Skip to comments.The Twenty Mysteries of the Rosary?
Posted on 11/09/2002 9:56:20 PM PST by ultima ratio
The Twenty Mysteries of the Rosary? by John Vennari
The Apostolic Letter opens the door for a "pastoral approach" to the Rosary that is "positive, impassioned and creative - as shown by World Youth Days". In other words, a nod is given to a jazzed-up Rosary for the "youth".
"When one lives by novelty, there will always have to be a new novelty." - Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen
On October 16, 2002, Pope John Paul II marked the 24th Anniversary of his papacy with the release of the Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, in which he proclaimed a "Year of the Rosary" from October 2002 to October 2003. The document also contained a major innovation from a Pope whose Pontificate has been marked by a steady stream of novelties. He announced that he would add five new mysteries to the Rosary.
Word of the new mysteries was reported first on October 14 by various news agencies claiming that information was leaked from Vatican sources.
Father Richard John Neuhaus from First Things magazine found these early reports hard to believe, and told The Chicago Tribune that the Pope was not likely to alter the Rosary. "That he would suggest," said Neuhaus "or even declare some kind of official change to the Rosary is totally atypical, totally out of character." Neuhaus then said that the Pope does not have the authority to mandate changes in such a prayer.1
Father Neuhaus is correct that a Pope cannot mandate such changes, but he is mistaken to claim that the Pope's change of the Rosary would be "out of character" for this Pontiff of post-Conciliar aggiornamento. Even the secular press recognizes John Paul II as a man with a passion for setting papal precedents.
The New York Times' Frank Bruni wrote on October 15: "Time and again, Pope John Paul II has boldly gone where other Popes have not: a synagogue, a ski slope, distant countries with tiny populations. Tomorrow, he will apparently cross another frontier, making a significant change in the Rosary, a signature method of Catholic prayer for many centuries." 2
Bruni failed to mention that John Paul is also the first Pope to kiss the Koran,3 participate in rock'n'roll liturgies,4 allow Altar Girls, permit "lay ministers" to distribute Communion at his Papal Mass,5 suggest a "common martyrology" that contains Catholics and non- Catholics, praise documents that call the need for non- Catholics to convert to the Catholic Church an "outdated ecclesiology," 6 take part in "inculturated" ceremonies that includes pagan ritual,7 and convoke pan-religious prayer meetings that include Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Snake-worshipers.8
On the same theme, Rueters said, "Changing one of Christianity's most fundamental prayers after nearly a millennium will be a typical way for the 82- year-old Pope to crown 24 years of a pontificate marked by bold initiatives sometimes taken against the advice of aides." 9
The "new mysteries" of the Rosary took everyone by surprise. Thus I have postponed publication of Part III of my World Youth Day series10 in order to comment on this latest "bold initiative".
The Apostolic Letter
Two weeks previously, the pontiff announced he was preparing a document to stress the value of the Rosary. He urged the faithful to recite the Rosary, including together as families. John Paul said then that he wanted people to "rediscover the beauty and depth of this prayer".
The Pope, for a good part of the Apostolic Letter was true to his word. Much of Rosarium Virginis Mariae is praiseworthy, even edifying. How can one argue with the promulgation of a "Year of the Rosary" in order to revitalize practice of this Holy devotion? How can one find fault with the Pope's call to pray the Rosary for peace? How can one complain when the Pope laments that families are fragmented, that they often get together only to watch television, and that they should set some time aside to pray the Rosary together instead?
Also of interest was the Pope's frequent references to Blessed Bartholomew Longo (1841-1926) who was baptized Catholic, left the faith to become a satanic priest, and then repented, converted back to Catholicism and became an apostle of the Rosary. This is a beautiful lesson that conversion is possible even in apparently hopeless cases.
It is probable that the Letter will do much good in revitalizing Rosary devotion. Tens-of-thousands of Catholics who do not follow the details of Vatican events, will simply learn through the press, or from parish priests, that the Pope wants a renewed devotion to the Rosary and they will comply. I have little doubt that this Letter will produce its desired goal to inspire more Catholics in this holy exercise.
Yet at the same time, countless Catholics are baffled at the unnecessary addition of five new mysteries. What is this strange post-conciliar belief among today's Church leaders that Catholics will not find a traditional devotion interesting unless John Paul updates it? Why is it thought necessary to disfigure our devotions in order to capture a Catholic's attention? Why was it requisite for the Pope to put his personal stamp on the Rosary, rather than simply promote it as is: as did all the Popes before him, as did countless saints, and as did the Mother of God at Fatima?
The New Mysteries
The addition proposed by the Pope, called the Five Luminous Mysteries, also called the "Mysteries of Light," center on the public life of Christ. They are:
the Baptism of Christ in Jordan, the Wedding Feast at Cana, the Announcement of the Kingdom, the Transfiguration, the Institution of the Eucharist as the sacramental expression of the Paschal Mystery. These new mysteries, according to John Paul, are to be placed between the Joyful and Sorrowful Mysteries.
The Pope says that these additions are not mandatory, and explains his reason for the change. "I believe" he writes, "that to bring out fully the Christological depth of the Rosary, it would be suitable to make an addition to the traditional pattern which, while left to the freedom of individuals and communities, could broaden it to include the mysteries of Christ's public ministry between His Baptism and His Passion." 11
Do you know of any Catholic, any saint, any Pope who ever considered the Rosary "lacking" in Christological depth? Did not the saints and the Popes constantly speak of the excellence of the Rosary? Did they ever suggest a radical addition to alter the structure of the Rosary in order to "improve" what was already excellent?
Reaction to the new mysteries has been predictable: everything from traditional Catholics who call it an "outrage," to Medjugorje followers who claim it "bears all the hallmarks of Divine inspiration". Once again, the much-vaunted "Pope of unity" has launched a novelty that divides Catholics.
And the question is, why?
Perhaps we should first ask, why not change the Rosary?
The Psalter Assaulted
A constant characteristic of the pre-Vatican II Popes was to abhor novelty and to safeguard tradition, including traditional devotions.
Thus, if one could go back in time and ask any of the pre-Vatican II Popes why they never added "new mysteries" to the Rosary, the answer is easy to presume. "Because," the pre-conciliar Pope would say, "if I add 5 new mysteries, I will have to add 5 new decades. If I add five new decades, then the Rosary can no longer be called 'Our Lady's Psalter'. Now Catholic tradition, my holy predecessors and Our Blessed Mother referred to the Rosary as Her 'Psalter', because the 150 Hail Mary's of the 15-decade Rosary correspond to the 150 Psalms of David. It would be audacious of me to add 5 decades. This would be the decimation of the entire concept of Mary's 'Psalter', a term hallowed by centuries of usage, a term that explains the origin and essence of the Rosary, a term used by the Queen of Heaven Herself. Further, if I make this radical change to the Rosary, then what is to prevent more radical changes in the future?"
The History of Mary's Psalter
The entire history of the Rosary is bound up with the 150 Psalms of the Old Testament, otherwise known as the Psalter of David. From the dawn of Catholic history, monks and hermits prayed these Psalms as part of their daily liturgical life.
Saint Benedict, in his Holy Rule, explains that the monks of the desert recited the 150 Psalms every day. Saint Benedict arranged the Psalms for his monks so that all 150 would be recited in one week.12 This became the Divine Office (Breviary) that priests and religious recited every day until the post-conciliar aggiornamento revolutionized both Breviary and Mass.
The story of "Mary's Psalter" reportedly begins with the Irish monks in the 7th Century. These monks divided the 150 Psalms of David into a Na tri coicat format of three groups of fifty. Arranged in such a way, the "fifties" served both as reflective and corporal/penitential prayer.13
The people of the Middle Ages in their great love of Our Lady set to fashioning "Rosariums" in Her honor. They composed Psalms in praise of Mary to match the 150 Psalms of David. St. Anselm of Canterbury (1109) made such a Rosary. In the 13th Century, St. Bonaventure divided his 150 Marian Psalms into three groups. The first group commenced with the word Ave, the next with Salve, and the final fifty Psalms each commented with the word Gaude. Such Rosaries of praise took the name of Our Lady's Psalter.14
It was not long before the custom of reciting Hail Mary's became the substitute of reciting the Psalms in praise of Our Lady. "By the 13th Century" writes the Redemptorist Father James Galvin, "the number of Aves was set at one hundred and fifty to equal the number of the Psalms of David." 15
Saint Thomas Aquinas explains that the Psalter of David, composed as it is of one hundred and fifty Psalms, is divided into three equal parts of fifty Psalms each. These three equal parts represent figuratively the three stages in which the faithful find themselves: the state of penance, the state of justice, the state of glory. Likewise, explains Father Anthony Fuerst, "the Rosary of Mary is divided into three parts of fifty Hail Mary's each in order to express fully the phrases of the life of the faithful: penance, justice and glory." 16
Heaven itself declared the immeasurable value of this Psalter. In 1214, Our Blessed Mother told Saint Dominic to "preach My Psalter" in order to rekindle faith, to convert sinners and to crush stubborn heresy. Saint Louis de Montfort tells the story in his magnificent work, The Secret of the Rosary.
"Saint Dominic," writes Saint Louis, "seeing that the gravity of the peoples' sin was hindering the conversion of the Albigensians, withdrew to a forest near Toulouse where he prayed unceasingly for three days and three nights. During this time he did nothing but weep and do harsh penances in order to appease the anger of Almighty God. He used his discipline so much that his body was lacerated, and finally he fell into a coma."
Our Lady then appeared to him, accompanied by three angels. She said, "Dear Dominic, do you know which weapon the Blessed Trinity wants to use to reform the world?"
Saint Dominic asked Her to tell him. Our Lady responded:
"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." 17
Our Lady's words contain two special points of interest:
She uses the language of the Church militant. She does not speak of the Rosary in a sentimental manner in order to achieve good feelings or pan-religious unity. No, She refers to it as battering ram against heresy.
She twice uses the term "Psalter", which is the Rosary designated as 150 Aves that link it to the Psalms of David. Regarding the Rosary's traditional structure, Msgr. George Shea writes, "Because its 150 Hail Mary's correspond to the 150 Psalms of the Psalter, the complete Rosary is sometimes called Our Lady's Psalter. In fact, the latter was its common designation down to the end of the 15th Century, while 'Rosary' was reserved for a part, i.e., a third, of Our Lady's Psalter." 18
As late as the last quarter of the 15th Century, Blessed Alaus de Rupe protested vigorously against the use of the terms "Rosario," "Chapelet" or "Corono," and insisted that the title of Our Lady's Psalter be retained.19 Msgr. Shea points out that the first indication from a Pope that the Psalter of Mary is commonly called "Rosary" is found in the Apostolic Constitution of Pope Leo X, Pastor Aeterni dated October 6, 1520, over three hundred years after Our Lady spoke to Saint Dominic.
The Constant Language of the Popes
The term "Psalter" of Mary, as a link to the 150 Psalms of David, is what we find consistently from the Popes throughout the centuries.
The Apostolic Constitution of Pope Leo X, Pastor Aeterni October 6, 1520, uses the term "Psalter of Mary" in connection to the Rosary.20
Pope Saint Pius V wrote in Consueverunt Romani of September 17, 1569, "And so Dominic looked to that simple way of praying and beseeching God, accessible to all and wholly pious, which is called the Rosary, or Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in which the same most Blessed Virgin is venerated by the angelic greeting repeated one hundred and fifty times, that is, according to the number of the Davidic Psalter, and by the Lord's Prayer with each decade." 21
Pope Leo XIII wrote "Just as by the recitation of the Divine Office, priests offer a public, constant, and most efficacious supplication; so the supplication offered by the members of this Sodality in the recitation of the Rosary, or 'Psalter of Our Lady' ..." 22
Pope Leo XIII later said, "The formula of the Rosary, too, is excellently adapted to prayer in common, so that it has been styled, not without reason, the 'Psalter of Mary'." 23
Pope Pius XI wrote in his Encyclical Ingravescentibus Malis. "Among the various supplications with which we successfully appeal to the Virgin Mother of God, the Holy Rosary without doubt occupies a special and distinct place. This prayer, which some call the Psalter of the Virgin or Breviary of the Gospel and of Christian life, was described and recommended by Our Predecessor of happy memory, Leo XIII ..." 24
Sadly, Pope John Paul II has made the term "Psalter of Mary" with its rightful connection to the Psalter of David, as obsolete as fund drives for Pagan Babies. Anyone who accepts the twenty-decade Rosary, and still refers to the Rosary as Mary's Psalter, will use the term divested of meaning. Why introduce this destabilization? Would not Pope John Paul show more respect to the pious sentiments of Catholics worldwide, to his predecessors and to the Mother of God by leaving Her Psalter at peace?
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(Excerpt) Read more at seattlecatholic.com ...
The answer to this imminent retreat to the catacombs was to remember the power of the rosary according to the speaker. He felt that Catholics could withstand a long siege by resorting to the recitation of the Rosary and asking Mary to pray for us until priests became available again.
I think I actually began,my now daily Rosary,as a response to that information. This article proves to me,beyond a reasonable doubt,that many of these "ultratrads", are obsessed with destroying the Primacy of Peter and Peter's Successor,himself. There is no depth to which they will not stoop to attack John Paul II. Here he is advocating for placing more emphasis on the Rosary,seeking to enrich and add to our meditations and contemplations about Christ and they use it as yet one more oppurtunity to point out how he errs. They are both very arrogant and misled at once.
I find it outrageous that Pope John Paul II believes that unless he saves the day by tinkering with Our Lady's Rosary, the Rosary will fail!
Otherwise there is a risk that the Rosary would not only fail to produce the intended spiritual effects, but even that the beads, with which it is usually said, could come to be regarded as some kind of amulet or magic object. (RVM #28)
One motive behind this innovation is to undermine Our Lady of Fatima, who requested that Catholics say one third of the Rosary daily. Now that means 6.66 decades!
In RVM, the pope asks Catholics to stop saying the "Fatima Prayer" at the end of each decade! He does not name it specifically, but in #35 he desires that the "current practice" of ending each decade with a prayer of "custom" would "better" be replaced with some to-be-announced prayers specific to each mystery!
I have trouble believing that RVM was really written by John Paul II, whose reputation is of having a strong Marian devotion, especially for Our Lady of Fatima! In #38 the author of RVM believes that the "current practice" is to say the Glorious Mysteries on Sunday throughout the entire year! How could the pope have made such a mistake?
The association of Our Lady's Psalter with David's Psalter is intrinsic, and should not be tampered with.
#38 is also strange when the pope says that only contemplative religious and bed-ridden laypersons have the spare time to recite the full Rosary. I know many laypersons who have made the commitment to set aside the time throughout the day to recite all 15 decades. Roughly it means setting aside about 60 minutes or so from their busy schedules. But now, with the number of beads boosted to 200, this starts to approach the need for a layperson to set aside something more like an hour and a half from his schedule, and will thus discourage daily recitation of the full Rosary by laypersons!
Yes, in case you didn't know, the Stations of the Cross were "updated" and "improved" by Pope John Paul II in 1991. No doubt, they were on the verge of failing, also.
"When one lives by novelty, there will always have to be a new novelty."
- Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen
It's just tampering for the sake of tampering. And here again, the primary effect is to render all previous writings about the Stations of the Cross obsolete and unusable.
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