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from issue no. 09 - 2007

The fifteen Promises of the Holy Rosary

It was in the year 1475 that the Dominican friar Alain de la Roche set down the miraculous events of which he had been protagonist some years before: in particular that which the Madonna had promised «to all those who will devoutly recite my Rosary»

by Pina Baglioni

<I>The Madonna of the Rosary</I>, detail, Caravaggio, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

The Madonna of the Rosary, detail, Caravaggio, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

«One who prayed the Psalter of the Virgin Mary was attacked for seven whole years, at times through the senses and others materially, by appalling temptations by demons. And in almost all these years he did not have any consolation, not even minimal. Through the pity of God finally the Queen of Mercy appeared, who, accompanied by some saints, visited him every now and then, the temptation having been vanquished by her in person, she freed him from the danger [...] and entrusted to him the task of preaching this Rosary». It was the beginning of the year 1475 when the Dominican friar Alain de la Roche decided to write down the miraculous events of which he had been protagonist some years before. At that time he was in Lille, where he participated, as master of theology, at the chapter of the Reformed Congregation of Holland.
He started writing his memorial just in time: on 8 September of that same year, in fact, the Dominican friar died in the odor of sanctity in the convent of Zwolle, in Holland, aged 47, delivering to the Christian people a treasure of inestimable value received directly from the Virgin Mary during one of her apparitions: fifteen promises «for all those who will devoutly recite my Rosary».
But who was Alain de la Roche to earn such great affection and predilection? A name probably known only to the historians of the Dominican Order. Born in Brittany in 1428, he was received among the followers of Saint Dominic at the monastery of Dinan, in the diocese of Saint-Malo. There, when very young, he made his religious profession and some time later moved to the monastery of Lille. After philosophy and theology studies at the Saint Jacque College of Paris in 1459 he was given the duty of teaching for the scholastic year 1460-61 by the General Chapter of the Order. In the meantime there had also been a visit to Lille, in 1460, where he was nominated member of the Reformed Congregation of Holland in the purpose of leading the monasteries back to observance of the Rule.

«When Holy Mary saved him»
In those extremely busy years the reputation of great theologian spread throughout the Order. But even more knowledge of his extraordinary devotion to Our Lady. «The said Father... for a long time used to offer the Rosary of Mary, in an assiduous daily devotion to God, through the advocacy of Mary, Mother of God» writes Alain, speaking of himself in the third person, spending therefore «a life safe with God in the Institute of his vocation». That state of grace, unfortunately, did not last very long. Alain tells us that from 1457 on, «he was greatly afflicted by the most troublesome harassment of other temptations and by many very cruel battles, and had to struggle». «In fact, God permitting so (as He alone could release him from the temptation: something that the Church knows from experience, and also suffers today), he was tempted for seven whole years very cruelly by the devil, was struck with scourges, and received harsh blows with whips».
The monk’s life was thus transformed into a veritable Calvary. As well as that, on an unspecified day in the year 1464, while he was staying as a reader in the monastery of the small French city of Douai, he decided to go as far as taking his own life. «Once he was in a lucid desperation of spirit, in the church of his Sacred Order» Alain writes. «Already, in fact, alas, the taut hand of the tempted one, having drawn his knife, bent his arm and with the sharpened blade, aimed a blow at his own throat so decisive and fell that it certainly would have caused, without delay or doubt, the slitting of his throat». But at the moment when all seemed inevitable something unexpected happened. «Mary the savior, most merciful, approached, and with a decisive movement in his aid seized his arm, prevented him from doing it, gave the desperate man a slap, and said: “What are you doing, you wretch? If you had asked my help, as you have other times, you would not have run into such peril”. Saying that she vanished, and the wretch remained alone».

The fifteen Promises
After that first apparition things did not change at all. Instead, they got worse: the temptations pressed on him again so importunately as to make him decide on abandoning the religious life. And if that were not enough, he also became sick to the point where his fellow brothers gave him Extreme Unction. But one night, while «he lay poorly in most all-consuming groans» he began to invoke the Virgin Mary. And for the second time she visited him. A blinding light «between the tenth and the eleventh hour» lit up his cell and «the Most Blessed Virgin Mary appeared majestically, and greeted him most sweetly». Like a true mother, Our Lady stooped to cure the poor man’s sickness. She hung about his neck a necklace plaited of her hair from which hung a hundred and fifty precious stones, interspaced with another fifteen «according to the number of her Rosary», notes the friar. Mary established a bond not only with him, but extended «in spiritual and invisible manner to those who recite her Rosary devoutly».
And at that point Our Lady said to him: «Rejoice then and be glad, O spouse, since you have made me rejoice many times, as many times as you greeted me in my Rosary. Nevertheless, while I was happy, you were very often anguished [...], but why? I had decided to give sweet things to you, therefore for many years, I brought you bitter things [...] Come, rejoice now».
And so it was: thus after seven years of hell, another life began for Alain: «In reciting the Rosary of Mary he was particularly luminous, of a maevellous happiness joined to an inexplicable joy». And one day, just while he was praying, behold the Virgin again «deigned to make him many brief revelations», he notes. «They are those that follow, and the words are those of the Mother of God:

1. To all those who will recite my Rosary devoutly, I promise my special protection and the greatest graces.
2. Those who persevere in the recitation of my Rosary will receive some outstanding grace.
3. The Rosary will be a most powerful defense against hell; it will destroy vices, it will free from sin, it will sweep away heresies.
4. The Rosary will make virtues and good works bloom and will obtain for souls the most abundant divine mercies; it will replace in hearts the love of the world with the love of God, elevating them to desire of heavenly and eternal bounty. How many souls will be sanctified by this means!
5. Those who entrust themselves to me with the Rosary, will not perish.
6. Those who recite my Rosary devoutly, meditating on its mysteries, will not be oppressed by misfortune. The sinner, will be converted; the just, will grow in grace and become worthy of eternal life.
7. The true devotee of my Rosary will not die without the Sacraments of the Church.
8. Those who recite my Rosary will find during their life and at death the light of God, the fullness of His graces and will share in the deserts of the blessed.
9. I will free quickly from Purgatory the souls devoted to my Rosary.
10. The true children of my Rosary will enjoy great glory in Heaven.
11. What you ask with my Rosary, you will obtain.
12. Those who spread my Rosary will be helped by me in all their needs.
13. I have obtained from my Son that all the members of the Confraternity of the Rosary will have the saints of Heaven for brethren during their life and at the hour of death.
14. Those who recite my Rosary faithfully are all my most beloved children, brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ.
15. The devotion to my Rosary is a great sign of predestination.

After the “delivery” of the fifteen promises, the Virgin took her leave asking from Alain a gesture of obedience: «Preach the things that you have seen and heard. Have no fear: I am with you: I will help you and all my praise singers. I will chastise those who oppose you».
And Alain readily obeyed: from the years 1464-1465, the period of the apparitions, up to his death, the Dominican did nothing but spread the beloved Marian devotion through his preaching, and instituted the corresponding Confraternities. So much so as to persuade the Chapter of the Dominicans in Holland to recommend, in 1474 for the first time, the recitation of the Rosary as a prayer to be recited for the living and the dead. And also in that same year, in Frankfurt, in the church of the Dominicans, the first altar for a Confraternity of the Rosary was built.
Meanwhile in 1475, his last year, Alain set himself to write the Apologia of the Rosary of Mary, destined for a certain Ferrico, Bishop of Tournai, in order to relate everything that had happened to him eleven years before. Before returning to Rostock where he was to begin the scholastic year, he halted in Zwolle, and on 15 August, the feast of the Assumption of the Most Holy Mary, he became seriously ill.
Surrounded by his fellow brothers, who for a long time had considered him blessed, he died on the eve on the feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary on 8 September.

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