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Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture 8.4 (2005) 15-34

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"A Harvest of Holiness":

The Theology of Danielle Rose's Mysteries

In the autumn of 2002, Pope John Paul II gave to the Church his apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae (RVM). There he reiterated his devotion to the rosary that he had proclaimed soon after his election as pope, the rosary to which he dedicated the twenty-fifth year of his pontificate. He reaffirmed what the Church has taught for centuries: when properly understood, the rosary is not a Marian obstruction to but rather a powerful form of Christocentric prayer, a means of praying with Mary to Jesus. Underscoring this point, he proposed a group of five new mysteries—the "luminous" mysteries or "mysteries of light"— which augment the rosary's traditional joyful, sorrowful, and glorious mysteries and center on the public ministry of Jesus: his baptism by John in the Jordan, the wedding at Cana, the proclamation of the Kingdom of God and call to conversion, the Transfiguration, and the institution of the Eucharist. John Paul appealed specifically to young people:

With God's help, a pastoral approach to youth which is positive, impassioned and creative—as shown by the World Youth Days!—is capable of achieving quite remarkable results. If the [End Page 15] Rosary is well presented, I am sure that young people will once more surprise adults by the way they make this prayer their own and recite it with the enthusiasm typical of their age group.

Near the end of the letter, he called upon the clergy as well as "brothers and sisters in every state of life," once again singling out "young people": "confidently take up the Rosary once again. Rediscover the Rosary in the light of Scripture, in harmony with the Liturgy, and in the context of your daily lives" (§43).

I suspect that that those already critical of John Paul II viewed this apostolic letter as yet another symptom of his ostensible aloofness, his enthusiasm for the rosary as yet another sign of his supposed stubborn traditionalism. The rosary as a prayer for the young people of the twenty-first century? Yet the late Holy Father was quite clear: the rosary is not an outdated remnant of a medieval, Tridentine, anti-modernist, or pre-Vatican II past, but rather here and now "retains all its power and continues to be a valuable pastoral resource for every good evangelizer" (§17). "Simple yet profound," the introduction of the letter proclaimed, the rosary "still remains, at the dawn of this third millennium, a prayer of great significance, destined to bring forth a harvest of holiness" (§1).

And so already it has. A year later, a gifted young American songwriter, vocalist, and musician, Danielle Rose Skorich, was among those in the crowds in St. Peter's Square for the beatification of Mother Teresa as well as the celebration of John Paul II's twenty-five years as the successor to St. Peter. In fall 2003 she published a double-album CD titled Mysteries, the impetus for which was the papal letter, as she makes clear in her album acknowledgments: "Pope John Paul II, thank you for loving the young people of our Church as Jesus does. The inspiration for this album took place on October 16, 2002, when you gave the Church the letter on the rosary and the Luminous Mysteries" (World Library Publications, B00012CTTM). Musically, devotionally, and theologically, the album is a notable [End Page 16] achievement that deserves a wide audience. Mysteries consists of twenty-three original songs, twenty of which are devoted, respectively, to the twenty mysteries of the rosary. They are framed by an introductory and a final song as well as "Hail, Holy Queen," a musical interpretation of the Salve Regina, one of the traditional concluding prayers that follow the saying of the rosary. In effect, this young woman has composed a beautiful sacred song cycle for our...