A Day Late and a Decade Short

Posted by Mike Aquilina on 11.01.08

The month of the Rosary just came to a close, and I find myself up late, remembering that I’ve wanted to post links to some very good things.

Maureen, our faithful guide to things Celtic and patristic, provided excerpts of Pope Benedict’s recent words on the Rosary.

Meanwhile, in the world of paper and ink, a lovely new book appeared by my friend Gary Jansen: The Rosary: A Journey to the Beloved. It’s deeply scriptural, and beautifully visual, with classic art for every mystery. It is an excellent introduction to the devotion — clear and simple. The Rosary’s sustained me, in one way or another, since I was in utero. Yet Gary’s book gave me new perspectives… Still, I’ve never seen a better introduction for people coming in cold — even people who know little or nothing about Christianity. The book’s a marvel of grace, highly recommended.

The Rosary’s a medieval flower, but it has patristic roots. The Egyptian Desert Fathers (fourth century) counted prayers on strings of beads or knotted ropes. Palladius mentions that Abba Paul was in the habit of saying three hundred prayers a day, and he counted them out with three hundred pebbles. The monks of the desert still retain the custom of praying all 150 psalms every day. Devout souls who couldn’t read would sometimes use beads to count out recitations of the Lord’s Prayer, and later the Hail Mary. You can see how this developed into fifteen “decades” focused on the mysteries of Jesus’ life.

Pope Benedict, back when he was Cardinal Ratzinger, often spoke about the Rosary in ways that remind me of my mom. Read God and the World: A Conversation With Peter Seewald. It’s all good, but the chapter on the “Mother of God” is life-changing.

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