The Rosary IS a Weapon... against Hell!
Recently, The Atlantic published an absurd and much-mocked article called “How the Rosary Became an Extremist Symbol,” arguing, as the title indicates, that the rosary had become an extremist symbol connected to “absolutist gun culture” due to “rad-trads’” heavy online presence and military imagery. Examples of this far right extremism include one online store that manufactures “combat rosaries,” which are really simple replicas of rosaries used by World War I soldiers. In horror, the author recounts how the Swiss Guard, in 2016, actually accepted a donation of a number of these rosaries! Even worse, their commander at the time described the Rosary as a “powerful weapon!”
Indeed, a certain strand of modern thought, held even by some modern Catholics, holds that military imagery is bad and scary. We should not think about military imagery. No, we should be focused on peace and love. Rather than great Christian hymns like “Soldiers of Christ Arise,” “For All the Saints,” and “Onward Christian Soldiers (Marching as to War),” we should instead sing about community and how all are welcome so we can be gathered in and earth and sky can sing out. This strand of thought shudders at traditional devotions like the St. Michael Prayer (“Defend us in battle”), and if it preserves the old hymns, it preserves them only in a cheap emasculated form that carefully edits out any military or masculine imagery. Anthony Esolen, for instance, in his book, Real Music, had traced how many such hymns like “For All the Saints,” are often preserved only in heavily edited form to edit out all great classic imagery and language.
Pushback against the Atlantic’s original article was justly swift and merciless. It forced the Atlantic to quickly change the name of the article, not once, but twice, first from “How the Rosary Became an Extremist Symbol,” to “How Extreme Gun Culture Co-opted the Rosary,” and finally to “How Extremist Gun Culture is Trying to Co-opt the Rosary.”
The changes, of course, are not much of an improvement, for, as Phil Lawler points out:
The intent of the article by Daniel Panneton is, quite obviously, to introduce the notion that a traditional Catholic prayer is a sign of extremism, with the corollary that people who pray the Rosary should be viewed with suspicion. Panneton hopes to alarm readers by reporting that many traditional Catholics, in addition to praying the Rosary, also use military metaphors to describe the struggle against evil, and some of them also own guns. Which more or less proves, he hints, that these people are a danger to society…
For the Rosary is not only a Christian prayer, but a specifically Catholic prayer; and an attack on it should be seen as an attack on the Catholic image and community in particular. It reminds one of late 19th and early 20th century anti-Catholic imagery in papers and cartoons arguing that Catholics were a dangerous threat to society.
Who would want to risk praying the Rosary under such circumstances? One might risk branding oneself as a far right extremist who is a threat to society! And let’s not even get started with those dangerous pro-lifers praying all those rosaries in front of Planned Parenthoods and abortion centers across the country. One moment, they’re praying the Rosary, the next, they are going to destroy society! Better not to risk praying the Rosary at all. Those far-right radicals have made it a weapon, after all.
Sarcasm aside, one cheerful aspect of much of the response to the Atlantic is just how many commentators point out that, yes, Mr. Atlantic writer, the Rosary is indeed a weapon. But not a weapon of the far right against the left; rather it is a weapon of humanity against hell and the devil!
In the early 13th century, Our Lady gave the Rosary to a newly formed group, the Order of Preachers, later called the Domicans after their great founder. St. Dominic had been trying his best (and largely failing) to convert the Albigensian heretics, who denied the reality of the Incarnation and Resurrection and the goodness of marriage, as well as holding the material world to be evil. Our Lady then appeared to St. Dominic in a vision giving him the Rosary and describing it, not only as a weapon, but as a “battering ram” for use in this kind of warfare.
And Our Lady has, again and again, presented the Rosary to her children as a powerful weapon against evil. At Lepanto, when the Ottoman Turks were threatening to take over all of Europe and to destroy Christian civilization, Pope Pius V asked Christians everywhere to pray the rosary; he did, they did, and the badly outnumbered Christian forces defeated the Turks and saved Christian civilization.
Rather than be afraid or intimidated into not praying the Rosary, we should pray it more frequently, with greater devotion, and ever greater attention. For we know that a weapon may defend as well as destroy. It is a great weapon because it invokes the aid of the Queen of Heaven herself. Furthermore, our meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary helps us to grow in nearness to Christ, to grow in virtue, and to fight vice. If Our Lady herself has given it to us a powerful weapon against evil, then we must use it and must not throw down our weapons until that evil is defeated.
Our Lady of Victory and of the Rosary, Pray for Us
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