The Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary: An Evangelical Defense of the Rosary

Friday, October 7th is the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. The Feast commemorates the decisive victory of the Holy League over Muslim forces in the 1571 Battle of Lepanto. The Holy League credited victory, a catastrophic loss for the Muslim forces, to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary since the league had sought her aid through devoutly praying the Rosary. Since the victory was such an overwhelming defeat of anti-Christian forces, Pope Pius V instituted the Feast of Our Lady of Victory. Two years later, Pope Gregory VIII renamed the day the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

History of the Rosary itself dates to at least three hundred years prior to the Battle of Lepanto.  According to legend, while in Prouille, in 1208, St. Dominic, the founder of the Dominican Order of Preachers, received a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary. While desperately seeking the Lord in an attempt to discern why he was having so little success in converting the Albigensian heretics, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Saint Dominic and gave him the Holy Rosary as a tool of spiritual warfare against the heretics. As he and his disciples began devoutly praying the Rosary, the spiritual tides turned and the Dominicans began experiencing victory after victory, conversion after conversion. This, in part, explains why the Holy Rosary is a standard element of the Dominican habit, just as are the white tunic and scapular and black cloak and cappa.

There are a great many Christians throughout the world who insist that the Rosary is a wicked tool of false religion. They insist that it is idolatry and worshipping some false goddess. This is absolutely not true. In fact, praying with the Rosary or meditating with the Rosary is, in a way, praying with the Holy Scriptures.

There are only a few prayers that one needs to pray the Rosary: The Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Hail Mary, and the Glory Be.  The Apostles’ Creed is the most basic baptismal creed of the Church.  Every believer recites this creed either at their Baptism or Confirmation, and at the renewal of baptismal vows whenever any believer receives these sacraments.  Who could raise an objection to the recitation of the Apostles’ Creed in prayer?

In praying the Rosary, one prays the Lord’s Prayer six times. Who can complain about this? Did not Our Lord Himself instruct us saying, “In this manner, therefore, pray:” (St. Matthew 6:9) Who would dare to say that we should not pray using the very words Our Lord told His apostles to use?

The heart of most people’s issue with the Rosary is the use of the Hail Mary, yet this is another prayer that is fully grounded in Holy Scripture. The prayer reads, “Hail, Mary, full of grace. Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed be the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.” Taking the prayer phrase by phrase we see that St. Luke’s Gospel (1:28) gives us the Angelic Salutation of “Hail Mary, full of Grace.” St. Luke again provides the words “Blessed art thou among women and blessed be the fruit of thy womb.” (1:42) St. Elizabeth would not yet have know Our Lord’s name, but we include the Holy Name because “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth.” (Philippians 2:10) The phrase “Holy Mary, Mother of God” comes from the third ecumenical council, the Council of Ephesus in 431. That council affirmed the universal teaching that Jesus Christ is God. Therefore, if Jesus is God and the Blessed Virgin Mary was Jesus’ mother, then, by definition, she was also God’s mother since Jesus is, in fact, God. She was, of course, holy because “holy” means set apart for a specific purpose. Mary’s purpose was unique in all of humanity and clearly she was set apart and, therefore, holy.

Some people raise an issue by saying “why would you ask some dead person to pray for you?” They say, “The only person I need to go to the Father on my behalf is Jesus Himself.” Yet those same people have no qualms against going to a trusted brother or sister and asking them to pray for them. They might say, “I’m sick, brother. Would you pray for me?” or, “My husband is travelling next week. Would you agree with me that God give him travelling mercies?” Who could fault them for asking a brother or sister to stand with them in prayer? In St. Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus responds to a question from the Sadducees saying, “Have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” (St. Matthew 22:31-32) Those who are dead in Christ are alive with the Lord, for He is the God of the living! If you will ask any other brother to pray for you, why not ask a saintly forbearer who has gone before us? Why not ask His holy mother to pray for us? Take note: you are not asking the Blessed Virgin Mary to grant you anything! This prayer is not “Holy Mary, give me what I want,” but rather, “pray for me, a sinner.” Surely, none can object to a Christian calling himself a sinner. St. Paul tells us “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) It is only by Christ’s blood that we are washed white as snow. Without Him, we are miserable sinners. I know that when my time comes I definitely want as many people as I can get praying for me. Again, why not ask Our Lord’s Holy Mother? Remember the wedding at Cana? (St. John 2:1-11)

There is also the prayer “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the Beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.” There are seventeen separate verses in the Book of the Revelation that refer to God receiving glory in heaven. Our Lord Himself declared, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (St. Matthew 28:19) Again, what objection could be raised to ascribing glory to God? Was He not glorified in the beginning? (See St. John 1:1 and Genesis 1:1) Is there some strange rule which would prevent us from glorifying Him today? Will He not be glorified at the end of time? (See The Book of the Revelation.)

Thus, we can see that the prayers that are said in praying (with) the Rosary are not objectionable, but rather are thoroughly Biblically based.  Nevertheless, dispelling objections to something is nowhere near the same things are convincing someone that it is a good idea.  Later on this week, I will post another article on why praying the Rosary is not only not idolatrous, but why it is a powerful spiritual devotion afterall.



Filed under Feasts

6 responses to “The Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary: An Evangelical Defense of the Rosary

  1. Clearly there is a lot of Scripture and some other good things that are said in the Rosary. Obviously, it is not wrong to pray Our Lord’s Prayer or to recite the Apostles Creed or many of the Scriptures quoted in the Rosary. But, why would I go through Christ’s dead mother to do any of these things, especially when I have no assurance that she can even hear my prayers? I DO know, however, that God can hear my prayers. Since I have direct access to God and only He can answer our prayers, it makes more sense to me to cut out the middle (wo)man. Add to this the fact that the Bible nowhere instructs Christians to pray through intermediaries, or to petition saints or Mary (in Heaven) for their prayers, why do it?

    The real problem that most Protestants have with all of this is not that the second half of the “Hail Mary is not grounded in Scripture, or even that it is inappropriate to call Mary our “life” and “hope.” The real problem is the doctrine of immaculate conception. While it is true that technically “holy” means set apart, that is not what the Roman Catholic Church means by it. They mean “sinless.”

    • sjl

      Jesus said, “You are therefore greatly mistaken.” (St. Mark 12:27) When the Sadducees came to Jesus and tried to ensnare Him regarding the resurrection of the dead, He replied, “concerning the dead, that they rise, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the burning bush passage, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living.” (St. Mark 12:25-27, quoting Exodus 3:6,15) Therefore, you need not “go through His dead mother,” but rather His mother who lives!

      You seem to be terribly hung up on the idea of praying “through” intermediaries. This is not so much the case as it is asking someone to intercede on your behalf, which is itself an ancient Judeo-Christian tenet. Abraham interceded for Sodom (Genesis 18). Whether they asked for it or not, he was praying for someone else. St. Paul both asked that the Ephesians pray for him (6:18-20), prayed for the Thessalonians (I Thessalonians 3:11-13), and instructed St. Timothy to pray for all men (I Timothy 2:1-4). Furthermore, St. James instructs the Church, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” (5:14) Yes, you do have direct access to the throne of Jesus Christ, but so did St. Paul, St. Timothy, the Ephesians, Thessalonians and St. James. Nevertheless, they thought it was a good idea to have others pray for you. All sorts of people asked the Apostles to pray for them in The Acts of the Apostles. They are not “Middle (Wo)Men,” as you say; they are intercessors. Beyond that, we can know that the saints in Heaven are aware of our prayers because Holy Writ tells us so. In the Book of the Revelation, St. John tells us that the saints around the throne are surrounded by incense “which are the prayers of the saints.” Why ask the saints to pray for us? Seeking intercessory prayer partners is scriptural, the saints who have gone before are alive and with Our Lord, and the saints in Heaven are surrounded by our prayers.

      As to your second paragraph, I make a distinction which you have not. I am defending with Holy Scripture the practice of praying with or meditating with the Rosary. I am by no means defending all of Roman-Catholic Mariology. The Roman-Catholic Dogma of the Immaculate Conception (quite different from the Virgin Birth) is a tremendous stumbling block for both Protestants and non-Roman Catholics (such as the Eastern Orthodox and Anglo-Catholics and the CEC) alike. Holy does not mean sinless in any dictionary I have encountered. As to the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, I intend on addressing that in December on the actual Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8.

      Leaving all sarcasm aside, I do love these dialogues. I find them both challenging, stimulating, and,–dare I say it–fun.

  2. It’s not a hang-up, really. I mean, I don’t go out of my way to avoid talking to dead people. As far as I know, however, the resurrection of the dead has not yet occurred. Saints who have died are still in the grave. So, I’m not really sure how the arguments of Jesus in Mark 12 applies here.

    But even if you believe that saints are living in Heaven in a conscious state awaiting the resurrection of the dead, praying to them seems to imply that they are omniscient and omnipresent. Maybe that’s my hang-up. I confess that I’m not willing to make that leap and really see no reason for doing so.

    I too, enjoy these discussions. I dare say I DO find them fun!

    • sjl

      Soul Sleep, Eric? Really? I never knew. I’ve never heard anyone espouse that belief that wasn’t a 7th Day Adventist. Looking into it a little further, I see that Martin Luther believed in it, but that John Calvin along with most other mainline Christians said it was complete bunk. The RC’s officially declared it a heresy at Lateran V in 1547. Wow, that means the Roman Catholic Church and John Calvin were in complete agreement on an issue. Who knew!

      In any case, I would by no means suggest that the Saints who reside in Heaven and behold the face of God have anything like or akin to omniscience or omnipresence. I do believe that they are surrounded by the prayers of the faithful and aware of those prayers. I likewise believe that they intercede on our behalf. When I say a “Hail Mary,” I do not believe the Blessed Virgin sits at elbow and waves her magic wand to grant my wishes. I do believe that she echoes my prayers to Our Heavenly Father and I need all the prayers that I can get, from both the living and the dead in Christ.

  3. Randall Allen

    Great article. Well done.

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