From the Pastor: Praying the Rosary at Mass
A week or so ago I shared on facebook an article asking and answering the question “Is praying the Rosary during Mass correct?” I had just recently been asked that question (it comes up quite a bit, since so many people condemn the Traditional Latin Mass and, by extension, those who attend it, by using the tiresome image of the Tridentine Mass being a drudgery better laid to rest because nobody understood what was going on anyway, “proved” by the little old ladies who just prayed their rosaries to pass the time wasted each Sunday at that terrible old Mass) and this article did a fine job of answering it. If you don’t know, the answer is, plainly and simply, “Yes”. The article quoted two Popes, Pius XII and Leo XIII, and several documents from other official Church sources to explain the positive answer. I have, at other times, used explanations of “the proper way to hear Mass” from The Baltimore Book of Prayers to show that this is true, and I suspect that there are quite a few other sources which would back up this assertion.
But, boy oh boy, did it bring out the comments. 76 comments, 43 likes/reactions and 5 shares, last I checked. And more people have contacted me about it who didn’t want to put their comments on facebook because a couple of the commenters were “fighting” with each other. Here is the question which seems to now be a sticking point in all of this. “Even if it is permissible to pray the Rosary at Mass, isn’t it better to NOT do so?” The argument that praying the Rosary at Mass is bad seems to have been made so often and so vociferously that people just cannot fathom that it is a good way to pray the Mass with full, active, conscious participation! But who is to say which method of prayer is best? Even though the efficaciousness and merit are greater in a Solemn High Mass than in a Low Mass, not even that affects whether an individual has truly prayed with full, active, conscious participation at either one. Let me draw this out a little. If praying the Rosary is, as it was put in the FB comments, “not as appropriate” or of a “lesser level of participation” due to its silly meditations (NB all sarcasm in this piece is my own) on the Lord’s life, death and resurrection and our Lady’s Assumption and Coronation, rather than on the Mass (which obviously has nothing to do with the just mentioned mysteries of Faith!) then the best--and only really good--way of praying the Mass is to be the priest celebrant! I will not argue against that one, though the corollaries to it might make you wince. Greater “participation” and “appropriateness”, even at a Traditional Latin Mass, according to the modernist way of thinking, come not from praying, but rather from reading the Mass word for word as the priest speaks them. But by this measure, his deacon and subdeacon have only the reading of the “Gospel” and “Lesson” in which they “fully participate”, so their assisting at Mass is pretty much a waste of time. The other altar boys never pick up a missal, so they have zero “good” participation, right along with the rosary-clutching dolts in the pews. Choir members sing over the priest as he is reciting his silent prayers, so they have less than zero participation, as they actively take people’s attention away from their missals and sometimes make even the priest wait as they continue their “anti-participation” chant shenanigans. Parents with children who distract them during Mass? Points off full participation. Did you ever notice the statues and candles and other beautiful and prayerful church trappings? Then they caused “lesser” Mass participation for you! Has your mind ever “wandered” from the missal as the cares of the world ran through your mind? Shame on you, for that is not as “appropriate” as keeping focused on the missal.
But enough. Once you start to look at just what constitutes full, active, conscious participation at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, hopefully you will have your eyes opened to the fact that there are many and various ways of entering deeply into this Ultimate Act of Love. Just as a Carmelite and a Dominican have different spiritualities, and each might find the other’s way of prayer a “lesser form” as far as meeting his own needs, so, too are the pew-sitters different, and each person may find that he prays the Mass better one way or another, and even prays better differently at different stages of life. Are some ways better than others? Certainly. Standing on my head wearing a deep-sea divers helmet, yoga pants, tube top and bunny slippers, while celebrating a Solemn High Mass, is one simple and certain example of a “less appropriate” way of me participating in the Mass. But silently praying the Rosary in the pew is a “lesser level of participation” than what, exactly? Food for thought.
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka