In the December edition of St Paul’s Lutheran Church’s superlative in-house magazine “Inside Story” (in which Cathy and I have our regular movie review column) there is this rather strange business about an “Anglican rosary”. As far as I know, this does not reflect an actual practice in the parish, but is a contribution of one of the congregation’s members.
There are, of course, many different versions of the prayer beads in many different religions, and so I guess this is as valid as any other version (and there are myriads of non-Catholic Christian prayer beads available, as the article says, on the internet – check this out), except that it is quite clearly recognisably based on an abbreviated form of the Catholic Rosary. Traditionally, Lutherans have had two objections to the Rosary, the major one being that it includes Marian prayers (which this one doesn’t), and the second being that it uses what is claimed to be the kind of repetitive prayer which Jesus condemns in the gospels in Matt 6:7 (which this still does).
I guess it is just another example of the blurred lines between religious devotional practices across the boundaries of the various traditions that is so prevelant these days. I don’t think this will catch on, for two reasons. The first is the lack of actual resources to go with this “rosary” – even the article is rather brief on the actual method of prayer to be used with these “Anglican” beads. Traditional Catholic practice includes not only the prayers said, but the meditations on the various mysteries, optional scriptural phrases, and specific intentions for prayer to accompany the recitations. The other is that the Catholic Rosary had a whole religious order (the Dominicans) enthusiastically behind it and promoting it and the endorsement of the whole Catholic hierarchy. There is very little chance of that same enthusiasm for this version of the prayer beads among Lutherans or Anglicans in the Church today.
If non-Catholics really want to adopt the Rosary, I suggest they go the whole hog and swallow the Marian tradition that is central to it. It might help them to realise, as Pope John Paul wrote in one of his last letters, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, that the Hail Mary, and thus the whole Rosary devotion, is intensely Christocentric.