"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 93
Where did I ever get the idea that the rosary was "everyone's devotion"? Since Lent started, I've been running into devout Catholics admitting that they're just not that into it. Now, I don't think the rosary's popularity is a case worthy of The Emperor's New Clothes, but there seem to be a significant number of Catholics spending forever trying to get that mystical rose tree to take root in their souls, compared to the Catholics basking in the scent of its blooms. And this inspires the reasonable question of why you'd persist with the rosary when there are so many other beautiful and traditional devotions you could pray instead.
Early in The Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis de Montfort reminds us of St. Dominic's reasons for persisting . . .
. . . Our Lady appeared to him, accompanied by three Angels, and she said:
"Dear Dominic, do you know which weapon the Blessed Trinity wants to use to reform the world?"
"Oh, my Lady," answered Saint Dominic, "you know far better than I do because next to your Son Jesus Christ you have always been the chief instrument of our salvation."
Then Our Lady replied: "I want you to know that, in this kind of warfare, the battering ram has always been the Angelic Psalter which is the foundation stone of the New Testament. Therefore if you want to reach these hardened souls and win them over to God, preach my Psalter."
St. Dominic's use of the rosary as a spiritual weapon resonates with me. It's similar to the reason that got me started. I wanted a tool that would let me focus my prayer, and the rosary was as good as a laser. Although I actually hadn't known the full story of how St. Dominic received the rosary until I read it here (hashtag believe it or not), I picked up the basic principle anyway from my family, my school, and probably my entire culture. For I do know where I got the idea about "everyone" and the rosary, the keyword being "where": the Philippines might as well be called Mary's Sunny Rosary Islands.
The First Decade
So what about that other question? Why should anyone persist with the rosary when not all of us are Dominicans and there are so many other prayers in the treasury of the Church? Now that the Albigensian heresy has been licked, is there a reason other than personal predisposition or cultural tradition to keep at this devotion?
Well, there's the Marian reason . . .
Our Lady has shown her thorough approval of the name Rosary; she has revealed to several people that each time they say a Hail Mary they are giving her a beautiful rose and that each complete Rosary makes her a crown of roses.
The well-known Jesuit, Brother Alphonsus Rodriguez, used to say his Rosary with such fervor that he often saw a red rose come out of his mouth at each Our Father and a white rose at each Hail Mary. The red and white roses were equal in beauty and fragrance, the only difference being in their color.
I admit that when I started praying the rosary, I didn't feel close to Mary at all. I meditated on the Mysteries of her life as if they were spiritual symbols, almost Platonic ideals, of what happens in every Christian's soul, rather than events which really happened to another human being who lived before me . . . and who loved me. It was only very recently that I started feeling that Mary and I had a relationship. A relationship that is actually quite tender and loving.
There really does seem to be a personal element to all of this. St. Louis de Montfort emphasises as much in the stories he chooses to share. In them, Mary steps in, speaks up, and otherwise shows herself a mother.
Another reason to pray the rosary is that it will probably keep you out of hell . . .
Alphonsus, King of Leon and Galicia, very much wanted all his servants to honor the Blessed Virgin by saying the Rosary. So he used to hang a large rosary on his belt and always wore it, but unfortunately never said it himself. Nevertheless his wearing it encouraged his courtiers to say the Rosary very devoutly.
One day the King fell seriously ill and when he was given up for dead he found himself, in a vision, before the judgment seat of Our Lord. Many devils were there accusing him of all the sins he had committed and Our Lord as Sovereign Judge was just about to condemn him to Hell when Our Lady appeared to intercede for him. She called for a pair of scales and had his sins placed in one of the balances whereas she put the Rosary that he had always worn on the other scale, together with all the Rosaries that had been said because of his example. It was found that the Rosaries weighed more than his sins.
So how exactly does the rosary work in the plan of salvation? It's certainly not on the level of baptism. I guess it's safe to say that praying the rosary predisposes us to virtue (which will keep us habitually choosing the good) and draws down graces for us (which let us participate more fully in the divine life) . . . but that's too safe, you know? What about that personal element I've just mentioned? The explanation I've just given is very general and could apply to any spiritual exercise performed faithfully. But the rosary isn't just any spiritual exercise.
Seriously, what other devotion makes roses fit for the Queen of Heaven mystically fall from our mouths and outweigh even the worst of our sins? I think that only almsgiving, which goes beyond devotion and into charity, has had been revealed to have this sort of mystical value. But of course, when it comes to alms, we are paying tribute directly to Jesus.
While I do think it's possible to approach the rosary superstitiously and to think, "If I just do this, I'll be free and clear" . . . I also think that Mary will intercede to the end for anyone who truly identifies as one of her children, and that we can take that to the bank.
So now that I've mentioned the two best reasons to persist with the rosary, it must be mentioned that it is not a sin to stop persisting. St. Louis de Montfort is very clear that the duties of our state of life and even our health come first. There have been saints who prayed the rosary when they were too sick to do anything else, but I guess they just wanted to make the rest of us look bad. =P It's not even a mark against a devotee if he completely forgets to say the rosary, or just decides not to do it because he feels a bit lazy one day. But if we happen to be personally drawn to this devotion, we will forfeit many graces by not saying it; and if we've made a personal commitment to it besides, we risk becoming as neglectful in great things as we are in little things.
What is a sin, St. Louis writes, is to have "formal contempt" for the rosary, to the point that you discourage others from praying it.
What are your thoughts on Roses 1 to 10?
1) What was your introduction to the rosary? How has it shaped the way you see this devotion today?
2) Can you think of a third really good reason to pray this devotion?
Image Sources: a) The Secret of the Rosary by St. Louis de Montfort, b) St. Dominic receiving the rosary from Mary