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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Bad Idea: Rosary During Mass

Rorate Caeli, with the help of Pewsitter (the "Catholic" site whose attacks on the Pope are beginning to sound vaguely Masonic), has decided to defend the execrable habit of praying the Rosary during Mass. Because it is an indefensible position to take, RC simply tosses off a single line reference to an encyclical, pretending that this makes the practice ok.
The Pope has once again made his mind on the liturgical reform of the 1960's and Vatican II clear, and not without taking the opportunity to criticize the easiest of targets: the very few who still say the rosary at Mass (by the way, not a problem - cf. Mediator Dei, 181-184).
Let's take that apart. After all, what are the chances RC actually knows the Catholic Faith or papal encyclicals better than the Pope? Well, zero, actually.

To begin with, let me make clear that praying the Rosary during Mass is not just something done at Latin Mass. I've seen it done at Novus Ordo Mass as well. It is a practice born of the rankest of ignorance, generally performed by people completely unschooled in the Faith.

Liturgy: Highest Prayer of the Church

We must begin by understanding that liturgy is the highest and most ancient prayer of the Church. The Mass is the highest form of liturgy. All other forms of prayer are lesser and derivative. It is not possible for a Catholic to pray a better prayer than the Mass.

The Rosary, while a pleasant devotion, is simply nowhere near the same stature. The Rosary is a private devotion. It is certainly less than a thousand years old. The Rosary has never been a universal prayer within the Church. It is not part of the Mass, has never been part of the Mass and can never be part of the Mass. It is not liturgy. It is not even close to being in the same rank as liturgy.

The Mass can be traced back to the Last Supper. Compare this to the Rosary and the Hail Mary's which comprise it. These cannot be found in the West until over a thousand years after the Resurrection. The Rosary is not found in the East at all.
It is in any case certain that at the close of the fifteenth century the utmost possible variety of methods of (Rosary) meditating prevailed, and that the fifteen mysteries now generally accepted were not uniformly adhered to even by the Dominicans themselves.
The current form of the Hail Mary, which comprises the greater part of the prayer is not exactly ancient either.
In point of fact there is little or no trace of the Hail Mary as an accepted devotional formula before about 1050...In the time of St. Louis the Ave Maria ended with the words of St. Elizabeth: "benedictus fructus ventris tui" may be noticed that in some places, and notably in Ireland, the feeling still survives that the Hail Mary is complete with the word Jesus. Indeed the writer is informed that within living memory it was not uncommon for Irish peasant, when bidden to say Hail Marys for a penance, to ask whether they were required to say the Holy Marys too.
The rosary is a wonderful prayer, but it really has no more weight than the Divine Mercy Chaplet, the Memorare or any other non-liturgical prayer. Comparing liturgy with non-liturgy is like comparing God with His saints. Even Mary, Queen of Heaven, is infinitely less than God. The worth of an infinite number of Rosaries can never begin to remotely approach the worth of a single Mass.

An Extraordinary Exercise of Piety?

Now that we have a bit of the history cleared away, let's take a look at Mediator Dei's infamous articles #181-184
181. Any inspiration to follow and practice extraordinary exercises of piety must most certainly come from the Father of Lights, from whom every good and perfect gift descends;[166] and, of course, the criterion of this will be the effectiveness of these exercises in making the divine cult loved and spread daily ever more widely, and in making the faithful approach the sacraments with more longing desire, and in obtaining for all things holy due respect and honor. If on the contrary, they are an obstacle to principles and norms of divine worship, or if they oppose or hinder them, one must surely conclude that they are not in keeping with prudence and enlightened zeal.
Notice how article #181 fails to mention the Rosary at all. It talks about "extraordinary exercises of piety", but the test for whether these are actually acts of piety is whether or not they present "an obstacle to divine worship."  Since we haven't yet ascertained whether praying the Rosary during Mass presents such an obstacle, it's hard to argue that this article endorses praying the Rosary during Mass.

Indeed, for people who love to argue that the words of the Latin Mass are far superior to those of the Novus Ordo, it is striking that they also argue people can accomplish the same depth of meditation by focusing on any non-liturgical prayer. It is almost as if such people don't understand that the Mass, even a badly offered Mass which passed the test of validity but disobeyed the rubrics, is infinitely superior to even the most beautifully-said Rosary.
182. There are, besides, other exercises of piety which, although not strictly belonging to the sacred liturgy, are, nevertheless, of special import and dignity, and may be considered in a certain way to be an addition to the liturgical cult; they have been approved and praised over and over again by the Apostolic See and by the bishops. Among these are the prayers usually said during the month of May in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mother of God, or during the month of June to the most Sacred Heart of Jesus: also novenas and triduums, stations of the cross and other similar practices.
Alright, so RC should have quoted #182-184, instead of #181-184. But can we even admit #182? After all, look at the examples given for "addition to the liturgical cult". We see novenas, triduums, and stations of the cross, but no mention of the Rosary. Hmmm....

"Well," comes the rebuke, "of course the Rosary falls under 'other similar practices'!!!" Really? Does it? According to the Enchiridion of Indulgences, #63, in order to pray a legitimate stations of the Cross:
"A movement from one station to the next is required. But if the stations are made publicly and it is not possible for everyone taking part to go from station to station, it suffices if at least the one conducting the exercise goes from station to station, the others remaining in their places." 
Ok, so if we follow this line of reasoning, and argue that it is perfectly legitimate to pray the Rosary during Mass, then it is likewise perfectly legitimate for members of the faithful, or at least one member of the faithful, to do the stations of the Cross during Mass.

But in order to do the stations legitimately, that faithful Catholic would have to get up out of his pew during Mass, and move from station to station down the nave, standing, kneeling, genuflecting and praying aloud as appropriate for the stations, while others in the pew who choose to do so, pray along. So, say, as the priest ambulates down the nave during the Asperges, the faithful have the right to ambulate the nave praying the stations? During the consecration, there would be no issue with us praying the death of Christ on the Cross and fixing our eyes on that tableau rather than facing towards Christ in the Eucharist? That's your argument?

Because that's what you are doing when you pray the Rosary during Mass. Praying the Rosary during Mass is no different than saying, "Yes, I know Jesus Christ, present in the Eucharist, is available to me right now. But rather than go up and receive the actual Eucharist, I find my participation in the Mass is enhanced by always making a spiritual communion instead. Because, you know, spiritual. So, I'll just stay in the pew, me and my meditation, while you go up and do your Eucharist reception thing."

Rosary During Mass: A Protestant Attitude

In fact, it is essentially saying "What I do in prayer in the pew is the spiritual equivalent of what the priest does at the altar. My meditations are the focus of my presence at the Mass." People often wonder where the insane individualism of the post-Vatican II Church originated. They scoff when I point out that it began in the pre-Vatican II Church. It began with the people praying the Rosary during Mass.
183. These devotions make us partakers in a salutary manner of the liturgical cult, because they urge the faithful to go frequently to the sacrament of penance, to attend Mass and receive communion with devotion, and, as well, encourage them to meditate on the mysteries of our redemption and imitate the example of the saints.
For those with the eyes to see, #183 explains how all of this is supposed to work. You see, the novenas, triduums, devotions to Mary and the Sacred Heart, these devotions are to take place OUTSIDE of Mass. They are not liturgical.

They contribute to liturgy in the sense that when you pray them OUTSIDE of Mass, the prayers assist you in recalling to your mind and your being the graces you were given IN the Mass. Thus, these private devotions can help you spread the graces of the Mass into your day and into your life. But if you are focusing on these devotions while you are IN the Mass, then you aren't getting the graces of the Mass that you would get by actually... you know... participating in the Mass.
184. Hence, he would do something very wrong and dangerous who would dare to take on himself to reform all these exercises of piety and reduce them completely to the methods and norms of liturgical rites. (emphasis added) However, it is necessary that the spirit of the sacred liturgy and its directives should exercise such a salutary influence on them that nothing improper be introduced nor anything unworthy of the dignity of the house of God or detrimental to the sacred functions or opposed to solid piety.
See, you aren't supposed to turn the Rosary into a prayer of the Mass, because *the Rosary IS NOT a prayer of the Mass.* By referring to article #184 of Mediator Dei, Rorate Caeli actually provides the text that proves the exact opposite of what they intended to prove. These exercises of piety, such as the Rosary or the stations, are not to mix and mingle with the exercises of the liturgical rites. They Rosary complements the Mass, but it is not to be mingled with the exercises of the Mass.

So, not only do the articles referenced NEVER mention the Rosary, the articles referenced actually tell us NEVER to use the Rosary as if it were a liturgical prayer. That is, we should never pray the Rosary during Mass, because we thereby attempt (and fail) to turn the Rosary into a liturgical prayer when we do so.

The liturgy, particularly the Mass, is in every case an actual and direct participation in the eternal offering the Resurrected Christ makes of His Own Body and Blood. It is us lifted into heavcen, directly participating in the offering Christ makes of Himself to the Father in the Temple of Heaven itself.

The Rosary is, at most, a pleasant meditation. Praying the Rosary during the Mass is a distraction from participating in the Mass. Yes, even during the Latin Mass - it is still a distraction. Mary leads us to Christ, she doesn't lead us away from Him. Praying the Rosary during Mass is an abuse of Mary's prayer and it is an abuse of Mary. We pray the Rosary before Mass to prepare for Mass, after Mass to meditate on the riches given to us, but during Mass we pray the Mass, we do not pray the Rosary.

Anyone who tells you different is a Mason, a neocon or an ignoramus.


S said...

A venial sin perhaps.
An abuse of the Blessed Mother?
No way.
Luke 1:28 Dewy Reims
"And the angel being come in, said unto her: ""Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women."" That is a direct quote from an angel. Angels don't say much, but when they do, its of note.
We assist at Mass. The Priest offers the Holy Sacrifice of the Alter. We assist as best we can, I am comfortable believing that those who quietly pray the rosary are doing what they feel is their best. BTW. If you are noticing others praying the rosary at Mass perhaps you should practice more discipline of your eyes and as they say "mind your own business". I have read your blog in the past I think you border on being a catholic Calvinist of sorts. Scrupulousness is a worse vice.

Frank Rega said...

Your write: "The Rosary is at most a pleasant meditation." Obviously you have never really prayed it.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

" If you are noticing others praying the rosary at Mass perhaps you should practice more discipline of your eyes and as they say "mind your own business"

And if you notice a priest wearing a clown nose during Mass, you should practice discipline of your eyes and, as they say, 'mind your own business.'

I know a lot of TLMers who go ape over what people do (or don't) wear in Mass. Do you give that advice to them?

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Frank Rega, I guess I'm in great company then.

NONE of the Fathers of the Church prayed the Rosary. At all.

Almost none of the Doctors of the Church prayed the Rosary.

Vast numbers of the saints never prayed the Rosary. At all.

Praying the Rosary is not necessary for sanctity. It is, however, impossible to attain sanctity without the graces of the Mass.

Robert Beaurivage said...

Steve, I am just wondering why you cannot disagree without insulting those with whom you disagree. Poor man. Your lack of charity is frightening. And, by the way, the Rosary is far more than "a pleasant meditation.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Robert, I wonder where you see an insult? I see facts. Ignorant people pray the Rosary during Mass. That's not an insult, it's just a statement of fact.

Why are you unable to understand the word "ignorant"?

Compared to the Mass, the Rosary is just a pleasant meditation.

Anne Welch said...

I don't attend the TLM, but I do sometimes go to the Spanish Mass in my parish where holding (saying?) the Rosary during Mass is very common. That is, I doubt the Pope had the TLM community in mind during his catechis.

Some traditionalist bloggers seem to feel the need to proof text the Pope's every word, hoping to find errors, but always finding reasons to feel persecuted. Seriously? They don't, I don't, most of us don't know what persecution means. Holy Coptic Martyrs, pray for us.

Vand83 said...

"Compared to the Mass, the Rosary is just a pleasant meditation."

This is just a fact. I love praying the rosary, but nothing is as terrifying, awe inspiring, and utterly soul shaking as attending Mass and receiving our Lord.

Katharine B. said...

You are ignorant if you can't understand that the meditations and prayers of the Rosary can very effectively unite oneself to the Mass. Mary does lead us to Christ, which makes the Rosary an excellent means of preparing to welcome and receive Christ in the Eucharist.
You come off as a very, very bitter man. I imagine you would do well to shut off the internet and pray a Rosary once in awhile. I'll include you in my intentions next time I pray it during Mass, be prepared for great grace! The Rosary is a powerful prayer, much more than a pleasant meditation. Try reading one of the 12 encyclicals on it written by Pope Leo XIII.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

See, Katharine B, what will save you on the Last Day is your unutterable, abysmal ignorance. Because you are unteachable, you won't be held accountable for the sin of praying the Rosary during Mass.

But, if you want to avert your eyes from the Paschal Mystery so you can watch a passing butterfly, it can't be helped.

BTW, where in any of those 12 encyclicals does Pope Leo recommend praying the Rosary during Mass? Oh, that's right - none of them.

Katharine B. said...

I will take some comfort in believing that you will not be held entirely culpable for your presumptions, rash judgements, uncharitabilness, etc etc by reason of insanity. God Bless!

Ann said...

Sorry I am so late coming to this discussion, but I agree that no one should be praying the Rosary during Mass. I also don't think we should have so many people traipsing up and down the altar during Mass as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. I know a lot of TLM people don't like Vatican II, but the "active participation" during Mass promoted by Vatican II meant actively paying attention to the Mass and responding to the parts that are for the people. The two extremes on either end are people not paying attention at all and praying the Rosary or other prayers and others who think they need to be on the altar or "doing something" to be actively participating. We should be paying attention to and praying the wonderfully sacred Liturgy that is the Mass itself. We are there to adore God, not make ourselves feel important or turn out by doing something we think is more important. After all, as Steve says, the Rosary is a private devotion just as Fatima is a private revelation. Neither are necessary, but both may help us on our spiritual journey. However, receiving the Body and Blood of Christ is essential and is not a private revelation but Divinely revealed as for our salvation.

Victor said...

Katherine B - Unless I missed it, I can't recall Steve ever denying the efficacy and value of praying the rosary. He is right in noting that even good acts (praying the rosary) have their place. It's like a child wanting to clean (pray the rosary), when you need him to do something else (engage the liturgy). It's by no means hateful to make a note of that.