Monday, June 11, 2007

Some questions about the Rosary

I have some questions, and I think they are serious ones, regarding Marian dogmas. I came across this on the Internet and I found it, well, disturbing.

Quoth an RC apologist "You do know that the mysteries that you 'focus' on are the life of Christ as seen through the eyes of Mary?"

Now this is interesting. I find it difficult to focus on things seen through the eyes of another, because I cannot really see things through the eyes of another. I may be able to empathize, but I will always be one space removed from the one through whose eyes I try to see. Such a mystery has no promise associated with it, and is a bit Gnostic feel to it.

What I can focus on is the objective, hard facts of what God did through St. Mary--the Incarnation and all that followed from it. This event is revealed to us and it is truly mind-bending to meditate on the Incarnation. As Luther wrote:

All praise to Jesus' Hallowed name

He whom the world could not enclose
Doth in Mary's lap repose,
He is become an infant small,
Who by His might upholdeth all.

I can also focus in the mystery of Holy Communion--in Holy Communion I hear the words of Christ, that his body and blood are given to me for the forgiveness of my sins. I contrast this with attempting to see the through the eyes of another, and that promises are connected to this. I submit that these promises are pure speculation at best, and blasphemous at worst, and as a Lutheran I contrast this with the more tangible, explicit mysteries of the Gospel and the Sacraments.

Having spoken with several Roman Catholics about this, and thus having heard their explanations, it is still true that I find these things disturbing--not out of any anti-Catholic animus, but because these things simply sound wrong and they sound like they place our attention on someone besides Christ himself, who we receive in the Sacraments. I offer the following in the hope that a coherent explanation can be given, for the life of me, I cannot see how one can be given. The following is so foreign to a Jesus-centric approach to theology that I just cannot seem to bridge the two:

The Fifteen Promises of the Virgin Mary to those who recite the Rosary

(Revealed to St. Dominic and Blessed Alan):

1) Whoever shall faithfully serve me by the recitation of the Rosary, shall receive signal graces.

When I pray the Rosary, I serve the Virgin Mary? I know that Mary is supposed to lead us to Christ in Roman Catholic doctrine, but isn't it better to trust things that actually lead us to Christ, like his words in the Scriptures, like his Sacraments? So much of Roman dogma and practice regarding the Virgin seems to operate like this, St. Mary does something which we normally would say Go does..

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

The Virgin offers protection? Isn't Christ our refuge? Maybe a RC will say that she intercedes for us and so we will be protected. I, however, cannot see how this is an orthodox promise, as once again we are entreated to seek Mary's protection and not Christ's. And if she was interceding, why couldn't she say that?

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

I suppose this could be construed as the prayers of the Rosary to God will accomplish this--except most of the prayers are to St. Mary--10 Hail Mary's to one Our Father. So it seems that somehow Mary accomplishes this, but I don't see how one may say that these prayers accomplish this given the structure of the Rosary.

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

God's word sanctifies, the indwelling of the Holy Ghost sanctifies. Given that, as above, most of the prayers are to St. Mary, this implies that St. Mary sanctifies too. Again, I find this disturbing and blasphemous.

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

Again, this seems to place St. Mary in the place of God. Eternal life is given to those who are in Christ--even if they never heard of the Virgin Mary.

6) Whoever shall recite the Rosary devoutly, applying themselves to the consideration of its Sacred Mysteries shall never be conquered by misfortune. God will not chastise them in His justice, they shall not perish by an unprovided death; if they be just, they 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 plentitude of His graces; at the moment of death they shall participate in the merits of the Saints in Paradise.

6 sounds a little like "Name it and Claim it". 7 and 8 are not objectionable on their face, except that it still seems the agent is St. Mary and not god.

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 the 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 children, and brothers and sisters of my only Son, Jesus Christ.

I do not believe the Virgin Mary can deliver from purgatory (accepting arguendo that it exists), that if we pray the rosary and ask things of her that she can give things to us, or tat we should propagate the Rosary in lieu of the Gospel of Jesus Christ--the two are not the same because the Gospel has as its center the person and work of Jesus Christ on our behalf, while the Rosary mixes in devotion to St. Mary, who to all intents and purposes seems to be able to do things God alone can do. Furthermore, as above, if this is intercession by St. mary, why didn't she say that?

15) Devotion of my Rosary is a great sign of predestination.
What about free will? :-)


Anonymous said...

These are good questions. I suppose with the "communion of the saints" that Mary continues to pray for God's creatures on earth. The immediate thought that struck me is, as you have implied, Mary is essentially being elevated to the status of a co-Redeemer, a co-Mediator, and Advocate for the people of God. Whether the intent was or is to elevate Mary to such a status is not always clear, although the cult-like devotion to her is evidence of the intent to do so. In addition, the language used in describing the Rosary or the RC's doctrine of Mary as co-Redemptrix is certainly misleading, and invites reverence, awe, honor, adoration beyond that to which any sinful human being is entitled.

As I looked up those co-________ terms which I had heard used in connection with Mary a couple of years ago, I came upon this website ( suggesting there is a move afoot to establish such an elevation of Mary as the Fifth Marian Dogma in the RC church. (See the essay examining the RC teaching of Mary in the roles mentioned here from a member of the Pontifical Marian Academy:

It certainly is interesting to think about, ponder, speculate. But, as you point out, doing so draws our attention away from the Gospel, from Christ, and where God meets man today -- in the Word and Sacraments.

Andrew G

Edward Reiss said...



As you said, it seems that Mary is the active agent in a lot of this. (Note: I added some clarifying statements in th epost). That along with terms such as "coredemptrix" are troubling. I know that the RCs say that this does not elevate Mary to the level of God, but the practices I see, and oftentimes the words I see, do not seem to support that. Finally, I wonder what all this Marian dogma is for? What does it add to Christ?

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