer that to all the rose chaplets he had ever made.

Dominic continued his daily prayers even during his chores. One day he stopped in a forest to recite his prayers, as he did every day, when he caught the eyes of a few thieves who were about to rob him. When they approached Dominic, they saw a beautiful maiden standing by him. They also saw that while he was reciting the Hail Mary prayers, she would take a beautiful rose from his mouth and add it to a garland or chaplet she was making. When the rose chaplet was complete, she placed it on her head and flew off to heaven.

When asked about the maiden, Dominic realized she was the Blessed Mother of God who, in person, accepted his rose chaplet. He rejoiced from the depths of his heart and shared his “rosary” with others.

History reveals that St. Dominic was the first to preach and teach the rosary as a form of meditative prayer, and the first to see the benefits reaped from meditation upon its mysteries. The beauty of the rosary is that it is not only a vocal prayer: it is also a mental prayer. During its recitation, the individual meditates on the saving mysteries of our Lord’s life and the faithful witness of our Blessed Mother.

Journeying through the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries, we reflect on our Lord’s incarnation, his passion, death and resurrection. We think of Bethlehem, Galilee, Nazareth, Jerusalem, Golgotha, Calvary, Mount Olivet and heaven – all these are thoughts as our lips pray. All of this at the direction or Our Lady.

While some may dispute this account of the presentation of the rosary by Our Lady to St. Dominic, many theologians and popes have upheld it. The fact that the Catholic liturgical calendar includes the Feast of the Holy Rosary (Oct. 7) testifies to the importance of this form of prayer. Venerable Archbishop Fulton J.  Sheen said, “The rosary is the book of the blind, where souls see and there enact the greatest drama of love the word has ever known.”

Over the centuries, the church added more prayers, devotions and changes to the rosary, including in 1951 when Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen created the World Mission Rosary. Each decade of this rosary represents a different part of the world where missionaries continue to share the love of Jesus. Green symbolizes the forests and grasslands of Africa. Blue represents the ocean surrounding the Pacific Islands. White is for Europe, for our spiritual Father, Shepherd of the Church. Red for the first Missionaries who brought the good news to the Americas. Yellow represents the morning sun of Asia.

When we pray the World Mission Rosary, “one has embraced all continents, all people in prayer,” as Archbishop Sheen has explained.

The World Mission Rosary has this triple advantage. Each color reminds you of the part of the world for whom you are praying. Secondly, it fulfills Our Lady’s petition at Fatima to pray for world peace through the rosary. Thirdly, it will aid the Holy Father and the Pontifical Mission Societies by supplying him with practical support, as well as prayers, for the poor and distressed 1,111 mission territories in the world.

In the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, now through Dec. 8 of this year, the Rosary Campaign for the Renewal of Faith continues. Every day, Monday through Thursday evenings at 8 p.m. at phillyevang.org/rosary, we pray the rosary so that faith replaces fear, that hope replaces despair and that love replaces hate. We ask for the intercession of Our Lady for strength in our belief in the goodness of God, the everlasting love of Jesus and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.

In the words of Archbishop Sheen, “It all comes down to this: the world will change when we change. But we cannot change without prayer, and the power of the rosary as a prayer is beyond description. For the love of Our Lord and his Blessed Mother won’t you please make a tour of the world on your World Mission Rosary?”

In doing so, the rosary assists us in in growing deeper in our faith. Consider praying the World Mission Rosary with the faithful in the archdiocese each Monday evening at 8 pm. Learn more at PhillyMissions.org. Contact the Pontifical Mission Societies office at pofaith@archphila.org for a free World Mission Rosary brochure.

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Msgr. Rodgers is director of the Pontifical Mission Societies of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.