Spiritual Rosaries

Spiritual Rosaries

by Mattia da Salò

From  I Frati Cappuccini. Documenti e testimonianze del primo secolo, Vol. III/1 pp. 768 -805, edited by. Costanzo Cargnoni OFM Cap, and translated by Patrick Colbourne OFM Cap.

Mattia da Salò genuinely lived what he wrote. If his other works appear to be more sophisticated because their style is scholarly, heavy, meditative and wide ranging, the little work that is presented here represents a more personal summary of the substance of his method of prayer, reduced as one might say today, to the simplest little crumbs.

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In a letter dated 4th January 1595 that was addressed to Orazio Mancini, the author himself speaks about this work. (I Frati Cappuccini part II pp. 984-986). In his book  La Filotea (part II, ch 1)recommended it immediately next to the writings of St Bonaventure His Brother, Giovanni da Salò, who was the editor of this small pocket edition, explained the whole history of the work and how it was used by the author and famous people such as St Charles Borromeo and the great influence that it exercised in the Order both for the formation of young novices and students and how it was used by St Serafino da Montegranaro who “being inspired by God, - as his most ancient biographer reported – memorised certain Rosaries composed by Father Mattia da Salò a very devout Capuchin religious, and had many copies made of them, which he distributed to many devout souls… To the great astonishment of all he had memorised these lengthy passages of various meditations so well that he was able to recite them unflinchingly without the slightest error.” (Cf. AO 18 [1900] 238a in the note).

It might be well to let Giovanni da Salò speak as he has faithfully and accurately documented all the important facts in the Prologue:

“St Charles of happy memory, asked Father Matthia, who is the author of this little book, for a devout work on prayer (concerning which he knew that he was well versed and in whom he had great trust) and he sent back his Practices of Mental Prayer. The Saint replied that he held the Practices in esteem (indeed during one of his Councils he had exhorted fathers of families to read them to their servants on feast days) but that he was looking for something more brief, easy and lively because of the many, weighty activities which distracted and tired his mind and which did not permit him to enter into long meditation to be stirred by them. The author replied: “I have written some Rosaries to keep the mind on the path: perhaps they will serve your purpose”. He sent them to him. The Saint told him subsequently that he was very pleased with them and had derived great profit from them. In addition to this Giussanti alludes to them in Book VIII chapter 5 of his History of the Saint stating that he frequently meditated on the Passion of Our Lord, for which he had a special devotion, breaking it up into various points, and that he had made a book with illustrated pages of the mystery of the Passion, to have them at hand to look at as a help to his memory concerning the things on which he wanted to meditate. At the time of his death several volumes were found containing points such as these.

A similar exchange took place between the author and Cardinal Morosini, Bishop of Brescia, who appreciated the Rosaries, which he copied with his own hand. He said later on that he did not uses more than twelve points during an exercise, keeping them close at hand to keep his mind recollected, attentive and on the subject and ready to continue the act of prayer with relish.

When the Bishop of Ascoli was gathering information concerning the sanctity and reputed miracles of Brother Serafino da Montegranaro, a Capuchin, when the city of Ascoli was requesting the Pope to beatify him, he found that the Brother held the Rosaries in such esteem and practiced them so much that he knew them off by heart (for he could not read) and that he carried them around so that he could give them to people as the occasion arose.

Various young Capuchins were content to perform them, to such an extent that they knew where a particular point was when they were suddenly asked for it. For example: that the fourth point of the third decade of the sixth Rosary dealt with the love out of which the Saviour freely sent the Spirit from God to us. They stated that they spent three hours each night in fasting and praying without being distracted and that this made them feel delighted and that they would have spent more time if obedience had permitted. They were translated into Latin for the novices in Bohemia.

Likewise they were also fruitfully communicated to other religious Prelates and secular friends who had asked the author for advice as to how to pray easily and well.

It would seem that he only communicated them in writing to satisfy those who were devout and that when this happened they regarded them as more valuable and put them into practice with more passion and profit. He never wanted them to be printed. Now that he is dead here they are in print for the common good after they had already been reviewed and updated by him a few years ago.

With respect to the author, whether he was ill or involved in work, in seventy years of religious life he was never known to have omitted to perform the two house of mental prayer that the Capuchin Order laid down for each day. During these periods, for example at Easter and Christmas and on other Solemnities he meditated (often easily in tears) on the Lord’s Passion and Birth, chewing over the points using the beads of the Rosaries as they were gleaned from the texts of the Gospels. Desiring that the entire world should meditate on them he was never satisfied with preaching them using the voice, print or the pen. We know from those in whom he confided that he always remained steady to such an extent that he dealt with existing external duties with a mind that was agile, detached and active, and that he also practiced the method of the Preparation for Mass which he had suggested to others (which God willing will be printed and can soon be seen in Practices 66 and 67 in part four) according to which he accompanied Christ and the Church Triumphant and Militant and the mystical members of the Church, who are the saints, in continually offering the Passion of Christ Himself to the divine Majesty for the glory of God.

He held this exercise of prayer in regard for another reason: and he used to say that the matters that he treated with God in prayer were so important that he did not want the foolishness of children (this is how he used to refer to external matters no matter how serious they were) to take precedence over the cross. In fact in the Order he always joyfully carried his cross of austerity, toil, government or sickness etc., which was clear proof that he frequently meditated on the Passion and indicative of outstanding purity and a Christian frame of mind.

Much might be said concerning the origin and utility of this little work, which at first sight might appear to be dry, by way of a brief introduction, but it needs to be read right through and put into practice, keeping in mind that habitual usage makes it easier to overcome many obstacles, that individuals have different tastes so that each one should be led by the Holy Spirit; bearing in mind what our Father St Francis taught that anyone who takes any subject other than Christ the Saviour as the object of their prayer is exposed to the deceptions of the devil and to falling. Above all try to discipline yourself and place yourself on the cross if you wish to acquire a suitable taste for contemplation.” (Spiritual Rosaries, 6-12).

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