The rosary is not just for little old church ladies and pious nuns locked up in convents. It’s been prayed by brave soldiers, young martyrs, brilliant scientists, key political figures, and recently, a hopeless hippie drug addict. But the real question is: why should everyone, including and especially you pray the rosary?
Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC makes a staunch case for this powerful prayer in the most comprehensive book about the rosary. His thoroughly researched book “Champions of the Rosary” traces the origin of the prayer, the artwork inspired by it, the public miracles engineered by its devotion, approved private revelation throughout the world, the rosary connection as the solution to contemporary moral evils, and quite possibly everything heaven wants you to know about the rosary.
“Champions of the Rosary” is divided into three parts: the history of the rosary as a weapon given by God himself, what 26 of the greatest (champions) popes and saints have said about it and a guide on how to and why pray the rosary. If those three topics are not enough to convince you to purchase the book (on www.fathercalloway.com), the unusual appendix will. “Champions” provides a mini booklet of stunning quality copies of classic and neo classical artwork on the rosary. You can take a page, tuck it into a frame and use it to decorate your altar, hallway, gallery wall or homeschool room. Or just compile the photos as a prayer book for reflection.
“Champions of the Rosary” is beautiful, edifying, inspiring, apologetic, and like the rosary itself, a treasure of the Church. Fr. Calloway is too humble to say so but with this book, he is very well the 27th Champion of the Rosary.
Below is an interview with Fr. Calloway, whose own miraculous conversion story is a testament to the power of the rosary. For more on that and advice for parents praying for their children, you’ll want to read all the way to the end of the interview.
How often do you pray the rosary?
I pray the rosary every day. I have done this since my conversion to Catholicism in 1992. There have been very few days that I have missed. In my religious community, we are obligated to pray one set of mysteries every day. I pray the Dominican rosary (Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful, Glorious).
What would you advise families who struggle with praying the rosary together?
If small children are involved, perhaps only doing a decade a night is more advisable. On Sundays and Solemnities, five decades can be prayed. Also, I highly recommend that it be the father who gathers the family together for the rosary, and the father who leads it. This paternal example has lasting effect. Studies have shown that when it is the father who leads prayers and gets the family to participate in religious activities, the children are more likely to do these things as young adults and adults. All people get distracted during the rosary. It’s normal. I suggest that a family not leave the rosary for late in the evening because drowsiness is bound to happen that way.
There is a faction of Catholics skeptical about private revelation. Yet in the first part of your book, private revelations were involved in landmark moments when Our Lady intervened. What is the wisest approach to discerning private revelation?
No Catholic is bound to accept a private revelation. However, the Catechism of the Catholic Church acknowledges that sometimes heaven speaks to us through such things. When private revelations receive approval from the Church, it is a sign that heaven is speaking to us about a particular issue for our times. This has been the case with countless approved private revelations, many of which have led to new forms of devotion to God and Our Lady, as well as helping to establish new liturgical feast days in the Church.
Your book premise is that the rosary is a weapon. Is it correct to say that devotion to the rosary is also a necessary tool to holiness?
Technically, devotion to the rosary is not necessary for salvation. However, no one who truly believes in Jesus Christ and the fullness of truth as taught in Catholicism can be opposed to or against the rosary. In all honesty, anyone who is against the rosary will never be raised to the honors of the altar. How could he/she? To pray the rosary is to pray the New Testament. To pray the rosary is to meditate on the saving mysteries of Jesus Christ and crown the beautiful head of the Queen of Heaven with spiritual roses. Any person who opposes such things, can’t be holy.
Your conversion experience was through the intercession of Our Blessed Mother and your mother. What was your mother’s secret to your conversion? Does she (or you) have any advice for us mothers who want our children to love the Blessed Mother and Holy Mother Church?
The secret my mother used was the secret that St. Louis de Montfort wrote about, namely, the secret of the rosary. The rosary has power. When my mother had her conversion to Catholicism, she began to pray the rosary daily for the healing of her marriage and the conversion of her delinquent son (me). It worked! When a person allows themselves to undergo a daily conversion of heart to Jesus, participation in the sacramental life of the Church, adherence to the teachings of the Church, and praying the rosary daily, heaven responds with an outpouring of grace and mercy.
Did you feel the involvement and intercession of Our Lady and the champions of the rosary (as well as its enemies) as you were researching and writing the book?
In some ways, I consider parts of this book to be miraculous. I’m actually not that great of a writer. I am able to conduct research quite effectively since I have higher degrees in Marian Studies, am able to read many languages, and know where all the Marian resources are. However, putting a 445 page book together is not an easy task. At the beginning of this project, I had no idea how I was going to make it happen. It took me over 2 years to write the book and during that time I prayed a continuous novena to Our Lady and about 200 saints, asking them to help me. It was during these prayers that it dawned on me to divide up the book into three sections: the history, champions, and practical aspects. At times, I would even write a section and then go to bed very disappointed with how I wrote it, only to wake up and re-read what I wrote and be in awe of what was on the pages. This sounds weird, but a big part of me thinks that Jesus and Mary were doing some midnight editing to make it better.
You have pilgrimaged to sacred places worldwide. What is your favorite Marian pilgrimage site and why?
My two favorite pilgrimage destinations are Lourdes and the Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompeii, Italy. These two places are so awe inspiring in their beauty and prayerfulness. Lourdes looks like a medieval castle where a princess lives and it is so easy to escape to a little chapel and get lost in prayer and solitude. And I have to say that the Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary in Pompeii is probably the most beautiful church I’ve ever seen. There’s not a thing I would change, and simply to look at the interior of the church makes the soul delight in the beauty of God. Saint John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis have all been there, too.
Have you been back to Japan since you were deported, preaching as a Marian priest?
After my experience of getting kicked out of Japan in 1988, I have not been back to Japan other than to catch an international flight connection through Narita International Airport in Tokyo. For those who don’t know my story: I was a bad-boy in my younger days. I dropped out of high school, got deported from Japan for drug use and criminal activity, went to two drug rehabilitation centers in Pennsylvania, and was thrown in jail in Louisiana when I turned eighteen. I had long hair down to my waist, a tattoo, an earring, and a foul mouth like you’ve never heard. Yet, God had other plans. As I was turning 21, I had a radical conversion after reading a book on Marian apparitions. After that, I became Catholic, entered a religious community, and spent 10 years studying to be a priest. I’ve been a priest for 14 years now.
What is the most important or your favorite among the promises of those devoted to the rosary?
According to ancient tradition, Our Lady once told St. Dominic and Blessed Alan de la Roche that those who promote the rosary will find salvation. To me, that is the best promise. I want to be with Jesus in paradise forever. Nothing else really matters.
Photography: See our Photographers page.