Rosary: Non-Catholic View
I am not a Roman Catholic and I have only been to mass once or twice in my life. However, despite my charismatic, Assemblies of God-rooted faith, I use the rosaries for prayer and have found them useful to my walk with Jesus Christ, our Lord and God. That said, a Catholic would not recognise a lot of what I am saying if they were to hear me.
For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. – 1 Timothy 2:5-6
The reason a Catholic would not be very familiar with my use of the rosary is that there is no mention of Mary in the prayers I use. I will never pray to anyone except the single and only mediator between people and God, that is Jesus Christ. I cannot pray to another and keep a clear conscience before God. Such prayers are against my faith. Note that I said my faith and not religion. If you are a person who has a clear conscience and is able to pray to Mary, then be blessed in your freedom from the Lord to do so. I do not have that same freedom.
Should a Christian use the rosaries? No. There is no “should” or “must” about it. However, there are certain advantages to it. For those times when you want to pray but have no idea what to pray about, the rosary gives you something meaningful to pray. Given their mobility, this can be done anywhere. They also allow a real focus on the words that you are saying, which brings a deeper connection between the pray-er and their God. It is a completely personal choice, but one which I think is worth considering.
Additionally, the tactile nature of using a physical element in your prayer adds a dimension that includes a part of the person usually denigrated by Western theological traditions under the influence of Neo-Platonic thought, among others: the body. The bag of bones you see in the mirror is as much a part of you as your soul is. It is the very instrument of your immanence in the world. It's value is attested by the fact that our Lord Jesus had one, before and after His resurrection.
How to do this without Mary? I have included what I use to give you an idea of how to pray with rosaries. There are plenty of good Catholic websites around, too, that can really take you deep into the rosary. I am swimming at the shallow end, to be honest.
Kicking off from the crucifix, hold the thing and recite the Apostles' Creed. A fair standard version is included here.
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic* church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
I use a slightly different version of the Apostles' Creed, but this is a good start. Roman Catholics would also recognise this, as far as I am aware.
These are the light coloured beads on the rosary with the big loop (photo). You say the Lord's Prayer for each of these. You can use any version you are comfortable with, but I rather like the more traditional one.
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
I say this on the first knot after each group of black beads (the group of three above the crucifix and the five groups of ten around the loop). For a full circuit, you would pop five Glory Be's into it.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
A Catholic might find my way strange, but it works for me. Experiment a bit and see how it fits with you. There is an even longer version of the Glory Be, if this one is too short for you.
Ave Maria Beads
These are the black beads on the photo's rosary and they are biggest number of beads on the thing. These are the Hail Mary's that Catholics know and love. For reasons explained above, I have written my own “Holy Jesus” for these beads. Please note that I wrote them and they are very personal to my faith and what I wanted in a prayer to the Lord God. I think they are theologically agreeable to most Protestants and non-Catholics, but this is a matter of personal faith. If you are not comfortable with rosaries for reasons of personal faith and belief, then do not use them.
For each of the Ave Maria beads I say my version which I call the Holy Jesus. The text is below for you. I believe this covers the important parts of the prayers I like to say to my Lord. The first part is an acknowledgement of our Saviour. The second are the essential things I would like Jesus to do with and for me.
Holy Jesus, Son of God
Exalted is your name above all others
For you are the way, the truth and the life
And none come to the Father except through you.
Holy Jesus, Lamb of God
Mark me as your own
And intercede for me before the Father
Create in me a new heart
For your service and to the glory of your name
Forever and ever
The Holy Jesus has taken me a couple of years to tweak until it is right for me, but this is what I am using at the moment.
Prayer is what every Christian is called to and different traditions work for different people. I see no issue with stealing some ideas from other traditions to use in our own journey of faith. The core requirement is that the traditions do not contravene the Bible and your conscience is clear before God. Trust your conscience and trust the Bible. Above all, trust the Lord God to make straight paths for your feet.