Thinking Out Loud

June 25, 2010

A Rosary is a Rosary is a Rosary

I often joke about the fact that I “do my best work on other peoples’ blogs.” a piece on Internet Monk discussed the use of the rosary, which, if you don’t know, is a piece of jewelry that looks a bit like a necklace, anchored usually by a larger cross (which makes it looks more like a necklace), and a number of larger and smaller beads arranged in a specific pattern. There’s something about the interaction of a comment forum that sharpens the mind.   Recently,

Most of the people who responded to the column have no issue with using something like this as you pray — we blog-reading types are a fairly open-minded bunch — but it occurred to me that perhaps some people don’t know how the rosary is referenced in The Cathecism of the Catholic Church.

To start with, if you need some more background, here’s what that omniscient source, Wikipedia has to say:

The Rosary (from Latin rosarium, meaning “rose garden”) or “garland of roses” is a popular and traditional Catholic devotion. The term denotes both a set of prayer beads and the devotional prayer itself, which combines vocal (or silent) prayer and meditation. The prayers consist of repeated sequences of the Lord’s Prayer followed by ten utterances of the “Hail Mary” and a single praying of “Glory Be to the Father” and is sometimes accompanied by the Fatima Prayer; each of these sequences is known as a decade. The praying of each decade is accompanied by meditation on one of the Mysteries of the Rosary, which are events in the lives of Jesus Christ and his mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary…

The rosary is part of the Catholic veneration of Mary, which has been promoted by numerous popes…

Devotion to the rosary is one of the most notable features of popular Catholic spirituality. Pope John Paul II placed the rosary at the very center of Christian spirituality and called it “among the finest and most praiseworthy traditions of Christian contemplation.”…

The rosary provides a physical method of keeping track of the number of Hail Marys said. The fingers are moved along the beads as the prayers are recited. By not having to keep track of the count mentally, the mind is more able to meditate on the mysteries. A five decade rosary contains five groups of ten beads (a decade), with additional large beads before each decade. The Hail Mary is said on the ten beads within a decade, while the Our Father is said on the large bead before each decade. A new mystery is meditated upon at each of the large beads. Some rosaries, particularly those used by religious orders, contain 15 decades, corresponding to the traditional 15 mysteries of the rosary.

If you go to the Wikipedia article you’ll find a number of internal links, plus a much longer article from which this was edited.

So what are those mysteries all about?  In a previous blog post here, I listed them all for you:

Joyful Mysteries

  1. The Annunciation. Fruit of the Mystery: Humility
  2. The Visitation. Fruit of the Mystery: Love of Neighbor
  3. The Nativity. Fruit of the Mystery: Poverty (poor in spirit), Detachment from the things of the world, Contempt of Riches, Love of the Poor
  4. The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. Fruit of the Mystery: Purity
  5. The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple. Fruit of the Mystery: True Wisdom and True Conversion.

Luminous Mysteries

  1. The Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan. Fruit of the Mystery: Openness to the Holy Spirit
  2. The Wedding at Cana. Fruit of the Mystery: To Jesus through Mary
  3. Jesus’ Proclamation of the Kingdom of God. Fruit of the Mystery: Repentance and Trust in God
  4. The Transfiguration. Fruit of the Mystery: Desire for Holiness
  5. The Institution of the Eucharist. Fruit of the Mystery: Adoration

Sorrowful Mysteries

  1. The Agony in the Garden. Fruit of the Mystery: Sorrow for Sin, Uniformity with the will of God
  2. The Scourging at the Pillar. Fruit of the Mystery: Mortification
  3. The Crowning of Thorns. Fruit of the Mystery: Contempt of the world
  4. The Carrying of the Cross. Fruit of the Mystery: Patience
  5. The Crucifixion. Fruit of the Mystery: Salvation

Glorious Mysteries

  1. The Resurrection. Fruit of the Mystery: Faith
  2. The Ascension. Fruit of the Mystery: Hope and desire for Heaven
  3. The Descent of the Holy Spirit. Fruit of the Mystery: Holy Wisdom to know the truth and share with everyone
  4. The Assumption of Mary. Fruit of the Mystery: Grace of a Happy Death and True Devotion towards Mary
  5. The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Fruit of the Mystery: Perseverance and Crown of Glory

That list is key to finally getting around to reading the Internet Monk piece I posted on the iMonk blog:

Most Evangelicals won’t be able to get past the “Hail Mary” prayers which form the five decades, but as I studied this a few years ago, for me the deal breaker was the conclusion of the Glorious Mysteries. Before the Luminous Mysteries were added by John Paul II, [in other words, omitting them from the analogy that follows] I found the best way to explain the different emphases of the rosary is in terms of the Shakespeare plays we all did in high school. You had Act I, scene i; etc., and in many ways the Mysteries are like a play with three acts, and five scenes in each.

The Joyful Mysteries (the coming and birth of Christ) and the Sorrowful Mysteries (remembering the passion week of Christ) are fine, but when we get to the Glorious Mysteries (or as I call it, Act III) we find Jesus’ resurrection, His appearance to His disciples and his ascension into heaven. But the last two (scenes iv and v) are “the assumption of Mary,” and “the coronation of the blessed virgin.” And the Biblical references for those last two are… what again? Plus the rosary’s narrative ends with the emphasis on Mary. To use my Shakespeare analogy, she is the one who is center stage in the final scenes and taking the bow as the audience stands to applaud.

So for Evangelicals at least, at that point all bets are off, and the rosary becomes somewhat guilty by association.

Which is too bad, really, because some kind of tactile prayer focus is not, in and of itself a bad thing. A few groups have even tried to develop substitutes, though they’ve never caught on in a big way. But the basic rosary, as taught in the Catechism, wanders at the end into that territory that Evangelicals would say is ultimately more reflective of a Marion faith than of first century Christianity.

After the jump, you can read what I wrote in the earlier blog post about the rosary specifically.  (It repeats the above somewhat.)   If you wish to comment on today’s blog post, you MUST focus your comment on that part of Catholic belief related to the ROSARY only.   This is not a forum for general Catholic or anti-Catholic conversation.

…For example, some postmodern Evangelicals have no problems with using some kind of tactile device that is held in the palm of one’s hand as a focus device during prayer.   This is not a rosary.   Or is it?   The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that, holding the rosary, as one repeats various prayers (i.e. the “Hail Mary” prayer and the “Our Father”) working their way through the decades (beads), one is to think about the various “mysteries,” which consist of four sets of five (see appendix below)  that one uses depending on the day of the week, which remind us of various events in the life of Christ, except for the final two which focus on “the assumption of Mary,” and “the coronation of the blessed virgin.”   Mary always gets the last word.   It’s those last two parts of the last mysteries which prevent Evangelicals, Charismatics and other Protestants from even remotely considering praying the rosary.  (Well, that and the “Hail Mary” prayers.)   Yet, we find some postmodern Christians using somewhat similar devices.   Guilty by association?

UPDATE: I went back to iMonk to read my comment and discovered I had picked up some comments.

One person offered me the “chapter and verse” for the assumption and coronation of Mary:

“On your right stands the Queen, clad in gold of Ophir”

Forgive me for not recognizing that one. Anyone want to help me? I am assuming it’s deuterocanonical.

Rick said,

“Meditating on Mary’s death, Assumption, judgment and life with the Trinity is a way for us to meditate on the end our own lives and the promises of the Kingdom.”

Jeanne added,

“TRUE Marion devotion always leads us to Christ!”

At this point, I recognize I am significantly outnumbered.



  1. Excellent! Also a plethora of information to garner!

    I currently run a blog as well at

    I would be honoured to have you come by and comment.


    Comment by john — June 26, 2010 @ 8:06 am

  2. On your right stands the Queen, clad in gold of Ophir” – Psalm 45:9b. Might be take a little out of context as the passage is talking about a royal wedding and the queen is the bride. An easier contest would be metaphor to the Bride of Christ. Might be interesting to change the focus of last two Rosary beads to a different female figure.. that being the Bride of Christ.. but then that would leave the focus on us.. not Christ.. . personally I like the idea of prayers aids, we on the evangelical seem to only associate prayer with kneeling and clasped hands.. there are many good references to different ways to pray. standing, walking, dancing, as well as some of the prayerful reading (lectio divina comes to mind). Thanks for this post, thoughtful and thought provoking.

    Comment by manageanxietyblog — June 26, 2010 @ 8:35 am

    • Great response. Thanks for contributing.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — June 26, 2010 @ 9:04 am

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