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GRAVESCENTIBUS MALIS (On the Rosary)
To the Venerable Brethren,
Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops, and other Ordinaries in Peace and Communion
with the Holy See.
1. More than once have We assertedand We recently repeated this in the Encyclical
Letter Divini Redemptoris (Acta Ap. Sedis, 1937, Vol. XXIX, p. 65)that there
is no remedy for the ever-growing evils of our times except a return to Our Lord Jesus
Christ and to His most holy precepts. Truly, only He "hath the words of eternal
life" (Cf. John, vi, 69), and individuals and society can only fall into immediate
and miserable ruin if they ignore the majesty of God and repudiate His Law.
2. However, anyone who studies with diligence the records of the Catholic Church will
easily recognize that the true patronage of the Virgin Mother of God is linked with all
the annals of the Christian name. When, in fact, errors everywhere diffused were bent upon
rending the seamless robe of the Church and upon throwing the Catholic world into
confusion, our fathers turned with confident soul to her "alone who destroys all
heresies in the world" (Roman Breviary), and the victory won through her brought the
return of tranquillity.
3. When the impious Mohammedan power, trusting in its powerful fleet and war-hardened
armies, threatened the peoples of Europe with ruin and slavery, thenupon the
suggestion of the Sovereign Pontiffthe protection of the heavenly Mother was
fervently implored and the enemy was defeated and his ships sunk. Thus the Faithful of
every age, both in public misfortune and in private need, turn in supplication to Mary,
the benignant, so that she may come to their aid and grant help and remedy against sorrows
of body and soul. And never was her most powerful aid hoped for in vain by those who
besought it with pious and trustful prayer.
4. But also in our day, dangers no less grave than in the past beset civil and
religious society. In fact, because the supreme and eternal authority of God, which
commands and forbids, is despised and completely repudiated by men, the result is that the
consciousness of Christian duty is weakened, and that faith becomes tepid in souls or
entirely lost, and his afterward affects and ruins the very basis of human society.
5. Thus on the one hand are seen citizens intent on an atrocious struggle among
themselves because some are provided with abundant riches and others must gain bread for
themselves and their dear ones by the sweat of their brows. Indeed, as we all know, in
some regions the evil had reached such a pitch that it seeks to destroy all private right
of property, so that everything might be shared in common.
6. On the other hand, there are not lacking men who declare that they honor and exalt,
above all, the power of the State. They say they must use every means to assure civil
order and enforce authority, and pretend that only thus are they able totally to repulse
the execrable theories of the Communists. However, they despise the light of evangelic
wisdom and endeavor to revive the errors of the pagans and their way of life.
7. To this is added the clever and lamentable sect of those who, denying and hating
God, declare themselves the enemies of the Eternal, and who insinuate themselves
everywhere. They discredit and uproot all religious belief from souls. Finally, they
trample on every human and Divine right. And while they cast scorn on the hope of heavenly
reward, they incite men to seek, even by illicit means, false earthly happiness, and
therefore drive them with brazen temerity to the dissolution of the social order, causing
disorder, cruel rebellions and even the conflagration of civil war.
8. Nevertheless, Venerable Brethren, though such great and numerous evils hang over us,
and others still greater are to be feared for the future, we must not lose heart nor let
the confident hope that rests solely on God become fainter. He who "made the nations
of the earth for health" (Cf. Wisdom i, 14) without doubt will not let those perish
whom He has redeemed with His Precious Blood, nor will He abandon His Church. But rather,
as We said in the beginning, shall We beseech God through the mediation of the Blessed
Virgin, so acceptable to Him, since, to use the words of St. Bernard: "Such is the
will of God, who has wished that we should have all things through Mary." (Sermon on
the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.)
9. Among the various supplications with which we successfully appeal to the Virgin
Mother of God, the Holy Rosary without doubt occupies a special and distinct place. This
prayer, which some call the Psalter of the Virgin or Breviary of the Gospel and of
Christian life, was described and recommended by Our Predecessor of happy memory, Leo
XIII, with these vigorous passages: "Very admirable is this crown interwoven with the
angelic salutation which is interposed in the Sunday prayer, and unites with it the
obligation of interior meditation. It is an excellent manner of prayer . . . and very
useful for the attainment of immortal life" (Acta Leonis, 1898, Vol. XVIII, pp.
10. And this can well be deduced from the very flowers that form this mystic garland.
What prayers in fact can be found more adaptable and holy? This first is that which our
Divine Redeemer Himself pronounced when His disciples asked Him: "Lord, teach us to
pray" (Luke xi, 1); a very holy supplication which both offers us the wayas far
as it is possible for usto render glory to God, and also takes into account all the
necessities of our body and soul. How can the Eternal Father, when prayed to with the very
words of His Son, refuse to come to our aid?
11. The other prayer is the Angelic Salutation, which begins with the eulogies of the
Archangel Gabriel and of St. Elizabeth, and ends with that very pious supplication by
which we beg the help of the Blessed Virgin now and at the hour of our death. To these
invocations, said aloud, is added the contemplation of the sacred mysteries, through which
they place, as it were, under our eyes the joys, sorrows and triumphs of Jesus Christ and
of His Mother, so that we receive relief and comfort in our sorrows. Following those most
holy examples, we ascend to the happiness of the heavenly country by steps of ever higher
12. This practice of piety, Venerable Brethren, admirably diffused by St. Dominic, not
without the heavenly suggestion and inspiration of the Virgin Mother of God, is without
doubt easy for all, even for the ignorant and the simple. But those wander from the path
of truth who consider this devotion merely an annoying formula repeated with monotonous
singsong intonation, and refuse it as good only for children and silly women!
13. In this regard, it is to be noted that both piety and love, though always renewing
the same words, do not always repeat the same thing but always express something new
issuing from the intimate sentiment of devotion. And besides, this mode of prayer has the
perfume of evangelic simplicity and requires humility of spirit; and, if we disdain
humility, as the Divine Redeemer teaches, it will be impossible for us to enter the
heavenly kingdom: "Amen, I say to you, unless you become as little children you shall
not enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. xviii, 3).
14. Nevertheless, if men in our century, with its derisive pride, refuse the Holy
Rosary, there is an innumerable multitude of holy men of every age and every condition who
have always held it dear. They have recited it with great devotion, and in every moment
they have used it as a powerful weapon to put the demons to flight, to preserve the
integrity of life, to acquire virtue more easily, and in a word to attain real peace among
15. Nor are there lacking men famous as to doctrine and wisdom who, although intensely
occupied in scientific study and researches, never even for a day fail to pray fervently
on bended knee, before the image of the Virgin, in this most pious form. Thus kings and
princes, however burdened with most urgent occupations and affairs, made it their duty to
recite the Rosary.
16. This mystic crown, then, not only is found in and glides through the hands of the
poor, but it also is honored by citizens of every social rank. And We do not wish here to
pass over in silence the fact that the Blessed Virgin herself, even in our times, has
solicitously recommended this manner of prayer, when she appeared and taught it to the
innocent girl in the Grotto of Lourdes.
17. Therefore why should We not hope for every grace if We supplicate Our Heavenly
Mother in this manner with due disposition and holiness? We desire very earnestly,
Venerable Brethren, that the Holy Rosary should be recited in a special manner in the
month of October and with increased devotion both in the churches and in homes.
18. And so much the more must it be done since the enemies of the Divine Namethat
is, those who have rebelled against and denied and scorned the Eternal Godspread
snares for the Catholic Faith and the liberty due to the Church, and finally rebel with
insane efforts against divine and human rights, to send mankind to ruin and perdition.
Through efficacious recourse to the Virgin Mother of God, they may be finally bent and led
to penance and return to the straight path, trusting to the care and protection of Mary.
19. The Holy Virgin who once victoriously drove the terrible sect of the Albigenses
from Christian countries, now suppliantly invoked by us, will turn aside the new errors,
especially those of Communism, which reminds us in many ways, in its motives and misdeeds,
of the ancient ones.
20. And as in the times of the Crusades, in all Europe there was raised one voice of
the people, one supplication; so today, in all the world, the cities, and even the
smallest villages, united with courage and strength, with filial and constant insistence,
the people seek to obtain from the great Mother of God the defeat of the enemies of
Christian and human civilization, to the end that true peace may shine again over tired
and erring men.
21. If, then, all will do this with due disposition, with great faith and with fervent
piety, it is right to hope that as in the past, so in our day, the Blessed Virgin will
obtain from her divine Son that the waves of the present tempests be calmed and that a
brilliant victory crown this rivalry of Christians in prayer.
22. The Holy Rosary, besides, not only serves admirably to overcome the enemies of God
and Religion, but is also a stimulus and spur to the practice of evangelic virtues which
it injects and cultivates in our souls. Above all, it nourishes the Catholic Faith, which
flourishes again by due meditation on the sacred mysteries, and raises minds to the truth
revealed to us by God.
23. Every one can understand how salutary it is, especially in our times wherein
sometimes a certain annoyance of the things of the spirit is felt even among the Faithful,
and a dislike, as it were, for the Christian doctrine. Therefore, revive the hope of
immortal welfare, while the triumph of Jesus Christ and of His Mother, meditated on by us
in the last part of the Rosary, shows us Heaven open and invites us to the conquest of the
24. Thus while an unbridled longing for the things of this earth has penetrated into
the hearts of mortals and each one more ardently longs for the short-lived riches and
ephemeral pleasures, all feel a fruitful call back to the heavenly treasures "where
thieves do not break in and neither rust nor moth doth consume" (Matt. xii, 33), and
to the wealth that will never perish.
25. And the charity which has been weakened and cooled in many, how can it fail to be
rekindled into love in the souls of those who recall with a full heart the tortures and
death of our Redeemer and the afflictions of His Sorrowful Mother? From this charity
towards God, then, there cannot but rise a more intense love of one's neighbor if one
dwells on the labors and sorrows that Our Lord suffered for all, reinstating the lost
inheritance of the children of God.
26. Therefore see to it, Venerable Brethren, that such a fruitful practice shall be
more diffused, more highly esteemed by all, and that common piety be increased. Through
your work and that of the priests who help you in the care of souls, its praises and
advantages shall be preached and repeated to the Faithful of every social class.
27. From it, the young will draw fresh energy with which to control the rebellious
tendencies to evil and to preserve intact the stainless purity of the soul; also in it,
the old will again find repose, relief and peace from their anxious cares. To those who
devote themselves to Catholic Action may it be a spur to impel them to a more fervent and
active work of apostolate; and to all those who suffer in any way, especially the dying,
may it bring comfort and increase the hope of eternal happiness.
28. The fathers and mothers of families particularly must give an example to their
children, especially when, at sunset, they gather together after the day's work, within
the domestic walls, and recite the Holy Rosary on bended knees before the image of the
Virgin, together fusing voice, faith and sentiment. This is a beautiful and salutary
custom, from which certainly there cannot but be derived tranquillity and abundance of
heavenly gifts for the household.
29. When very frequently We receive newly married couples in audience and address
paternal words to them, We give them rosaries, We recommend these to them earnestly, and
We exhort them, citing Our own example, not to let even one day pass without saying the
Rosary, no matter how burdened they may be with many cares and labors.
30. For these reasons, Venerable Brethren, We have thought fit earnestly to exhort you,
and through you, all the Faithful, to carry out this pious practice. Nor do We doubt that
you, listening, with your usual response to Our paternal invitation will bring about
abundant fruits once more.
31. And in addressing this Encyclical to you, another motive impels Us. We wish that,
together with Us, Our many children in Jesus shall unite and render thanks to the Mother
of God for the better health We have happily regained.
32. This grace, as We have had occasion to write (Cf. Letter to Cardinal E. Pacelli, Osservatore
Romano, 5 September 1937), We attribute to the special intercession of the virgin of
Lisieux, St. Therese of the Child Jesus. But We know, though, that everything comes to us
from Almighty God through the hands of Our Lady.
33. And lastly, as there has been launched in the public press with rash insolence, a
very grave injury to the Blessed Virgin, We cannot do less than profit by this occasion to
offer, together with the Episcopate and the people of that nation which venerates Mary as
"Queen of the Kingdom of Poland," and with the homage of our piety, due
reparation to the august Queen, and denounce to the whole world this sacrilege committed
with impunity, as a painful and unworthy thing.
34. Meanwhile, with a full heart We impart to you, Venerable Brethren, and to the flock
entrusted to the care of each of you, the Apostolic Blessing as an augury of heavenly
graces and in token to Our Paternal benevolence.
Given at Castel Gandolfo, near Rome, on the 29th day of the month of September, on the
Feast of the Dedication of St. Michael the Archangel, in the year 1937, the sixteenth of
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