Green for the forests and grasslands of Africa. Red, calling to mind the fire of faith that brought missioners to the Americas. White, symbolizing Europe, the home of the Holy Father. Blue for the ocean surrounding the islands of the Pacific. Yellow for Asia, symbolizing the morning light of the East.
These are the colors of the beads of the World Mission Rosary. Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen inaugurated the World Mission Rosary in 1951, while he was the national director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. His desire was that those who pray the World Mission Rosary would embrace all the continents, all peoples in prayer. It raises our awareness of the missionary needs of the universal Church, and it helps us be united with the intentions of the Holy Father. It is meant to move us from prayer to action, to become missionary disciples of Jesus.
I have very colorful memories of the young people in catechism classes at St. John Bosco Parish, Chicago, during October. The catechists would organize the World Mission Rosary, asking the children and parents to come to class dressed in the various colors that represent the continents, different classes assigned to different continents—hundreds of people in green, red, white, blue, and yellow. Sometimes the children would light candles of different colors, corresponding to the colors of the continents. It was inspiring to see all the flames at the end of the Rosary, recalling the apostolic zeal of so many believers who leave the comforts of their home to go forth and preach the Gospel. It was not unusual that the children would bring in pictures of missionary activity on their assigned continent or identify missionary saints who served there. These simple experiences were effective ways to accomplish the objectives of the World Missionary Rosary: embracing all people in prayer, raising awareness of the missionary needs of the Church, uniting with the intentions of the Holy Father, and cultivating the missionary vocation of all the baptized.
As Salesians, we have the same filial devotion to Mary that Don Bosco had, and we express that devotion by praying the Rosary daily. During this extraordinary mission month, I recommend praying the World Mission Rosary. As we meditate on the mysteries, we will find a beautiful connection between the life of Jesus and Mary and the missionary activity of the Church today, aspects of the mysteries that we might ordinarily overlook. We can also embrace in prayer the Salesian missionaries from our provinces: SDBs, FMAs, SLMs, others from our families and works who have followed Christ’s mandate, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19). We can offer prayers of gratitude for the Salesian missionaries who have joined us here in Canada and the USA.
Archbishop Fulton Sheen has given the Church a way of praying the Rosary that, at the same time, is very Salesian. In the first place, it is Salesian simply because of our devotion to the Rosary. We could say that the World Mission Rosary is Salesian because of the great missionary work of the members of the Salesian Family on all the continents symbolized by the colors of the World Mission Rosary. It is also Salesian because it is such an effective educational tool and easily involves the young people and their families in praying it.
During this extraordinary mission month, I invite you to share the stories and photos of the activities being organized at your Salesian presence. Please send them to Salesian News so we can all be encouraged to live as missionary disciples.
May Mary, Our Lady of the Rosary and Queen of the Missions, guide us and protect us.
Fr. Tim Zak, SDB