When I say a "Hail Mary", my soul sings
For years I sought answers to these questions and found it through receiving an unexpected gift, the gift of a blue rosary from the late Brother Emmanuel.
As one listens to Hayley Westenra's soulful rendition of “Ave Maria” (which means 'Hail Mary'), you might just start to realise, like me, that perhaps our Catholic devotion to Our Lady could be something extremely beautiful.
For how could one not feel anything after listening to such wonderful music?
When Christian friends asked, “Why go through Mary when you can go straight to Jesus?”, I was never ready with an answer. For years I sought to understand why Catholics pray the rosary. All this would change very soon in the following encounter.
How I received my Blue Rosary
It was an afternoon in the hot dry month of August this year, that saw me trekking up Bukit Timah hill and knocking on the door of ‘wisdom’. My father had told me that Brother Emmanuel was unwell and resting in his quarters at the Boys’ Town, so I was there to visit him.
As an ‘old boy’, my father always visited Br Emmanuel during Christmas time, and that was how I came to know Br Emmanuel. Little did I know that was to be my last chat with Br Emmanuel -- an unforgettable and precious moment indeed. He returned to the Lord on 31 August 2017, at the age of 83.
Br Emmanuel was in good spirits when I met him, even though he was not able to walk. As we chatted, I saw a flash of blue and asked, "What's that Br Emmanuel?"
"My rosary," he said. Noticing that I was very curious, he passed it to me for a closer look. I thought they were roses but doubted my eyes.
Looking closer, I said, “They really are blue roses!"
I was amazed at the ingenuity of using roses for a rosary, having never had much prior knowledge about it. (Why Roses? Read more here!)
"And you can have it," said Br Emmanuel, passing it over to me. So that was how I received my blue rosary, but that was not all.
Upon seeing my face lit up in awe, he started to say, "The Hail Mary is a powerful prayer, and many people mistake this as praying to Mary - but at the heart of the prayer, is Jesus.”
“The height of the prayer is 'Blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus,'” Br Emmanuel further explained.
He then added, “I pray the rosary every day and my life's work is bringing people to Jesus through Mary."
To Jesus Through Mary
The answer I sought was inadvertently answered by Br Emmanuel, and I was speechless. It was a simple answer, and might not address the bigger theological debates but it helped me realise that ultimately all our devotion to Mary, the songs, prayers and the holy rosary, is ultimately, a devotion unto Jesus himself.
It was an unexpected gift and I treasure this blue rosary, especially since it was given to me by Br Emmanuel who has returned to the Lord. An amazing man, he prayed for others with his rosary every day!
Remembering his life on earth, Br Emmanuel was called to serve at the young age of 12 and has travelled halfway around the world, from Canada to Singapore, with a brief stopover in India to learn English. Joyfully, he served the community in Singapore since 1954 (aged 21), and many have come to know Jesus through his ministry.
Similarly, I now see this centuries-old prayer, “Hail Mary”, with new eyes, inspired by Br Emmanuel and his fellow Gabrielite Brothers' devotion to Our Lady.
- Read about Br Emmanuel's moving life story and service to Singapore here
- Watch the full video of his life here
What are the spiritual fruits of praying the rosary everyday?
There are twenty mysteries reflected upon in the Rosary, and these are divided into four sets, made up of five Joyful mysteries, five Luminous mysteries, five Sorrowful Mysteries and five Glorious mysteries. Catholics pray the Rosary to meditate in its mysteries while repeating Ave Maria, and according to lifeteen.com, Rosaries are not just decorations. Battles have been won because people prayed the rosary. There have been hearts converted, and impossible intentions answered too.
As suggested by Pope St John Paul II, the Joyful mysteries could be said on Monday and Saturday, the Luminous on Thursday, the Sorrowful on Tuesday and Friday, and the Glorious on Wednesday and Sunday (with this exception: Sundays of Christmas season - The Joyful; Sundays of Lent - Sorrowful).
[Find out more: Read Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Letter on the Most Holy Rosary under the title, “Rosarium Virginis Mariae”, published on October 16, 2002]
- The Joyful Mysteries, said on Mondays and Saturdays, gives one purity of mind and body.
- The Luminous Mysteries, said on Thursdays, strengthens in one the love of our eucharistic Lord.
- The Sorrowful Mysteries, said on Tuesdays and Fridays, teaches one that God's will be done.
- The Glorious Mysteries, said on Wednesdays and Sundays, brings one closer to Jesus through Mary.
Do drop a bead today! Starting with a simple "Hail Mary", may we eventually be able to say an entire Rosary a day, just like the example of Br Emmanuel.
Article by Pauline Natalie Lim
OLPS Communications Ministry
Disclaimer: The views and recommendations expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the priests of the parish or the Catholic Church of Singapore.