NECKING THE ROSARY
NECKING THE ROSARY
Once more we have celebrated the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary on October 7th, even as we observe Rosary Month during October. In 2002, John Paul II enriched our Rosary prayer with the Luminous Mysteries or the Mysteries of Light, emphasizing more than ever that the Rosary is a prayer meditation on the life of Christ. It is always to JESUS through Mary. All true devotion to Mary leads the devotee to her Son.
We have seen different forms of the Rosary becoming more popular. The Divine Mercy Chaplet, the Rosary of Liberation and the Rosary for the Dead are all popular forms of prayer which see the beads as a means to an end. Some of these are of very recent vintage. The Divine Mercy chaplet of St. Faustina originated in her colloquies with the Lord in the 1930s. The Rosary of Liberation is a composition of the Brazilian Regis Castro in the 1980s. They have become substitutes for the traditional Dominican form of the Rosary which became central to the devotion of this archdiocese during the episcopal tenure of Archbishop Finbar Ryan.
It should also be noted, however, that the Castros do not recommend that the Rosary of Liberation become a substitute for the Dominican Rosary. As they say on page 12 of the book, ”The Rosary of Liberation in no way excludes the wonderful devotion to the Rosary of Our Lady.” Part of the problem is that many devotees approach the Rosary as a means of getting things from Our Lady and from God. They choose to pray whichever form seems to be more “powerful” in meeting their needs. The Rosary as meditation on the life of the incarnate Christ and other mysteries of faith is seen as secondary to the Rosary as a weapon in some spiritual warfare or as a means of manipulating the spiritual, of getting more and more grace.
It is a very short step from this “use” of the Rosary to the latest fad, the wearing of the Rosary around the neck. This is today a worldwide phenomenon. As such it is good business. Chaplets of great beauty and cost are being sold specifically to be worn around the neck. Traditionally, monks and nuns have worn rosary beads on the waist with easy access for use in prayer. If at the waist, why not on the neck?
It may be useful here to take up again the old distinction between the chaplet and the rosary in which the chaplet usually referred to the string of beads and the rosary to the prayer. With such a distinction the rosary is a prayer and the chaplet the tool of that prayer. It is not meant to be a guard, bordering on superstition. When someone who does not understand our faith wears it as jewelry or as a guard, even when engaging in evil acts, we all must be concerned. In today’s world, we cannot stop the commercialization of religious objects. Most of our religious artifacts are manufactured in China and the Vatican is powerless to stop it. We should not have our children wearing the chaplet, if we are not also praying the rosary with them. Nonetheless, a rosary around the neck of someone, who seems not to share our faith, is an invitation to dialogue. It is an opportunity to find out why the person is wearing it, to share faith and to ask God for the grace to be His instrument in calling a person beyond superstition to light and truth. A few years ago, our antagonists were making converts from Catholicism trample on chaplet beads. Today gangster boys are asking priests to “bless” them with a set of beads. The former would be an occasion of sin. The latter must be grasped as an opportunity of grace.
However, we choose to carry our chaplets, may we fervently pray the Rosary this month, seeking always our deeper transformation into Christ at the service of Church and society.
Clyde M. Harvey
Holy Rosary/St. Martin’s Pastoral Cluster