ROME, OCT. 14, 2002 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II called for the rosary to be recited during the month of October for world peace, and announced that he will soon publish a document on the importance of this spiritual practice.
To better understand the importance of the rosary in Christian life, ZENIT interviewed an expert on the subject, Dominican theologian Father Ennio Staid.
Q: Is the rosary an old-fashioned religious practice?
Father Staid: The rosary is not a prayer of Christian initiation, but the end point, after a long journey of faith.
My grandmother could not read or write, but she would have been more effective than I am in speaking about the rosary. Her love for Mary’s chaplet was so great that she persuaded the tenants of our building to pray Mary’s Psalter. The rosary is not correctly appreciated if it is not lived.
Father Staid: To know the incarnated history of this devotion it is necessary to enter silently into many homes, hospitals and huts where, since the Middle Ages until our days, the Hail Mary has resonated, as it did the first time it was pronounced by the Angel in Nazareth or when Elizabeth’s greeting to Mary was heard in Ain Karen, in Zechariah’s house. Homes, huts, hospitals, fields … in which the rosary united heaven with the poor, the simple, the sick, with those in love with the faith brought by Christ.
Q: But, in a world characterized by secularization, this would seem to be obsolete …
Father Staid: For this very reason, it is even more necessary to rediscover the rosary. However, this will only happen when people — especially priests, religious, bishops, not just the Pope — are humble and make time in their day for prayer.
In our time, when everyone is running around, it is difficult to pray. Moreover, many educators in the faith are afraid of the “devotionalism” in which this magnificent devotion is encased.
My teacher, the great theologian Enrico Rossetti, O.P., used to say: “A Christian without devotion has not yet been supported by the experience of any saint, nor by the authoritative teaching of the Church.”
Wherever this de-sacralized, unpopular, inhuman, heartless Christianity has been applied, it has only brought disasters for the faith. I was able to see this in certain areas of Brazil, where the people, deprived of genuine devotions, have turned to magic.
Q: Is it not better to work with the needy for half an hour than to spend half an hour reciting the Hail Mary?
Father Staid: This objection is an example of the psychological reality in which we have to move. It shows that the explanation of prayer in general, and of the rosary in particular, must be renewed. Therefore, we priests must be the first to have clear ideas on the intrinsic value of the same.
A doctor isn’t good because he simply goes to universities giving lectures. He has our appreciation when we see him exercise his medical profession in an excellent manner, when he cures the sick. An explanation of prayer is valid to the degree that the one who practices it lives his prayer. There is no prayer if there is no faith; and faith does not take root where the soil is not prepared.
Q: Then why should people pray the rosary?
Father Staid: Because Jesus says so: “Pray always, without ceasing.” Today it is more important than ever to pray to avoid Christianity being reduced to a simple esotericism, a simple action, in which evangelical charity becomes pure philanthropy.
The rosary is an easy and simple way to discover prayer once again, which nourishes faith, because it offers us the possibility of contemplating the whole history of salvation. It reflects the original preaching of the faith. It is the contemplation of the mystery of Christ — essential, and in an atmosphere of prayer — together with Mary. Cardinal John Henry Newman described the rosary as “a creed made into a prayer.”
The rosary leads us to contrast our life with God’s call to love. In this way, it is fully integrated in our life, giving transcendent meaning to our actions. By praying the rosary, with confidence, we take Mary by the hand so that she will lead us to Jesus. To her, first among believers, we pray that she make us live what she lived, namely, the experience of the presence of Christ in us and among us.