The Sarabite: Towards an Aesthetic Christianity

There is a continuous attraction, beginning with God, going to the world, and ending at last with God, an attraction which returns to the same place where it began as though in a kind of circle. -Marsilio Ficino

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Rosary Fragments

Note: The following was written some weeks ago but abandoned. Since I am out of ideas, and the month of the rosary is almost over, I decided to publish it in its raw form. Please forgive its unpolished prose.

Por tu limpia Concepción, o soberana Princesa, una grande pureza te pido de corazón.

My battle with the rosary closely parallels my various destinations in a long and arduous process of procession and return to my Catholic Faith. As a youth, I used to love praying the rosary, and often would pray all fifteen decades (and for me, there will ALWAYS be fifteen!) at a time. My first rosaries were the cheapest ones you could possibly find: plastic and of not very good taste. (If you want to pray the rosary often, buy about a dozen cheap plastic ones so that you always have one in your pocket. If you lose one, it’s no big deal, and maybe someone else will pick it up who needs it more than you.)

As I have said before, I was very much formed by my time with the Legion of Mary, and I was an auxiliary member during my youth. (I would be again now if my prayer habits were more consistent, but I digress…) This was coupled with the folk uses of the rosary in the Latino community (here in California, many Mexican immigrants have rosaries dangling from their car mirrors. Since many here drive without a license, I have been given to calling this practice, “Mexican insurance”. Take that, Geico!). Growing up, the rosary was omnipresent. The rosary even governed our everyday lives. My family still prays it every night. Whenever someone dies, the whole extended family gets together for nine consecutive nights to pray the rosary. My family passes on old beat-up rosaries from generation to generation that have sentimental value.

Growing up Catholic in this country, especially in a specialized enclave, one can divide one’s religious life between religion as custom and religion as belief. I once knew a young man of Mexican ancestry who had never gone in a church since his baptism but still crossed himself whenever he passed a Catholic church. That is religion as custom, and that, for better or for worse, is what I was raised with. Catechism wasn’t necessarily emphasized; my mother only finished high school and I have to correct my grandparent’s spelling when they write IN SPANISH. Only later, as I have said, did I actually begin to study my Catholic Faith. At first, as I said above, I began to pray the rosary with some knowledge of what I was doing. Then the prayer books started…

Fast forward to the year before I entered seminary. Though I had instinctively loved the traditional Mass in Latin as a teenager, I really did not understand it. It was only during this year with the SSPX that I finally began to discover what one reader of this blog calls “Mass and Office Catholicism”. (I still am somewhat amazed by people who are so fundamentalist about the Latin Mass who do not have even a lick of Latin. Do you actually know what they’re saying up there?! You might be unpleasantly surprised.) I became more and more involved and enchanted by the liturgy itself, and devotionals began to move more and more into the background. One of the reasons why I became so enamored with Eastern Orthodoxy was because I thought the West was not liturgical enough. But that is whole other post entirely…

By the time I entered seminary in Argentina in 2001, I didn’t like praying the rosary at all. When we prayed it together, it seemed to drag on and on and on…. When I had to pray it by myself, I prayed it as quickly as possible (which is pretty darn fast). It is no wonder that when I finally left seminary, I ceased to pray the rosary by myself altogether. (I was living with my family at the time, so I prayed it with them.)

I took up praying the chotki/komboschini (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”). Now I still have these Byzantine prayer ropes around here somewhere, but praying them was never the same as praying the rosary. I have gotten a lot of flack from some Orthodox readers when I have said that Eastern Christian practices will never really embed themselves into the soul of the West. Perhaps this is imposing my own experiences on others, but I still stand by this position.

After the spectacular failure of my Byzantine experiment, I at first steered clear of the rosary. I was doing the Little Office of the Virgin Mary for a while, along with other things. But the longer I have been away from home, the more solace I have taken in the rosary. After I finally decided to give up on the whole Anglican experiment, one of the first things I began to do was pray the rosary again. Not in Latin. Not in English, the way the Anglos do it and the way I learned it in the Legion of Mary. But in Spanish, like my family has passed it on to me. The Spanish version is a little different from the English, but I won’t go into details about this.

Now, at least, recitation of the rosary is pretty much the bulk of my prayer life. Now, almost every morning, I walk to the bus stop and say my rosary. I don’t meditate on the mysteries, and I don’t always say it perfectly. But occasionally, I will realize, walking through the city streets with the cheap blue plastic beads in my hand, that I am summoning forth the events that have wrought salvation for all that I meet, that have renewed the world from its state of darkness. And then the rhythm of those fingers, those beads, sinks into some place deeper, through the steps that pound their way closer to the cares of the day before me, and they plant in the ground hope, a new life and a new beginning with each Ave

Dios te salve María Santísima, templo y sagrario de la Santísima Trinidad, Virgen concebida sin la culpa original... Dios te salve reina y madre de misericordia…


At 4:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Finally something that is digestible for my feeble mind. Well done!

Seriously, this was an excellent post.


At 5:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you ever get strange looks or remarks from people who just see a strange man holding beads and muttering to himself at a bus stop? I have been severely intimidated by such looks before, and so though I keep a rosary in my pocket, it rarely comes out. You give me courage, though, to begin anew.

At 9:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. Thank you for sharing that testimony of your spiritual journey and how the rosary played a part in it. Very interesting thoughts on religion as custom vs. religion as belief. I see a great deal of that "custom" type of cahtolicism here in Phoenix, esp. the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe that is so prevalent on the back windows of cars, etc.

At 10:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Rosary being Mexican insurance. Take that Gieco.

Now, Arturo, that is funny.

Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe
Ruega por nosotros

At 7:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

New Blog:

At 7:13 AM, Blogger Levi said...


At 12:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having tried other Rosary-like or -inspired devotions (like the komboschini or "Anglican Rosary"), I came back to the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

A wonderful, wonderful post.

At 4:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Arturo,
I came across your blog while out blogwandering. As an ex-Legionery (and Roman Catholic) myself, I loved this post on the Rosary. Best I've heard in a long while on the subject.
However, the church got by without the Rosary until the middle ages, and I also prefer to cut out the middle-(wo)man.



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