Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Rosary and Some Common Objections

I would very much like to encourage Protestants to take up the practice of praying the Holy Rosary and also to strengthen Catholics in the prayer. The Rosary is a very rich prayer that can be prayed by the Christian who is very young in the faith as a way to growing in the prayer traditions of Orthodox Christianity. The Rosary can also be prayed by those who have already developed a deep prayer life as a way of nurturing the life of faith.

I know, however, that there are some major obstacles for Protestants to begin this prayer. I believe that these obstacles are the result of a gross misrepresentation of the prayer and/or simple misunderstanding. First and foremost, I know that most Protestants have an aversion to the Hail Mary. I have covered that in a separate post.

Following that, the three most common objections to the Rosary that I know of are that it is mistaken as a form of worship of Mary. Second is that it is a direct violation of our LORD'S command to not "babble on like the pagans" and finally, that the Rosary is strictly a Marian prayer and Marian prayer is pointless because there is only one Mediator, Christ Jesus.

Not only do I wish to answer these objection for the Protestant, as well, I fear that weakly formed Catholics may be caught off guard by these propositions and thereby hampered in taking up the practice.

First and foremost, no Catholic worships Mary. It  is that simple. Catholics do not worship Mary. We worship only GOD, period. I believe, by and large, that most people who think this are caught up in a misunderstanding. It seems to me that the cause of this misunderstanding is a fundamental difference between Protestants and Catholics in the understanding of prayer.

Prayer can be worship, but it isn't necessarily worship. We have prayers of worship directed toward GOD. We also have prayers of intercession directed toward those who's help we seek.

Our prayers asking for intercession are comparable to asking a friend for a favor. An even more accurate comparison may be that prayers for intercession are like asking a mentor at work for help and guidance.

We understand that as the mother of Jesus, Mary holds a unique place of honor among GOD'S creation. That not withstanding, whether it is Mary, or St. Joseph, or St. Michael or any other saint, we understand that their ability to intercede on our behalf comes from GOD, not from themselves. We do not ask anything of Mary other than that she intercede for us.With regards to worship, this is no different than asking a friend or family member to pray for you. You are not worshiping them are you?

In addressing the second objection, namely that the Rosary is babbling on like the pagans we must look at what the Rosary actually is. The prayer of the Rosary is really found in the contemplation of the mysteries. The vocal, repetitive prayers are meant to time and move the contemplative prayers. Since the Rosary requires more than mere repetition of words, it is not a "vain repetition".

More to the point, when you really look at what the Rosary is, it is not just repeating the same prayers time and again. Rather it is more akin to what a person might call "Bible Study". It is an in-depth look at certain events in the life of Christ. In looking at these events we try to learn how to become better Christians from the virtues extolled and lived by our Savior and His Mother (who was the first and model Christian).

Therefore, in the Rosary, and this is important, we are contemplating the Gospel. When we pray the Rosary, we are looking at the Life of Christ with Mary, his Mother. Who would be better to study the Gospel with than Mary?

This leaves us with the final objection, that there is but one Mediator. I don't think that anything in the Bible is superfluous. Do you? In other words, I think that every story in the Old and New Testaments are there for us to learn from. For instance in 1 Kings 2 we see that King Solomon's mother was asked to interceded for one of the King's subjects. She did and King Solomon assured her before she even asked that he would not refuse her.

So if the Queen of Israel was not refused by her son, the King of Israel, why would Jesus Christ, King of Heaven and Earth, refuse His Mother? He wouldn't and we can know this from John's Gospel. When Mary does intercede on behalf of someone she is not refused. In John 2 when Christ and Mary are at the wedding at Canna, she comes to Him because the host has run out of wine. He does not refuse her, rather he performs His first public miracle.

Finally, it seems to me that the "One Mediator" objection is a syntactical matter. We can only be reconciled and saved through the eternal sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The Holy Roman Catholic Church teaches nothing else and the prayer of the Rosary presumes nothing else. It is only through this Sacrifice that salvation can be won.

However, that doesn't mean that we cannot ask the Queen to recommend our intentions to the King. Mary can intercede on our behalf with her Son and He can remain the "One Mediator". If Mary can intercede on our behalf as she did in Canna, then Marian prayer is not useless, rather, it is powerful.

When it is all said and done, the Rosary is a great prayer to nurture spiritual growth. I know many people neglect this prayer because of some basic objections. I hope that if you had any or all of these objections to the Rosary that you might consider what I have said here. I also know that I may not have completely convinced you.If this is the case I would be happy to explore any remaining objections you may have.

1 comment:

togh said...

Very nice post Christian! I am glad that you have discovered and embraced the Rosary - it has always been my prayer in time of trial and when I need to calm myself.
I don't know if I have told you this before but everyday after we moved up here I said the rosary on my way to and from work. I felt completely compelled each day to do this. Sometimes it was through tears for everything that we had left (while being thankful for the opportunity). Other days it was a calming force for me as I settled into a new environment and formed new relationships.
I took the week after Easter off that year and when I got in the car to go to work I no longer felt the need to say the Rosary. I had moved to a different place and was more settled and at peace. I still used this time for prayer, but my prayers were varied and I did not say the Rosary each and every time.