Why A Former Evangelical Loves the Rosary
To contemplate is to spend time in Christ's loving presence, and the rosary is an excellent way to do this
The journey of Christian healing is never over, and the rosary has been my link back to that same power that constantly seeks to draw me back to Christ. I am also convinced that praying with the rosary has been one of the great magnets that finally drew me into full communion with the Catholic Church.
In his conversion story Rome Sweet Home Scott Hahn, the once staunchly anti-Catholic Presbyterian minister describes how, as a fervent Evangelical teenager, he discovered his grandmother's rosary beads. His grandmother had just died and the young Scott Hahn ripped the rosary in pieces crying out, "God, set her free from the chains of Catholicism that have bound her!"
Since then, Scott has discovered the power of the rosary and has written a beautiful book about the Blessed Virgin Mary called Hail Holy Queen. Scott is not the only Evangelical to have discovered the rosary. I was brought up in a similar background. After college I went to England to study and was eventually ordained as an Anglican priest. As an Anglican priest I used to make my annual retreat at the Benedictine monastery of Quarr Abbey. Just as I was about to leave for retreat a parishioner gave me a rosary. She had just come back from a pilgrimage to the medieval shrine of Walsingham and she had felt led to buy me this gift. I had never used the rosary, and was prejudiced against it.
One of my guiding principles, however, was a little saying I had discovered while a student. It is, "A person is most often right in what he affirms and wrong in what he denies."
So I looked at the rosary and asked myself why I was denying something used by millions of fellow Christians. Who was more likely to be right-me or the millions? So I went to the monastery gift shop and found a little book of instruction and started to learn my way around that "chain of prayer that binds us to God."
What happened next was terrible. Within weeks my life started to come apart at the seams. I was a young priest who thought he had everything together. Suddenly I began to see great fault lines in my life. I started to receive Christian counseling and God began the long process of sorting me out, and before he could start to put me together he had to take me apart. It wasn't easy, but in the midst of it a gentle priest said to me, "Our Lady's prayers have done you so much good haven't they?" Only then did I realize that the healing process I was going through had started once I began using the rosary.
Since then I have used the rosary regularly in my life. The journey of Christian healing is never over, and the rosary has been my link back to that same power that constantly seeks to draw me back to Christ. I am also convinced that praying with the rosary has been one of the great magnets that finally drew me into full communion with the Catholic Church.
Evangelicals have great difficulties understanding the Catholic view of the Blessed Virgin Mary. At worst they think we worship Mary instead of God. At least they think our worship of Jesus Christ is distorted by our devotion to Mary. They have trouble accepting the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Our Lady. I had thought these things through, but it was the rosary that brought me to understand them with the heart, not just with the head. This personal experience of healing is why I went on to write Praying the Rosary for Inner Healing-- a book that has helped thousands to find that healing too.
One of the best things about Evangelicals is their emphasis on having a "personal relationship with Jesus". Often that means they regard Christ as a friend and brother. That is good, but Jesus Christ is also our Lord and God. Because of this our relationship with him should also be one of adoration and love. What they don't understand is that the rosary draws us closer to Christ in an amazing way.
My evangelical friends admit that they are not strong on this aspect of worship. They shouldn't be afraid of the rosary. It provides a way for all Christians to enter into a closer relationship with Christ. To contemplate is to spend time in Christ's loving presence, and the rosary is an excellent way to do this. As the Pope reminds us, "To recite the rosary is nothing other than to contemplate with Mary the face of Christ."
Fr Dwight Longenecker is the author of Praying the Rosary for Inner Healing. Visit his blog, listen to his radio show, subscribe to his weekly newsletter and be in touch at dwightlongenecker.com
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Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women: That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lordís invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.
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