Is the Rosary “vain repetition”?
As you know, the praying of the rosary requires the repetition of several prayers. As such, some non-Catholics assert that Jesus condemned prayers like the rosary when He said, “And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words” (Mt 6:7). The King James Version says, “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions …” But, they misunderstand this passage.
For one, the context reveals that Jesus was not condemning repetition as such, but vain repetition, that is, saying words over and over so that you can be seen and heard by men and receive their praise. Jesus is speaking against those people who pray, not out of humility and adoration of God, but so that they can be known for their so-called piety.
The rosary, however, is not vain repetition. It’s not repetition for the sake of repetition, and it’s not meant to garner the praise of men. Saying the “Hail Mary” ten times has the positive effect of focusing the mind and allowing one to enter into a meditative state as one contemplates the lives of Jesus and Mary. Surely there is nothing wrong with that!
If Jesus was condemning all forms of repetition in prayer, then we must charge Jesus Himself with praying incorrectly. After all, He repeated the same prayer three times in the Garden of Gethsemane:
And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” … Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, thy will be done.” … So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words (Mt 26:39,42,44)
Ever read the Psalms? They are filled with repetitive prayer. Psalm 136 repeats the phrase “his steadfast love endures forever” 26 times! Worship in heaven is also repetitious: “day and night they never cease to sing, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!’” (Rev 4.8).
The fact is, Jesus was only condemning vain repetition. As long as you pray the rosary with pure motivations you are fine.
Peace of Christ to you,
WIMM Board Member
Director of Religious Education, Blessed Mother Catholic Church
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