By Father Edward McNamara, LC
ROME, 21 October 2014 (ZENIT)
Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and dean of theology at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q1: I would like to know the days of the week fixed for each set of mysteries of the rosary, and how rigid is such an arrangement. Is it acceptable to change when we wish to? — M.R., Hong Kong. Q2: Is praying the rosary the only way to have recourse to Our Lady? What are the other possible ways? — C.M., Nairobi, Kenya
A: Since October is the month of the rosary, it seems especially appropriate to answer these questions now.
After the publication of Pope St. John Paul II's apostolic letter "Rosarium Virginis Mariae," the weekly cycle of meditations on the mysteries of the rosary are as follows:
— The joyful mysteries: Monday and Saturday
— The luminous mysteries: Thursday
— The sorrowful mysteries: Tuesday and Friday
— The glorious mysteries: Wednesday and Sunday.
This distribution is customary and not set in any legal code, and there is fairly wide leeway left for personal devotion. It is also customary to pray those mysteries that are most appropriate on the respective feasts. For example, if the Annunciation falls on a Friday, it would usually be considered as more appropriate to pray the joyful rather than the sorrowful mysteries.
Likewise, there may be other good reasons for not following the customary cycle. During retreats and spiritual exercises, for instance, the mysteries are sometimes prayed according to the themes of the day. There may also be personal reasons that lead individuals to choose to vary the cycle.
Needless to say, it is also possible to pray more than one set of mysteries on a given day and even the full rosary. St. John Paul II, in spite of all his duties, frequently prayed the full daily rosary. In this case it is recommended to pray continuously at least the five mysteries of the day, as this is required to obtain the indulgence associated with the rosary. According to the Enchiridion of Indulgences:
"A plenary indulgence is granted if the Rosary is recited in a church, a public oratory, a family group, a religious Community, or pious Association; a partial indulgence is granted in other circumstances."
If more than five mysteries are prayed, they may be done one or two decades at a time.
Although the rosary is the Marian and Christological prayer par excellence, and the one which has been most recommended by the popes over the centuries, there are other valid ways of honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The Enchiridion of Indulgences offers various suggestions which the Church has officially approved by endowing them with plenary and partial indulgences.
Among these are: reciting the Magnificat; praying the Angelus or the Regina Caeli; and the prayers "Mary Mother of Grace," the "Memorare" of St. Bernard, the "Salve Regina," "Sancta Maria Sucurre Miseris" and the "Sub Tuum Praesidium." The latter is perhaps the oldest known invocation of Mary with the title Mother of God.
A plenary indulgence, in terms similar to the rosary, was also granted by John Paul II to those who pray or attend a recitation of the Byzantine Akathist hymn, one of the most beautiful poetical expressions of love for Our Lady.
There are, of course, many other legitimate prayers and hymns dedicated to Our Lady which foster devotion and veneration toward her and inspiration to imitate her virtues — which is the greatest honor we can offer her.