The repetition of the rosary

Judy Ford, a north west England author, kindly offers this extract from her novel Organ Failure . A group of young adults are discussing the repetitive nature of the rosary:

‘And reciting Hail Marys over and over again? What’s the point of that?’
‘Tell him about your mantra theory, Dom,’ Peter urged the young man.
‘I’m not sure you can call it a theory exactly,’ Dominic hedged, reluctant to share his thoughts in front of the whole family, and especially Jonah, who seemed , in his present mood, determined to misunderstand anything and everything to do with the Catholic faith. ‘It’s more just an idea I had to explain …,’ he paused and went rather red in the face as he realised that everyone was hanging on his words, ‘well, to explain why saying the Rosary seems to – to … sort of work, even though logically it doesn’t make a lot of sense.’
‘Well there’s something I can agree with you about at any rate!’ Jonah said heartily; then in a tone of gentle mockery, ‘Go on. This is fascinating.’‘I – I – I think the point is …,’ Dominic began, now very flustered and feeling that the reputation of the entire Catholic Church depended on him, ‘the point is that – that there isn’t any point in praying to God in words. I mean, whatever words we use, He knows what we mean already. And anyway, praying isn’t just about asking God for what we want, is it? It’s about being in the right state of mind to – to – to hear what He’s saying to us and – and – well, I told Peter that repeating the same prayers over and over again, in the Rosary for example, is just a way of stopping us thinking about other things and sort of … opening up the channel to God, if you like.’
‘But then what’s the point of using words at all?’ Jonah objected, but sounding interested now rather than hostile. ‘If it doesn’t matter what they are? If they’re just a tool to stop you thinking about other things?’
‘I don’t think it’s quite that the words don’t matter,’ Dominic said slowly, thinking hard. ‘In fact, probably the words do matter a lot, but not so much for communication as for … for creating an atmosphere, maybe.’

16th century Spanish rosary

‘You might get on better repeating the Our Father over and over,’ Bernie suggested. ‘Then you don’t have to come to terms with the whole business of praying to Mary.’
‘If it’s all just about creating an atmosphere,’ Jonah argued, ‘why use words at all? Why not play some calming music or go for a walk in the countryside?’
‘Or contemplate a religious picture?’ Lucy teased, ‘or a statue.’
‘Yes, why not?’ Dominic answered, more confidently now. ‘That’s the point I was trying to make. Different people find different things helpful, but one isn’t better than another.’
‘And I’ve been to a few prayer meetings in my time that have been every bit as repetitious as the Rosary,’ Bernie remarked, determined not to allow Jonah to persist in any claim to intellectual superiority for his own brand of religion. ‘There’s always someone who insists that we just want to thank you Lord, and we just want to lay before you Lord …, and we just bring into your presence Lord …. And it just makes me think Oh Lord!’
‘Yes,’ Jonah laughed, remembering the lengthy extempore meanderings at the prayer meetings that his father had expected him to attend as a teenager, ‘and then there were the ones who always really, really wanted to say everything. I suppose you’re right, Dom. Each to his own.’

This post is in an occasional series on our blog about the rosary. In the first post Fr Ian wrote on The Comfort of the Rosary. Mycah, a Lutheran young lady, wrote on the Discovery of the Rosary. Fr Ian wrote on prayer beads in The sharing of the Rosary. Paul Pritchard from St Chrysostom’s, the leader of our rosary group wrote on The Joy of the Rosary. Mtr Tracey Carroll wrote on The Touch of the Rosary. We included a passage from Sabine Baring Gould on The assistance of the rosaryDo contact us if you are interested in contributing to the series.

About stchrysostoms

St Chrysostom’s is an Anglican (Church of England) parish church in Manchester, UK. We’re an inclusive, diverse and welcoming faith community rejoicing in our Anglo Catholic tradition, where people of many differing backgrounds make friends. Find our Facebook group at
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