Mary’s Rosary Promise #8

Those who are faithful to recite my Rosary shall have during their life and at their death the light of God and the plenitude of His graces and will share in the merits of the blessed.

What?  A third rosary promise about the time of our death!  How could Mary’s eighth promise possibly differ from promises #6 and #7?  Sometimes I think that Mary must have spoken incredibly fast and poor St. Dominic just tried to remember and write them down as best as he could.  How else can we explain why some promises seem like multiple, separate promises combined and with others it appears like Mary repeats the same promise?  Maybe Mary spoke in more of a monologue and St. Dominic distilled it into bullet points like a student taking notes during a lecture.  Even in Caravaggio’s painting below St. Dominic looks slightly confused about what Mary is saying.

St. Dominic receiving the Rosary from the Virg...
St. Dominic receiving the Rosary from the Virgin Mary by Caravaggio, 17th century (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course I’m being sarcastic.  On the surface many of Mary’s promises may appear the same.  But when you dive deeper you will find that they are subtly promising different benefits.  And even if Mary repeats herself, so what?  In the case of promises six through eight, maybe Mary is trying to communicate the importance of having a prepared soul at the moment of your death.  Like an earthly mother repeatedly reminding her children the same lessons (eat your vegetables, cover your mouth when you sneeze, say “please” and “thank you,” etc.), our heavenly mother also needs to repeat herself about the moments that are of grave importance.  And no time is more important than the hour of someone’s death.  Because once you die, that’s it.  You no longer have an opportunity to confess and repent your sins nor do you have the power to pray for yourself.  Given the eternity that awaits you, Mary reminds us in her rosary promises just how important it is to always have a prepared soul.  And she gives us this great gift of preparation through the rosary.

Mary’s eighth promise ratchets up the state of holiness one’s soul is in at the moment of his death.  Promise #6 mentions not having an unprepared soul meaning that you will have one last chance to confess your sins.  Promise #7 goes one step further and adds the sacraments of the Eucharist and the Anointing of the Sick into the mix.  But this promise goes even further and ensures someone a holy death beyond what is received through the sacraments.  When Mary says that you will share “in the merits of the blessed” she is saying that you will receive part of the similar graces the saints received.  No one on this planet were holier than the saints (which is why they were saints!).  We should rejoice that we have an opportunity to have a little taste of that grace that made the saints so holy.  It’s not holiness for the sake of holiness.  Rather, sharing in the merits of the blessed gives us a sense of spiritual maturity that gives us the ability to forge an even deeper relationship with god.

This promise doesn’t just apply to the moment of death.  Notice that Mary says you will receive graces “during their life.”  In praying the rosary devoutly, you will receive the same graces the saints received.  Does that mean everyone who prays the rosary is a saint?  Well technically no.  Just praying the rosary won’t put you on the road towards canonization.  However, it will give you the “plenitude of His [God’s] graces” to become a saint if you choose to do so.  It’s important to realize that saintly behavior is a choice and not some predetermined path that only a select few are privy to.  If we do choose a saintly life then Mary promises that the rosary will help us achieve and maintain it.  The rosary will give us the insight and strength to choose God’s path over a more earthly one.  We all may not become saints like those officially canonized by the Church, but we can share the same graces and the same destiny of flourishing with them in the eternal happiness of Heaven if we choose to do so.

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Mary’s Rosary Promise #7

Those truly devoted to my Rosary shall not die without the sacraments of the Church.

Phew, that was close!  I thought I painted myself into a corner after reading Mary’s 7th rosary promise.  I initially thought that this promise basically rephrased her earlier promise about not dying an unprovided death and I would have nothing to say about this one.  The two promises do share a similar theme revolving around one’s final minutes in this life.  The important difference between these two promises is that the earlier promise focuses solely on receiving God’s mercy for one’s sins.  This promise goes one step further and implies one will receive graces through the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the Anointing of the Sick.  In other words, those devoted to the rosary not only avoid damnation but really “seal the deal” to receive eternal salvation.

“Extreme Unction”, part of The Seven Sacraments, by Rogier Van der Weyden (1445). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am going back to the auto insurance analogy to explain the difference between this rosary promise and the earlier one.  Promising that you won’t have an unprovided death is a little like having basic collision insurance.  It’s the bare minimum grace that helps you receive God‘s mercy instead of incurring solely His justice.  It’s better than nothing, but not great.  Dying with all the sacraments of the Church is like having full coverage.  You die with your soul in the best possible state to stand before God and quickly enter His kingdom (you still may need to go through Purgatory first).

What’s the difference between not dying an unprovided death and dying with the sacraments of the Church?  After all, won’t you end up in Heaven by either means?  And isn’t making it into Heaven all that really matters?  Ask yourself this.  Why would you only want to barely sneak into Heaven in the first place?  Why wouldn’t you want to be as close to God as possible throughout your entire life, let alone at the moment of your death?  It might say a lot about how you prioritize your relationship with God if you only want to be close enough to Him to not be damned to Hell.  All of us should be striving to not just have the bare minimum of graces to enter Heaven but to live as shining examples of God’s grace always up to the moment of our death.

And there lies the difference between the saints and regular people.  Many of the saints didn’t have any more insight about the Catholic faith than the normal lay person.  And many of them didn’t have any super natural powers that made it easier to act saintly.  What separates the saints from the lay person is that the saints chose to make living in God’s grace a priority in their life.  They made that difficult decision to resist the temptations of a comfortable, wealthy, or powerful life and instead tried their best to live for God’s kingdom of Heaven.  And as impossible as it may seem, we all have the ability to become saints by embracing a life of living prayer and receiving the sacraments.

I infer from this promise that those devoted to the rosary will not only die with the sacraments of the Church, but that they will also want to live with those sacraments as well.  Those who pray the rosary understand how important their relationship with God is and are always striving to live deep in His grace by fully embracing the Catholic Church’s sacraments.  When we think about Mary’s promise, let us remember that the sacraments aren’t graces reserved for the dying, but for all of us.  May we take advantage of those sacraments as much as possible throughout our lives whether it be going to Confession regularly or really embracing the true meaning of the Eucharist.  We should rejoice that we have so many chances to have God touch our souls.  May the rosary kindle our passion for receiving the sacraments.

And to think that I initially couldn’t come up with anything to say about this promise!  Thank you Holy Spirit, Mary, and the saints for the guidance.

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