"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 94
Something I didn't expect when I picked The Secret of the Rosary for a readalong was that it would also provide interesting historical details from St. Louis de Montfort's time. It confirms some big conflicts, like strong Calvinist opposition to the rosary and the brown scapular, and reveals some surprising trends among the faithful, like a distaste for traditional prayers. In a passage on the Our Father, St. Louis writes . . .
I have a word for you, devout souls, who pay little attention to the prayer that the Son of God gave us Himself and asked us all to say: It is high time for you to change your way of thinking. You only like prayers that men have written--as though anybody, even the most inspired man in the whole world, could possibly know more about how we ought to pray than Jesus Christ Himself! You look for prayers in books written by other men almost as though you were ashamed of saying the Prayer that Our Lord told us to say.
You have managed to convince yourself that the prayers in these books are for scholars and for rich people of the upper classes and that the Rosary is only for women and children and the lower classes. As if the prayers and praises which you have been reading were more beautiful and more pleasing to God than those which are to be found in the Lord's Prayer! It is a very dangerous temptation to lose interest in the Prayer that Our Lord gave us and to take up prayers that men have written instead.
What do you suppose St. Louis would have written if he had had us moderns in mind? Based on objections I have heard, I think he'd warn us not to think of formula prayer as a contrived or insincere way of talking to God, which would lead us to reject the rosary as inferior to our own words . . . or perhaps, inferior to "tongues." (I probably shouldn't insert my favourite emoticon here, aye?)
In these next ten roses, St. Louis explains the three principal prayers which make up the rosary. He writes about them in great, reverent detail, showing how prayers so simple that children can understand them are also prayers so complex that theologians could discourse on them forever. This should have been right up my alley, so I was surprised that I skimmed through these passages quickly and don't really want to blog about them now. Then again, I generally don't bring a deep bucket to the wells of other people's meditations. Whenever I read about someone else's mental prayer, my takeaway averages a thimbleful.
Nevertheless, here are some of my favourite thimblefuls about the Creed, the Our Father, and of course, the Hail Mary . . .
I shall not take time here to explain the Creed word for word but I cannot resist saying that the first few words "I believe in God" are marvelously effective as a means of sanctifying our souls and of putting devils to rout, because these three words contain the acts of the three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity.
It was by saying I believe in God that the Saints overcame temptations, especially those against faith, hope or charity--whether they came during their lifetime or at their death.
When we say this wonderful prayer we touch God's heart at--the very outset by calling Him by the sweet name of Father--Our Father. He is the dearest of fathers: all-powerful in His creation, wonderful in the way He maintains the world, completely lovable in His Divine Providence--always good and infinitely so in the Redemption. We have God for our Father, so we are all brothers--and Heaven is our homeland and our heritage. This should be more than enough to teach us to love God and our neighbor and to be detached from the things of this world.
Although this new hymn is in praise of the Mother of God and is sung directly to her, nevertheless it greatly glorifies the Most Blessed Trinity because any homage that we pay Our Lady returns inevitably to God Who is the cause of all her virtues and perfections. When we honor Our Lady: God the Father is glorified because we are honoring the most perfect of His creatures; God the Son is glorified because we are praising His most pure Mother, and God the Holy Spirit is glorified because we are lost in admiration at the graces with which He has filled His Spouse.
When we praise and bless Our Lady by saying the Angelic Salutation she always passes on these praises to Almighty God in the same way as she did when she was praised by Saint Elizabeth. The latter blessed her in her most elevated dignity as Mother of God and Our Lady immediately returned these praises to God by her beautiful Magnificat.
Now, did you notice that the Glory Be doesn't get its own "rose"? (I did.) St. Louis says only that it's "very good to add" to the end of a decade--and an endnote in my edition says that the popularity of this particular "happy innovation" can probably be traced back to him! And now you know why the Glory Be doesn't get its own bead. (When you pray, do you mark the Glory Be on the same bead as the next decade's Our Father or do you say it on the string? I'm totally a string person.)
For all its ancient integrity, the rosary has embraced additions over the years. Some fit as if they had always been there, like the Fatima Prayer. Some seem to miss the boat, like the Luminous Mysteries. (But I'm not biased or anything! =P) Although every Catholic knows exactly what "the rosary" is, I'm sure that if you got two random Catholics to say one together, they'd each rub up against at least one weird tweak. (In case anyone is wondering, I like to add that extra Hail Mary for the Pope at the end and to say the Memorare after the Hail Holy Queen. The first is something I read about somewhere and the second is what the rosary procession group in my former village used to do.)
Anyway, after I was done filling my thimble to the brim and trying not to slosh anything over the sides, I found myself fascinated by another idea that St. Louis touches on: the reality of predestinate souls.
Blessed Alan de la Roche, who was so deeply devoted to the Blessed Virgin, had many revelations from her, and we know that he confirmed the truth of these revelations by a solemn oath . . . the first, that if people fail to say the Hail Mary . . . out of carelessness, or because they are lukewarm, or because they hate it, this is a sign that they will probably and indeed shortly be condemned to eternal punishment.
The second truth is that those who love this divine salutation bear the very special stamp of predestination . . . (Blessed Alan, chapter XI, paragraph 2)
Strong words, aye? And you can bet that St. Louis knew how they sound: a few paragraphs later, he admits that he cannot explain how something so "terrible but consoling" (or as I like to say, "crazy") could also be true, but that his experiences alone have been enough to convince him. Admittedly, private revelations like Bl. Alan's are not something Catholics are required to believe and even holy and learned men like St. Louis may be subject to what we call "confirmation bias." But you know what? Every cell in my advocatus diaboli body is screaming that they got it right.
To be clear, no one is saying that failing to pray the rosary or reciting it carelessly will get someone thrown into hell. The assertions are that real devotion to the rosary is a sign that someone is actively cooperating with God's plan of salvation, providing some moral certitude that he'll persevere to the end . . . and that the aversion to the Hail Mary in particular is a sign that someone is currently not cooperating with grace, providing no similar certitude about the hour of his death. Now, signs are not and can never be the final word on who is saved and who is lost: salvific grace can be rejected after it was received and received after it was rejected. But in the meantime, signs can give a lot of peace to the faithful and a lot of insight into souls.
So let's add that to the reasons to pray the rosary: it's a great sign of predestination.
What do you think of Roses 11 to 20?
1) Do you find it easy to say formula prayers? Apart from the rosary's "Big Three," what other formula prayer would you recommend to as many people as possible?
2) How have you or your community "tweaked" the rosary?
3) Do you agree that it's possible to tell something about someone from his approach to the rosary?
Image Source: The Secret of the Holy Rosary by St. Louis de Montfort