Hello there my fine, Rosary-loving, friends! In this post we will look at the question: is it wrong to pray the Rosary?
‘It’s wrong to pray the Rosary because … !’
It is often claimed by those who don’t support the Catholic faith that it is wrong to pray repetitive prayers. That Jesus apparently condemns this practice in the Gospels.
The text referred to is where Jesus says: ‘And do not heap up empty phrases and vain repetitions, as do the heathen, for they think that they will be heard because they use many words.’ (Matthew 6:6-10).
It is claimed, therefore: ‘You see? Jesus tells us to avoid repetitive prayers, to avoid saying the same thing again and again. And the Rosary is a very repetitive prayer, so you shouldn’t pray it.’
There is also the claim made that it is wrong to pray to Mary. ‘Mary is not God and you should only pray to God. So it is wrong to pray to Mary. In fact, it is idolatry. Mary can’t help you. Only God can.’
Such are the accusations.
What are Catholics to make of these claims?
How to know whether claims are true
Well, the first thing to say, is that these claims are merely that: claims. They are not necessarily true. They don’t necessarily have one ounce of authority over you or anyone else.
In fact, the ONLY way to know they are true is to ask ‘the Pillar and Ground of the Truth’ herself: the Church (see 1 Timothy 3:15). What does the Church say?
The Catholic Church says that it is perfectly fine to pray to Mary and to pray the Rosary.
Case closed. In the immortal words of St Augustine: ‘Rome as spoken, the matter is ended.’
Obviously, non-Catholics might respond: ‘No, you don’t go to the Church for answers, you go to the Bible.’
Well, there are several really crucial problems with that.
First of all: the Church wrote and canonised the Bible. Without the Church, there wouldn’t be a Bible. The Church chose the books that went into the Bible and passed over those books which shouldn’t go into the Bible.
It was the Catholic Church which did this in the 4th and 5th centuries. Check out the history: it’s a historical fact.
The other problem here is that when someone says ‘just go to the Bible, not the Church,’ where does the Bible ever teach us to do that? Where does the Bible itself teach us that we must heed the Bible and nothing else, not even the Church?
Nowhere. At all.
In fact, this is so obvious that even some Protestant scholars admit it.
The Bible has the highest opinion of the Church, calling her ‘the Pillar and Ground of the Truth’ (1 Timothy 3:15) and Jesus himself saying: ‘Those who hear YOU (the Church, the Apostles) hear Me and and Him who sent me.’ In other words, those who hear the Church hear Christ and God.
And lastly, the Church is the ONLY means we mere mortals have in this world of correctly interpreting the Bible and Sacred Truth. Without the Church, we can and will end up believing whatever we want about the Gospel and Christ. We might even decide to remove more books from the Bible or add more that have never been accepted.
What’s to stop us from doing this, if we reject the Catholic Church? Nothing, really.
Agnostic/Liberal Christianity is Everywhere
In theory, anything goes without the Church, as we see everywhere in non-Catholic Christianity.
Is homosexual practice ever right or always wrong? Non-Catholic Christians disagree.
Is abortion ever ok? Non-Catholic Christians disagree.
Was Jesus literally raised bodily to life? Non-Catholic Christians disagree.
Is it legitimate for women to be pastors, priests and bishops? There’s disagreement everywhere on this outside of Catholicism.
And so on. You can pick literally ANY traditional Catholic/Christian belief and I guarantee outside of the Catholic Church there will be Christians on both sides.
Even on matters fundamental to Christianity. Like the Trinity, or whether Mary is Mother of God, or whether Mary ever sinned, or whether Jesus Christ is fully God, or whether the Eucharist is the very body and blood of Jesus.
And so on.
The Church’s Verdict
And so, I argue with the firmest conviction that the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY for telling us whether it is right or wrong to pray the most holy Rosary.
It is not enough to follow one’s own viewpoint on this matter, because this is a matter which impacts the lives of many, many people worldwide.
The Catholic Church encourages the use of the Rosary, though she nowhere commands people to pray it.
That is the Church’s verdict. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with praying the Rosary.
So, please, pray it all you like. Pray it often, if you wish. Pray it many times a day, if you want to. You have the Church’s blessing. You have Mary’s blessing. You have the blessing of God and of his Son, Jesus Christ, whom the Rosary is all about.
But what about Jesus telling us to avoid ‘vain repetition’?
Yes, Jesus does say this, we don’t deny it. But we deny that this has any reference at all to the Rosary.
When Jesus says this, he means that we shouldn’t pray as those who don’t know God. We shouldn’t utter empty mantras, hoping that somehow one will break through and the Divine will help us.
We don’t have a God like that. We have a Father who loves us and knows all we need.
In any case, repetition isn’t the slightest bit wrong in prayer in and of itself. Jesus himself prayed the SAME THINGS the night before he was crucified: we read in the Gospels that Christ prayed 3 times to his Father: ‘if this cup cannot pass unless I drink it, Your will be done.’
Again, in telling us to avoid empty repetitive prayers, Jesus offers us his own repetitive prayer that he wants us to always pray: ‘In this way pray: Our Father, who art in heaven…’ And he recites the Lord’s prayer.
Jesus intended this prayer to be the permanent and constant prayer of Christians: ‘when you pray, say.’ (Matthew 6:7-11).
Whenever you pray, this is what you should say: Our Father, etc. The Lord’s prayer.
Then there is Psalm 136, where these words are constantly repeated: ‘God’s love endures forever.’
So it is not repetitive prayers that are condemned by Jesus, but vain and empty phrases and repetitions in prayer. Using words like a magic charm.
But what about praying to Mary? Is this wrong?
Again, the only way to really know whether this is right or wrong is to ask the Church. And the Church speaks with authority that praying the Mary is not at all wrong.
Catholicism sees worship differently to non-Catholic Christians. We explain this many times on this site, but we need to say it again: in Catholicism, worship of God is SACRIFICIAL.
This is what we always see in the Old Testament. To worship God, altars are constructed and blood is shed.
The same is true of the New Testament, the era we live in. God still can only be worshipped by sacrifice. And that sacrifice is Jesus Christ on the cross, re-presented before us every time a Mass takes place.
The true worship of God, therefore, is the offering of the holy Eucharist: the body and blood of Jesus.
Mere prayers do not suffice for this highest kind of worship. And therefore, praying to Mary or any heavenly being, or asking another Christian to pray for you, or pleading the help of anyone living, is not at all wrong.
In fact, it would be ridiculous to suggest that praying to someone living – that is, begging them for help – is idolatry. It is not. It is simply a human thing to do.
So when Catholics pray to Mary, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this because it is NOT strictly speaking WORSHIP. Is there any blood offered? Is the Eucharist offered to Mary? Perish the thought! Of course not! Never! This would be terrible idolatry. The Eucharist is ONLY offered to God.
Let the Church decide your issues
One of the best lessons I’ve ever learned as a Catholic is to simply trust the Church. Just obey what the Church says. If the Church doesn’t command you to obey something, then you don’t need to obey it or feel compelled (unless your conscience tells you that you must).
We MUST ALWAYS follow our conscience on any matter, but we must also let the Church form our conscience.
So if your conscience tells you it is wrong for you to pray the Rosary, or to pray to Mary, then don’t do it. But be assured the Church is fine with both.
Don’t worry about arguments for or against prayers to Mary, or arguments for or against whether it is right or wrong to pray the Rosary. You could go round all day in circles.
Why stop there? Why not pay attention to arguments for and against the existence of God or the resurrection of Christ.
Where does this mistrust end?
When all is said and done, if we wish to be saved, we MUST pay attention to the holy Catholic Church. We must obey her and listen to her. And let no-one turn you away from her with arguments and logic, no matter how sophisticated or ‘scriptural’.
‘The Bible says this, the Bible says that.’ We can all play that game.
But what truly matters is: ‘What does the CHURCH tell us that the Bible says? How does the CHURCH interpret Scripture?’
That’s all you need to ask.
Don’t let yourself be bound by those who have no authority over you. God has not given authority in spiritual or moral matters to anyone except the Church. Listen only to her if you wish to save your soul.
And if you’re interested in getting a set of Rosary beads, take a look at this post.
God bless you.