The Rosary is one of the misunderstood Catholic concepts. Opponents say that it is in goes against Jesus’ teaching in Matthew:
7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.
And that, because it is made up of 1 Apostles’ Creed, 6 Our Fathers, 6 Glory Be, 6 Fatima Prayers (if you use the Fatima Prayer,) 53 Hail Marys, and one Salve Regina, it is primarily a prayer to Mary and therefore aligned with Idol Worship (violation of Exodus 20:4-5), much like genuflecting to the tabernacle in Mass or being reverent toward a Crucifix.
4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,
Now, I am not going to get into sematics, because I figure, if one has hardened their heart against Catholicism, there is nothing much my little blog here will change. But I will explain a little bit (because I could go on and on and on) about the Rosary and why it is such a part of the Catholic faith and Tradition.
For some Catholics (and some non-Catholics) the Rosary is a tool for prayer. As I explained a bit in my post about prayer, prayer is not an act of worship based off of the etymological origin of the verb “to pray.” To Pray is to ask, not to worship.
When we begin a Rosary, we start with the Opening Prayers, starting with the Sign of the Cross. Much like ashes on Ash Wednesday, this outward sign is unmistakably Christian and the action allows the person to wear the Cross of Christ much like armor against spiritual warfare. The Sign of the Cross is a brief declaration of what we believe and hold true, and that what we do, we do “In the name of The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Next, we recite the Apostles’ Creed, in which we acknowledge what we believe, in a nutshell:
I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended into hell; on the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty; from there he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.
Next, we say an Our Father:
Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
Next, three Hail Marys (taken from Luke 1:28), asking for an increase in the three theological virtues: Faith, Hope and Charity.
Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with Thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.
Next a Glory Be:
Glory Be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
(Notice how much clearer the prayers are with commas!)
Next, one might say the Fatima Prayer:
Oh, my Jesus. Forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell, and lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy.
Once the opening prayers are complete, we move to the main section of the Rosary: The mysteries. There are 4 types of mysteries: Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious, and Luminous. During most of the year, we say the different mysteries on different days, but during the season of Lent, some people will choose to only say the Sorrowful Mysteries for the 40 days and then on Easter Sunday, say the Glorious Mysteries. But the Rosary is a private devotional tool, so no one does it the same as another!
So these mysteries… while saying the words of Rosary, we are focusing our thoughts on one of twenty mysteries:
Joyful Mysteries- The Annunciation of the Lord’s Birth, The Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth, The Birth of Jesus, The Presentation of Jesus to the Temple, and The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple.
Sorrowful Mysteries- Christ’s Agony in the Garden, Christ’s Scourging at the Pillar, Christ is crowned with thorns, Christ carries His Cross, Christ is Crucified.
Glorious Mysteries- The Ressurection, The Ascention of Christ, The Descent of the Holy Spirit, The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin
Luminous Mysteries- The Baptism of the Lord, The Wedding at Cana, The Proclamation of the Kingdom, The Transfiguration, The Institution of the Eucharist
As you can see, all of the mysteries focus directly on Christ except for two: The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin and the Coronation of the Blessed Virgin. But here’s the thing, and I know that it’s kind of a difficult thing to understand… for some people, the only way they get to know Christ is through His mother. Some people are so broken and distrustful that believing in the perfect Man (Christ) is just not possible, but The Blessed Virgin was a human just like you and me and it is through her and her intercession that people can come to Christ. But that’s another post.
The repetition of the Hail Marys is not just babbling on like pagans, but more like creating a sort of background noise to help focus our thoughts on the mystery at hand. If you have ever tried just sitting and doing nothing, or meditating, it can be very challenging. Random thoughts pop into your head… stuff like “do we need milk?” or “I wonder how much gas is now?” We are very busy people and our minds are always go-go-going. By saying the prayers of the Rosary, we are able to better keep our focus on the exercise at hand.
The first Sorrowful Mystery and first decade: Christ’s Agony in the Garden.
Say One Our Father and ten Hail Marys. You can also meditate on specific acts within the mystery, on each Hail Mary, as outlined here:
- Jesus comes with his disciples to Gethsemani: “Stay here, while I go yonder and pray.”
- Entering the garden with Peter, James, and John, Jesus prays, “My soul is sorrowful unto death.”
- Jesus sees the sins of all mankind, whose guilt He has taken upon Himself.
- He sees the wrath of the Father which His sufferings must appease.
- So great is his anguish that His sweat becomes as drops of blood falling to the ground.
- An angel appears to Him from heaven to strengthen Him.
- “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet, not My will but Yours be done.”
- Finding the disciples asleep: “Could you not watch one hour with me?”
- Jesus is betrayed by Judas, cruelly bound and led away.
- Father, by the merits of the agony of Jesus in the Garden, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
We conclude that first decade with a Glory Be and a Fatima Prayer.
I hope this helps explain a little bit about the Rosary and why it is done. The Rosary is a prayer tool meant to bring people closer to Christ… not drive them away. Next Wednesday: The Scourging at the Pillar
Great news about Kim E! She went home yesterday! Thank you for your prayers.
Thanks to Rosary Center for their help.