Why the Ideological ‘Rosary of Modern Sorrows’ is not a Rosary

Pope Francis Good Shepherd Cross by Vedele. This cross is an official replica of the one that Pope Francis wears every day, an image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd.

The ‘Rosary of Modern Sorrows’ (RMS) is made by the American company, ‘Contemplative Rebellion’ (CR) and is sold on-line for US$62. It is unique, quite eye-catching and the CR web-site invites us “into guided meditation on the pain and suffering of our brothers and sisters in the U.S. and around the world.”

The big issue is the written intentions provided with the RMS. Normally when praying the Rosary we are guided to meditate on the specific mystery for each decade. (The Mysteries commemorate 20 major events in the life of Our Lord Jesus Christ, also celebrated through the liturgical year.) We may dedicate a decade — a set of mysteries or even a whole Rosary — towards a specific personal intention. This article discusses each of the CR’s recommended intentions.

The RMS is beautiful, being made with two types of Cross and variously-coloured glass beads, one for each intention (‘imperial jasper, leopard stone, lace agate, zebra jasper, hematite, and glass seed.’) Full text of the intentions are below:

The cross starting the RMS is a small version of the one used by Pope Francis. It provides the cachet of acceptance by relating the RMS directly to our current Pope — though curiously we are not asked to pray for the Holy Father.

“Our Father beads (Black with Gold) We pray for an end to the opioid crisis and those suffering with addiction, PTSD, depression, anxiety or any form of mental illness.”

This first intention praying for those with mental illness is well phrased. It starts the RMS with a generally acceptable topic.

“Hail Mary beads (Cracked Glass) We Pray for the victims of gun violence and their families that they will find peace in taking action to change the devastating laws which allow violent tragedies to occur repeatedly.”

The second intention is also a motherhood statement, but instead of the usual Catholic focus on prayer and forgiveness, it takes the unusual direction to: ‘…find peace in taking action’. This attempts to justify the action of the modern-day ‘Social Justice Warrior’ (confirmed by Denise Travers, founder of CR, in an article in ‘CatholicMom’ when she said: “Our faith must lead us to take political action”.)

“The First Decade (Pink and Gray) We Pray for the lives of women and their children, born and unborn, and the unjust social structures that steal hope, health-care and economic security from these, our most vulnerable mothers. We Pray for women experiencing degradation and abuse, sexual harassment, and unjust/unequal pay. We Pray for true compassion and unparalleled mercy in our thoughts and actions, and to look deeply at these very complex issues.”

A third motherhood statement comes with the first decade. At first this seems acceptable because it prays for women and children — often the most vulnerable in society. It does not pray for any man living in ‘unjust structures’ nor for those men suffering ‘degradation, abuse, sexual harassment’. It goes on to pray that women get fair pay for fair work — when everyone should get fair pay for fair work.

Contemplative Rebellion asks us to ‘look deeply’ at these issues when perhaps they mean us to ‘feel deeply’ about these issues. (This is supported by the intention with the Fourth Decade which asks us to ‘move beyond’ our ‘innate biases’ to the full acceptance of the RMS.)

“The Second Decade (Blue and Green) We Pray for Mother Earth, our fragile environment, the animals, land, and oceans entrusted to our stewardship and care. “As stewards of God’s creation we are called to make Earth a beautiful garden for the human family.” – Pope Francis.”

The fourth motherhood statement with the Second Decade prays for environmental issues. The feminization of ‘Mother Earth’ is in keeping with the patent bias shown in the previous intention. It is given more credibility with a quotation from Pope Francis.

“The Third decade (Earthen Brown) We Pray for immigrants, refugees, Dreamers, and all who seek a life free from violence and the threat of death and abuse. May we imagine ourselves in their place, knowing we would do anything to secure safety of ourselves and our families. “You must not mistreat or oppress foreigners in any way. Remember you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.” Exodus 22:20”

The intention with the Third Decade is difficult because it conflates regular immigration, illegal immigration and refugee status — hot topics for many countries. A quotation from the Bible is used for persuasion.

“The fourth decade (Metallic Black) We Pray for those discriminated against because of the color of their skin. We Pray for those who are caught in the school to prison pipeline, trapped by corporations that gain financially from incarceration. We Pray for our innate biases, that we recognize these and then choose to move beyond them. We Pray for awareness of the attitudes and structures that remain from our history of slavery.”

The Fourth Decade is a hodge-podge of intentions. It starts with those suffering discrimination — but only those discriminated against because of the colour of their skin’. It tosses in an anti-capitalistic comment ‘trapped by corporations’ and goes on to imply that if we do not fully agree with the RMS intentions it is because of our own ‘innate biases’! It finishes with strong hints to ‘The Patriarchy’ and ‘White Privilege’, which commonly lead to the demand that we ‘check our privilege.’

“The fifth Decade (Rainbow) We Pray for a welcoming of LGBT people by all churches, temples, mosques, and synagogues. We Pray for LGBT couples, their children, and extended families. We Pray that they may be supported and loved with full acceptance as people truly created in the image of God, a creation that God saw as “good” and who deserve to live every aspect of life to the fullest.”

This is the most difficult intention for many Catholics. LGBT folk may seek God the same way the rest of us seek God. Section 2358 of the Catechism advises us on the acceptance of homosexuals: “They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” Section 2359 calls for their chastity.

Pope Francis taught us: “…that we pray all together. You can advise them to pray, show goodwill, show them the way, and accompany them along it.” Clearly we must make all people welcome in the Church, including LGBTQ folk: we are all sinners seeking redemption! We must accept the person — that does not mean ‘full acceptance’ of any choice or lifestyle.

“We Pray for the victims of human trafficking on these Tau crosses. This is a modern form of slavery that exists across our country and all around the world. Human trafficking affects the lives of millions of girls and boys, men and women. We pray for these victims and their escape from physical and mental captivity. We also pray that the heart of their oppressors will be transformed and for an end to this great evil in the world.”

The Glory Be/Our Father beads between the decades are Franciscan Tau crosses. This intention is well written, praying for both the victims and the perpetrators of human trafficking.

“Our Father Beads (Franciscan Tau Crosses) Loved by St. Francis of Assisi, the Tau cross is the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet. It has the same function as the Greek letter Omega: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end (Rev. 21:6) Early Christians adopted the Tau because it resembled the cross of Jesus. It is usually made of wood, a simple material. St Francis felt that it expressed the vow of poverty, an essential element of the Franciscan way of life.”

The association with St. Francis and monastic vows with the final part of the RMS astutely completes the rosary on an acceptable topic for most Catholics.

Many of these intentions & meditations deal with topics which are very important for many good Catholics/Christians. Unfortunately the RMS intentions are presented from the perspective of the modern-day ‘Social Justice Warrior’ and have undercurrents of ‘Intersectional Identity Politics’. The intentions progress persuasively from innocuous to the very contentious.

The RMS was promoted by Fr. James Martin SJ on Twitter last year: many suspect this was because of the intention supporting ‘full acceptance’ of LGBTQ lifestyle. There was also strong criticism of the RMS from LifeSiteNews — they even accused CR of donating to some charities which support abortion.

The RMS might help some to pray the Rosary. In general it seems to be a tool for Social Justice indoctrination and promotes divisive Identity Politics. More importantly, the RMS intentions may distract from proper meditation on the traditional Mysteries of the Rosary. I will not use the RMS simply because it is not a rosary as I understand ‘The Rosary’ to be.

Please pray the traditional Rosary! Start with the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be — then learn the prayers & mysteries a little at a time. If you need help there are on-line instructions at the Rosary Centre provided by the Dominican Friars (also coordinating the Confraternity of the Rosary).