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Our Lady Did Not Ask for
Fifteen Decades of the Rosary

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In the article on the 15 decades of the Rosary by Fr. Sretenovic [click here], he mentioned that at Fatima, Mary was not asking for just five decades of the Rosary, but for fifteen every day.

It is my understanding that when Our Lady of Fatima asked the children to say the Rosary every day, she used what I am told is the common Portuguese expression for five decades of the Rosary, namely the word for 'third' ('terco') that is, 'a third of the fifteen decades'. If all that is so, then Fr. Stretenovic's statement that She asked for all fifteen decades is incorrect.

     God Bless,

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TIA responds:

Mr. T.D.,

Thank you for your e-mail.

1. The Rosary in its original sense means the fifteen decades, as mentioned in the article by Fr. Sretenovic. The Rosary is Our Lady’s Psalter, referring to the 150 Psalms, and the whole Rosary, with 150 (actually 153) Hail Marys, is what Our Lady asked from St. Dominic when she appeared to him in the French city of Prouille in 1208.

2. The goal of this prayer is to remember and glorify the three sets of mysteries - joyful, sorrowful, and glorious - that made up the important events in the lives of Our Lord and Our Lady. When we pray the Hail Marys and Our Fathers meditating on those Mysteries, Our Lady is very propitious to listen to our requests.

3. For those who cannot pray the Rosary, it is a pious practice to pray a third part of it, meditating on one set of Mysteries. It is a prayer that is certainly pleasing to Our Lady, since she asked that only one set of Mysteries be prayed when she established the conditions for the Five First Saturdays.

Normally, however, the praying of this third part is considered an initial stage toward the prayer of the whole Rosary. This is why, before Vatican II, Catholics schools and confessors used to teach children to pray the third part of the Rosary to accustom them to this prayer so that later they might go further and pray the whole Rosary.

4. In English we habitually make a confusion between the prayer of the entire Rosary (fifteen decades) and the prayer of a third part of it, which we inappropriatelly also call the Rosary.

The Portuguese language is more precise than the English in this respect. In Portuguese there are two different words to refer to these two different acts of piety. When someone says that he prayed the Rosário, or Rosary, it means that he prayed the fifteen decades. When he says that he prayed a terço, or one third of the Rosary, it means that he prayed only five decades and meditated on only one set of Mysteries.

5. Now then, at Fatima Our Lady asked the children at times to pray the terço and at other times to pray many terços. These requests of many terços seem a clear invitation to the children to pray and meditate not only on one, but on two or three sets of Mysteries. That is, she was preparing the children to pray the entire Rosary.

6. This intention seems to be confirmed by the apparition of October 13 in which Our Lady was dressed as Our Lady of the Rosary. In Portuguese, Nossa Senhora do Rosário is a traditional devotion referring unequivocally to the prayer of the fifteen decades.

Therefore, even though Our Lady at Fatima did not use the word Rosário when she asked the children to pray, she seemed to be preparing them to pray the whole fifteen decades.

Thus, Fr. Strenovic seems to be right on target when he advises his readers to pray the entire Rosary (fifteen decades), and the third part as a beginning for that.

We hope these explanations resolve your question.


     TIA correspondence desk

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