Occasionally, I look at America Magazine, which calls itself “The Jesuit Review.” Usually, I try to find out what so-called liberal Catholics say about traditionalists like myself. Sometimes, I want to understand their take on a particular issue about which I am writing.
A Priest’s Confession
I recently went to America’s home page to read a report about President Biden’s meeting with Pope Francis. As I scanned down the page, the title of another article caught my eye, “I’m a Priest Who Never Had a Devotion to the Rosary. So I Decided to Dig Into its Meaning.” The author was associate editor James McDermott.
It began with a lament about how one “crazy aspect of being a priest” is that people expect you to know about Catholic things. He listed three examples – the difference between venial and mortal sin, Pope Gregory the Great and the Rosary.
He explains how praying the Holy Rosary was not common in his family. “I never really engaged with it until after I became a priest, when… I would find this little clutch of people sitting in the church praying quietly while the sound of little beads clicking echoed throughout the space.”
Father McDermott continues. “I could understand the potential draw of the beads themselves, like a little trace of the holy that we could keep with us… [b]ut the mumbled rote prayers, often spoken at high velocity? I just didn’t get the attraction.”
The article then describes the Rosary beads and the way they are prayed. The tone of his explanation would be familiar to a freshman anthropology class. It is as if the faithful are performing some arcane ritual from a primitive culture. He explains that some people add extra prayers “to make things a little more interesting.”
Fr. McDermott relates the history of the meditation, but his explanation is rather strange. He dissects the story, implying two competing stories rather than a single narrative that rolled out over centuries.
The Battle of Lepanto
Typical of this dismissive tone is the account of Pope Saint Pius V’s request that people all over Europe pray the Rosary for the relief of the Continent from Islamic invaders. Fr. McDermott notes that Catholics won the epic Battle of Lepanto (which he does not name) while removing any supernatural role in the victory.
“Supposedly the sound of soldiers praying this strange rhythmic prayer through the night also freaked out the Turks.”
Why Do People Say the Rosary?
At the end of the article, Fr. McDermott admits that the recitation of the Rosary might help some people feel closer to God. Even then, he plays a final note of condescension by saying that those who say it might “find a little comfort in the sound of little clicking beads echoing around us.”
I wonder if Fr. McDermott asked any of the millions of Catholics who regularly pray that “strange rhythmic prayer” why they do so. I suspect not. Even the least educated of them could provide a more profound explanation. It is not the comfort in “the sound of little clicking beads,” but the direct request of Our Lady that prompts so many to pray the Rosary.
Our Lady’s Fifteen Promises
Of course, Our Lady knows that we are human and we are weak. Knowing that she gave us fifteen promises connected to the Rosary to persuade us to do what we already knew we should do.
My particular favorite is number eight. “Those who are faithful to the recitation of 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.”
Who among us can imagine what it will be to “participate in the merits of the saints?” However, our beautiful Virgin Mother, the Queen of all saints, promises me that I can share in these merits by faithfully giving her the time it takes to say the Holy Rosary.
Fr. McDermott must have read the fifteen promises. He tells us that they can “be summarized as ‘the Catholic good stuff.’”
The Rosary is the Solution!
I cannot help but imagine that Father McDermott might have some great-great-grandmother in Heaven, a victim of the Irish Potato Famine, who was comforted in her last moments as she said the Rosary with the help of a piece of knotted twine. Perhaps, she is horrified by these commentaries and praying for the conversion of her descendent. We should also pray in reparation for the damage done by such superficial and dismissive comments about the Rosary.
The Rosary is not quaint devotion. Our Lady at Fatima asked that the faithful pray it as a solution for the crisis of our times.
Readers who want to read more about the history of the Holy Rosary and Our Lady’s promises can download “The Rosary: The Great Weapon of the 21st Century” from the America Needs Fatima website.