Vain Repetition: The Rosary and the Holy Souls

In your prayers do not babble as the gentiles do, for they think that by using many words they will make themselves heard (Matthew 6:7).
This is a favourite passage from the Bible that is used by Fundamentalists to condemn Catholics. They believe that reciting pre-written prayers and following liturgies are vain repetitions which Jesus condemns. The rosary is a prime target since it has many repeated prayers and the monotones in which they are usually said publicly seem to confirm their belief that it is a mindless, meaningless prayer.

Is repeating a prayer over and over again vain repetition? In Heaven, there are four angelic beings praising God day and night, “holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come” (Revelation 4:8). Repetitive prayer can also be found in Psalms 118 and 136. Repetitive prayer is not vain when you pray with your heart. Jesus condemned prayer that is made when the intent is to use many words to force a response from God.

The repetitive rosary we all know and love is not in the Bible. That is, the order of prayers with the prayer beads are not there. However, the prayers and meditations of the rosary are either taken directly from Scripture or are based on it.

The word rosary means a crown of roses, which is presented to Our Lady in prayer. A more precise term for it is the Dominican Rosary to separate it from the many forms of rosaries and chaplets out there (i.e. Chaplet of the Holy Wounds, Chaplet of Divine Mercy). The rosary in English has also been referred to as Our Lady s Psalter.

The common story where the rosary came from is that Our Lady appeared to St. Dominic in 1221 and gave it to him. Many historians take considerable delight in pointing out that there is no historical basis for this belief. The origins of the modern rosary would take place about two centuries later through a disciple of St. Dominic, Blessed Alain de la Roche. St. Dominic used an earlier form of the rosary to combat Albigensian heretics who were wreaking spiritual havoc in Europe.

The origins of the rosary can be traced back to the Psalms. Way back in those good old days, monks prayed the 150 Psalms as part of their daily devotions. The laity would have loved to pray this as well, but unfortunately, most of them were illiterate and the printing press wasn’t around to mass-produce Bibles (which were at that time duplicated very expensively by hand). So to compromise, the laity prayed 150 Hail Mary s for the Psalms. Gradually, these devotions evolved to the rosary of our time.

The rosary is a very powerful prayer. In fact, St. Alphonsus Liguori stressed the best way to help the souls in Purgatory, after having Masses said for them, is to pray rosaries and join the Confraternity of the Rosary. He also that if we want to help the souls in Purgatory and bring them great relief, let us recite the Rosary.

Mary plays a key role in the release of souls from Purgatory. St. Bernard referred to her as the Plenipotentiary, meaning one who is all powerful over Purgatory because she has the graces and power from God to free the souls there. We are all her children and like any good mother she takes care of us, especially those children who are suffering. Her intercession brings relief to the holy souls, as she related to Bl. Alain de la Roche: I am the Mother of the souls in Purgatory and every prayer on my account relieves the pains of my devotees.

St. Pompilio Pirroti had a great devotion for the poor souls. When he prayed the rosary, the holy souls prayed along with him, shouting in response to each Hail Mary recited. The souls in Purgatory were tranquil and full of joy while the rosary was prayed.

St. Louis de Montfort in his book, The Secret of the Rosary, wrote about a woman delivered from Purgatory. A young lady of noble rank named Alexandra was converted by St. Dominic and enrolled in the Confraternity of the Rosary. When Alexandra died, she appeared to St. Dominic and told that him that she would have to spend the next 700 years in Purgatory to purify her soul because of the many sins in her life and also for leading others to commit sins by her poor example. She begged him and the Confraternity members to pray for her. He of course did so along with many other rosary devotees. Two weeks later, St. Dominic received another apparition of Alexandra. This time she was in full heavenly glory. She related that the intercessions through the rosary released her from Purgatory. She also told that him that the holy souls begged him to continue preaching the rosary and to ask their relatives to pray for them using the rosary. The poor souls would greatly reward those who helped them when they entered Heaven.
There are many other miracles and stories about the power of the rosary for helping the holy souls. We need to use the rosary to free the poor souls from Purgatory. Everyone who prays rosaries should also join the Confraternity of the Rosary to increase the power of their prayers. We all have many family and friends who are in Purgatory that need our help. Spend 15 minutes a day with your rosary praying for them. It is a devotion that you will be greatly rewarded for doing.

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