October is very nearly upon us so brace yourselves for everything Rosary.
My blog is no exception.
Why October? Because the Church dedicates the month to the Holy Rosary. This year, especially, you should note all the Rosaries! 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of Our Lady’s apparition at Fatima. She appeared on the 13th of every month, from May through October, to the three shepherd children. One of her requests to us was that we pray the Rosary every day.
I know, it’s daunting. It’s daunting for me, too. In fact, when I first converted I had no idea what a Rosary was or how to pray it. I didn’t even know that I wanted to pray it! God works in us slowly, though, and even a curmudgeonly convert like me can learn to grow in love toward Our Lady!
I learned the Rosary from a small, but beautiful pamphlet I found in a Catholic book store. The image spoke to me, so I slipped it into my basket, paid my 50 cents, brought it home and then slid the slim paper in the top drawer of my nightstand; right next to a lovely pink beaded Rosary. It would be a few years before I was actually ready to pray it.
It was a great pamphlet, and beautiful. In fact, when St. John Paul II introduced the Luminous mysteries to the Church, I went out in search of the same pamphlet, complete with the extra set of mysteries. I eventually found the revised and updated pamphlet, but they had changed the image on the cover and I didn’t find it nearly as appealing.
You won’t be surprised to hear from me that, now “there’s a book for that.” It’s called “The Rosary Handbook” and is written by Mitch Finley. The first edition was published in 2006 (still several years after my first encounter with that tiny pamphlet) but he has since updated the book and offered to send me a complimentary copy to read and, he hoped, provide a review on this here blog.
A Rosary Handbook? I couldn’t refuse.
The Rosary Handbook was first published in 2007 but this copy that I have in my hand is the new and updated, 2017 version. New material added to the book include historical information on the Rosary, quotes by saints on the Rosary, and information and explanations on alternative ways to pray the Rosary. It’s quite complete, and well deserving of the name “The Rosary Handbook.”
The book is subtitled “A guide for Newcomers, Old-Timers, and Those In Between” and I found this to be true. I think, it is especially written for those “in-betweeners.”
To begin with, Mitch Finley provides a very thorough – almost academic – history of the rosary. He includes in this history that of the historical evidence across all faiths for the habit of praying with beads. That is counting your prayers on your beads. I must admit that, as a member of a parish run by Dominican Friars I was a little defensive while reading this portion of the book. Mitch went through great pains to emphasize how the Rosary was not, in fact, given to St. Dominic by Our Lady. Even if you saw it in pictures. Even if you saw it in a church in pictures or painted on a wall.
It’s true enough in a factual sense, and perhaps some people are only concerned with facts. But I felt the loss of mystery in this exclusion as, truthfully, the Order of Preachers have a very close association to the Rosary.
Finley doesn’t hesitate to discuss the advantages to praying the Rosary and he provides both spiritual and mental benefits of exercising this devotion. He manages to sound academic, without sounding stuffy and this part of the book, in particular, makes an excellent introduction to the Rosary for those friends of yours who are not Catholic and think of the Rosary as merely a set of repetitive prayers.
Speaking of prayers, Finley discusses these, too. He begins with The Sign of the Cross and ends with The Hail Holy Queen. He avoids the Fatima prayer and also another closing prayer that I have come to associate with the Rosary. Nonetheless, his analysis is thorough, and for those looking to learn more about the prayers contained in the Rosary, I can’t help but recommend this chapter.
The Rosary Handbook wouldn’t be complete without a look at the 20 mysteries of the Rosary (4 sets of 5 mysteries). Finley provides both a scripture and the virtues associated with each mystery of the Rosary. He’s really quite through, and if you don’t already have a favorite pamphlet you use to meditate with, this book is a great place to start. He’ll even walk you through how to pray it, if you aren’t already familiar.
So now you’ve learned about the Rosary and how to pray it. Is that it? Nope. Finley finishes the book by providing insight into the various types of Rosaries and a few alternative ways of praying it. I never knew there were so many ways and means of the Rosary.
The Rosary Handbook is very thorough and indeed fulfills it’s promise of being a complete guide. The one thing I found missing in the book, as I mentioned above, was mystery. To be sure, it wasn’t as if Dickens’ Mr. Gradgrind was writing the book, but to be certain the book read more like a survey course than a meditative book. I’m not sure that’s a bad thing, either. It’s called “The Rosary Handbook” and that, it most certainly is.
Do I recommend the book? If you are already familiar with the Rosary, that is you are devoted to Our Lady and pray the Rosary very day, likely this book is not for you. You will miss the Fatima prayer, the closing prayer, and the mystery, as I did.
But, if you are a convert to Catholicism, or a revert who really just doesn’t “get” the Rosary than this book should help you to reach that understanding. If you have a friend who is not Catholic and thinks you are a crazy loon for praying the Rosary, this book might be for them, too. They’d certainly walk away with a greater understanding of how Catholics are more “Christian” than your Protestant friend might think! Finally, if you have a friend in RCIA and you’d like to give them a comprehensive book they can turn to and flip through for a basic understanding of the devotion, The Rosary Handbook fits the need.
As a reminder, a complimentary copy of this book was given to me by the author in hopes of a favorable review. Complimentary books don’t always make good books, however, and my opinions remain my own.