Perhaps you’ve heard of the Fifteen Promises of the Rosary. According to legend, Our Lady promised St. Dominic that she would pour out specific blessings upon those men and women who pray the Rosary daily.
In case you’ve never heard of them, here are the promises which Our Lady allegedly made:
The 15 Promises
- Whosoever shall faithfully serve me by the recitation of the Rosary shall receive signal graces.
- I promise my special protection and the greatest graces to all those who shall recite the Rosary.
- The Rosary shall be a powerful armor against hell; it will destroy vice, decrease sin, and defeat heresies.
- It will cause good works to flourish; it will obtain for souls the abundant mercy of God; it will withdraw the hearts of men from the love of the world and its vanities, and it will lift them to the desire of Eternal things.
- The soul which recommends itself to me by the recitation of the Rosary shall not perish.
- Whosoever shall recite the Rosary devoutly, applying himself to the consideration of its Sacred Mysteries, shall never be conquered by misfortune. God will not chastise him in His justice, he shall not perish by an unprovided death; if he be just, he shall remain in the grace of God, and become worthy of Eternal Life.
- Whoever shall have a true devotion for the Rosary shall not die without the Sacraments of the Church.
- Those who are faithful to recite the Rosary shall have during their life and at their death the Light of God and the plentitude of His Graces; at the moment of death, they shall participate in the Merits of the Saints in Paradise.
- I shall deliver from Purgatory those who have been devoted to the Rosary.
- The faithful children of the Rosary shall merit a high degree of Glory in Heaven.
- You shall obtain all you ask of me by the recitation of the Rosary.
- All those who propagate the Holy Rosary shall be aided by me in their necessities.
- I have obtained from my Divine Son that all the advocates of the Rosary shall have for intercessors the entire Celestial Court during life and at the hour of death.
- All who recite the Rosary are my sons, and brothers of my Only Son Jesus Christ.
- Devotion to my Rosary is a great sign of predestination.
These promises sound amazing, am I right?
If I devote myself to praying the Rosary, I’ll have a higher degree of glory in Heaven, I won’t perish forever in hell, and I’ll be protected from the attacks of the devil in this life.
Who wouldn’t want these promises applied to them?
But there’s a problem...
There’s no historical evidence to show that St. Dominic received the Rosary, or the Promises, from the Blessed Virgin.
There isn’t even any evidence to show that St. Dominic worked to popularize the Rosary in his lifetime. In fact, the Rosary (in a somewhat less developed form) was already a fairly widespread devotion prior to the time of St. Dominic.
However, there is no written or archaeological evidence that St. Dominic was particularly dedicated to the devotion. For over one hundred years, scholars who have worked to prove any connection between St. Dominic and the Rosary have actually managed to dig up much more evidence to the contrary!
If this is the case, where do the Fifteen Promises actually come from?
It turns out that the Fifteen Promises of the Rosary are likely the creation of a Dominican priest named Alan de Rupe - a Dominican priest who lived two hundred years after the death of St. Dominic.
It was de Rupe who worked tirelessly to promote the Rosary, and he even went so far as to create the Rosary Confraternity, a spiritual association of the Catholic Church in which the members are devoted to praying the entire Rosary during the course of one week.
It was also de Rupe who, over two hundred years after St. Dominic’s death, created the story that St. Dominic received the Rosary and the Fifteen Promises directly from Our Lady.
Here’s what we do know
According to one of his disciples, Alan de Rupe was probably born in Brittany around 1428.
He entered the Dominican order at an early age, distinguished himself in philosophy and theology, and taught almost without interruption from 1459 to 1475 in places such as France and Germany.
During his years of teaching, he also became a preacher, and he considered popularizing the Rosary to be his “special mission.”
Though he published nothing during his lifetime, immediately after his death his brethren were directed to collect his writings to be published.
Due to the haphazard manner in which his writings were collected and edited, his writings on St. Dominic aren’t considered reliable historical sources. This is, in part, also because much of his information regarding the life and teachings of St. Dominic are based on private revelations.
Does this diminish the importance of the Rosary in our devotional lives?
In fact, if we take a careful look at the Promises, it seems that they basically emphasize, or reinforce, those promises we have already been given as faithful followers of Christ. For example:
- The first Promise, which mentions “signal graces,” indicates that we will receive “unusual” or “out-of-the-norm” graces when we devote ourselves to praying the Rosary. But, as Christians, we’ve already been promised the greatest gift of life eternal, through Jesus; we’ve already been extended God’s spectacular graces. In Ephesians 2:6-7, we read, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”
The Rosary is a simple way to reinforce the promises of God, and to meditate upon the incredible graces He has bestowed upon us.
- In the sixth Promise, notice the line that says, “If he be just, he shall remain in the grace of God.”
But we already knew that, didn’t we? Once again, we can refer back to Scripture: “No good thing will He withhold from them that work uprightly” (Psalm 84:11). The Rosary isn’t a get-out-of-jail-free card; salvation still demands conversion. And chances are, if you’re praying the Rosary, then you already have the desire in your heart to remain in God’s grace.
- The fifteenth Promise states that devotion to the Rosary is a great sign of predestination—meaning that if you’re devoted to Our Lady’s prayer, then you’re “on the right path.”
And once again, if you are a Christian who prays the Rosary, then you’re certainly familiar with Psalm 23:3: “He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for the sake of His name.” We are assuredly on the right path, if we are following Jesus. The Rosary prayer absolutely reinforces this path of righteousness.
The point I’m trying to make is that while the Fifteen Promises of the Rosary provide a considerable motivation to devote oneself to a daily Rosary prayer, they’ve not been deemed valid...
But that’s okay! Because, through Scripture and guidance from the spiritual leaders of our Church, we know that devotion to the Rosary can bring about so many blessings, and that the true promises of God have already been fulfilled through Christ His Son!
Since the days of Pope Pius V, who served as pope from 1566 to 1572), the popes have consistently praised the Rosary as not only one of the best schools of prayer, but also as a school of faith—because it is an extended meditation on the mystery of Salvation History.
To date, there are at least twenty-two papal documents which praise and encourage the faithful to pray the Rosary:
Simple yet profound, it still remains, at the dawn of this third millennium, a prayer of great significance, destined to bring forth a harvest of holiness.”
~ Pope John Paul II, from Rosarium Virginis Mariae (2002 Apostolic Letter)
And as we recite these vocal prayers, we meditate upon the principal mysteries of our religion; the Incarnation of Jesus Christ and the Redemption of the human race are proposed, one event after another, for our consideration.”
~ Encyclical of Pope John XXIII on the Rosary: Prayer for the Church, Missions, International and Social Problems
“[N]ever has that hope wavered which they placed in the Mother of the Divine King, Jesus Christ; nor has that faith ever failed by which we are taught that Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, reigns with a mother's solicitude over the entire world, just as she is crowned in heavenly blessedness with the glory of a Queen.”
~ Encyclical of Pope Pius XII on Proclaiming the Queenship of Mary, 1954
The goal of all prayer is to draw you into a deeper relationship with Christ, which is always life-transforming. If this goal is achieved for you through the Rosary, then by all means, pursue the Rosary with holy zeal!
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