Holy Cross Seminary

Naturalism and the Rosary - Impossible Bedfellows

 

A COMMENTARY ON POPE JOHN-PAUL II’S

APOSTOLIC LETTER OF OCTOBER 16, 2002 ENTITLED ROSARIUM VIRGINIS MARIAE

 

This is the text of a conference given at Holy Cross Seminary on Sunday October 20, 2002
by former Seminary Rector, Father Peter R. Scott.
It is put up on the internet on account of the topical interest of the subject.

 

            There ought to be nothing that could so rejoice the heart of the traditionally minded Catholic as a Papal letter on the Rosary. What could be more propitious to the renewal of devotion to Our Lady? What could be more powerful to overcome the godlessness of our times? What could be more in the line of the requests of Our Lady of Fatima, to ultimately bring about the consecration and the triumph of the Immaculate Heart? What, indeed, could be a more effective answer to the Ecumenism, Religious Liberty and other errors of Vatican II, incompatible as they are with true devotion to Our Lady?

            However, our initial excitement about a papal pronouncement on the Rosary soon wanes when we study the letter and realize that it is a thinly veiled attempt to promote the naturalism of the post-conciliar revolution, and this under the guise of the most traditional devotion known to Catholics. The reader’s initial response will be one of shock at such an assertion. How could this be possible? How could a Pope go wrong in recommending the Rosary? How could Our Lady abandon those who continue to recite their Aves? How could a Catholic criticize a Pope who professes that the Rosary is "his favorite prayer", "a marvelous prayer", "marvelous in its simplicity and in its depth" (§2)?

            The answer becomes clear by an analysis of what the Pope DOES say and what he DOES NOT say, and this side by side with the numerous encyclicals of Pope Leo XIII on the Rosary. Since John-Paul II invokes and praises Leo XIII’s first encyclical on the Rosary of September 1, 1883 "in which" John-Paul II admits, "he proposed the Rosary as an effective spiritual weapon against the evils afflicting society" (§2), he clearly is fully aware of his predecessor’s teaching. Consequently any persistent omission to reiterate the same teaching must be considered a deliberate act and one that accurately portrays John-Paul II’s intentions with respect to the Rosary and Our Lady.

 

THE PURPOSE OF THE APOSTOLIC LETTER

            It is true that the Pope proposes this letter as a response to a modern day devaluation of the Rosary (§4), which demeans the Rosary because it considers it to be opposed to the liturgy and unecumenical. However, a passing glimpse at the letter suffices to demonstrate that there is another and much more profound reason for this letter, and consequently for the recitation of the Rosary itself. It is to be, he explains (§3), a Marian complement on his 2001 Apostolic Letter on the New Millennium, which means that it is to be a complement of the new spirit of comprehension, dialogue, understanding and peace, which was supposedly ushered in with this new millennium.  Further evidence of this is found in the presentation of this document as a 40th anniversary celebration of the "great grace" of the opening of Vatican II on October 11, 1962.

            For just like Vatican II itself, this document has as its purpose to present  how through the Rosary the Church can live its oneness with the world, whose positive values it recognizes. In fact, there is in this document no mention of the sorry spiritual state of the world and it is in no way intended to be a response to evil, decadence or a lack of spirituality. Here it is in direct contrast with the yearly encyclicals of Pope Leo XIII on the Rosary, all of which urged the necessity of the Rosary on account of the calamities of the times, and in particular the spiritual calamities of attacks against the Church, of the loss of the Faith and of godlessness and immorality in public life. In fact, for John-Paul II it is exactly the contrary. The encyclical is not written because of the modern world’s so obvious abandonment of spirituality, but as a response to "the flowering of a new call for spirituality, due also to the influence of other religions" (§5). Like the Rosary itself, this letter is seen as a positive response to modern religious pluralism and in no way a response to evil, or a defense of the Church against heretical falsehood or immorality.

            A couple of quotes from Pope Leo XIII illustrate how radically opposed this is to the traditional teaching of the Church. In fact, Leo XIII states that he wrote Supremi apostolatus officio on account of his duty to protect the Church, a duty all the more urgent as the Church suffers from greater calamities, and consequently requiring a powerful remedy: "Nothing is surer and more effective in obtaining God’s help in defending the rights of the Church as devotion to the Virgin Mary, sovereign depository of all peace and dispenser of all graces, given such glory and power by her Son in order to protect men on their way to eternal salvation." Invoking the victories of the Rosary against the Albigensian heretics, the Turks and the Moslims, Leo XIII points out: "A so great piety and confidence towards the august Queen of heaven has never shone so brightly as when the Church Militant was endangered by the violence of errors, the intolerable corruption of morals and the attacks of powerful adversaries". Furthermore, after speaking of the example of St. Dominic, and pointing out that we are just as much in need of the divine help, he stated: "Enlightened by heavenly inspiration, this great saint saw clearly that no other remedy would be as efficacious as this which would bring men back to Jesus Christ…and would inspire them to turn towards the Virgin, to whom it is given to destroy all heresies". Here we see Catholic reasons, supernatural reasons, reasons of Faith, for the promotion of the Holy Rosary.

 

THE CHRISTOCENTRIC AND EVANGELICAL ERROR

            From the very outset of his letter John Paul II describes the two fundamental characteristics of the "Gospel prayer" of the Rosary, namely that it is to be Christocentric and evangelical. (See §1, 2, & 18). In fact, his whole discussion of the Rosary has for its purpose to bring Christ to the fore, "in order to bring out certain aspects of the Rosary which show that it is really a form of Christocentric contemplation." (§12).  One might at first be tempted to believe that this is perfectly orthodox. For clearly there can be nothing in Mary that is opposed to Christ, nor anything in her that is not truly Christocentric, that does not lead to her divine Son. Likewise there can be nothing in her that is not in harmony with the Gospel, whose spirit she understood more than anybody else.

            However, the deliberate reduction of Marian devotion to these two considerations is to consistently eliminate from it everything that is specifically Marian and specifically Catholic. For to obsessively and exclusively consider in Mary only that aspect of directing all to Christ is ultimately to take from her all her virtues, prerogatives and honor, leaving practically nothing to be referred to Christ. Moreover, to limit the mystery of the Rosary to the statements contained in the Gospel is to completely eliminate the role of Tradition in the handing down of Catholic Faith and piety. It excludes apostolic Tradition, that teaches us the greatness, virtues and prerogatives of Our Lady, and it excludes also the living ecclesiastical Tradition of the Church, from which we received the Rosary in the first place, and which so clearly demonstrates its efficacy and powerfulness. Yet  this Apostolic Letter deliberately limits to the Gospel.

            Mary’s only role, as depicted in this letter, is to contemplate the face of Christ (Cf. § 1 & 10) and the school of Mary, at which we desire to be taught, exists only inasmuch as she shows us the beauty of contemplation. (Cf. §1 & 12). This letter attributes to Mary for herself no special dignity, no rights, no prerogatives, no virtues, no power or authority of her own, in fact nothing to reflect the fact that she is the Queen of heaven and earth. The only reference to her power is the somewhat reluctant admission of her power of supplication (§16), and is just a shadow the authority and greatness of the Blessed Virgin described by the pre-conciliar Popes. The end result is to reduce Our Lady to her contemplation of Christ, which watered down view is entirely different from that of the woman who crushes all heresies under her foot. Total confidence in Our Lady is no longer possible under such an optic, all attention now being directed to Christ.

            Totally different is the attitude of St. Louis Grignon de Montfort, who understood better than anybody how everything in Mary is directed towards her Divine Son, Eternal Wisdom, but who nevertheless, like St. Bernard, could not praise Our Lady enough, and who continually exalts her virtues of Faith, humility, mortification and charity. His "Christocentrism" did not push Our Lady out of the limelight. To the contrary, he maintained that the more she is honored, the more Christ is honored. One of his many statements from the True Devotion is as follows: "God wishes that His holy mother should be at present more known, more loved, more honored than she has ever been".

            It is true that the Apostolic Letter does mention the consecration to Jesus through Mary according to the De Montfort method, and does quote from the True Devotion that the more a soul is consecrated to Mary the more it will be consecrated to Jesus Christ (§15). However, it is manifest that this is lip service from the fact that it attributes no role, no function, no power, no virtue, no honor, no grace of her own to the Blessed Virgin Mary, if it not be simply that of contemplation. Under the pretense, perfectly true moreover, that everything in Our Lady is subordinated to Christ, everything proper to Our Lady has been silenced. Consequently there remains in this letter effectively nothing left in Our Lady to direct and draw us to Christ, except her example of contemplation.

            It is for this reason that the Pope does not hesitate to respond to the accusation that the Rosary is unecumenical. But he does not do so in the way that would be imagined, namely by admitting that indeed it is unecumenical, for it contains all the teachings and practices that protestants are most bitterly opposed to. Much to the contrary, he affirms that, understood in the Christocentric sense of which he speaks so often, the Rosary can be revitalized so as to be made acceptable to non-Catholics: "If properly revitalized, the Rosary is an aid and certainly not a hindrance to ecumenism!" (§4). Astonishing affirmation if ever there were one, and one which reveals his intention first of all to bring about a radical transformation in the Rosary, and secondly to remove from it everything that is specifically Marian and handed down by ecclesiastical tradition, the two things that protestants detest with a passion.

            St. Louis de Montfort makes a very pertinent remark in his True Devotion: "The most infallible and indubitable sign by which we may distinguish a heretic, a man of bad doctrine, a reprobate, from one of the predestinate is that the heretic and the reprobate have nothing but contempt and indifference for our Blessed Lady, endeavoring by their words and examples to diminish the worship and love of her openly or hiddenly, and sometimes under specious pretexts." This letter certainly does not treat Our Lady with contempt and indifference. However, it does all in its power, not openly but in a hidden manner, to direct all worship and love away from the Blessed Virgin Mary and towards her Son, and this under the specious pretexts of Christocentrism and following the Gospel.

            The end result of the letter on the Rosary will be indifference to Our Lady and eventually to the Rosary itself, for it effectively rejects both apostolic Tradition (i.e. Gospel only, or sola scriptura) and ecclesiastical tradition (i.e. specifically Marian devotion).

 

NATURALISM, THE LETTER’S PRIMORDIAL VICE

            There is a spirit that is not mentioned explicitly, but which penetrates the letter of this Apostolic Letter. It is naturalism. If the Rosary is called a "salutary contemplation" (§13), there is nevertheless no mention of how it is to save, namely that it might give divine grace, inspire mortification and sacrifice, elevate souls to supernatural and eternal truths and to a supernatural love of God. This elimination of the clear distinction between the natural and supernatural orders, and of mention of anything specifically supernatural is the modernist error of De Lubac condemned by Pope Pius XII in his 1950 encyclical Humani generis.

            The evidence of the penetration of this error of Naturalism into this encyclical lies in the fact that everything that the letter states concerning meditation and the Rosary could be just as easily interpreted of a natural meditation, that is of a psychological experience, as it could be of a supernatural meditation. Allow me to quote a few examples of this.

            It is stated that "Mary’s contemplation is above all a remembering (§13), that Mary’s "Rosary" consisted in the memories of her Son (§11), that this "exquisitely contemplative prayer" "by its nature…calls for a quite rhythm and a lingering pace" (§12). Supernatural meditation goes way beyond pure remembering, since it fills the soul with conviction and the desire to love and sacrifice for the loved one. Furthermore, supernatural meditation is not the product of a mantra, or of the way in which any particular prayer is said, as are the natural meditations of Yoga and the eastern religions.

            It is further stated that "the Rosary is also a path of proclamation and increasing knowledge, in which the mystery of Christ is presented again and again at different levels of the Christian experience" (§17). This notion of varying levels of experience is surely an expression of the modernist notion of immanence condemned by St. Pius X, namely that religion and knowledge of religious truth are an interior, subjective experience that can exist at differing levels. For the Catholic there is simply the objective truth, that meditation enables us to able to our souls, our daily acts and our lives.

            Other unorthodox and apparently confusing statements all have a modernist explanation, such as that the events of the Rosary, reduced of course to the events recorded in the Bible, are "part of the today of salvation" (§13), that is a re-presentation in the same way as is the Mass. The remembered symbol is quite simply today’s reality, for reality is henceforth a subjective thing. Likewise the strange expression that "Mary is the perfect icon of the motherhood of the Church", meaning that she is the symbol or image by which the Church’s motherhood is made present to us subjectively. However, the question of what she does objectively to participate in the work of our Redemption, and how she is truly the Mother of Divine Grace, and Mediatrix of all graces are entirely outside the subjectivist and naturalist perspective of the author of this apostolic letter.

            Humanism is also one of the chief manifestations of this naturalism. It is especially manifest in §25, which develops the question of the "anthropological significance of the Rosary". By this the Pope means that the Rosary gives a greater understanding of the nature of man, for that is what anthropology is. In fact he states it quite explicitly, namely that "the Rosary marks the rhythm of human life" uncovering in Christ "the truth about man", so that "the mystery of man is seen in its true light" (Ib.).     The quotation from the famous article §22 of Vatican II’s Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et spes, gives the key to interpreting this passage. Here is the text from Vatican II referred to: "The mystery of man can only be truly understood in the mystery of the Incarnate Word. Christ, the new Adam, by revealing the Father’s love, fully manifests man to himself… For by His Incarnation the Son of God in some way united every man to Himself… Such is the greatness of the mystery of man".

            This truly horrifying text is the basis of the Pope’s thesis of Universal Redemption, so well demonstrated by Father Dormann in his series of books on the Theological Journey of Pope John Paul II from the Second Vatican Council to the Interreligious meeting of Assisi. By uniting a human nature to Himself, Christ would have sanctified all human nature, that is every man, whether they know it or not, whether they will it or not. He elevates human nature in Himself, so the thesis goes, so that man can truly only know his human nature, the manifestation of the Father’s love, through Christ. The distinction between nature and grace is entirely obscured, which is why all men can be saved. The whole question of grace is irrelevant in such a perspective. It is this perspective that enables the Pope to conclude: "It could be said that each mystery of the Rosary, carefully meditated, sheds light on the mystery of man" (§25). Christ does not elevate human  nature by grace, He simply manifests it to man by united it to himself. This is the reason why the meditations on Christ’s life mark "the rhythm of human life", that is help us to understanding the meaning and nature of human life, and no longer the participation in the divine life that Christ has bestowed upon us. The twisting of Catholic teaching is subtle but radical, and destroys the entire reality of the interior life of grace. 

            The three articles that follow in the Apostolic Letter describe the consequences that must flow from such profound naturalism. First, it must be considered as a psychological procedure or process, that is a natural technique to come into contact with "the universal experience of human love" (§26). Note the universality. It indicates that he is speaking about the natural love that is common to every man. It is for this reason that the Pope does not hesitate to affirm that "to understand the Rosary, one has to enter into the psychological dynamic proper to love" (§26). This means that if it is not understood as a process of the human mind or psyche, then it is not understood at all, and that those of us who maintain that it is purely and entirely supernatural in the graces it obtains both for us and for others cannot possibly understand the Rosary! Too bad for St. Dominic and St. Pius V.

            The second consequence is that the Rosary is but one of many methods of meditation, a method not unlike those that use the rhythm of breathing to promote meditation (§27), a method which, like the liturgy "normally engages the whole person in all his complex psychological, physical and relational reality" (Ib.). Again we find another entirely naturalist expression, because the Rosary has become a method that can be reduced to the psychological experience of the mind, the physical experience of the body, and the experience of relations with other people. God’s role is simply in the order of nature, which author of nature all our human experiences lead us.

            However, the most shocking consequence is the third one, for it does not just state that "the Rosary is simply a method of contemplation", but that the Rosary is but one meditation method, just like those of non-Christian religions and that like them it works by helping the person to attain a high level of spiritual concentration by using purely natural techniques. Allow me to quote the passage. After stating once more that this letter is a response to "a renewed demand for meditation" in our times coming from non-Christian religions, he goes on to state that "while the latter (non-Christian forms of prayer) contain many elements which are positive (another falsehood of Vatican II) and at times compatible with Christian experience, they are often based on ultimately unacceptable premises. Much in vogue among these approaches are methods aimed at attaining a high level of spiritual concentration by using techniques of a psychophysical, repetitive and symbolic nature. The Rosary is situated within this broad gamut of religious phenomena" (§28; emphasis added).

            The premises of non-Christian religious experience might be unacceptable, but for the Pope their practice is most assuredly not unacceptable. The Rosary is but one of these religious phenomena, the one that is adapted to Catholics, because its premises are Catholic, and one which is not fundamentally or essentially different from the pagan Eastern mystical meditative religious experiences. In this one paragraph lies the entire destruction of the Rosary as a source of grace and blessings from God. All the other good things said about Our Lady and the Rosary in the letter are entirely destroyed by this statement that reduces both Our Lady and the Rosary to the "gamut of religious phenomena". This is complete indifferentism and relativism in matter of religion, and an implicit denial of the Catholic doctrine "Outside the Church, no salvation".

            The Pope proceeds to state that since the Rosary is but such a method, there is no reason why it cannot be changed or in fact "improved" upon, and this is precisely what he pretends to do in the second half of the Apostolic Letter. The new "mysteries of light" are a part of the improvement to the method. The second conclusion is that the beads are only useful inasmuch as they lead us into such a "method of contemplation" and that if anybody recites the Rosary without this experience, then the beads are "to be regarded as some kind of amulet or magic object". This is to reject the ordinary man’s recitation of the Rosary as useless superstition and to devalue the spiritual profit to be obtained from the pious use of blessed religious articles or sacramentals. Once more, in the name of promoting the Rosary, everything is being done to destroy it is as Catholics have always known it.

 

THE "IMPROVEMENTS" TO THE ROSARY

            The most obvious of the improvements to be made to the Rosary is the addition of a new series of five decades of the Rosary, to be recited after the Joyful Mysteries (§19 & 21). The choice of these new mysteries, that the Pope calls "luminous moments" is not at all by chance. There is a deliberate effort to avoid the two chief factors that determined St. Dominic’s determination of the 15 decades that we are familiar with. Firstly, the mysteries were given to him by Tradition, and secondly they are the objective events in our Redemption. The 15 mysteries of the Rosary as we know them are all events that took place, and which were important steps in the accomplishing of our Redemption, whether it be through the Incarnation as in the joyful mysteries, whether it be by merit and reparation as in the sorrowful mysteries, or whether it be by exemplary causality as in the glorious mysteries. All three sets of mysteries are necessary for our Redemption, and it could not have taken place otherwise. It is certainly true that most of the mysteries are in Sacred Scripture. Nevertheless, it is not for this reason that they are included in the Rosary. It is because living Catholic Tradition that passed them down through St. Dominic as the mysteries of our Redemption that need to be meditated on through the Rosary. It is consequently entirely false to call the Rosary " a compendium of the Gospel" (§19), as this Apostolic Letter claims, just as it is not according to Catholic Tradition, and consequently not Catholic, to want to add five mysteries "for the Rosary to become more fully a compendium of the Gospel (Ib.).It is consequently not surprising to note that the proposed mysteries of light are not events in our Redemption. They are simply beautiful episodes from the Gospel and words that are encouraging to us. Consequently, their insertion into the Rosary obscures the reality and the importance of the objective Redemption that the Rosary traditional portrays. Furthermore, the new mysteries are all stories from the Gospels, that Tradition has never linked in any way to the Rosary. To add further to the attack on the truly Marian aspect of the devotion of the Holy Rosary, only one of these mysteries even mentions the presence and role of Our Lady, and then only barely, the marriage feast at Cana. The Blessed Mother is in no way present in the other mysteries. One legitimately wonders what they are doing in the Rosary, if not to surreptitiously turn attention away from Our Lady.

            Allow me to list these five "significant", "luminous" "moments" (§21): Christ’s baptism in the Jordan, his self-manifestation at Cana, his proclamation of the Kingdom of God and call to conversion, his Transfiguration and his institution of the Blessed Eucharist. You might legitimately wonder why these of all the episodes in the Gospel, and what it is that these episodes have in common to merit the title of "mysteries of light". It is manifestly not anything to do with Our Lady, or even with the objective Redemption for that matter either.

            However, there is indeed a common factor, and it is that all five of these "luminous moments" express in one way or another the new theology of the Paschal Mystery, which is a whole new concept of the Redemption. This is the theory that minimizes the importance of the sacrifice of the Cross in our Redemption, and which is behind the Novus Ordo Missae, in which the propitiatory sacrifice has been effectively eliminated. According to this theory, now widely held by the modernists, man’s Redemption is a work of pure love or mercy. The manifestation of God’s love is so great that there is no need for anything else, and in particular the payment of a debt for sin. This would be to limit, so they say, God’s infinite love. The redemption is consequently anything that manifests God’s love. The "mysteries of light" fall into this category, for they are manifestations of Jesus’ mercy and glory, and in fact more powerful manifestations than his Nativity or death on the Cross. According to this new theology there is no need for satisfaction for man’s sins, nor for the Cross, sacrifice, penance or self-denial, except in a derived sense inasmuch as they are manifestations of God’s mercy.

            The reasons why these five were chosen become in this light plainly evident. They are all manifestations. In the first his mission is manifested by the Father and the Spirit. The second mystery, of Cana is a manifestation of faith, for Christ "opens the hearts of the disciples to faith, thanks to the intervention of Mary, the first among believers". Thus even Mary is invoked for ecumenism, since according to the Pascal Mystery theory all believers are manifestations of God’s mercy, regardless of their particular belief. The third is the manifestation of the Kingdom of God, and the fourth the manifestation of "the glory of the Godhead" (why not say precisely what it is, namely Christ’s divinity). The fifth, the institution of the Eucharist is explicitly described "as the sacramental expression of the Paschal Mystery". Note that here is not meant one of the seven sacraments that renews the sacrifice of Calvary in an unbloody way, but a manifestation or expression of the hidden mystery of God’s love in a much more general and imprecise manner, which is what the Pope means when he says that this food "testifies to the end his love for humanity" (§21), deliberately misquoting St. John (13:1), who states very explicitly that it is "his own" that He loves to the end, and not all of humanity or the whole world. The Popes sums up this new Paschal Mystery concept of these mysteries being a manifestation, separate from any act of Redemption, when he says "each of these mysteries is a revelation of the Kingdom now present in the very person of Jesus". This is why all believers are saved, for they all believe in some way in the manifestation or revelation of God’s love, and  that is all that matters.

            Consequently, there can be no doubt whatsoever that there are unstated, profoundly unorthodox doctrinal reasons that are the real reason for the insertion of these "luminous moments", absolutely unthinkable as they would have been before Vatican II, and as they remain for those who believe in the traditional theology of the Redemption.

            It was Pope Leo XIII who, in different encyclicals on the Rosary, explained in fact why the mysteries of the Rosary are not optional or changeable. Their order and number are to perfectly propose to our contemplation "the work of the Redemption of mankind", as Leo XIII explains in Octobri mense of September 22, 1891. The Rosary "calls to our minds the great mysteries of Jesus and Mary united in joys, sorrows and triumphs. The contemplation of these august mysteries, considered in their due order, gives to faithful souls a wonderful strengthening of Faith, protects them against error and fortifies their souls…thoughts…are absorbed in wonder at the work of the Redemption of mankind, achieved at such a price and by such great acts" (Quoted in 17 Papal documents on the Rosary, St. Paul editions, pp. 109-110). A more explicit statement, and one more contrary to the Paschal Mystery theory, could not be found.

            Leo XIII reiterated the same ideas the following year in his encyclical Magnae Dei matris of September 8, 1892, in which he gives the name of "chief mysteries of the Christian religion" to the work of the Redemption: "The Rosary offers an easy way to penetrate the chief mysteries of the Christian religion and to impress them on the mind… in an orderly pattern the chief mysteries of our religion follow one another…First come the mysteries in which the Word was made flesh and Mary the inviolate Virgin and Mother, performed her maternal duties for him with a holy joy; then come the sorrows, the agony and death of the suffering Christ, the price at which the salvation of our race was accomplished; finally follow the mysteries full of his glory…This sequence of events floods the souls of those who devoutly recite it with a sweetness of piety that never grows weary, impressing and stirring them as though they were listening to the very voice of the Blessed Mother explaining the mysteries and conversing with them at length about their salvation" (Ib. p. 117).

            With what powerful authority does Leo XIII speak the truth, and with what conviction as to the completeness and order of the mysteries of the Rosary as they stand. I consequently urge the reader to refuse the novelty of the mysteries of light, and to stand firm on those mysteries that so perfectly describe the mystery of our Redemption, and which are consequently the source of unlimited grace for our souls.

            Many other "improvements" are proposed in the letter, and for the same kinds of reasons as we have already seen. Take for example, the proposed modification of the Hail Mary itself (§33). Since the Hail Mary is said to be a "Christological" prayer, the high point is not the name of the person who is addressed, Mary, but the name of Jesus. "The centre of gravity in the Hail Mary, the hinge as it were which joins its two parts, is the name of Jesus." (§33).    Furthermore, it is not Christological enough for the Pope. He wants to emphasis much more the name of Jesus, thereby downgrading the importance of Our Lady. He proposes to do this by adding in an additional phrase after the name of Jesus that in some way relates to Jesus’ manifestation in the mystery at hand.

            It is notable that there is absolutely no mention at all of the prayer taught to the children of Fatima, as if it has no importance and does not even merit a mention. Yet it is everywhere the custom to recite this prayer after each decade, and such a profoundly supernatural prayer it is: "…save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those who most need thy mercy". Instead the Pope encourages the people of God to make up their own prayer, which "could take on a legitimate variety of forms". (§35) Thus the supernatural spirit, the constancy and the unshakable solidity of this unchanging prayer are all undermined.

 

FRUITS OF THE ROSARY

            If a final proof were needed of whole new naturalistic spirit in this apostolic letter, it is to be found in the discussion on the fruits of the Rosary. There is, first of all, a humanistic reinterpretation of the graces to be received by the meditation on the mysteries, especially the sorrowful and glorious mysteries. Traditionally, we meditate on the sorrowful mysteries in reparation for our sins and for those of the world, that we might grow in contrition, and that being purified from the disorders of our sensuality and pride we might receive the graces necessary to carry our cross. But according to this letter the sorrowful mysteries are simply "the culmination of the revelation of God’s love" which reveals "the meaning of man himself" through the "experience" of "the life-giving power" "of God’s love" (§22). This is a direct consequence of the new naturalist Paschal Mystery theology, according to which there is no need for penance, sacrifice, satisfaction for sin. Christ’s human suffering simply gives us a greater knowledge of our common humanity (=the meaning of man himself). This humanism is in itself a revelation of God’s love, for Christ is the best human manifestation of this love. It can easily be seen that no supernatural fruits, apt to draw us to heaven and to inspire us to despise the things of this earth, to love and embrace our crosses are to come from such a nebulous experience.

            The same can be said for the grace to be obtained from the glorious mysteries. Traditionally, they fill us with the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity, give us a fervent desire for heaven and humble devotion towards and confidence in the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the letter we are told that in the glorious mysteries "Christians rediscover the reasons for their own faith", (§23) which makes no sense for those who believe that the Faith is a free gift of God which we accept on the authority of God who can neither deceive nor be deceived. It is only a human faith that seeks reasons or reassurance of this kind. Furthermore, the Pope sums up the fruit of the glorious mysteries in stating that they "lead the faithful to greater hope for the eschatological goal towards which they journey as members of the pilgrim People of God in history" (Ib.) This strange expression indicates that the purpose of these mysteries is to help believers of all kinds, for the ambiguous expression "people of God" is deliberately not limited to Catholics, and to help them in "history", that is on this earth, where the Church herself is a pilgrim, not knowing where the modern times and changes are leading her, but always having an open mind. Eschatology is the study of the final ends, but here the term "eschatological goal" is used in an ambiguous sense, that could just as much refer to the final goal of the people of God to achieve peace and justice on this earth as to everlasting life. Again, the perspective is naturalist, and any true grace absent.

            The fruits of the Rosary are expressed discussed in §40 of the Apostolic Letter. It is there stated that "the Rosary is by its nature a prayer for peace", a manifestly ambiguous expression. Is this the peace of the double-edged sword of the truth, or is it the peace of indifferentism, condemned by Pius XII as "Irenism", or peace at all costs. The answer can be found in reading the effects that John Paul II claims are to come from this peace: "the desire to welcome, defend and promote life, and to shoulder the burdens of suffering children all over the world…to bear witness to his (Christ’s) beatitudes…(to feel) the need to act as a

            ‘Simon of Cyrene’ for our brothers and sisters weighed down by grief or crushed by despair…to make this world more beautiful, more just, more closely conformed to God’s plan" (and this last one is supposedly the fruit of the glorious mysteries!). It is manifestly obvious that the peace being spoken of is an earthly peace, a just world, and that it has nothing to do with the supernatural peace that is a preparation for eternity. This naturalism is also expressed by the new symbolism that the Pope proposes for the Rosary beads: "let them remind us of our many relationships, of the bond of communion and fraternity which unites us all in Christ" (§36), and the fact that indulgences are now said to be granted "in order to encourage this ecclesial dimension of the Rosary" (§37), and no longer primarily to obtain the remission of the temporal punishment due to sin, thus opening the gates of heaven.

            But, you might say, the Pope in this letter recommends the family Rosary, and repeats the adage that "the family that prays together stays together" (§41). Surely this is not naturalism? Well, then, take a look at the fruits that the Pope assures for the family that prays the Rosary: "Individual family members…regain the ability to look one another in the eye, to communicate, to show solidarity, to forgive one another and to see their covenant of love renewed in the Spirit of God" (Ib.), as also "the growth and development of children" (§42) and to bridge "the cultural gap between generations" (Ib.) All these expressions could just as easily be used by non-Catholics for their communal family experiences. It is not to say that they are bad, but that they are on a purely natural plane. Hence to make children like the Rosary, the Pope does not propose discipline and mortification but novelties, that is "appropriate symbolic and practical aids" (Ib.)

            How different is the conception of the fruits of the Rosary defended by Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical Jucunda semper of September 8, 1894: "The fruits of the Rosary appear likewise and in equal measure in the turning with mercy of the heart of the Mother of God toward us" (In 17 Papal documents on the Rosary, p. 125). Here is an entirely supernatural fruit: heaven’s blessings through the  Blessed Mother. Leo XIII also tells us that we can expect to see from our Rosaries the double aspect of the fruit of the Rosary so often seen in the past history of the Church: "the vindication of our holy Faith against the furious attacks of heresy, and in the restoration to honor of the virtues which, by reason of the corruption of the age, needed to be rekindled and sustained" (Ib. p. 120). Again, it is supernatural Faith and virtue, as opposed to the spirit of the world.

 

OBLIGATION OF THE ROSARY

            Since for John Paul II the Rosary is only to be considered as a method of prayer, he clearly cannot make it obligatory. In fact, he specifically avows that he has no intention at all to impose anything on individuals or particular churches (§3). What, then, is going to be the practical outcome of this letter? Will it be a greater frequency of recitation of the Rosary? Manifestly not, and if the letter is actually read and understood, this letter will diminish what little fervor remains for the Rosary in the post-conciliar church.

            How different was the conclusion given by Pope Leo XIII at the end of his first encyclical on the Rosary, Supremi apostolatus officio in 1883: "We decree and we order that, during this year, throughout the entire Catholic world the Office of the Rosary be celebrated solemnly by special and splendid services", and in fact he made it obligatory for five decades of the Rosary to be recited before the Blessed Sacrament exposed, along with the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary, every day in October. He continued: "Act then…the more you have at heart Mary’s honor and the salvation of human society, the more you will strive to nourish the people’s piety towards the great Virgin, and increase their confidence in her".

            We cannot help but conclude that this Apostolic Letter was issued much more to promote ecumenism, religious and communal solidarity, dialogue with non-Christians, acceptation of non-Christian meditation methods and the new concept of the Paschal Mystery than it was to truly promote the recitation of the Rosary as we know it. The idealism of naturalist meditations, the introduction of new mysteries of light that have nothing to do with the Redemption, the deliberate confusion brought about by the proposed changes, and the refusal of any concrete measure to actually promote the recitation of the Rosary all guarantee that this letter will be a sad but crucial step towards further diminution in Marian devotion and the Rosary in the post-conciliar church.

 


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Holy Cross Seminary, Goulburn, Australia