Category Archives: Rosary

Rosary: does the Bible really condemn repetitious prayer?

THE PROTESTANT CHALLENGE: How can the Catholic Church teach that the rosary is a legitimate prayer when the Bible forbids repetitious prayer?

The rosary is a popular Catholic devotion that the Catechism endorses as a “form of piety” that expresses the “religious sense of the Christian people” (1674).  [It is a prayer form that developed for the illiterate, ordinary people as only clerics were taught to read and write.  Those same clerics were required to recite the Liturgy of the Hours, which is a formalized way of singing the Psalm twenty-four hours a day, praising God for time, which is a holy gift from God.  Since ordinary people could not read the books for this form of prayer, the rosary developed, so they could say the simple prayers they had memorized in imitation.] But for many Protestants, the rosary, with its repetition of the Hail Mary (Lk 1:46-55) prayer, contradicts Jesus’ command to “Use no vain repetitions as the heathens do” (Matt. 6:7; KJV). It would seem that the Catholic practice of praying the rosary is a direct violation of Jesus’ command.

MEETING THE CHALLENGE

1. Jesus wasn’t condemning prayers that involve repetition, but rather the idea that the quantity of prayer determines its efficacy.

The Greek word translated “vain repetition” is battalogeō, which can mean to speak in a stammering way, saying the same words over and over again without thinking. But it can also mean “to use many words, to speak for a long time.” So it can connote either mindless repetition or quantity.

Which meaning does Jesus have in mind?

The context reveals that Jesus has the quantity of prayers in mind. For example, Jesus says in verse 7, “For they [the Gentiles] think that they will be heard for their many words,” as if their many words could wear down the gods in order to get what they wanted. This is the mentality of prayer that Jesus is telling his disciples to avoid—the mentality that sheer volume of words ensures that God hears us.

This explains why Jesus says in verse 8, “Don’t be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” The implication is that it’s futile to think a bunch of words is needed for God to hear a prayer, because he already knows it.

So, Jesus is not concerned with repetition simply. He’s concerned with the idea that simply multiplying words makes prayers efficacious.

2. The rosary is not meant to gain favors from God due to the amount of prayers repeated.

According to the Catechism, the rosary is an “epitome of the whole gospel” (971). It is meant to focus our hearts and minds on the mysteries of Christ’s life, mysteries such as his conception in Mary’s womb at the Annunciation, his birth in Bethlehem, his baptism and preaching ministry, his glorious resurrection, and his ascension into heaven.

Meditating on these mysteries is meant to give us a deeper knowledge of Christ and draw us into a deeper communion with him, so that we can be more conformed to him. And we include Mary in that meditation because her soul “magnifies the Lord” (Luke 1:46). The rosary, therefore, is a way to meditate on Christ in order to foster a greater love for him. The repetition of prayers serves that meditation—and that’s a biblical thing.

3. The Bible affirms prayers that involve repetition.

We can start with Jesus Himself. Notice that right after Jesus condemns the “vain repetitions” of the Gentiles, he commands the apostles, “Pray like this…Our Father who art in heaven.” Does Jesus intend for us to only say it once? Are we forbidden to repeat the Lord’s Prayer? Most Protestants have said it many times; perhaps they say it more than once a day.

Another example is Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Father…remove this cup…not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36). Mark tells us that Jesus prayed this multiple times: “And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words” (14:39). Surely, Jesus wouldn’t be violating his own command not to pray with “vain repetitions.”

We also have an example from the “four living creatures” (angels) that John sees in heaven: “Day and night they never cease to sing, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty” (Rev. 4:8). If any prayer involves repetition, it’s this one!

The Psalms even give us forms of prayer that involve repetition. Consider, for example, Psalm 136. Its refrain, “for his steadfast love endures forever,” occurs twenty-six times. Must we say that the Holy Spirit (the third person of the Trinity) who inspired the Psalmist to write this, is at odds with Jesus (the second person of the Trinity)?

Since the Bible affirms prayers that involve repetition, we can conclude that the repetition in the rosary does not violate Christ’s words.

COUNTER-CHALLENGE: Why should we think that a condemnation of useless repetition is a condemnation of any repetition? Couldn’t there be repetitious prayer that is heartfelt and helps us love God more?

[Editor: Ps 51:1]

AFTERTHOUGHT: One of the benefits of praying the rosary is that it protects us from focusing our prayer too much on what we want and need. Praying for our needs is a good thing, but it shouldn’t be the only thing we pray about. The rosary helps us to focus on what should be the first object of prayer: Jesus.

Love,
Matthew

Mary & the Rosary lead Non-denominational pastor: Part 4 of 4


-by Anne Barber, Anne was born in Haddonfield, NJ. From age seven, she began traveling the world with her parents, as her father’s jobs with the US government took them to live in Germany, Iran, and Brazil. Later, she received a BS from San Diego State University with a double major: Zoology and Spanish, and received her Juris Doctorate from the University of Miami School of Law. She still holds an active law license in Florida. The same year she entered law school, Anne completed her studies for ordination through the Evangelical Church Alliance. She began leading mission trips to Cuba twice a year for 8 years beginning in 2003, completing a total of 16 trips. In 2004, Anne was one of the founders of My Father’s House, a nondenominational church in Ellenton, FL, and pastored for 12 years. During this time, she was a regular contributor to the clergy column, Faith & Values, in the Bradenton Herald. Her journey into the Catholic Church began in 2016.

Disappointing News

I completed my RCIA classes. I had finally procured a new pastor for My Father’s House. But when the Easter Vigil was a week away, I was still waiting for an annulment of the marriage to my first husband, whom I had divorced 40 years prior. I received on Monday the call saying that it was granted, and I fully expected to enter the church that Saturday night. However, Father Jim (who was serving in his first pastorate), didn’t quite know what to do with me, since he was waiting for the bishop’s instruction. There was an unresolved question of whether, as the former pastor of an Evangelical church, I needed to completely disassociate myself from that congregation — whose church building is located on the small farm where I live. Since no answer was forthcoming, I was sorely disappointed not to be permitted to enter the Catholic Church at the 2017 Easter Vigil.

It was then that I contacted the Coming Home Network, asking for assistance. Jim Anderson, a pastoral care coordinator, reviewed my situation and said he believed that, as long as the congregation knew I was no longer the pastor, and I refrained from participating in the communion there, he knew of no rule against a former pastor continuing to attend his or her prior church, especially if the ex-pastor’s spouse still attended there. I then wrote a letter to the bishop, stating my cause, and asking him to please allow Father Jim to bring me into the Church. But there was no response.

Time passed, and I grew despondent, feeling rejected and crushed. Never had I wanted anything more in my life, and I felt the blessing was torn from me at the last minute. I stopped attending Mass. After two months, I contacted Jim Anderson again, and he suggested that I see another priest for a second opinion.

Finally I am Catholic!

At the end of August, I met with Father Bernie at Holy Cross Catholic parish in Palmetto, FL. He was a seasoned priest and agreed with Jim Anderson’s assessment. He was happy to baptize me (as I had no certificates, photos, or other first-hand proof of my baptism as a baby), and on October 6, 2017, at the Mass of Our Lady of the Rosary, I was baptized into the Catholic Church and received the Eucharist for the first time. I was content to wait for the 2018 Easter Vigil to be confirmed. I regard both events as the two most important days of my life. Unfortunately, my husband, by now quite upset that I continued to be serious about entering the Catholic Church, refused to be present at either event.

I spent a year at Holy Cross, where I joined the Legion of Mary and played the flute at the Saturday Mass. Additionally, since the first statue I painted had turned out beautifully, I continued to paint concrete statues of Mary, and gave them away to different people in both parishes. (To date, I have painted 13 statues of Mary and eight statues of different saints.)

On October 6, 2018, again on the day of Our Lady of the Rosary, I returned to my initial Catholic parish, St. Frances Cabrini in Parrish, FL, and the first priest I had ever met, Father Jim. That is where I currently attend.

My journey is ongoing, and not without heartache, family upheaval, and occasionally wavering faith. But my Catholic family continually upholds me in prayer. Some of my sisters in the Legion of Mary have been my strongest lifeline in the face of unexpected and emotionally painful trials, which threatened to derail me from following my new Catholic Faith.

But there is absolutely no turning back. When Jesus calls — or sends Mary to bring someone to where He wants that person to be — truly, how can we refuse to go?

Peter began to say to him, “We have given up everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come. But many that are first will be last and the last will be first.” – Mark 10:29-31 NAB

Love,
Matthew

Mary & the Rosary lead Non-denominational pastor: Part 3 of 4


-by Anne Barber, Anne was born in Haddonfield, NJ. From age seven, she began traveling the world with her parents, as her father’s jobs with the US government took them to live in Germany, Iran, and Brazil. Later, she received a BS from San Diego State University with a double major: Zoology and Spanish, and received her Juris Doctorate from the University of Miami School of Law. She still holds an active law license in Florida. The same year she entered law school, Anne completed her studies for ordination through the Evangelical Church Alliance. She began leading mission trips to Cuba twice a year for 8 years beginning in 2003, completing a total of 16 trips. In 2004, Anne was one of the founders of My Father’s House, a nondenominational church in Ellenton, FL, and pastored for 12 years. During this time, she was a regular contributor to the clergy column, Faith & Values, in the Bradenton Herald. Her journey into the Catholic Church began in 2016.

The Honeymoon’s Over!

“On Christmas day 2016, after the morning service, our worship leader pulled me aside to let me know that he was very unhappy with the new statue of Mary. I already had angel statues surrounding the chapel, but Mary was just too much for him.

He asked, “What kind of church are we?” “We’re non-denominational evangelical,” I replied. “But are we Catholic now? If I thought this was a Catholic church, I never would have come here. I’ll give you two weeks’ notice to find another music leader if we leave.” Wow! I never saw this coming.

His wife was waiting in their car, and I went to speak to her. She was fuming. I’d never seen her angry before. Through the open car window, she went into a full-on rant: “I was Catholic for many years, but I never prayed the Rosary! Then I got saved and took off all my jewelry, and I’m free! I’m free!” (She was yelling now.) “That’s why I don’t let any of my children wear jewelry!”

“You’re not free,” I replied, “You’re in Pentecostal legalism.” The meaning was completely lost on her, but her husband smiled and nodded. What shocked me most was that this lady was one of the parents who had provided permission to give her children rosaries. And she had asked me for an NAB Bible for herself when I handed them out to the youth. Now, suddenly, rosaries were evil and the statue of Mary a forbidden idol.

After they drove off, I went into the house, called my prior worship leader, and he was available and happy to come back and take over. The following Sunday was New Year’s day 2017, and our prior worship leader was leading the music. And just like that, five people who had been with the church for nine years (the parents and three kids) were gone. My youth leader was devastated, as she was very attached to all of the children.

Shortly after that confrontation, I spoke with another long-term faithful parishioner on the pathway by the Mary statue. “So, do you like the Mary statue,” I asked. “No, Pastor Anne, I don’t,” she replied emphatically. “But that was my two-month art project,” I smiled. “Why don’t you like it?”

“I was Catholic as a child, and even wanted to become a nun. But my priest said I should go to college.” “But what happened to you that caused you to leave the Catholic Church?” I asked. “It’s a long story,” she said. But I never got to hear it; within months, she, her husband and their three children left the church. Between these two families, a fifth of our tiny congregation was gone — over my beautiful Mary statue.

Several people suggested I move it, or hide it on Sunday morning under a bag. But I reasoned, “It’s in front of the house, not the chapel. If the parishioners use the walkway that goes directly to the chapel, they wouldn’t even see her.” Yet the suggestions continued, and the youth leader (also an ex-Catholic) admonished that I should have submitted the rosaries, NAB Bibles and statue of Mary to the church council for a vote before implementing them.

Finally I asked Father Jim to come and bless the Mary statue so the negativity would stop. And it eventually did. After pretty much all the congregation left.”

Love,
Matthew

Any weapons to declare? Yes, I do!


-by Br John Mark Solitario, OP

“As Mother Teresa passed through the airport security checkpoint, she had to endure that embarrassing procedure that is part and parcel of our troubled times: “Any weapons on your person?” Unexpectedly, the childlike yet remarkably bold sari-clad woman replied in the affirmative! She did have a weapon. She then indicated the Rosary beads dangling from her hand.

This story is told as one of many insightful accounts in Marian Father Donald H. Calloway’s recently published Champions of the Rosary: The History and Heroes of a Spiritual Weapon. Many Dominicans throughout the world have endorsed this book for its historical and practical value. Fr. Bruno Cadore, successor to St. Dominic and Master of the Order of Preachers, hopes that it will help form “fervent and enthusiastic apostles of the rosary for our times.” But how?

Fr. Calloway presents a careful and very readable history of the Rosary’s development and its significance in the spreading of the Gospel. He traces it back to medieval accounts of prayer beads used by monks and soldiers to recite the “Angelic Salutation” (cf. Lk 1:28) and the “Our Father.” This led to the more widespread popularity of the “Psalter of our Lady,” some 150 “Hail Mary’s” mirroring the monastic chanting of the Psalms. Then came the Dominican innovation: pre-existing prayer beads met the friar-preacher’s desire to instill the saving mysteries of Christ’s life in the hearts and imaginations of the faithful. From St. Dominic onward, the “Hail Mary” became “a weapon and a rose” to defend faith in the God who became man and to draw close to the Mother who leads us to salvation in her Son. And the prayer became immensely popular!

Champions of the Rosary traces the spiritual impact of this “Gospel of Jesus Christ on a string of beads,” worn and prayed by countless priests, brothers, nuns, sisters, and lay confraternity members over the years. Indeed, it appears that Christian civilization was advanced at several crucial junctures through the faithful praying of the Rosary. Victories that saved Christian Europe at Lepanto and Vienna, the devotional intuition of suffering indigenous peoples in America and Asia, and apparitions of the Blessed Virgin especially prevalent in recent times all testify to the power of this prayer. In addition to praising its many virtues, Fr. Calloway addresses the challenges that this very Catholic devotion has posed to various figures and times, from Martin Luther to the scientific concerns of the 20th century. Most of all, this book boldly fosters zeal by reflecting on the lives that have been transformed through praying the Rosary.

Fr. Calloway turns to a host of personal witnesses to complete his case for the authenticity and power of this devotion. Twenty-six “champions of the Rosary” (including St. Dominic, Bl. Bartolo Longo, and St. Teresa of Calcutta) have remarkable stories about the Rosary and its role in advancing the Gospel and crushing temptations to doubt and despair. He devotes special attention to examining Rosary artwork in order to show the prevalence and beauty of this devotion. Finally, a section with Scripture-based meditations, explanations of relevant indulgences, and information on joining associations devoted to the Rosary gives us what we need to take up this much-used tool of Christian holiness.

It has been said that the Rosary is refreshment for spiritual giants and food for beginners in faith. As much as we desire peace in this tumultuous world and want harmony in our own lives, we might be anxious to find anything that can lead us toward that for which we thirst. Fr. Calloway’s book joins Mother Teresa in suggesting a “weapon” more powerful and penetrating than any blade or pistol: “Peace will come into the world through Mary. But first in our hearts. Pray the Rosary with faith.””

Love,
Matthew

Bring back the Rosary

rosary

berrigan
-by Rev. Daniel Berrigan, SJ

This article appeared in the October 1978 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 43, No. 10, pages 24-25).

“Religious devotions are a little like lost-and­-found objects. Something gets lost, at least in the sense of losing sight of it. And then we come on it again, unexpectedly perhaps, lying there at our feet. It had been there all the time. But now it has about it a kind of glow, a patina. It is something like an old coin, the gospel says; we have every right to rejoice in finding it again.

All sorts of arguments can be lined up against the above. The rosary, it will be adduced, went out with the other immigrant clutter. And good riddance. It belonged to a former state of things, to a partial understanding of what was central and what merely hung around at the edges. More, it was another weapon in the arsenal of the gargoyles who held us captive on perches, chattering the tunes, and ringing the changes of Baltimore Catechism Number One.

Something like this occurred in the course of my benighted childhood. We lined up for the rosary as we lined up to take our cod-liver oil. In both cases, unpleasant medicine was considered a specific against world, flesh, and devil. Religion was medicinal; you took your medicine. I think I was too habitually low in spirit even to question the diagnosis or to revolt at the cure.

Well, things changed, but not much. In the novitiate they gave us a rosary, a huge one this time. It was to be looped around one’s cincture—some said to form the letter M for Mary; others said no, it was a sword. In any case, this enormous, chained object was neither lost nor found, but sternly, gratuitously conferred, like an Immortal soul. It could also, unlike a soul, be flipped around the neck; there it hung, every day, as we wandered the acres reciting the mysteries. Huge cocoa beads, a linked chain of such impregnability that today it might serve in the streets of the Big Apple, to protect one’s parked bicycle from felonious hands. Indeed, this was no kid stuff, but a formidable engine of salvation. Some Jesuits around our time discarded the Big Fifteen. This was serious; we were warned against backsliding. Indeed, Our Lady had confided to some saints that wearing the rosary and reciting it would ensure one’s vocation, for good and forever.

All of which “makes to reflect,” as the French say. When things get urged too hard in this matter of salvation, they usually end up getting discarded too easily. There’s always that little gyroscope in the soul trying to keep a balance. It took most of us not more than five years to scuttle the rosary for good. The act, I think, was a perfectly wordless argument against the big pitch. We simply let it all go. It didn’t mean we gained a great deal; indeed, it might be argued we lost considerably. But I think we were asserting our self-respect in one of the few ways open to us; in those days, we would make our own way in prayer and symbol, for a change.

Still, rosary or no, it is important that faith commend itself, make sense to those who profess it. Very little else in life makes sense today, or is designed to, once we get beyond the tawdry chatter. But the faith has a public calling. As the culture creaks along and breaks up, the importance of a public faith, a living (and kicking) tradition, only grows. What else do we have by way of resource or sanity? In such circumstances, I think the faith is called to raise very hell—if we are not all to end up in hell. I mean here and now, in this world, where official insanity has concocted the ultimate weapon (the ultimate symbol of the culture): a bomb that will leave buildings intact and wipe out the only expendable thing around—people.

So here we are. We are not going to get far in this business of survival without all the help we can muster. That means Jesus and Mary. And Joseph even. And all that cloud of witnesses who in one way or another hearkened their own voices and visions, were stubborn kickers against Caesar’s goal, refused to lie down and die at the behest of Big Huff, or walked to their own drummer. Their crime, as I understand it, was to stand at the opposite moral pole from the neutron bomb. That is to say, they valued people over property. That made criminals of many among them. That ought to make criminals of us to the degree that in the eyes of the Big Mastiffs the phrase “criminal church” would even be redundant.

How then do we get that way, which was the way of Jesus and the saints? At its deepest, there isn’t any “how.” There is only the way.

The rosary takes us along that “way” which the book of Acts uses as another word for Christianity itself. A series of mysteries. Moments in the life of that moving target, Jesus. The short stops of the long-distance runner, where we too may savor (share?) his loneliness.

I think we need that. My thinking of our need, of course, adds nothing and subtracts nothing. Yet I insist on it, our need. I long with all my cranky, double-dealing heart to belong to a reality that all my life long presses on me. The reality of Jesus, his life and death and comeback. Events that, far from shaking the world, bring it a far greater gift—rebirth.

I need to know that Jesus lived and died and the manner of his living and dying. Call it medicinal; call it antidote. I need an antidote to America. I need to live and die in a manner different from the way I am commanded to live and die in a tin-can culture, a culture which manages by a marvelous sleight of hand to be at the same time lethal, ridiculous, and immensely seductive.

Now the above, as I scan it, suffers from a defect. It is written in the past tense. But Jesus has no past tense. Who says he lived; who says he died; who says he rose from the dead? The 15 mysteries are a drama of the present, big as life, unfinished as today, untidy even.

But the neutron bomb, and all its malevolent ancestors and progeny, is pure past, passé. Bypassed. Not merely in the sense that the monkey wrenches will shortly concoct another even more lethal tin can to flatten this one. But from the point of view of existence itself, bombs are passé. Violence is passé. War is passé. If we discern the Mystery (Paul puts it always in the singular), we know this. Wars, bombs, slums are the junk of that junk culture which has simply withered away to allow us to get reborn.

Do we choose to get reborn? Or do we choose to wither away? According to the mystery of the rosary, we choose neither the one nor the other.

We can only choose to be chosen. That is all. Jesus chooses; the initiative is his. But that is already a great deal. So great a deal, in truth, that we shall spend our eternity dizzily, ecstatically trying to grasp it.

But to speak of the present, one thing seems fairly clear. (And given the American church, what follows is bound to be a minority, even a miniscule, opinion.) We cannot at one and the same time choose America and be chosen by Christ. We cannot serve God and mammon. “Mammon” here being a catchall word for that ball of snarls, that concatenation of money, sexism, racism, consumerism, appetite and futility and nausea, that fork in the tongue of authority, that tic of violence, that dread of neighbor, that night sweat at the presence of death—let us say, those 15 or so infernal “mysteries” to whose worship the culture summons us. To adore. To be depraved and deprived and degraded and disenfranchised. And then, to be transformed. In the image of that which we adore: stocks and stones and neutron bombs.

And finally, the whole thing explodes. As it was meant to do. That is to say, the ruling image and reality of our lives becomes a nuclear one. We cannot get things together, keep them together. Neither marriage nor friendship nor a reasonably sane sense of ourselves nor a modest place in the world. We are bombed out by the demons. All of which perhaps brings us back to our subject, to that non-nuclear, companionable, compassionate found object.

I don’t want to come on as a pusher for the rosary. We have too many pushers already—for almost every gimmick under the sun. Who needs gimmicks? We need only to be still, to resign from rat races where a few win and many lose and all, according to the metaphor, are reduced to rodents. We need our humanity, that lost object. Can the rosary help us? Will we one day cry aloud in exaltation like the woman Jesus tells of who found her lost coin? We, having found our precious, lost, squandered sense of ourselves? There is not one mystery of the 15 (now 20) that is not also a clue to who we are, to where we come from, to where we might go. In a night without stars.”

I, for one, NEED the Rosary. When praying it, I soar, I fly. (Not physically.) 🙂 No joke. I do. Praise God!!!  Come, fly with me!!!

Love,
Matthew