Defending the Holy Rosary: Is Repetition Biblical?

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Rosary is a Marian devotion, meaning a devotion in honor to the Blessed Virgin Mary, practiced mostly by Roman Catholics. The phrase “Ad Jesum Per Mariam” or “To Jesus through Mary” is popular among Catholics. we show devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and ask her to bring our prayers to her Son, Jesus Christ. Rosary was designed to work as meditation on the life of Jesus Christ. When we pray the rosary, our minds are fixed in the significant and joyful, sorrowful, and glorious events during Jesus’s ministry.

However, this practice is being condemned by many anti-Catholics mainly because of two misunderstanding: the prayer is not biblical and the prayer contradicts the scriptures because the 53 Hail Marys (or 203 in the full rosary) are vain repetitions. This post focuses on the second reason.

The Bible verse they would use for this claim against the Holy Rosary is Matthew 6:7. “In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words.” This was part of Jesus’s discourse concerning prayer in the Sermon of the Mount.

Defending the Rosary against “vain repetitions”

If you too love the Holy Rosary, here is how to defend the Holy Rosary (against false claim that it is vain repetition) without getting into a debate and without risking your friendship with the claimant. This list is developing so make sure you subscribe to this blog for updates.

  1. Matthew 6:7 – Let us use the same verse they use by understanding the context more. Actually, they have this as “In praying, don’t use vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their much speaking.” (KJV) The Bible versions does not matter to us Catholics because we know that this warning was for all prayers and not specific to the Holy Rosary. We must remember that Jesus was merely warning the people (Jews) around him in general against doing good in order to be seen. Also, pagans babbles with a long list of divine names hoping one of those gods would answer their prayers. Catholics are not pagans. We also do not repeat meaningless words because the words we say in the rosary are from the Bible. So this verse per se is not something that is against the recitation of the Holy Rosary.
  2. Matthew 15:7-9. Speaking of vain repetitions, Jesus spoke strongly against those people who honor God with their lips but with their hearts far from him thus worshiping him in vain. This is not the case when we pray the rosary because when we say it we meditate Jesus’s life (the second person of the Holy Trinity). Our minds and hearts are with him while we recite the same words of the angel Gabriel and Mary’s cousin Elizabeth.
  3. Matthew 5:3-11. The Lord Jesus Christ gave us the beatitudes by repeating the same first phrase “Blessed are the …. for…” nine times.
  4. Luke 18:1-8. The Parable of The Widow and the Unrighteous Judge. The widow kept coming to the judge (God) repeating the same words, “Vindicate me against my adversary!” The parable concludes that God will vindicate his elect who cry to him day and night.
  5. Luke 11:1-4. According to Jesus, when we pray, meaning every single time we pray, we should include and repeat The Lord’s Prayer. This is the reason in all our prayer, whether personal or communal, we include and repeat the Our Father. In the Holy Rosary, we say the Lord’s Prayer 6 times (or 21 times in the full rosary).
  6. Matthew 26:44. In Jesus agonizing prayer in the garden, he prayed a third time, saying the same thing again. “My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!” If then the Lord can repeat, it is logical that we also can do the same.
  7. Revelation 4:8. The four living creatures, each of them with six wings, were covered with eyes inside and out. Day and night they do not stop exclaiming: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come.”
  8. Psalm 136:1-26. This is a striking defense we have for the defense of the repetition of the words when praying the Holy Rosary. You may refer your friend directly to this part of the Holy Scripture. Psalms means “psalter” or “book of praises”. The psalmist in chapter 136 repeated “for his mercy endures forever” twenty-six times in 26 successive verses.
  9. Luke 6:12. Jesus went out to the hills to pray all night in preparation of his selection of the twelve apostles. This does not indicate that he prayed using repetitive words but we can speculate that he did. Who can pray without repeating any word or phrases in an eight-hour long night prayer?

No human being cannot not repeat the words used from previous prayer.

No human being cannot not repeat the words used from previous prayer. That’s the truth. The words we use to express our petitions as human beings are limited and we are asked to pray without ceasing (1 Thes 5:17). Thus, there is no way a person cannot not repeat what was prayed in his/her lifetime.

Let us serve Christ and the Church in all circumstances!

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