Pope revamps rosary for a new generation
Thu Oct 17, 8:25 AM ET
Cathy Lynn Grossman USA TODAY
Pope John Paul II initiated the 25th year of his papacy Wednesday by
updating the prayers of the rosary for the first time in five
centuries. The rosary is the Roman Catholic world's best-known
Deeming this the Year of the Rosary, he added a new set
of "mysteries" -- events in the lives of Jesus and Mary -- for
worshipers to reflect on while repeating a series of prayers.
The additions will give "fresh life" and renewed attention to the
rosary as a vital part of Christian spirituality, said the pope,
lamenting that his own favorite prayer practice had faded,
particularly among younger Catholics.
The rosary is a series of prayers, including the Our Father and the
Hail Mary, that are recited repeatedly, keeping count on a chain of
beads. Tradition has it that Mary revealed the structure of the
rosary in a vision to St. Dominic in the early 13th century.
The current version was standardized in the 16th century. It calls
for contemplating 15 mysteries, clustered in groups of five: the
joyful mysteries of Christ's birth, the sorrowful mysteries of his
crucifixion, and the glorious mysteries of his resurrection.
Different mysteries are contemplated each day, with the glorious
mysteries repeated on Sundays.
Now, on Sundays, the pope asks Catholics to reflect on
five "mysteries of light": Christ's baptism, his first miracle at
Cana, his proclaiming the coming of the Kingdom of God, his
transfiguration in front of three disciples, and the institution of
the Eucharist as a sacrament.
While beloved by many older Catholics, the rosary is not a required
devotion, and some have come to view it as a rote prayer. Many baby
boomers jettisoned their rosaries in favor of more personalized
Now their children are finding new excitement in old-fashioned
practices, says Monsignor Dale Fushek of Mesa, Ariz.
Fushek is the founder of the fast-growing Catholic youth movement
Life Teen, established in 900 U.S. parishes. Once a year the groups
distribute rosaries embossed with the Life Teen logo and teach teens
the prayer cycle.
"They don't learn it at home and school anymore, but kids today
hunger for spirituality," he says.
"When I announced (the change) to students, it blew their minds,"
says Scott Hahn, professor of theology at Franciscan University in
Steubenville, Ohio, where 60% of students pray the rosary
daily. "They think it's awesome because it connects Jesus and Mary
even more than before."
Unlike the ardent students in Steubenville, however, most U.S.
Catholics say the rosary rarely. According to a national poll of
Catholics in 2001 by the Center for Applied Research for the
Apostolate at Georgetown University, 39% never say it, 33% say it
only a few times a year and 27% say it several times a month.
An updated rosary connects with the popularity of meditation today,
says the Rev. Thomas Marcinik of LeMoyne College, a Jesuit school in
Syracuse, N.Y. "The pope is saying that with all the changes and
openness to the modern world, not to lose the spirit of traditional