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Why the Rosary is a contemplative prayer


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Philip Kosloski - published on 10/07/21

The Rosary is a beautiful prayer that can be used to contemplate the mysteries of God.

While some may view the Rosary as outdated, the Catholic Church continually points to it as a beautiful method of prayer.

In particular, St. John Paul II believed it was a perfect way to practice contemplation.

He wrote about it in his apostolic letter on the Rosary.

[T]he most important reason for strongly encouraging the practice of the Rosary is that it represents a most effective means of fostering among the faithful that commitment to the contemplation of the Christian mystery which I have proposed in the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte as a genuine “training in holiness”: “What is needed is a Christian life distinguished above all in the art of prayer”.

John Paul II even went so far as to compare it to other methods of contemplative prayer that were developed in the East.

The Rosary belongs among the finest and most praiseworthy traditions of Christian contemplation. Developed in the West, it is a typically meditative prayer, corresponding in some way to the “prayer of the heart” or “Jesus prayer” which took root in the soil of the Christian East.

In fact, he even said that the Rosary without contemplation is a “body without a soul.”

 The Rosary, precisely because it starts with Mary’s own experience, is an exquisitely contemplative prayer. Without this contemplative dimension, it would lose its meaning, as Pope Paul VI clearly pointed out: “Without contemplation, the Rosary is a body without a soul, and its recitation runs the risk of becoming a mechanical repetition of formulas, in violation of the admonition of Christ: ‘In praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think they will be heard for their many words’ (Mt 6:7). By its nature the recitation of the Rosary calls for a quiet rhythm and a lingering pace, helping the individual to meditate on the mysteries of the Lord’s life as seen through the eyes of her who was closest to the Lord. In this way the unfathomable riches of these mysteries are disclosed”.

The key is in unlocking the contemplative aspect of the Rosary is in meditating on the mysteries of Jesus’ life and not simply heaping up “empty words.”

It’s easy to simply recite the Rosary’s prayers and not engage in contemplation. However, if we do that, we risk “babbling” prayers that do not impact our soul.

John Paul II also explained that the Rosary should contemplate Jesus’ face.

The Rosary is one of the traditional paths of Christian prayer directed to the contemplation of Christ’s face. Pope Paul VI described it in these words: “As a Gospel prayer, centred on the mystery of the redemptive Incarnation, the Rosary is a prayer with a clearly Christological orientation. Its most characteristic element, in fact, the litany- like succession of Hail Marys, becomes in itself an unceasing praise of Christ,

The next time you pray the Rosary, try to do so in a contemplative way, meditating on the mysteries of Jesus’ life and looking upon his face.

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