Ecclesiasticus 4:28

"Fight to the death for truth, and the Lord God will war on your side."

Ora pro nobis,

Most Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Francis de Sales, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Dominic. Amen.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

What Is It?

I hesistate to write this short, little article; I don't want to interrupt the continuity of Gregory's publications. At the same time, I don't want to wait until I lose the desire to read possible answers to the question I want to pose. Namely, "what, in it's purist sense, is Catholicism?" And, "Is that what we see reflected in the Church today?"

The question is not a trap. It's an honest probe. I'm interested in whatever answers are given.

Take care,

(Category: The Church: The Make-up of the Church)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

History of the Rosary (Part 2)

From the Ministry of Blessed Alan de la Roche until the Present Day
This is the conclusion of our very brief look at the history of the Rosary, with a few apologetical remarks at the conclusion.

At the end of Part 1, we saw how in the century after St. Dominic, the devotion of the Rosary died out and, in the words of St. Louis de Montfort, became "like a thing buried and forgotten" (The Secret of the Rosary, p. 22).

Blessed Alan de la Roche Rekindles the Rosary
In 1460, however, Blessed Alan de la Roche once again began to preach the Rosary to the people, and inspired lasting fervour and dedication to its practice. This came about when, one day as the Dominican priest was saying Mass, Jesus spoke to him from the Sacred Host, saying, "How can you crucify Me again so soon?" Startled, Blessed Alan asked, "What did You say, Lord?" Our Lord replied, "You crucified Me once before by your sins, and I would willingly be crucified again rather than having My Father offended again by the sins you used to commit. You are crucifying Me again now because you have all the learning and understanding that you need to preach My Mother's Rosary, and you are not doing so. If you only did this you could teach many souls the right path and lead them away from sin--but you are not doing it and so you yourself are guilty of the sins that they commit." Thus, Blessed Alan resolved to preach the Rosary unceasingly.

Our Lady also appeared to Blessed Alan on different occasions, spurring him to greater commitment, and revealing the promises that are recorded in Letting God do the Work. St. Dominic himself also appeared to Blessed Alan, in order to tell him of all the great results of his ministry--of the miracles and conversions and blessings brought about by devotion to the Rosary. He said to Blessed Alan, "See the wonderful results I have had through preaching the Holy Rosary! You and all those who love Our Lady ought to do the same so that, by means of this holy practice of the Rosary, you may draw all people to the real science of the virtues." Thus, from the time of Blessed Alan de la Roche, the Rosary has been a common practice among Catholics of all states and walks of life.

The Battle of Lepanto
Through praying the Rosary, great miracles and benefits have been poured out on people and nations, because, as St. Louis de Montfort tells us, "It would hardly be possible for me to put into words how much Our Lady thinks of the Holy Rosary and of how she vastly prefers it to all other devotions. Neither can I sufficiently express how highly she rewards those who work to preach the devotion, to establish it and spread it." Among the miraculous intercessions brought about through the Rosary, the one that cemented it in the life of the Church was brought about by the Turkish invasion of 1571. Dr. Kevin Orlin Johnson, Ph.D., tells the story in chapter 12 of Why Do Catholics Do That?

In October 1571, Europe faced a hopeless challenge. The Turks, raging out of their newly won empire, had already swarmed through the Middle East, conquering every land they entered, slaughtering millions and forcing the survivors to convert to Islam. Having taken the lands of the Levant, they struck across the sea, taking the crucial islands of Crete and Cyprus. At these seafaring islands, the Turkish galleys gathered, aimed like missiles at the Christian kingdoms of the central Mediterranean, menacing Sicily, Venice, and even Rome herself.

Pope Pius V Ghislieri called upon the Christian princes of Europe to rally in a great league of defense, a new Cursade to beat back the invincible navy that threatened to overrun the continent and destroy the Church. The King of Spain, the princes and nobles of Italy, and many other monarchs responded and hastily assembled a fleet under commanders of many tongues and nations.

But the Turks had one language, one commander, and one mission. Already skilled in conquest, they far outnumbered the allied forces. There was no way that the Christian fleet looked equal to the challenge. No way on Earth.

Well, Pius V wasn't depending on earthly help alone. He was a Dominican, devoted to Our Lady, and he called upon the Rosary confraternities of Rome and all over Europe to undertake special processions and public recitations of the Rosary to ask for the prayers of the Blessed Mother.

On the first Sunday of October, the Christian fleet met the invading Turks off the coast of Greece, in the Gulf of Lepanto. As Christians all over Europe turned to Our Lady through their Rosaries, the Turks surrounded the Christian ships. But the European fleet broke through. At the end of the day's fighting, almost all of the Turks were driven ashore or drowned. Europe was saved.

Pope Pius ordered an annual commemoration in honour of Our Lady of Victory, and his successor, Gregory XIII, set aside the first Sunday in October as the feast of the Holy Rosary. From that time on, the Rosary has been encouraged, even commanded, by popes, saints, and spiritual leaders. (pp.96-97)
Throughout the centuries, The Blessed Virgin has appeared to different people throughout the world, calling the Church and the world to greater devotion and piety. Many times these messages included warnings about dire consequences soon to come unless the people repented and turned to God. And very often, the primary manner in which repentance was to be demonstrated was through the Rosary. But nowhere is this more evident than in Our Lady's appearance to the three shepherd children of Fátima, Portugal. In 1917, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared on the 13th of every month from May to October to Lucy de Santos and her cousins (except in August, when Mary appeared to her on the 19th, because Lucy had been locked up by the Canton on the 13th as "a disturber of the peace").

Our Lady revealed herself as "The Lady of the Rosary" and told Lucy many things--namely, to pray the Rosary to end World War I, as well as prophesying the advent of World War II, the rise of Communism, and even the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II. While only Lucy could see Our Lady, those with her could see only flashes or haloes of light.

On the final day of her visits, it was pouring rain. Nevertheless, a crowd of about 100,000 people had come out to try and see something. Despite the rain, Lucy instructed the people to put away their umbrellas and to pray the Rosary instead. Our Lady revealed herself accompanied with St. Joseph and the Infant Jesus who blessed the crowds with the Sign of the Cross. Again, only Lucy saw the apparition, but during it, Mary caused the rain to stop and the sun to come out. The crowd did see, however, the sun suddenly shine out, whirl around like a gigantic fire-wheel, and send out streamers of green, red, orange, and purple which lit up the faces of the multitude. Then, gyrating madly, it plunged downward quickly, and then rose again in a zigzag pattern to its original position.

The day before, the editor of Lisbon's biggest daily paper, Avelino de Almeida, had written an editorial discounting the apparitions. Nevertheless, he came out to sceptically observe the proceedings--and he himself witnessed the miracle of the sun. He wrote a long and detailed account of it the next day, describing it as "unique and incredible if one had not been a witness of it."

It was during these apparitions that the Blessed Mary, in instructing Lucy to have the people pray the Rosary as an end to war and for repentance, that Our Mother added another prayer to the litany of Our Fathers, Hail Marys and Glory Bes. Referred to as "The Fatima Prayer," it goes, "O my Jesus, forgive us our sins. Save us from the fires of hell, and lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy." This prayer illustrates that, contrary to what many who do not understand devotion to Our Lady claim, Mary in no way competes with Jesus' Lordship or His gift of Salvation to us, but, on the contrary, cooperates with Him at every step and leads us more and more to Him.

The Contributions of Pope John Paul II
Since the days of St. Dominic until the end of the last century, the Rosary had been divided up into three different sets of mysteries: The Joyful--looking at the events surrounding Christ's life; the Sorrowful--reflecting on His passion and death; and the Glorious--meditating on Christ's resurrection and power in the Church. In 2002, out of his intense devotion to Our Blessed Mother, Pope John Paul II issued an Apostolic Letter titled Rosarium Virginis Mariae, in which he fills in the gap of Christ's life from His birth to His death. Entitling these new mysteries the Luminous Mysteries, the Holy Father called us to meditate on the public ministry of Christ. To further spread devotion to the Rosary, he also consecrated the year from October 2002 to October 2003 as "The Year of the Rosary."

While most people have embraced the new mysteries of Christ's life, some people to whom I have spoken have protested, saying that there was nothing wrong or incomplete about the Rosary to begin with. Others have said that it is not right to change the mysteries--that somehow we are violating Catholic doctrine or some such thing. To these statements I reply that the Rosary isn't a matter of "doctrine" so that's a ridiculous charge from the outset. Furthermore, while the Rosary certainly was complete and effective before the new mysteries, how can one protest against having even more of Christ's life on which to meditate?

The Rosary, as I have shown in these articles, was not a static prayer handed down once for all in an enshrined and inviolable form--but a technique of prayer that has developed and evolved since the beginning of Christianity until the present. From reciting the Psalms to substituting Our Fathers or Hail Marys in their place, to St. Louis de Montfort's own contribution of adding the Glory Be to the end of each decade, and Our Mother's own instruction about the Fátima Prayer, the Rosary has continued to become even more perfect. Even the original mysteries that St. Dominic proclaimed weren't exactly the same as those that we have today. What then is to prevent the completion of the Gospel of the Rosary with the mysteries of Christ's ministry?

Finally, by way of personal testimony, it was meditating on the second of the new mysteries, The Wedding at Cana, that really led me to understand and love Our Lady, and further meditation on that same mystery was the initial inspiration for this forthcoming series of posts on the Rosary, and the following one on Mary herself. Thus the new mysteries are bearing good fruit--and it is by their fruit that you shall know and judge them.

The Superiority of the Rosary
In the first part of our History, we saw how the Rosary initially developed as a sort of "Poor Man's Psalter"--that is, that the monastic practice of reciting 150 Psalms was translated to the recitation of 150 Hail Marys so that the illiterate peasants who wanted to emulate the monks' devotion could do so. From the time of Saint Dominic to the time of Blessed Alan, therefore, the Rosary was most often referred to as "The Psalter of Jesus and Mary". Since this accommodation was made in a time when the normal workaday person could not be expected to read or write, let alone afford to own a Bible of their own and learn the Psalms, I have heard it objected that, in our world today of widespread availability of the Bible and greater levels of literacy, returning to the monastic practice of reciting the Psalms would be preferable to the recitation of Our Fathers and Hail Marys. Protestants have argued this out of a desire to avoid "Mariolatry", while some Catholics have proposed it in order to further "ecumenism."

To this proposal, I would object rather strongly for several reasons: the first being that, since the time of St. Dominic, the Rosary has become a devotion wholly different and separate from the recitation of the Psalms in the selfsame way that, though Christianity originally sprung out of Judaism and traces Her roots there, Christ's Church is an entity and organisation separate and distinct from Her Jewish ancestors. Moreover, the Rosary as such has been confirmed again and again by Our Lord and His Mother as being of principle value for our spiritual life--and has been attested to by many and various miraculous signs.

For the remainder of my objections, I defer once again to the wisdom of St. Louis-Marie de Montfort:
Since simple and uneducated people are not able to say the Psalms of David, the Rosary is held to be just as fruitful fo them as David's Psalter is for others.
But the Rosary can be considered to be even more fruitful than the latter for three reasons:
1. Firstly, because the Angelic Psalter bears a nobler fruit, that of the Word Incarnate, whereas David's Psalter only prophesies His coming;
2. Secondly, just as the real thing is more important than its prefiguration and as the body is more than its shadow, in the same way the Psalter of Our Lady is greater than David's Psalter which did no more than prefigure it;
3. And thirdly, because Our Lady's Psalter (or the Rosary made up of the Our Father and the Hail Mary) is the direct work of the Most Blessed Trinity and was not made through a human instrument. (The Secret of the Rosary, p. 25)
Finally, I would note that, with the addition of the five new Luminous Mysteries, the Rosary of 200 Hail Marys now surpasses definitively David's Psalter of 150 Psalms.

As we pray Mary's Psalter, the Rosary, and meditate on the Mysteries of the life of Her Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, we are led by her ever deeper into that Life, and receive grace upon grace from God. Let us not neglect or reject this most precious devotion, but rather partake eagerly of its fruits as we honour Our Saviour and His Blessed Mother.


Catholic Answers ( [Source of the online text of Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Letter on the Rosary.]

Grignon, St. Louis-Marie, de Montfort. The Secret of the Rosary. (Rockford, IL: TAN Books and Publishers, Inc., 1991.) [Beyond what was directly cited, this work provided the information for Blessed Alan de la Roche.]

Johnson, Dr. Kevin Orlin, Ph.D. Why Do Catholics Do That?: A Guide to the Teachings and Practices of the Catholic Church. (New York: Ballantine Books, 1994) [As cited, this is the source for the narration of the Battle of Lepanto.]

Sheridan, John D. The Hungry Sheep: Catholic Doctrine Restated Against Contemporary Attacks. (New Rochelle, NY: Arlington-House Publishers, 1974.) [Referenced for the details regarding the Fátima Miracle and Senhor Almeida's comments about it.]

(Category: Catholic Distinctives: Mary, Mother of God.
Catholic Devotions: The Rosary.
The Church: Christian History)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

History of the Rosary (Part 1)

The Rosary from The Early Church until the time of St. Dominic
I had originally intended this to be one article, but the sheer volume of it necessitated my splitting it up.

Just a Fad?
Scott Hahn, in his book, Hail, Holy Queen, remarks that "No area of Christian life is so susceptible to fads and fashions as the techniques of prayer." (p. 169) He's certainly got a point. Enter any Christian bookstore, and the shelves are lined with books advocating this style or that technique--some new and some old. Consider, for one obvious example, the "Prayer of Jabez" from a few years back. It seems a funny thing that this faddishness should be the case wih prayer. Yes, there are definitely "techniques" in prayer; ways of doing it or helping us remember to, or focus better, and whatnot. But it almost smacks of trying to manipulate God--the notion that, "Well, if I do it this way, then I'll definitely get God's attention!"

In light of this, you might remark that my recent seeming obsession with the Rosary here at Barque of Peter is indicative of my own succumbing to a fad or trend. But I assure you that this is not the case. In my attempt to demonstrate that the Rosary is more than a faddish technique, I want to write about its origins and a bit about its status as a form of prayer within Catholic devotion.

The "Rosary" of the Early Church
In his devotional little book, The Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis de Montfort writes,

Since the Holy Rosary is composed, principally and in substance, of the Prayer of Christ and the Angelic Salutation, that is, the Our Father and the Hail Mary, it was without doubt the first prayer and the first devotion of the faithful and has been in use all through the centuries, from the time of the apostles and disciples down to the present.
But it was only in the year 1214, however, that Holy Mother Church received the Rosary in its present form and according to the method we use today.
That is to say, that since the Our Father was taught to us straight from the lips of Christ, and the Hail Mary is a compilation of the Angel Gabriel's words and of St. Elizabeth's words to Mary, that these two prayers were known and said by devout Christians right from the beginning of the Church's history--though, as St. Louis admits, not exactly organised in the manner which we are used to.

Early Christian Marian Devotion
Some might object to that statement, saying that all this devotion to Mary is a construct of the Middle Ages, and that no Christian in ancient times would have accorded her such honour. But this goes counter to the historical record. We see artistic depictions of Mary in the Catacombs of Rome. We know that key sites of her life were places of pilgrimage (such as her home in Ephesus, and her tomb there as well--an empty tomb, for the record). In Egypt, in about the year 300 (which early date precludes us from claiming that Marian devotion entered into the Church through pagan influence after the time of Constantine), we have record of an ancient Christian prayer to Mary that conveys more or less the same meaning as more modern prayers such as the Hail, Holy Queen or the Memorare: the Sub Tuum Praesidium:
We fly to your patronage, O holy Theotokos;
Despise not our petition in our necessities,
But deliver us always from all dangers,
O ever-glorious and Blessed Virgin.
The term used for Mary in this prayer, "Theotokos", is Greek for "Mother of God" (Literally, God-bearer, or one who carries God in her womb). From earliest days, Christians recognised that Christ was, in fact, God made flesh--made flesh through Mary's participation, through her carrying Him in her womb. Thus, she rightly is called the Mother of God. But in the early fifth century, some controversy broke out over the use of this term--not because Christians felt that it gave too much honour to Mary, but because certain heretics felt that it gave too much honour to Jesus. They believed that Mary only gave birth to Jesus' human nature, and that, at some point after His birth, God infused Him with His divine nature--basically, they believed that Jesus wasn't truly Human and truly God. As such, the heretics taught that "Theotokos" was an incorrect way of describing Mary, and that "Christotokos" should be substituted.

Because of this teaching, and the often outraged reaction to it (particularly in Ephesus, where Mary lived out her final days), Pope Celestine I convened the Council of Ephesus to decide on the matter. The Pope strongly defended the title of Mother of God, and was backed up by the eminent theologian, Cyril of Alexandria, who wisely pointed out that a mother doesn't give birth to a "nature", but to a whole person. Since Mary gave birth to Christ, who is a Divine Person, she is rightly called "the Mother of God." Keep in mind that this doesn't mean that Mary somehow originated God, but that in her womb she bore the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity.

When this decision was pronounced in AD 431, the people of Ephesus rioted for joy, parading through the streets by torchlight, carrying all 200 bishops aloft on their shoulders, and chanting "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners!" which gives us the conclusion to the Hail Mary prayer.

The Evolution of the Rosary
As Christianity continued to spread, reaching out into the barbaric lands of the north, monastic orders carried culture and learning along with the faith. A major part of the monks' daily spiritual exercises was to recite all 150 Psalms. To aid them in keeping track, they often would employ knotted strings, to keep track of their prayers. The newly converted Christian people of the European nations where the monasteries were established admired the monks' devotion and desired to imitate it--but since most of them still could not read, let alone memorise, all 150 Psalms, the monks told them that they could substitute 150 other prayers in their place. The most common prayers chosen were the Our Father or the Hail Mary. In fact, there was a street in Ireland where strings of 150 beads were manufactured for this very purpose, of assisting the peasants in their devotions--and it was named "Paternoster Row" after their recitation of 150 Our Fathers (Pater Noster in Latin). The development of the Rosary was well on its way. But, as St. Louis de Montfort points out,
it was only in the year 1214, however, that Holy Mother Church received the Rosary in its present form and according to the method we use today. It was given to the Church by Saint Dominic who had received it from the Blessed Virgin as a powerful means of converting the Albigensians and other sinners.
The Albigensians were a heretical group who taught the existence of two equal and opposite powers in the universe--one Good and the other Evil. Both of these powers had a hand in creating mankind, and so mankind was a walking contradiction--a Good soul trapped within an Evil body. For the Albigensians, the most triumphant way to liberate the soul from the body was through suicide--usually by self-starvation, which they referred to as the endura. This heretical cult gained much popularity in the 11th and 12th centuries in the south of France, and its rigid morality attracted many people who were disillusioned with Catholicism because of the corruption of the clergy rampant at that time.

St. Dominic Receives the Rosary from the Blessed Virgin
When Saint Dominic visited France, he saw on the one hand this terrible heresy gaining ground everywhere, and on the other, he saw the immorality in the Church as the reason behind it. He tried to preach repentance, both to the sinful Catholics and to the heretical Albigenses, but was getting nowhere. Frustrated by his failed attempts, he made a three day retreat in the wilderness, praying for help in fighting this huge problem, and doing nothing but weep and perform sharp penances for the Church. It was on this retreat that the Blessed Virgin appeared to St. Dominic, accompanied by three angels, and she said to him, "Dear Dominic, do you know which weapon the Blessed Trinity wants you to use to reform the world?" Dominic replied, "Oh, my Lady, you know far better than I do because next to your Son Jesus Christ you have always been the chief instrument of our salvation." Mary replied to him, "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."

From that time on, St. Dominic preached the Rosary--how to pray it devoutly, how to meditate on its mysteries, and in so doing, how to give greater honour to Jesus and to Mary. Many miracles were worked by Saint Dominic in confirmation of his testimony to the power of the Rosary, one of which I will recount at length, quoting again from St. Louis de Montfort's book:

When Saint Dominic was preaching the Rosary near Carcassone an Albigensian was brought to him who was possessed by the devil. Saint Dominic exorcised him in the presence of a great crowd of people; it appears that over 12 thousand had come to hear him preach. The devils who were in possession of this wretched man were forced to answer St. Dominic's questions in spite of themselves. They said that:
1. There were fifteen thousand of them in the body of this poor man, because he had attacked the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary;
2. They went on to testify that by preaching the Rosary he put fear and horror into the very depths of hell and that he was the man they hated most throughout the whole world, because of the souls which he snatched from them through devotion to the Holy Rosary;
3. Then they revealed several other things.
Saint Dominic put his rosary around the Albigensian's neck and asked the devils to tell him who, of all the saints in heaven, was the one they feared the most, and who should therefore be the most loved and revered by men. At this they let out such unearthly screams that most of the people fell to the ground, faint from fear. Then, using all their cunning, so as not to answer, the devils wept and wailed in such a pitiful way that many of the people wept also, out of purely natural pity. The devils spoke through the mouth of the Albigensian, pleading in a heartrending voice:

"Dominic, Dominic, have mercy on us--we promise you that we will never hurt you. You have always had compassion for sinners and those in distress; have pity on us, for we are in grievous straits. We are suffering so very much already, so why do you delight in heightening our pains? Can't you be satisfied with our suffering without adding to it? Have pity on us! Have pity on us!"

Saint Dominic was not one whit moved by the pathos of these wretched spirits and told them that he would not let them alone until they had answered his question. Then they said they would whisper the answer in such a way that only Saint Dominic would be able to hear. The latter firmly insisted upon their answering clearly and out loud. Then the devils kept quiet and refused to say another word, completely disregarding Saint Dominic's orders--so he knelt down and prayed thus to Our Lady: "Oh, all powerful and wonderful Virgin Mary, I implore you by the power of the Most Holy Rosary, order these enemies of the human race to answer me."

No sooner had he made this prayer than a glowing flame leapt out of the ears, nostrils and mouth of the Albigensian. Everyone shook with fear, but the fire did not hurt anyone. Then the devils cried:

"Dominic, we beseech you, by the passion of Jesus Christ and by the merits of His Holy Mother and of all the saints, let us leave the body of this man without speaking further--for the angels will answer your question whenever you wish. After all, are we not liars? So why should you want to believe us? Please don't torture us any more; have pity on us."

"Woe unto you wretched spirits, who do not deserve to be heard," Saint Dominic said, and kneeling down he prayed to Our Lady:

"Oh most worth Mother of Wisdom, I am praying for the people assembled here who have already learned how to say the Angelic Salutation properly. Please, I beg of you, force your enemies to proclaim the whole truth and nothing but the truth about this, here and now, before the multitude."

Saint Dominic had hardly finished this prayer when he saw the Blessed Virgin near at hand, surrounded by a multitude of angels. She struck the possessed man with a golden rod that she held and said: "Answer my servant Dominic at once." (Remember, the people neither saw nor heard Our Lady, but only Saint Dominic.) Then the devils started screaming:

"Oh you who are our enemy, our downfall and our destruction, why have you come from heaven just to torture us so grievously? O Advocate of sinners, you who snatch them from the very jaws of hell, you who are the very sure path to heaven, must we, in spite of ourselves, tell the whole truth and confess before everyone who it is who is the cause of our shame and our ruin? Oh woe unto us, princes of darkness:

"Then listen well, you Christians: the Mother of Jesus Christ is all-powerful and she can save her servants from falling into hell. She is the Sun which destroys the darkness of our wiles and subtlety. It is she who uncovers our hidden plots, breaks our snares and makes our temptations useless and ineffectual.

"We have to say, however reluctantly, that not a single soul who has really persevered in her service has ever been damned with us; one single sigh that she offers to the Blessed Trinity is worth far more than all the prayers, desires and aspirations of all the saints.

"We fear her more than all the other saints in heaven together and we have no success with her faithful servants. Many Christians who call upon her when they are at the hour of death and who really ought to be damned according to our ordinary standards are saved by her intercession.

"Oh if only that Mary (it is thus in their fury that they called her) had not pitted her strength against ours and had not upset our plans, we should have conquered the Church and should have destroyed it long before this: and we would have seen to it that all the Orders in the Church fell into error and disorder.

"Now that we are forced to speak we must also tell you this: nobody who perseveres in saying the Rosary will be damned, because she obtains for her servants the grace of true contrition for their sins and by means of this they obtain God's forgiveness and mercy."

Then Saint Dominic had them all say the Rosary very slowly and with great devotion, and a wonderful thing happened: at each Hail Mary that he and the people said together a large group of devils issued forth from the wretched man's body under the guise of red-hot coals.

When the devils had all been expelled and the heretic was at last entirely free of them, Our Lady (who was still invisible) gave her blessing to the assembled company, and they were filled with joy because of this.

A large number of heretics were converted because of this miracle and joined the Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary. (The Secret of the Rosary, pp.76-79.)
Unfortunately, the fervent devotion to the Rosary inspired by St. Dominic's preaching only lasted for a century, and then died out to the point of being nearly forgotten. St. Louis de Montfort cites this neglect of devotion to Christ and Our Lady as the reason for the disasters that befell Europe in that time: namely, the Black Plague in 1349 and the rapid succession of heresy and schism in the Church.


Grignon, St. Louis-Marie, de Montfort. The Secret of the Rosary. (Rockford, IL: TAN Books and Publishers, Inc., 1991.) [Beyond what was directly cited, this work provided the information for much of the general history of the Rosary's development, as well as the bulk of information regarding St. Dominic.]

Hahn, Dr. Scott. Hail, Holy Queen: The Mother of God in the Word of God. (New York: Doubleday, 2001). [Beyond what was directly cited, this work was a source of much information on the development of the Rosary and early Christian Mariology--particularly about the Council of Ephesus.]

Johnson, Dr. Kevin Orlin, Ph.D. Why Do Catholics Do That?: A Guide to the Teachings and Practices of the Catholic Church. (New York: Ballantine Books, 1994) [This was also a great source for the history and development of the Rosary.]

Why Yes, I Do Believe Something, Actually ( [My source for the text of the Sub Tuum Praesidium.]

(Category: Catholic Distinctives: Mary, Mother of God.
Catholic Devotions: The Rosary.
The Church: Christian History)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Through Her Eyes

A Journey to Jesus

When I met Catholic singer/songwriter Mark Mallett, I had the opportunity to chat with Mark and his wife, Léa, about their ministry and about mine (as the then youth minister at St. Andrew Church, in Oakville. Mark kindly blessed me with a double CD of the Rosary, titled "Through Her Eyes: A Journey to Jesus." I wanted to share with you a bit about that album, and I encourage you to get it (it's available here). And no, I don't get anything from this promotion except the opportunity to return the blessing to Mark Mallett.

"Through Her Eyes" is a great CD set, and a wonderfully helpful way to pray the Rosary (for more on the Rosary, read the article I Shall Not Walk Alone). The album and rosary on it are dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the CD begins by telling of how in AD 1531, the Virgin Mary appeared to a Mexican Native named St. Juan Diego, and told him that she wanted a church built on the hill where he was. However, the bishop didn't believe Juan, and Our Lady appeared to him again, and sent him to the top of the mountain, and told him he would find flowers growing there, in the middle of December! He did, and he tucked the roses in his cloak and went to show the Bishop. When he let the flowers fall out of the cloak, an image of the Virgin remained imprinted on the cloak! This cloak still exists today and has been tested by experts numerous times throughout the years. Their conclusions? They have absolutely no idea how the image was made! Because of these events, a church was built on that site, and within ten years of Our Lady appearing to St. Juan, 9,000,000 people converted to Christianity!

The album continues with the Rosary itself, going through all four sets of mysteries, with a sung Creed, Our Father, and Glory Be kicking off each Rosary, and a sung Hail Holy Queen to conclude. Before each mystery, a text of Scripture describing the mystery is read by Mark with music acting like a soundtrack in the background. When the mystery is meditated on, Mark and Fr. Ray Guimond recite the Hail Marys, while the same music that played during the Scripture plays again, in order to help us meditate! This is amazingly effective, because the music helps create the images of the reading in our heads!

In the Liner Notes to the CD, Mark has this to say about the Rosary and about this project:

The Rosary may be the most misunderstood of Christian prayers.

Pope John Paul II correctly identifies one reason as being an "impoverished" method of praying it (Rosarium Virginis Mariae). I also believe it is because the goal of the Rosary has been largely confused.

The Rosary is all about Jesus. Jesus--and union with Him--is its goal. It is about getting to know Him, love Him, and open ourselves to Him. We do this by meditating on the mysteries of His life, from His conception to His ascension into Heaven (They are called mysteries because how else can you describe God becoming flesh and dwelling among us?) Thus, the Rosary is really just meditating on the Gospels--but doing so in the school of Mary. We look, as it were, through her eyes. We see what she saw, feel what she felt, and hopefully imitate her response, which was perfect. If we surrender ourselves to Jesus as she did, we too shall receive our reward, as expressed in the last Glorious Mystery.

But what about all those repetitious words? Besides the fact we are praying words found in Scripture (and supplicated with "Pray for us sinners..."), it is important to understand their role. Jesus warned against those who supposed multiplication of words would win favour with God. So why 200 Hail Mary's? Think of them this way: as a drum keeps the beat for a song, so too do the Hail Mary's give our meditation a rhythm, allowing our minds to focus on the mystery at hand.

Imagine the mystery to be meditated on as a flower; and the cascade of words as though they were the constant sound of a gentle waterfall behind you. Your focus is on the flower, while the waterfall gently occupies your other senses. The goal is not to think about the words you are saying, but to contemplate the face of Jesus in the mystery.

But even so, this can be difficult. Which is why this album was created: to help focus the mind and intellect on each mystery through music. Unlike other fine musical Rosaries in which the music forms a part of the "waterfall", the scores beneath the Scriptures and decades here are written to aid the imagination in forming a mental picture of the events taking place. The music is the stem of the flower, supporting the beauty of the petals--of Christ's life. For this reason, it sits more prominently against the decades helping to lift the meditations to the foreground. That is, the music may at times seem to compete with the Hail Mary's; rather, it is there to draw your attention from them toward Jesus.

You'll also notice that the music accompanying each Scripture repeats again during the decade--this is the key to praying with this album: as you are saying the Hail Mary's, the music will help you to recall and enter into the events of that mystery. Listen to the music, and allow it to form the meditation in your mind.

Lastly, this album was created to honour our dear Mother (Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of all America and my [i.e. Mark's] ministry), the perfect embodiment of the Christian life. By joining our prayer to hers, she makes it more perfect and even her own, offering it to her Beloved Son, the only mediator between us and the Father.

In making an act of consecration to Mary, I had bought her a bouquet of carnations and placed it at the feet of her statue in the little country church where I married my wife. When I came back later that day, I found the carnations missing. I assumed the cleaner had thrown them out. Instead, I found them at the feet of the statue of Jesus, perfectly arranged in a vase.

This is what Mary does with our prayers, indeed with our very souls if we entrust them to her. She picks us up, brushes us off, wraps us in her mantle of love, and places us gently at the feet of our Brother and Lord. If we let her, she will not only accompany us, but carry us in her arms... on our journey to Jesus.
I love that final illustration, and it was the reason that I asked Mark if I could publish the liner notes here. I really encourage you all to pray the Rosary--get the cd, it's a great help--because through it, I have experienced my own walk with Jesus to be closer, and my understanding and love for Him to be deeper. It's one of the most effective things that we can do as Catholics to grow closer to our Lord. Don't just shrug it off, but make use of this great gift from our Mother!

Pope John Paul II, on the Rosary:
Rediscover the rosary as a simple but very profound prayer. When it is recited well, the rosary leads one into the living experience of the Divine Mystery and brings to hearts, families, and the whole community that peace which we need so much. --Pope John Paul II, summer 2003

The Rosary, precisely because it starts with Mary's own experience, is an exquisitely contemplative prayer....By its nature the recitation of the Rosary calls for a quiet rhythm and a lingering pace, helping the individual to meditate on the mysteries of the Lord's life as seen through the eyes of her who was closest to the Lord. In this way, the unfathomable riches of these mysteries are disclosed.

Dear brothers and sisters! A prayer so easy and yet so rich truly deserves to be rediscovered by the Christian community....I look to all of you, brothers and sisters of every state of life, to you, Christian families, to you, the sick and elderly, and to you, young people: confidently take up the Rosary once again. Rediscover the Rosary in the light of Scripture, in harmony with the Liturgy, and in the context of your daily lives....May this appeal of mine not go unheard! --Pope John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae
Let us heed the call!

God bless

(Category: Catholic Devotions: The Rosary.)

Letting God do the Work

Why Pray the Rosary?
The Rosary is one of the most beautiful and effective prayers in the Catholic arsenal. Literally, the name means "garland of roses", but behind the soft, gentle name lies a powerful weapon in our fight against sin and temptation in our lives, and in the world. Used properly, the Rosary is a powerful spiritual weapon used to bring forth many heavenly graces and draw us closer to Jesus and Mary.

On the 8th of March, 2003, Pope John Paul II said,

Today...I am handing you the Rosary beads. Through prayer and meditation on the mysteries, Mary leads you safely towards her Son! Do not be ashamed to recite the Rosary alone, while you walk along the streets to school, to the university or to work, or as you commute by public transport. Adopt the habit of reciting it among yourselves, in your groups, movements and associations. Do not hesitate to suggest that it be recited at hime ... because it rekindles and strengthens the bonds between family members. This prayer will help you to be strong in your faith, constant in charity, joyful and persevering in hope.
Beyond the exortation of John Paul the Great, Mary herself appeared to two men at different times, St. Dominic and Bl. Alan de la Roche, and gave them a total of fifteen promises to those who would pray the Rosary every day. These promises should inspire us to greater devotion. I reproduce them here, but they can also be found at Our Lady's Click the link to read an explanation of each of these 15 promises.
1. Whosoever shall faithfully serve me by the recitation of the Rosary shall receive signal graces.

2. I promise my special protection and the greatest graces to all those who shall recite the Rosary.

3. The Rosary shall be a powerful armor against hell, it will destroy vice, decrease sin and defeat heresies.

4. It will cause good works to flourish; it will obtain for souls the abundant mercy of God; it will withdraw the hearts of men from the love of the world and its vanities, and will lift them to the desire for Eternal Things. Oh, that souls would sanctify themselves by this means.

5. The soul which recommends itself to me by the recitation of the Rosary shall not perish.

6. Whosoever shall recite the Rosary devoutly, applying himself to the consideration of its Sacred Mysteries shall never be conquered by misfortune. God will not chastise him in His justice, he shall not perish by an unprovided death; if he be just he shall remain in the grace of God, and become worthy of Eternal Life.

7. Whoever shall have a true devotion for the Rosary shall not die without the Sacraments of the Church.

8. Those who are faithful to recite the Rosary shall have during their life and at their death the Light of God and the plenitude of His Graces; at the moment of death they shall participate in the Merits of the Saints in Paradise.

9. I shall deliver from purgatory those who have been devoted to the Rosary.

10. The faithful children of the Rosary shall merit a high degree of Glory in Heaven.

11. You shall obtain all you ask of me by recitation of the Rosary.

12. All those who propagate the Holy Rosary shall be aided by me in their necessities.

13. I have obtained from my Divine Son that all the advocates of the Rosary shall have for intercessors the entire Celestial Court during their life and at the hour of death.

14. All who recite the Rosary are my Sons, and brothers of my Only Son Jesus Christ.

15. Devotion to my Rosary is a great sign of predestination.
Our Lady's reminds us that "these promises mean that, by faithfully and devoutly praying the Rosary, Our Lady will obtain for us the necessary Graces to obtain said promises. It is still up to each individual soul to respond to those Graces in order to obtain salvation."

The beauty of prayer, through the Rosary, was described beautifully by fellow Catholic convert, Owen Swain, in the archives of his spiritual odyssey. In a post titled Bead by Bead, he writes,
The fact of the rosary is this, it is not work but rather I rest in the rhythm of the Hail Marys, focusing on the meaning and prayer intention of the specific mystery from the life of Christ and his Mother, it is a realization that causes me to laugh that I ever thought that Catholics work for their salvation, in the sense that Protestants so often accuse Catholics of working for their salvation. In the rosary ours is to be obedient while God does the work of answering the prayer yes, but arguably more importantly as we rest in the rosary God does a work in us. I gave myself over early in faith to the idea that a central point of the rosary is seeing God’s Son through Mary’s eyes because she is our greatest example as devoted Christian. What I gave myself over to in faith, the substance of things I did not then see, I have now begun to see and understand and the speed at which this has happened I can only attribute to the grace of God. I could not have anticipated this and so I laugh a laugh of joy for God and not of derision for my Protestant brothers and sisters or Catholics for that matter who see no place for a holy devotion to the rosary. Yes, I have been taken by surprise in receiving what I asked for.


Now, no struggle in prayer, this is new for me. It is a kind of freedom in the spirit that I have not known before and I was a card carrying Pentecostal for over two decades. There is nothing vain in the repetitions of the rosary as the focus is Christ, which is more than one can say for endless list prayers that for all their spiritual sounding tone are at least as much self oriented as they are Christ centric. Instead when prayed with attention, intention and devotion there is an increase of hope, faith and love as well as practical reminders, promptings if you like, about specific intentions or prayer requests as I used to call them.

And by no struggle I mean not that we should not by times be hard at it, struggling in faith or doubt or hope or confession as we pray, nor do I mean that setting time aside and getting down to the business of meeting with God is not sometimes an effort of the will. What I mean is that, perhaps to my shame, for the first time in a long time I am drawn to prayer, I want to return to the beads and the meditations on my Lord. What I mean is that as I come to those times my mind does not wander, I am not adrift thinking of what to pray for next or reciting an endless list of items to God and detailing some of them in such a way as if you would think I thought God was unaware of the details. Do you see that?


Praying the rosary, even for a novice, is a bit like watching God thread the spirit of his blessed Son into my life, bead by bead. Nothing vain in that.
I echo Owen's sentiments. Through the Rosary, I have grown closer to Jesus, through His Mother, than I ever had achieved at any time in my life before!

In conclusion, I'd like to leave some tips when praying the Rosary:

1. Set aside a specific time each day for reciting the Rosary, and stick to it. Whether it's in the morning when you get up, or before you go to bed. Maybe when you get home from school, or after you finish work. Or, possibly, even say a decade on the daily commute.

2. Pray with your heart, not just your lips, so that prayer becomes a joy to you rather than a burden.

3. Announce each Mystery, and name a prayer intention, whether for you or for another, that is specific to that Mystery.

4. Pause for a moment to meditate on and visually contemplate the Gospel Mystery being said.

5. Make the Rosary part of a greater spiritual program in your life, that includes Mass, receiving the Eucharist, Confession, reading the Bible, and other things.

And remember, God helps you pray, and He understands when we just can't seem to. To Him, even the very desire to pray is itself a prayer. So stick with it.

God bless

(Category: Catholic Distinctives: Mary, Mother of God.
Catholic Devotions: The Rosary.)

I Shall Not Walk Alone

Many Protestants make the point, when talking to Catholics, that Jesus is the main thing for us as Christians. And they are absolutely right. Everything that we believe as Catholics focusses on and orbits around Jesus, as the earth orbits the sun.

Focused on Christ
We must remain focused on Christ, and remain in Christ. He is our Salvation. And at every Mass, we have the opportunity to actually have Communion with Jesus, to receive Him, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, into ourselves in the Eucharist! Experiencing the Presence of Christ in the Eucharist reminds me that He is Present in His Church, and He is our ultimate and absolute focus!

Mary leads us to Christ
Virgin Mary
But there are many, many doctrines in the Church, and not all of them obviously teach about Christ at first glance. Among those doctrines are the Church's beliefs about His Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. For many, especially Protestants, she seems rather to be a stumbling block and a hinderance to a full relationship with Jesus Christ, rather than one who draws us closer to Him. But this is not the truth!

Christ has given us His Mother as our Mother (John 19:26-27; Revelation 12:17). She helps us to know Christ even more intimately. And through her prayers for us, we can find strength in Christ to live for Him. For her whole raison d'être is to give glory to God, and to bring people to her Son, Jesus Christ (Luke 1:46-47; John 2:5).

I have a cd by the Blind Boys of Alabama, called Higher Ground. On it they sing a song called "I Shall Not Walk Alone", that talks about how this relationship with Mary strengthens us in our pilgrimage on earth.

I Shall Not Walk Alone
Ben Harper

Battered and torn still I can see the light
Tattered and worn but I must kneel to fight
Friend of mine what can't you spare
I know sometimes it gets cold in there

When my legs no longer carry
and the cold wind chills my bones
I just reach for Mother Mary
and I shall not walk alone

Hope is alive while we're apart
Only tears speak from my heart
Break the chains that hold us down
And we shall be forever bound

When I'm tired and weary
and a long, long way from home
I reach for Mother Mary
and I shall not walk alone

Beauty that we left behind
How shall we tomorrow find
Set aside our weight in sin
So that we can live again

When my legs no longer carry
and the cold wind chills my bones
I reach for Mother Mary
and I shall not walk alone
Just as you or I might pray for each other, in the hard times, when we don't know how to continue, our Mother, who loves us, prays for us and brings us to Christ, her Son and our Older Brother, who walks with us. We truly will never walk alone!

The Rosary
This issue of Marian beliefs and Marian devotion was one that I struggled with right up until even shortly after I became a Catholic. I couldn't understand, as many Protestants can't, how she leads us to Christ without somehow getting in the way. Since becoming a Catholic, I have begun to understand her better, and certainly to love her more. This really began when I took up what is possibly the most famous Catholic devotion: The Rosary. In this series of prayers and meditations, John Paul the Great tells us, "We meditate with Mary on the life of her Son." We ponder with Mary the mysteries of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ, and come to a fuller and greater understanding of Him--and at the same time, pray perseveringly for our needs and the needs of others!

John Paul 2, on March 8th, 2003, said to us,
My Dear Young People! Today, I am handing you the Rosary beads. Through prayer and meditation on the mysteries, Mary leads you safely towards her Son! Do not be ashamed to recite the Rosary alone, while you walk along the streets to school, to the university, or to work, or as you commute by public transport. Adopt the habit of reciting it among yourselves, in your groups, movements and associations.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Rosary, here is a simple guide for praying it:

How to Pray the Rosary
The Rosary beads are a chain of many beads that form a loop. Trailing from the loop is a small stretch of 5 beads ending with a Crucifix. Where the tail connects to the loop, there is a medal, usually of Mary, or Jesus, or a saint. The one hanging from my rearview mirror has the Eucharistic Chalice with a Host above it. From the medal are ten beads, a slight space, a single bead, another space, ten more beads, etc. In all, there are five groups of ten beads, with a single bead between each group of ten, making four (plus the medal).Rosary

Beginning with the Crucifix, we pray the Apostles' Creed. Then, while fingering the first of the five beads, we pray the Our Father. For the next three beads, we pray a Hail Mary each. On the fifth bead, we pray a Glory Be.

When we get to the medal, we announce the first mystery that we intend to meditate on (the mysteries will be explained below). Then we pray another Our Father. For the next 10 beads we pray a Hail Mary each, while meditating and praying about the mystery that we have just announced. When we come to the space between the tenth bead and the single bead, we pray a Glory Be, and then a Fatima Prayer. This prayer was given to the three children of Fatima, Portugal, when Mary appeared to them in a series of visions. She asked them to pray it when they prayed the Rosary. In my mind, it proves the desire of Mary to lead us to Jesus. At the single bead, we announce the next mystery, and start the process over. This continues until all five mysteries are prayed through and meditated upon, and we arrive at the medal again. In the space after the final tenth bead and the medal, we again pray a Glory Be, and a Fatima Prayer, as we have done. Then, at the Medal, we pray a Marian prayer such as the Hail, Holy Queen (which is my preference) or another prayer to Mary of our choice. Then we cross ourselves and go on our way, knowing that we are not walking alone!

Many Protestants claim that the Rosary violates Jesus' condemnation of "vain repetition" in our prayers, since we repeat each prayer several times (Matthew 6:7-8). However, it is important to understand two things here:

1. Not all repetition is vain. Otherwise, many of the Psalms would fall under Jesus' condemnation, making Jesus a contradiction, since the Psalms are the inspired word of God. See, for example, Psalm 136, where the second line of each of its 26 verses is "For His faithful love endures forever." Now that's repetitious!

2. The focus of the prayer isn't on the words being said. They form a prayerful backdrop for the key part of the prayer--meditating on the life of Christ with Mary. Without this exercise of meditating on Christ, then yes, the Rosary would be vain repetition! The mysteries are the entire point of the Rosary! So what are they?

The Mysteries of the Rosary
By "mystery" it is meant an aspect of our faith that is miraculous, that we cannot comprehend. When it comes to the life of Christ, we will never comprehend how the Infinite, Almighty God could become a Man and live among us. Thus, everything that Christ did is a "mystery". In the Rosary, there are 20 mysteries, divided into four sets of five. One "rosary" is the praying of a set of 5, thus going around the loop.

The mysteries focus on Christ's birth, life, death, and resurrection. When we meditate on each mystery, it is important to focus on it as if we ourselves were there, witnessing the event. How would we have felt, or reacted, in that situation? When we do this, we go right into the pages of the Gospels with Mary, as she shows us her Son more clearly. As such, it is important that we read and learn the stories from the Bible itself. Therefore, I will include the place in the Bible where the story is found.

When we undertake to meditate on a mystery, it is helpful to offer a prayer intention. One will be suggested for furthering virtues in your life.

Let us look at each mystery.

The Joyful Mysteries
These five mysteries focus on Jesus' birth and early childhood.

The Annunciation of Gabriel to Mary--Luke 1:26-38
Suggested Intention: When meditating on this mystery, pray for the humility of Mary when she responded to God's plan, saying, "You see before you the Lord's servant, let it happen to me as you have said" (Luke 1:38).

The Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth--Luke 1:39-56
Suggested Intention: When meditating on this mystery, pray that you would have a greater love for your neighbour (Matthew 22:39). Think of Mary, visiting her pregnant cousin, and helping her to keep house, while she herself is pregnant with the Saviour!

The Nativity of Jesus--Luke 2:1-21
Suggested Intention: Pray that Jesus would help you to be poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3), as He Himself was: The King of the Universe born in a barnyard feeding trough! If He would do this for us, what should we do for Him?

The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple--Luke 2:22-38
Suggested Intention: The Jewish people had to offer sacrifices of purification for every first-born child. When Mary and Joseph went to offer these sacrifices, two prophets, Simeon and Anna, give testimony to who Jesus is. If Mary and Joseph had not been obedient to even the seemingly minor points of the Law, Simeon would never have seen the Lord's promise fulfilled (Luke 2:26). Let us then pray for willingness to be obedient to Christ's laws.

Finding Jesus in the Temple at the age of 12--Luke 2:41-50
Suggested Intention: Jesus' parents lose track of Him on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Passover. In their worry they look everywhere, and finally find Him, a 12-year-old, teaching scribes and teachers of the Law! When they find Him, Mary and Joseph are filled with joy and relief. Let us pray that we would also be filled with joy at finding Christ working in our own lives--even in the places we least expect to see Him!

The Luminous Mysteries
These new mysteries, given by Pope John Paul 2 in 2002, highlight key events in the life and ministry of Jesus.

Jesus' Baptism--Matthew 3:1-17; Mark 1:1-11; Luke 3:1-22; John 1:29-34
Suggested Intention: At His baptism, the heavens were opened, and God proclaimed His love for Jesus, and sent the Holy Spirit to empower His ministry. Let us pray that we would have a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Jesus Turning Water into Wine at the Wedding in Cana--John 2:1-12
Suggested Intention: In this story, we see Mary bringing the servants to Jesus so that He could meet their need, and she tells them the most important piece of advice ever: "Do whatever He tells you" (John 2:5). Let us pray and ask Mary to lead us into a deeper relationship with her Son.

The Proclamation of the Kingdom of God--Matthew 4:23; 5:1-7:29
Suggested Intention: Let us pray that we would be willing to proclaim Jesus' Kingdom as He sends us out. Let us pray that we are never too worried about what others think that we would deny Jesus!

The Transfiguration of Jesus--Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8
Suggested Intention: When Jesus was transfigured, He displayed His true glory for a moment, to Peter, James and John. Let us pray that He would reveal His glory in our own lives.

The Last Supper--Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:7-20
Suggested Intention: Let us pray that we would come to know Jesus truly as He gives Himself to us in the Eucharist.

The Sorrowful Mysteries
These mysteries focus on Jesus' suffering and death, which brings us forgiveness for our sins.

Jesus' Agony in the Garden--Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46
Suggested Intention: As we meditate on Jesus praying and sweating blood for us, let us pray for true sorrow and true repentance for our sins which brought Him here.

Jesus' Arrest and Scourging--Matthew 26:47-27:26; Mark 14:43-15:15; Luke 22:47-23:25; John 18:1-19:16
Suggested Intention: As we meditate on Jesus' suffering, let us realise that it brought us our redemption: "He was being wounded for our rebellions, crushed because of our guilt; the punishment reconciling us fell on Him, and we have been healed by His bruises" (Isaiah 53:5). Let us pray and thank Him for His salvation, and pray that we would understand the value of suffering in our own lives.

The Crowning with Thorns--Matthew 27:27-31; Mark 15:16-20
Suggested Intention: Let us pray, as we meditate on Jesus' humiliation, that we will have the strength to stand up for Him, even in the face of ridicule and death.

Jesus' Carrying His Cross--Matthew 27:32-33; Mark 15:20-22; Luke 23:26-32; John 19:17-18
Suggested Intention: As we meditate on Christ carrying His Cross, let us pray for the patience that He had in enduring this torture.

Jesus' Crucifixion and Death--Matthew 27:32-56; Mark 15:23-39; Luke 23:33-49; John 19:18-37
Suggested Intention: As we meditate on Jesus' death, let us reflect on the care He had for those around Him, even in His agony. Let us pray that we would persevere in our walk with Him always, so that we would inherit the crown of life.

The Glorious Mysteries
These mysteries focus on Jesus' resurrection and His power in the Church

The Resurrection--Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-13; Luke 24:1-42; John 20:1-21:25
Suggested Intention: As we meditate on Jesus' Resurrection, pray that He would increase our faith in Him.

The Ascension--Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:14-20; Luke 24:44-53; Acts 1:1-11
Suggested Intention: As we meditate on Jesus' Ascension into heaven, let us pray that He would fill us with hope in the angels' words, "Why are you...standing here looking into the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you will come back in the same way as you have seen Him go to heaven" (Acts 1:11).

The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost--Acts 2:1-36
Suggested Intention: As we meditate, let us pray that the Holy Spirit would fill us with a greater love and zeal for God.

Mary's Assumption into Heaven--Revelation 11:19-12:1
Suggested Intention: At the end of her life, Mary was assumed bodily into Jesus' presence in heaven so that she who had been graced to be without sin, would not suffer the unltimate consiquence of sin: death. Let us pray for the desire to join Mary and her Son, Jesus, in heaven, so that we would not stray from following Him here on earth.

Mary's Coronation as Queen of Heaven--Revelation 12:1
Suggested Intention: Let us pray and ask Mary to increase our trust in her intercession for us, and for the entire Church, of which she is the Mother (Revelation 12:17).

These mysteries of the Rosary, when we pray them, and meditate on them, will lead us to a greater knowledge of Christ, and a deeper relationship with Him. Let us take our cue from Mary herself, and ponder all these things in our hearts (Luke 2:51).

God bless

(Category: Catholic Distinctives: Mary, Mother of God.
Catholic Devotions: The Rosary.)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Our Lady of Sorrows

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. Tradition holds that Simeon's prophecy to Mary, that a sword would pierce her own soul through the mission of Christ (Luke 2:35) was fulfilled seven-fold--first of all in that very pronouncement; secondly in their flight into Egypt; third, when she and Joseph searched for three agonising days for Jesus in Jerusalem as a boy; fourth was at Jesus' scourging and crowning with thorns; fifth, when Jesus was hung on the Cross; the sixth sorrow was as His Sacred Heart was pierced with the lance; and the seventh sorrow was when He was laid in her arms and carried to the tomb. Through all of this, she was willing to suffer and to offer Christ to us for our Salvation.

But it seems to me that there is an eighth sorrow in Our Lady's heart: the sorrow caused by the disunity of her children, "those who keep God's commandments and bear witness to Jesus" (Rev 12:17). This sorrow is further compounded by our sinfulness and rejection of Christ's grace, and compounded again by the fact that many of her children do not (and often refuse to) recognise her as their Mother.

Lately, I've been working nights as a security guard, all alone at the site where I am, for ten hours a night. This has given me time for ample prayer, reading, writing, and reflecting. And one of the results of that time has been an increasing love and admiration for the Mother of God, and our Mother. On my recent vacation out East, I picked up St. Louis Marie de Montfort's little book, "The Secret of the Rosary." I highly recommend it to all and sundry. In it, he describes how the Blessed Virgin appeared to St. Dominic Guzman and instructed him to teach people about the Rosary, and to pray it. She told him that it would be a powerful weapon for the conversion of heretics and other sinners.

Following St. Dominic's example, whereby he preached the Rosary and its mysteries from that time forward, and attempted to inspire devotion to it and thus greater faith and piety in the people of his day, I plan to write a series of posts that are the fruit of my meditations sitting alone in a quiet parking lot, contemplating the mysteries of the Life of Christ and Mary in the Rosary. After that, I'll continue by posting on Mary herself and her role in the Church and in God's economy of salvation.

By way of a prelude, I'll be reposting (and slightly editing) the posts on the Rosary that I had published at Grace for the Wayward Heart, and then proceed from there.

For my Catholic readers, I hope that, through Christ's mercy, I will be able to inspire you to honour His Mother in the same way that He Himself has, and that we'll understand in a greater way how she can uniquely lead us closer to Jesus than anyone else.

For my Protestant readers, I hope that you'll "search the Scriptures" with me, with a fair and open mind, to see and understand just what it is that the Church believes about the Blessed Virgin, and, maybe, that you'll come to believe it, too.

And for my non-Christian readers, I pray that through this series you might come to faith in God and in His Church, through Mary's intercession for you and for us all.

God bless,
-Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows

(Category: Catholic Distinctives: Mary, Mother of God.)

Welcome back, Chris

As Christopher has said below, his stance on Catholicism has changed rather drastically from the time when we co-founded this blog. At that time, he was very much considering converting, whereas now he has a rather different view of "church". As he said, he'll be writing posts here from his perspective on that, while I continue, as best as I can, to uphold Traditional Catholic teaching.

As we go along, I'm sure we'll even have and take the opportunity to debate each other--and in so doing, hold each other accountable to a higher standard of truth and intellectual honesty in our posts. It will be fun, I think.

I hope and pray that God continues to use this blog to be a blessing to its readers, and to be an aid in creating understanding between Christians of various traditions.

God bless

Friday, September 14, 2007

Long Absense

Most importantly, I must apologise to the readership for my long absense. And equal to that, I apologise to my good friend, Gregory, for taking so long to figure out how to reclaim my authorial status on Barque of Peter. I am admittedly slow with most computer applications, and couldn't figure out how to regain my ability to post at this blog.

That behind, however, I will endeavour to start writing for this spot once more. I must admit, however, that Gregory and I have diverged quite significantly with respect to our views on Catholicism while I've been absent. To that end, I will be posting from an oecumenical (universal, or small-'c' catholic view), while Gregory will continue on with his Catholic (as in, Roman Catholic) understanding.

Gregory, please accept my apology for not contributing this past year. I hope to help you have this board hopping again soon!

God bless you all,

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Catholicism: Letters to Daniel (Postscript)

Unfortunately, due to the way the conversation progressed at Facebook while I was on vacation, Daniel chose to leave the conversation and deleted all further replies to me and to anyone else. As such our conversation could not continue there. This is what Daniel sent me in an email on that matter:

Why.. Why is the Catholic Church so full of spiritual pride?

The main thing I learned from discussing in that group, (Which is part of the reason I left.) is that every one thinks that if you don't belong to the Catholic Church, you're wrong. I was talking to my Mother who grew up Catholic for quite a while, and she totally agreed that the Catholic Church is full of Spiritual Pride. You're the only one that seems reasonable enough to deal with.

By the way, what's up with the Hate of Martin Luther? Seriously, I applaud the man for separating from much of what is seemingly un-Biblical. I mean, almost none of the rituals and traditions which we were discussing are in the Bible except for Communion.
I replied:
Hey Daniel,
You left the conversation? I hadn't been back since my last post before I left for vacation. I'm not sure what happened there.

As for spiritual pride, I think that's an epithet that could be strewn about any number of denominations. I used to think that Pentecostals had the monopoly on that worst of sins (as a Pentecostal, my friends and I even dubbed our particular brand "Pentecostal Pride").

Ultimately, I think it's a very difficult thing for most people to really and truly believe that they are right, and therefore others are wrong, and at the same time not to come off as feeling superior to the others with whom they disagree. It's perhaps especially hard for Catholics who, as a matter of faith, believe that when their Church pronounces definitively on an issue of faith or morals, it cannot be wrong. Properly applied to life, it gives one a great assurance in the love and guidance of the Holy Spirit, protecting His Church from teaching error. But put into the hands of zealous, but immature would-be apologists, it becomes rather a club with which to batter others into submission.

Thank you for the compliment on my own reasonability. I have been specifically trying to follow the motto of many, many great saints--Hard on yourself, easy on others--as well as style my conversation after my favourite author and apologist, G.K. Chesterton (whose book, The Everlasting Man, was influential in the conversion of C.S. Lewis). Chesterton had several debates and discussions in his day with Christians and non-Christians of all stripes, including several with avowed atheist, George Bernard Shaw. While their ideas were fiercely opposed, their debates were always conducted with grace, humility, and gentleness, and in fact, Chesterton considered Shaw to be one of his best friends! We in the apologetics business might learn a lot from Chesterton's example--and I am trying to.

As for Luther, if "hate" is the right word, then I think it stems from the fact that what he ended up doing (whether he meant to or not is up for debate) was to sunder Christianity into thousands of little pieces, instead of the one cohesive whole it is meant to be. And the fact that his rejection of Catholicism was accompanied by a great amount of ire, which has filtered down to the present quite often in many Protestant groups (many of whom deny that Catholicism is, in fact, a Christian religion), it might be forgiven to the Catholics that you have encountered that they have a return antipathy towards him.

As for the rituals and traditions which we were discussing, and their place in the Bible, I confess to having forgotten the greater part of the discussion. I will have to read through it all again and sort it out. Furthermore, since Martin Luther himself was the first person that ever said that a ritual or tradition had to be clearly found in the Bible in order to be valid (AKA, Sola Scriptura), you may want to point out why it is that rejecting something simply because it isn't clearly found in Scripture is, in fact, a good thing. As a matter of fact, perhaps you could point out where in Scripture it says that a thing must be found in Scripture in order to be believed or practiced.

Anyway, that little teaser is an invitation to continue our discussion in this more private venue, free of the unfortunately more arrogant and less charitable Catholics which you have had the misfortune of enduring. You are gone, I believe you said, until the 11th, which should give me enough time to finish reading through the rest of the discussion since I left.

I really enjoyed our conversation, and I hope we will indeed continue.
God bless
Unfortunately, as I said, Daniel (or someone else) deleted his further replies in the discussion. Since that time, he has left Facebook altogether, and so I have lost touch with him. Thus this series has run to its rather sad conclusion--a cautionary tale against triumphalistic apologetics, if nothing else. If I ever hear from and continue dialoguing with Daniel in the future, I will continue posting more "Letters" here.

God bless,

(Category: The Church: Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus--The Church and other Christian denominations)