War, Peace, and the Rosary

Every morning when a Dominican dons the habit, he or she is reminded of the fact that he or she is in the middle of a war. The habit hasn’t changed much since it was given to Saint Dominic and the first friars and nuns of the Order of Preachers – white tunic and scapular with a belt, black cappa (and veil for the sisters). But conspicuously attached to the belt where a medieval knight would have slung a sword is a rosary.

But we should not think that because we have replaced a sword with a rosary that we are exempt from engaging in war and battles. The real war is all around us and the battleground is our hearts and souls, as well as the hearts and souls of all those we hold dear. It is the war between good and evil and the stakes are eternal. We experience this war not only in broadscale violence, oppression and injustices, but even on a seemingly much smaller, yet more insidious scale. Every time we choose sin, every time our heart becomes a bit harder or more insensitive to the things of God, as well as every time we choose the good, helping our neighbor, extending a kind or encouraging word to someone in pain, these are blows for one side and against the other. We can perpetuate the evil in the world, or we can be a beacon for good.

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Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn describes our situation this way: “If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

Today it is so easy to take what we see and hear and think “us versus them”, whether it’s in politics or the Church. And, we can also fall into the trap of assuming “our side has the truth!” Yet if we want true peace, truth and goodness to prevail in the world, it must first prevail in our hearts. We must be transformed by the renewal of our minds and our hearts must be made like Jesus.

Besides the Eucharist and the sacraments, we have no more powerful weapon to wield than Our Lady’s Rosary. Dominicans have long been champions of the rosary: it is an incarnational prayer that incorporates the body, the heart and the mind as the beads slip through fingers and the vocal prayers pass through the lips. It is a Marian prayer as it tames the heart to be docile and receptive to God’s word. It is a Christocentric prayer as the mind is illumined and transformed by Truth contained in the mysteries. It has the power to change lives and bring souls to eternal bliss in God. It can be prayed anywhere at almost any time. In times of grief, we can offer the sorrowful mysteries and join our pain with those of Jesus and Mary. The joyful mysteries show us what should really make us happy, what we should desire and strive for. And the glorious mysteries give us hope and courage to persevere to the end. We have no choice about whether we will be involved in this war. There is no neutral zone.

The Rosary is a powerful weapon in our daily spiritual battle. If we want peace in our world, in our country, in our communities, in our families, in our hearts, we must take up the weapons God has provided for us, stand firm and fight. And the battle begins and ends within each one of us.

Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us!