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placeholder November 7, 2016   •   VOL. 54, NO. 19   •   Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers
Rosary can teach the fundamentals of Christian faith

Rev. Augustine Joseph

"Obsolete, repetitive, outdated. Why repeat it so many times? Isn't it monotonous?" Probably many people, including Catholics, have similar sentiments about the prayer, rosary. Some think it is pre-Vatican and no longer relevant, or a medieval practice that has seen its day!

It is a far cry from the Family Rosary Crusade spearheaded by Patrick Peyton, the rosary priest. It is estimated that a record-breaking crowd of 550,000 people participated in the 1961 Rosary Rally at the Polo Fields in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. It was one of the largest gatherings in the history of San Francisco.

It may be a good question; is rosary for the history books? Do people pray the rosary? A Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate study shows that only 16 percent of parents pray the rosary at least once a month and 7 percent at least once a week in the United States.

The survey was conducted in September and October 2014 with 1,014 self-identified Catholic parents. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. Yet, in other parts of the world, especially in Asia, South America and Africa, large numbers of Catholics pray the rosary daily.

Prayer is a personal decision one needs to make for one's own, as well as for community, spiritual growth. Prayer is a conversation with God or as St. Paul says, acknowledging the fact that, "in him we live, move and have our being." (Acts 17:28) Rosary is no doubt a great help in the prayer experience.

Rosary reflects the rhythm of life or as Indian philosophy says, the cosmic Rita (order, arrangement.) As we are aware there is constant repetition in nature, day and night, different seasons, recycling, etc. In humans, too, there is constant repetition, our breathing, in-take of food, habits, etc. Rosary with its repetitive prayers connects us to the cosmic Rita which includes the entire universe and all in it. With its repetition rosary can restore our equilibrium and one can experience calmness, rest, relaxation and peace. It is a good experience to pray the rosary before going to sleep for it can help one to have a restful night.

On average, Americans correctly answer 16 of the 32 religious knowledge questions on the survey by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life. Atheists and agnostics average 20.9 correct answers. Jews and Mormons do about as well, averaging 20.5 and 20.3 correct answers, respectively. Protestants as a whole average 16 correct answers; Catholics as a whole, 14.7. Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons perform better than other groups on the survey, even after controlling for differing levels of education.

Religion, religious knowledge and practices are on decline in our society. There is a great shroud of ignorance and indifference gnawing at the very core of our human society, the human person. Our spiritual life itself is threatened. In such a situation rosary can become a great educational tool if we use it.

Rosary has been described as the poor man's bible. At a time, when few people could read and write, memorizing the rosary was a help in knowing the faith. It described the birth (Joyful mysteries), suffering (Sorrowful mysteries) and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Glorious mysteries). In October 2002, Pope St. John Paul II added the luminous mysteries to the rosary. They describe the adult life and teaching of Jesus. Rosary, thus, could teach a person the fundamentals of the Christian Faith.

Rosary can serve as personal prayer or as community prayer. One could pray it by oneself or in the company of others. As a community prayer it can involve a large number of people, making everyone participate in the prayer experience.

In our digital age there is a lot of help praying the rosary. iRosary (Catholic Rosary) is a great app for the smart phones. There is also another app called The Holy Rosary. YouTube has uploaded many types of rosary prayers. It is also possible to buy audio tapes and videos about praying the rosary.

There is no dearth of resources out there to help us pray the rosary. I invite everyone to pray the rosary. You have nothing to lose but everything to gain — eternal life!

(Rev. Augustine Joseph is parochial administrator at St. Augustine Parish, Oakland.)

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