A Short Rosary History, with Symbolism … Monday, April 29


A catechism, a psalter, and a net, all in one.

A Rosary Meditation … Something a little different today. Just for a change. 🙂 A little history first. In Europe, hundreds of years ago, and this went on for hundreds of years also, people lived near monasteries. They did this for safety’s sake. There were any number of marauding hoards and invading forces and monasteries, built a lot like forts and built that way for many of the same reasons that a fort is, provided a safe refuge. As an aside, many of these were Benedictine monasteries and the people living in close proximity gave rise to the Benedictine Oblate, people wanting to take part in Benedictine spirituality but not necessarily as a monk living IN the monastery. But back to the people living around all those monasteries. They were religious people and seeing the example of the monks many wanted to take part, in their own way, in the monastic prayer life. This centered around the Psalms, all 150 of them. Many of the people, farmers and craftsmen, were illiterate. They couldn’t read and therefore couldn’t memorize the Psalms. Of course this was also long before the printing press and even if you COULD read that didn’t mean you had ready access to a book. Sure, there were books, hand copied by monks, available at the church, normally chained to a table so as to prevent theft because of their great value, but work was an all day ordeal and necessary for survival, and it was from sun up til sun down. If you could read when would you find the time? But just about anyone can memorize a few short prayers. And the length of a prayer certainly has nothing to do with its depth. So the people memorized things like the Apostles Creed, the Our Father, the Glory Be, and the Hail Mary. When you think about it these few prayers form a rather complete catechism and a kind of Summa Theologica all their own. Mary delivered the Rosary to good St. Dominic with its five decades of 150 Hail Marys. This is why there are 15 Mysteries, so that the Rosary will “line up” so to speak with the Psalms the monks prayed. By the way, the Book of Psalms is composed of five collections, or “books”, of psalms. Just like a five decade Rosary. Things don’t happen by accident in God’s economy. (Now I need to insert a little note because somewhere someone might be wondering, “If there are only 15 Mysteries what do we do with the Luminous Mysteries, because they make twenty and if there’s only supposed to be 15 what do we do now? Not pray the Luminous or what?”, and I wouldn’t want folks to get the wrong idea. The Luminous Mysteries are wonderful, and so are a lot of others I’ve seen. Pray all of ’em. Make up your own. How many Mysteries are there in the Gospel anyway? More than we’ll ever know or understand. But whatever we pray, whether just one Mystery or a thousand lets not forget the original symbolism because it’s a Mystery in itself. And that’s what this post is all about.)   Here is a perfect psalter for the average person. With this the people could take part, in their own way and with their Rosary in hand, in the prayer life of the monastery they lived near. Now a little more history, going further back. One day the Apostles were fishing, and like so many fishermen of their day and ours they weren’t having much luck. (Fishermen always like the rest of us to think that fishing is a skill, and it is, but have you ever noticed how they blame not catching any fish on bad luck when skill doesn’t seem to work? 😉 ) Jesus gave them some instructions to follow and they did. They caught 153 fish, so many that the net was near the breaking point. But it didn’t break and that’s important to remember. The number 153 is significant. The Greeks taught, and just about everybody in Jesus’ day would have known this because Greece had conquered the world and spread their culture and teachings and then, after Rome conquered the Greeks, they took them as their teachers because the Romans weren’t stupid, they recognized culture and smarts when they saw them, anyway, the Greeks taught that there were 153 different tribes of men total. The catch of 153 fish symbolized the universality (Catholicity) of Christ’s saving work amongst mankind. And these Apostles were to be what exactly? Fishers of men. (Matthew 4:19) Now, when you include the pendant on your Rosary, how many Hail Mary’s are there? One hundred and fifty-three. The Rosary is both our Psalter and our prayer net, the one used to bring the catch of souls to the shore where Jesus waits for them. Will it break if the catch is large? No, because He promised that He wouldn’t lose anything His Father had given Him. (John 10:28)

Today, read this … John 21:4 But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 So Jesus said to them, “Children, you do not have any fish, do you?” They answered Him, “No.” 6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch.” So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish. 7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the little boat, for they were not far from the land, but about one hundred yards away, dragging the net full of fish. 9 So when they got out on the land, they saw a charcoal fire already laid and fish placed on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have now caught.” 11 Simon Peter went up and drew the net to land, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not torn.

And think about this … Matthew 13:47 Again the kingdom of heaven is like to a net cast into the sea, and gathering together of all kind of fishes. 48 Which, when it was filled, they drew out, and sitting by the shore, they chose out the good into vessels, but the bad they cast forth. 49 So shall it be at the end of the world. The angels shall go out, and shall separate the wicked from among the just. 50 And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.