Vocal Prayers (Leo, the Rosary, and Christian Unity, part 4 of 10)

Oct 13th, 2014 | By Beth Turner | Category: Blog Posts, Catholic Life and Devotion

This is the fourth in a ten part guest series by Beth Turner, the wife of Barrett Turner. Beth and Barrett were received into full communion at Easter 2010 and live in Virginia with their four children. Beth’s story of her journey into the Catholic Church can be found at Saved by Love: A Seminary Wife’s Journey.

The Second Part of the Holy Rosary: Vocal Prayers


Our Lady of the Rosary, with depictions of the mysteries of Christ’s life.

“Now Christ stands forth clearly in the Rosary. We behold in meditation His life, whether His hidden life in joy, or His public life in excessive toil and sufferings unto death, or His glorious life from His triumphant resurrection to His eternal enthronement at the right hand of the Father. And since faith, to be full and sufficient, must display itself, – for with the heart we believe unto justice, but with the mouth confession is made unto salvation (Rom. 10:10), – so have we also in the Rosary an excellent means unto this, for by those vocal prayers with which it is intermingled, we are enabled to express and profess our faith in God, our most watchful Father…” (Fidentem Piumque Animum 4).

We add vocal prayers to the meditation, as Pope Leo XIII says, like a crown. We must confess with our lips the faith that is in our hearts. He observes that the Rosary directs us to raise our souls to God in meditation upon the mysteries, but also requires a particular and explicit attention in spoken words. It is, of course, possible to say the words without any feeling or affection or thought. The vocal prayers, in this case, may constitute “heaping up empty praises,” as St. Matthew’s Gospel warns against. But I will note that as a mother with four very young children, the discipline of reciting these prayers is sometimes the only time I am even reminded to think about something other than the growing piles of dishes and laundry. A very small mental effort made while reciting the prayers can draw one’s attention to both the meaning of the words recited and to the essential mysteries of our Faith. This mental effort prevents the Rosary from becoming a very wordy, very empty exercise.

The very form of the Rosary – meditation upon the events of salvation history, together with the vocal prayers – are arranged in such a way as to draw us deeper into the life of Christ. This is what we seek from Mary when we use the words, “Pray for us sinners.” When properly understood and practiced, the devotion is one Protestants may at least admire, albeit with questions, and Catholics may engage in with great spiritual fruit.

Part 3 of this series is available here.

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