Different types of rosaries have been used throughout history and in many cultures. Shamans, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Wiccans (witches), and other Pagan religions used them, and still do today. By no means is the rosary a biblical concept, but sad to say, rosaries are even sometimes used by some who claim to follow Jesus Christ: Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, Episcopalians, and even some Lutherans and Methodists. But this article will deal specifically with the Catholic rosary.
The word “rosary” comes from the Latin term “rosarium,” meaning “rose garden,” and later came to mean “garland of roses.” The traditional Catholic rosary is a stringed loop of different-sized beads (each bead representing a particular prayer) with a crucifix (cross) on the end. The beads are used to keep track of the number of prayers said during the many repetitions. Rosaries are not only used to make supplication (prayer requests), but are also supposedly an aid to “contemplative prayer.” They are sometimes worn around the neck, and can often be seen hanging from a vehicle’s rearview mirror.
DEVOTED TO MARY
The first, and greatest, problem with the Catholic rosary is its frequent repetition of the “Hail Mary” prayer. It is a fact that this rosary is dedicated to the veneration of the “Virgin Mary.” The 1994 Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
The liturgical feasts dedicated to the Mother of God and Marian prayer, such as the rosary, an "epitome of the whole Gospel," express this devotion to the Virgin Mary. (CCC #971)
If there is any doubt as to the purpose of the Catholic rosary, and its devotion to Mary, read the following quotes from “Rosarium Virginis Mariae,” an official “apostolic” letter on the rosary, written by former Pope John Paul II:
…With the Rosary, the Christian people sit at the school of Mary... Through the Rosary the faithful receive abundant grace, as though from the very hands of the Mother of the Redeemer… In the recitation of the Rosary, the Christian community enters into contact with the memories and the contemplative gaze of Mary… In this process of being conformed to Christ in the Rosary, we entrust ourselves in a special way to the maternal care of the Blessed Virgin... Never as in the Rosary do the life of Jesus and that of Mary appear so deeply joined… The Rosary is both meditation and supplication. Insistent prayer to the Mother of God is based on confidence that her maternal intercession can obtain all things from the heart of her Son… The Rosary is at the service of this ideal; it offers the “secret” which leads easily to a profound and inward knowledge of Christ. We might call it Mary's way… To pray the Rosary is to hand over our burdens to the merciful hearts of Christ and his Mother…
This is totally unscriptural, and should be deeply disturbing to every true, God-fearing Christian. Nowhere, in all of Scripture, are we encouraged to pray to ANYONE other than God. Prayer to anyone else is nothing short of idolatry. The Psalmist said of God, “Whom have I in heaven BUT THEE? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. (Psalm 73:25) This point, alone, should cause every Catholic to put away his rosary and leave the Catholic Church.
Furthermore, the great majority of the rosary’s prayers are “Hail Mary’s,” (which request her “help”). But the Catholic Church has given Mary a role that Scripture does not give her. The Bible nowhere tells us of Mary, or anyone else, who intercedes for us from Heaven, with the exception of Jesus Christ, Himself (Romans 8:34). We are never told that Mary prays for us, and the Bible will never encourage us to pray to her. Let us remember that the Lord God is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5; 34:14; Deuteronomy 6:15).
Another prayer that is recited in the rosary is the “Lord’s Prayer” (or the “Our Father”). Catholics will often be quick to point out that this prayer is found in the Bible (Matthew 6:9-13). Although it is in the Bible, it was never meant to be used as a specific FORMULA (a fixed, mechanical prayer to be repeated over and over), but rather, as an outline, a guide, as an example of how to pray.
But, because of its specific number of repetitions, reciting the rosary more closely resembles some sort of self-hypnosis technique, or the casting of a spell, rather than any prayer request found in the Bible. Using the rosary is worship that is reduced to a formula, which is not true worship of God at all. (John 4:23-24)
We mentioned that the rosary is a string of beads used to help keep track of the number of prayers that one says while reciting it. But this raises some important questions: Why would anyone need to keep track of the number of prayers said? What happens if someone says “too few” or “too many” prayers while reciting the rosary? Why is the number of repetitions even an object of consideration? Does the number of prayers matter, as in some sort of magical formula or spell? If the number doesn’t really matter, then why use the rosary at all? The truth is, the counting of prayers is a PAGAN practice.
Jesus said: “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.” (Matthew 6:7)
Some will consider this verse to be a condemnation of the rosary, and it may well be, but there is debate over what the Greek word “battalogeo” actually means. While the King James Version says “use not vain repetitions,” some Bible versions say “do not keep on babbling” or “do not heap up empty phrases.” Unfortunately, the Lord Jesus gave us no specific examples of this type of praying, so the debate remains. Now, not all repetition in prayer is bad, but we see no one in the New Testament using pre-fabricated, mechanical prayers, much less in continuous repetition.
However, a Catholic may say that he is simply being “persistent in prayer” when praying the rosary. But using multiple repetitions of prescribed, fixed prayers is NOT the same as biblical persistence in prayer. In the Bible, persistence is simply “not losing heart / not fainting,” but trusting God and continuing in faith, even when we don’t see the answer. (Luke 18:1-8)
We need to remember that Christianity is based on a RELATIONSHIP with God. Constant repetition of the same pre-packaged, mechanical “prayers” does nothing to nurture a true relationship. As parents, would we want our own children to ask us for something by using a fixed number of repetitive requests? Of course not. So, why should anyone think that God would respond to such prayer?
While the Catechism of the Catholic Church claims that the rosary is a Christian concept (CCC #2708, #1674), we must realize that:
1) The concept of the rosary is totally absent from the Scriptures
2) Tradition tells us that the Catholic rosary did not come along until about 1200 A.D.
3) Rosaries have been used by pagans long before Christianity began.
Interestingly, in “Rosarium Virginis Mariae,” (mentioned above) the pope links the rosary with a prayer “rhythm” (paragraph 12), with prayer repetitions (paragraph 26), and with the “rhythm of breathing” (paragraph 27). Taken together, these concepts tie in with the OCCULT, and can be found within the schools of Transcendental Meditation (TM), Yoga, and Wicca (Witchcraft), in which an altered state of consciousness can be obtained. But the Bible warns us against such activity (Deuteronomy 18:9-14; Leviticus 19:26, 31; 20:6, 27).
On the one hand, the Catholic Church condemns occult activity (CCC #2116, #2117), and yet, on the other hand, it encourages the use of occultic concepts in using the rosary. This would be like a dad telling his teenage son that he must totally abstain from sexual activity, but then turn around and give him condoms. Why does the Catholic Church forbid its people to engage in something, but then give them the tools and the encouragement to do that very thing?
AN AID TO UNITY
In the above-mentioned letter by Pope John Paul II, the rosary is considered a tool for unity, and is called “an aid…to ecumenism.” The rosary is one of the things that the Catholic Church and many pagan religions have in common, so it is very likely that the rosary will play a significant role in the end-time Ecumenical Movement. This movement (spearheaded by the Roman Catholic Church) is an attempt to draw all the religions of the world together in the name of “peace.” But this is a totally unbiblical “unity”, and the beginning of the one-world church that the Bible describes in Revelation 13.
The problems associated with the rosary cancel out any Catholic claims of “benefits” for the one who would pray the rosary. Bottom line: Christians should have nothing to do with any kind of rosary… Catholic, Protestant, or otherwise.