On May 13, 2016, the Catholic Church celebrated the 99th anniversary of the first apparition at Fatima. During the Fatima apparitions to the three shepherd children in Portugal, Our Lady requested that the Rosary be prayed daily for world peace. While this is one of the more recent, popular calls to praying the Rosary, two centuries before the Fatima apparitions, in The Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis de Montfort stated, “…It must not be imagined that the Rosary is only for women, and for simple and unlearned people; it is also for men and for the greatest of men. As soon as St. Dominic acquainted Pope Innocent III with the fact that he had received a command from heaven to establish the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary, the Holy Father gave it his full approval, urged St. Dominic to preach it, and said that he wished to become a member himself…”
If your observations are anything like mine, I suspect that you probably have not observed very many Catholic men praying the rosary routinely—at least in public, in proportion to the number of women and children who seem to do so. At various public Rosary events, including those conducted in a church, we do see some men, but not near as many men as we see women—in fact at some Rosary rallies, men may be outnumbered by a factor of three or four to one. So why don’t more Catholic men pray the Rosary, in spite of the urging of Our Lady and saints like Louis de Montfort? What are the barriers to their taking part in this powerful spiritual weapon?
There probably are as many reasons as there are men who don’t pray the Rosary, but I believe they fall into a few key categories:
During their formative years, many men may not have been catechized well in Mariology, Marian devotion or the Rosary. Their education in this area, from childhood through the teen years, may have been incomplete or they may not have paid much attention to it. This may be due partially to what some in the Church perceive as a Marian paradigm shift that occurred at Vatican II, and which resulted in a reduction in fervor for Marian devotion vis-à-vis the Liturgy. Some Catholics also had some concern about the effects of Marian devotion on attempts at ecumenism after the Council. However, Pope St. John Paul II tells us in Rosarium Virginis Mariae that the Rosary does not conflict with the Liturgy but, in fact, sustains it, and that the Rosary, “…If properly revitalized…is an aid and certainly not a hindrance to ecumenism!”
Lack of Role Models
Others may incorrectly believe that praying the Rosary is not a “manly” thing to do, except perhaps, during the evening before a Catholic funeral. In other words, it’s something that’s meant more for women and children, but not so much for men. For many men of all ages, from young to old, their fathers and grandfathers may not have been strong role models for Marian devotion. I can look at the experiences of my friends and family and confirm that this was the case for many of us. Which then raises the question of why the fathers and grandfathers were not praying the Rosary much as well, before Vatican II. For now, though, let’s all do what we can to become the role models we may or may not have had growing up.
They Want to But Do Not Know How
I’ve met good Catholic men who are serious about their faith and give witness to it in their daily lives and interactions with others who simply are not very comfortable with praying the Rosary in public—they don’t know how. Yes, in this day and age of instant information via the internet, there are some men who might appreciate a primer or some brief personal direction and guidance on how to pray the Rosary. Yet they may not be comfortable asking about it. If anyone needs more background and information on the Rosary or how to pray it, The Dominican Rosary Center is hard to beat.
Too Busy To Pray Holy Rosary
Men may believe that they cannot find the time to squeeze in a Rosary a day or even two to three times a week. Clearly in this age of doing more with less, where technology, instead of providing more free time, allows us to work 24/7, many people feel pressured by the demands on their time. More and more households in the U.S. have dual wage earners. If they have children at home, participating in school and extracurricular events, which one would hope includes some religious education and related activities, can take a good deal of time.
But are we really too busy to pray the Rosary? As I tell my clients in my consulting business, we make time for what is important. If we do not make time for prayer, including praying the Rosary, just how important is it in the overall scheme of things? As Our Lord tells us, “For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” (Mt 6: 21 – NABRE) Time spent behind the windshield driving to work or elsewhere can be devoted to praying the Rosary. Recordings of the Rosary in MP3 or CD format, as well as in phone apps, abound, and can make it easy to pray along. For example, the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, have recorded an album, The Rosary, that is very good. Even if we cannot pray a complete Rosary in one sitting, we can probably find multiple opportunities to pray one decade from time to time.
They Have Prayed It, but Struggle with Distractions
Distraction in prayer can be a problem for all of us. This topic is worth some discussion. In Catholic for a Reason II, Jeff Cavins tells us, “…As we count the beads with our hands, the soul is freed from the practical distraction of counting. The physical involvement of the body, coupled with the physical formation of the words, keeps the body at the disposition of the soul…there is something about the touching of the beads that keeps our bodies focused…After World War I, doctors noticed that much of the tension that had built up in the returning soldiers was alleviated through using their hands. That is why one of the therapies they recommended for World War I veterans was knitting. Tension and anxiety will often leave our bodies through our hands. So it is interesting that our mother Mary has asked us to involve our hands in meditation.” In spite of that, we all know that we can be, and have been, distracted during our Rosary time.
The Dominicans have a booklet on this topic that can be helpful, Praying The Rosary Without Distractions. The booklet provides short, one-line meditations for each Hail Mary. They don’t add much time at all to praying the Rosary, and can help us stay a bit more focused. For example, under the Mystery of the Annunciation, the booklet recommends the following meditations for the first three Hail Marys:
- The Blessed Virgin withdraws to a corner of the house to meditate on the Scriptures.
- She reads the passage from Isaiah (7:14), “Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a child…” and she begs the Lord to send the Messiah.
- The Angel Gabriel appears and greets her by saying, “Hail full of grace.”
The Chaplain for our Knights of Columbus Council, Dcn. Jacob Shafer, suggests using what I think of as an Ignatian approach to meditating on the mystery while we pray a decade, wherein we imagine being there and think about what we’re seeing and hearing in each of the mysteries. In any event, consider the advice of one wise and holy person I know who suggests that, when our mind wanders, we need simply to come back to the prayer at hand, and continue on—do not obsess about it—just keep pushing through. Our Lady understands and appreciates the effort we make to carry out this devotion.
They Do Pray It—Just Not Publicly
I throw this alternative out just because it is a possibility, but I am not sure that there is a high probability of this being the case for most. At least to me it seems that if one prays the Rosary in private, he would not be uncomfortable praying it in a group setting. No need to be bashful about it, right? And if the group leader asks if you want to lead a decade, there is nothing wrong with politely declining the offer.
Padre Pio said that, “Some people are so foolish that they think they can go through life without the help of the Blessed Mother. Love the Madonna and pray the Rosary, for her Rosary is the weapon against the evils of the world today. All graces given by God pass through the Blessed Mother.” In his book, Real Men Pray the Rosary, David Calvillo provides inspirational stories of real men who pray the Rosary, together with a variety of exercises to begin praying it or to pray it more. It is worth the time to read it for any man serious about increasing his Marian devotion. As St. Pio told us, “The Rosary is the ‘weapon’ for these times.” Let’s be sure we are adequately armed.