A Rosary for All Christians?

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Dennis Di Mauro

Dennis Di Mauro
Dennis Di Mauro

As a Lutheran married to a Catholic, I was introduced to the rosary in a Teams of Our Lady group in which my wife and I are members.  I was struck by the power of the rosary devotion, and its pattern of allowing one to meditate on the mysteries while reciting the prayers. I soon recognized what a special way it was to pray, since it avoids the boredom of unstructured prayer and allows the Christian to spend more time with the Lord, and send his/her love, adoration, as well as specific intercessions to God.
 
But I was also saddened by the fact that Protestants had rejected the rosary since the Reformation due to its Marian elements. I have read some excellent articles on how the rosary is completely ecumenical in spirit and fully seeks to unite all Christians in prayer [1],and this is undoubtedly true. But when I reflected on my own catechesis as a Lutheran young person, I remembered how I was specifically told not to pray to the saints. Since I feel that my Sunday school and confirmation training was typical in regards to such devotion, I became convinced that the rosary, as it has been traditionally prayed, would never be a prayer that Protestants would overwhelmingly adopt.

So, in 1998, in praying about it, I considered creating an ecumenical variation of the rosary.   My prayer led me to what is called the Ecumenical Miracle Rosary, the full elements of which are presented at www.ecumenicalrosary.org. It was first posted on the internet in February 1999. 

This  form of the rosary uses the Lord's Prayer , the Nicene Creed, and devotional paraphrases of the Greatest Commandment and the Great Commission, as well as the Jesus Prayer from the Eastern Christian tradition--all prayers that I have found exceedingly useful in my devotions and personal faith formation. 

The Ecumenical Rosary

I call the rosary "ecumenical", since the prayers and "miracles" are either directly from the Bible or are derived from the Bible.  As such, Christians from any denomination can feel comfortable reciting the prayers and meditating on the events of Christ's life.  I call the rosary a "miracle" rosary because all of the meditations deal with the miracles performed by Jesus both before and after his resurrection. 

My hope is that this devotion would allow both Catholics and Protestants to share together the benefits of praying the rosary. I also hope that Catholics could view this form of the rosary as another way of praying with their regular rosary beads, similar to what is done in the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy. And I also want Catholics to understand that the Ecumenical Miracle Rosary is in no way meant to be a replacement for the traditional rosary but a complement to it. For that reason, it includes different prayers and invites meditation on yet other events in Christ’s life, namely, the miracles he worked. I hope that Protestants will view this rosary as a way to deepen their prayer lives by meditating on what Jesus has done for us, and on the truth of his resurrection.  

My goal is to share the rosary with Christians of other traditions in order to achieve greater unity between all Christian denominations.  It is also hoped that the rosary could be used in ecumenical group settings such as prayer vigils, ecumenical Christmas and Easter celebrations, etc.  It is a form of spiritual ecumenism. 

Christians Looking for Ways to Pray Together

Since February of 1999, the response to the site has been overwhelmingly positive among both Catholics and Protestants, and is still averaging about 2500 hits per day. The site has been translated into five other languages, offers free brochures of the devotion in English and Spanish, and conducts free telephone conference calls to pray the Ecumenical Rosary three times a year. It has also been favorably reviewed by the Dallas Morning News, Religion News, The Lutheran, US News & World Report, and many other news sources.

There seems to be a deep seated frustration in the church over the divisions among Christians. I believe that people are searching for ways that Christians can pray together in an organized fashion, without getting bogged down by historical baggage that is no longer pertinent. The success of the Ecumenical Miracle Rosary is undoubtedly due to this legitimate frustration. I have received a great many e-mail responses over the past five years from Christians who have expressed thanks for finding a devotion which can cross denominational lines.

And while the Christian church has made great strides in the past century in coming together as a united community, in many ways we are as separated as ever because we are not fellowshipping at the community level. It is my prayer that this devotion will allow Christians of all denominations to simply unite in prayer to meditate on the miracles Jesus performed during his life on earth and on the ways in which he continues to do remarkable things in our lives today.  This devotion is one small step in bringing Christians to pray together, and demonstrates how unity can be driven from the bottom up.

Dennis Di Mauro works for Koniag Services Incorporated which provides services to the federal government. He is also pursuing a doctorate in Church history at The Catholic University of America, and is a member of Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Fairfax, VA. www.ecumenicalrosary.org

NOTES:

1 Rev. Thomas P. Looney, CSC, “The Rosary: An Aid to Ecumenism”? and Stefan Tobler, “Path to Contemplation: An Ecumenical Rosary” in Ecumenical Trends, May 2003.