Thursday, October 24, 2002

The Pope’s "New" Luminous Rosary

Earlier this month (Oct. 16, to be exact) Pope John Paul II decided to propose the addition of a fourth set of five “new” meditations (known to Catholics as “Mysteries”) on five significant events in Christ’s ministry --taken directly from the Gospels-- while praying the Rosary. The Pope refers to these as “Luminous Mysteries” or “Mysteries of Light.”

Some of the reactions to this announcement have been interesting, to say the least. For example, a few Type A nitpickers residing in the upper right choir of the Catholic Church seem to have been in such a state of apoplexy ever since John Paul II's announcement that one would think the Pontiff had suggested each parish set up a birth control clinic.

On a Catholic message board, one of the "traditionalist" Catholics (those who gripe the most about the changes which took place after the Second Vatican Council, most of which they deem "un-Catholic") complained that "...the tendency for the current pontificate to alter tradition at a whim has been standard the last couple of decades." Another "traditionalist" smelled a Secular Humanist Conspiracy afoot: "...Again, we contemplate Christ in order to orient towards and contemplate Man...Constantly the orientation is towards Man."

Hmmm. Upon reading the entire text of the Pope's Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, it seems to your humble servant that the optional addition of the five "new" Mysteries are anything but based on a "whim," much less influenced by atheists and agnostics: Even a cursory reading of RVM reveals that the Pope put a great deal of study, thought, meditation, and --yes-- prayer into proposing these "new" Mysteries --all of which, btw, come directly from the New Testament, not from the New Humanist Manifesto.

But then again, I could be wrong: Maybe the Pope created his Luminous Mysteries ex nihilo whilst having his morning cappuccino. Or maybe he woke up on the morning of October 16 and said to himself,

"Now what shall I do today? HA! I know! Why, I'll just think up five radically man-centered new meditations for the Rosary! That should change the Rosary so that no one will recognize it any more and I can make the atheists and secular humanists happy at the same time. THAT should show them pesky traditionalists who's boss in this Church! COOL!!!"

Anything's possible.

And if that sort of kvetching hasn't been sufficiently clueless, here is how another “traditionalist” Catholic critic put the Pope’s proposal: “…just when you thought that the rulers of the Novus Ordo Ecclesiae [aka, the “post-Vatican II Church” –TC] were done introducing novelties and innovations, just when you thought that it was safe to come out of your prayer closets and try to be Catholic again… the Holy Rosary has been put up on the auction block… another relic from a more orthodox era that apparently needs to be traded in for a newer model.”

The “cause” of the Pope’s decision, according to the writer? Why, none other than that Great Evil Boogeyman, ecumenism: “…If you're thinking you smell a bit of ‘ecumania’ here, you're exactly right. It's no coincidence that the less Scriptural [Stations of the Cross, and entirely separate Catholic devotion –TC] were replaced [by the Pope privately] with events recorded in the Gospels (The Agony in the Garden, The Betrayal, Peter's Denial, The Good Thief, and Mary and John at the Foot of the Cross), so that our Protestant brethren might feel a bit more at home participating in this Catholic devotion.”

But never mind that unlike the Stations of the Cross, the REAL barrier for Protestants to pray the Rosary were NOT the traditional 15 Mysteries at all (with the possible exception of the 4th and 5th Glorious Mysteries, which focus on the Blessed Virgin Mary), but the 53 “Hail Mary” prayers recited in the Rosary –not to mention the repetitious nature of the Rosary itself, which many Protestants regard as “unbiblical.”

So if this writer –himself an ex-Protestant, so he should know better-- really thinks that the Pope’s modest Gospel-centered proposal will move Protestants –especially Fundamentalist Protestants!—to fall all over each other in a mad rush to cause a run on Rosary beads in the Catholic goods market, your humble servant, The Curmudgeon, has some –um—land in the Okefenokee he’d happily sell him.

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