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By Lynn and Bob Gillen

Links for Learners | February 2003

"The New Mysteries of the Rosary"


Finding Curriculum Connections
Understanding Basic Terms
A Mother Remembers a Lost Child
Mary's Remembrance of Her Son Jesus
The Church's Remembrance of Mary and Jesus
Research Resources

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Finding Curriculum Connections for High School Teachers and Students

This month’s Links for Learners will support high school curriculum in:

• Christian lifestyles—reflective prayer; liturgy; the role of the Church in today's world; Mary's prayer; teens as light to the world

Understanding Basic Terms in This Month’s Article

Look for these key words and terms as you read the article.  Definitions or explanations can be researched from the article itself, or from the resource materials cited throughout the Link for Learners. 


Christ-centered prayer


Lumen Gentium

Hail Mary



Joyful Mysteries

Sorrowful Mysteries

Glorious Mysteries

Luminous Mysteries



A Mother Remembers a Lost Child

To better appreciate the Rosary's significance in the Church, let's explore a hypothetical situation. Imagine yourself as a mother who has just lost a young son or daughter, someone of high school or college age. The death could be the result of a tragic auto accident, a gang-related shooting, a long illness, perhaps even a suicide.

As you mourn your loss, you might gather up family photos, videos, toys, books and CDs that remind you of your lost child. Weighted down with sorrow, you start looking through all that you've gathered. The pictures and mementos may start to sort themselves out based on what kinds of feelings they elicit from you.

• Some items and pictures will elicit deep sorrow, strongly reminding you of the pain and anguish endured by your son before he died: a newspaper picture of the car crash, a hospital ID bracelet, shattered sunglasses.

• Other items could easily bring a joyful smile to your face: your first sonogram, baby's first pictures in the hospital nursery, the video of her first steps, the book you read every night at bedtime, pictures of a school performance.

• Still other mementos will inspire your faith, reminding you that your child is now with God, bringing hope in a future glorious resurrection: the music program from the funeral service, cards and letters from friends, a favorite reading from the Gospels.

• And finally, another group of treasured items may remind you of your child's wonderful spirit, the light he or she brought to others: a video of him with his cousins, cards written by her friends, messages in her high school yearbook, photos of him and his friends working on a parish service project.

In the time right after your child's death, you'd certainly spend some personal time alone with your thoughts, prayers and memories, while also sharing those memories with your spouse and closest friends. Later, you would widen the circle by sharing remembrances with others—friends and acquaintances, fellow parishioners, people with whom you work.

And maybe after a time, those shared remembrances will almost take on a life of their own. When the family gathers for holidays, when you see friends at Sunday Mass, the memories serve to bring people together. A family once estranged may come to reunite as they discuss your memories of your son. Classmates and friends may bond in close friendship as they too share memories of a lost friend. And after some time, wonderful and touching stories of the deceased young person's spirit may reach people previously untouched by love or weighed down with burdens.

A mother's efforts at remembering will help keep alive the memory, the spirit of the lost child. This is exactly how MADD began. A mother, Candy Lightner, lost a child to a drunk driver. Her efforts to prevent that from happening again led to what is now a 20-year-old organization dedicated to preventing driving under the influence. The MADD Web site features memorials to those who have died at the hands of drunk drivers, memorials that in turn may help others impacted by this kind of tragedy.


Mary's Remembrance of Her Son Jesus

Mary was just such a mother. She watched her son live, grow, suffer and die. She saw the pain and suffering on his face in his last hours. And she knew joy after Jesus' glorious resurrection. Later, she remained with the disciples and the early Church community. She must have spent hours remembering the mystery of her son's life, what he had said and done in his short lifetime. She pondered the role she played in bringing Jesus into this world. And she must have talked to the disciples about her feelings and her memories.

All of these memories worked their way into the ongoing life and tradition of the Church, so much so that hundreds of years later the church "formalized" those remembrances in the form of the Rosary, a meditative prayer reflecting on Jesus' life. The Rosary centers on the mysteries of Jesus' life, the significant and profound happenings that marked his years here.

• Mary pondered the joyful aspects of her son's life: the annunciation by the angel; the visitation with her cousin, Elizabeth; the nativity; the presentation in the temple and later the finding in the temple. These were the mysteries, the wonderful events that carried Mary from the angel's first announcement about Jesus' birth through to his young years.

• Mary also knew the sorrow of her son's life: the agony in the garden; his scourging with a whip; the crown of thorns forced on him by his tormentors; his carrying the cross and his death on that cross. These memories hurt deeply.

• Mary experienced the glorious elements of Jesus' life and her own life: his resurrection; his ascension back to his Father; the descent of the Spirit on the early Church; Mary's own assumption into heaven and her coronation as Queen of Heaven.

• And finally, Mary deeply understood the light her son Jesus brought to the world: his baptism in the river Jordan; the way he cared for the bride and groom at the Cana wedding feast; his proclaiming of the new kingdom; his transfiguration and the first Eucharist.

The Church's Remembrance of Mary and Jesus

These latter events listed above that memorialize Jesus as light to the world have recently been added to the Church's tradition of Rosary prayer, as this month's article explains. Pope John Paul II holds the Rosary in high regard as prayer, as a means of remembrance of Jesus, so much so that he has added to the mysteries to be contemplated as we pray. Pope John calls these the Luminous Mysteries. In them we contemplate Jesus as the light of the world. And we continue to pray about Mary's wonderful role in bringing Jesus' light to us.

During the last Vatican Council, held in the mid 1960s, the bishops of the church issued a document called Lumen Gentium, or Light of the Nations. The document describes the role of the Church as a light in today's world. The opening sentence states clearly, "Christ is the Light of the nations." Later, in chapter 8 of this document, Mary's role in the Church is explained. The Catechism of the Catholic Church likewise discusses the mysteries of Christ's life (see chapter 2, article 3, paragraph 3) and Mary's role (chapter 3, article 9, paragraph 6) in the entire plan of salvation.

Our Pope John Paul II has himself been a light to the world. For years he has traveled to various countries to show his love for all of the church. In the summer of 2002 Pope John Paul visited Canada for the celebration of World Youth Day. In his address to the teens and young adults gathered in Toronto, he hailed Christian youth as the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Through prayer and reflection, through praying the Rosary together, through remembering the mysteries of the lives of Jesus and Mary, we too find the strength and courage to be a light to the world.


Research Resources

Try accessing some of these Internet sources for further general reference.  Be aware, however, that some of these sites may charge for downloading articles contained within the site’s archives.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

The New American Bible

Documents of Vatican II 

The Vatican

The New York Times

The Los Angeles Times

The Chicago Tribune

The Washington Post

The Miami Herald

The Associated Press

Time Magazine



ABC News

Pathfinder—Access site to a number of online news publications

People magazine

The History Channel

The Close Up FoundationWashington, D.C.-based organization

Channel One —online resource for the school channel

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