Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Lost treasure of the Rosary Confraternity

Give me a lever and a place to stand, and I will move the earth. -- Archmides 220 BC.

In the Rosary we have a lever and in whatever place we stand with the beads in our hands we can build a brother/sisterhood that will move the world. This I know, is a mighty claim, but being old and bold, I dare to take my stand. The Brother/Sisterhood I have in mind is what I call the Confraternity of the Rosary.

I am tired of hearing that the Order of Preachers has no specific spirituality. A certain young friar remarked that the Jesuits have the Exercises of Ignatius and the Carmelites the Dark night, more lovely than the dawn, and asked what was characteristic of Dominican spirituality. He was told that the OP’s did not have anything special. They just lived the Gospel. The Novice master went on to illustrate the point, by saying that if you went to a Jesuit doctor, he would prescribe some pills or potions. But if you had recourse to a Dominican doctor, he would just say: Take a break or have a holiday in the sun! Fine! But let me quote from no less than the Holy Father, Pius X1 The Rosary of Mary is the principle and foundation on which the very Order of Saint Dominic rests for making perfect the life of its members and obtaining the salvation of others." Quoted by Robert Feeney, a lay Dominican, author of "The Rosary: The Little Summa

De Monroy a Master of the Order made the strong statement that The Holy Rosary is the fairest flower of our Order. Should it come to pass that this flower withers, simultaneously the beauty and lustre of our Institute is seen to fade and disappear. And on the other hand, when that flower revives, forthwith it draws down on us the heavenly dew, imparts to our stem an aroma of grace and causes it to bring forth, as from a root of piety, fruits of virtue and of honour.’ If that does not offer a lever and a place to stand, I don’t know what does.

The Dominicans of an earlier time preached the deep spirituality that underpinned the Brother/Sisterhood of the Rosary. I put it like that, because the term Confraternity does not always enjoy the respect and dignity it deserves. Interestingly enough St. Louis Marie de Montfort who was singled out by the Master of the Dominican Order for his preaching of the Rosary, lamented the fact that in his day, there was no true Confraternity of the Rosary. This led him to propose his own Treatise on the True Devotion to Mary. His end product which lay hidden for many is more or less a recall to the original thrust of the Golden Rosary years of Dominican Friars.

Having looked at the numerous Rosary Websites from all over the world, I am saddened that they are still repeating what I call the Holy algebra approach to the Confraternity. They are simply setting down a list that says do this and get that--say these prayers and gain these benefits. It is alright as far as it goes, but the truth is that is a sandwich with no meat inside. To get to the meat you have to go back centuries and pick up what Dominicans of our time seem to have have forgotten. De Montfort refers to the golden days of Alan de la Roche and Michael de Insulis. Alan had written of the Holy Slavery of Jesus and Mary in the chain of the Rosary. One can see from where De Montfort drew his terminology.

As to the De Insulis who is frequently quoted in publications prior to De Montfort, I searched for him in many quarters in Italy but could not unearth his work. Arriving at the National Library in Paris, and remembering that his French name was Francois de Lille, I found several copies his writings. The copy I was given was ornately illustrated, like a miniature Book of Kells. On inquiring why there was nothing of his work in Italy, the librarian told me that the four copies in Paris were Napoleonic war booty. If the Dominican authorities in Rome happen to see this note, I pray that they may intercede with Paris for the return of at least one copy to its true home. It would help in the rediscovery of lost treasure of the Rosary Confraternity.

Lesser known but more accessible is the splendid presentation of the Rosary Confraternity by Pepinus in his work, Salutate Mariam, republished by the Dominican Rosary Centre in Santa Maria Novella, Florence. He uses the parable of the Prodigal to explain how we should live out the true spirit of a Brother/Sister of the Rosary. ‘We should listen,’ he says to the Father who says to the Elder Brother: All that I have is thine. Lk:15,31

A true elder member of the Rosary Confraternity is not like the younger brother looking for his own share of the property. He must be willing to rejoice with and celebrate the other members. Since all that the Father has is his, he himself has the right and the obligation to put the robe of mercy on his brother’s back, the shoes on his feet and the ring of union on his finger. These are covenant terms and they symbolise the covenant of love and mercy that should pertain between the members. The prayers to be said and the indulgences to be gained—the exchange of goods, as it were, point to the contract we make on joining the Confraternity. They are what I have called the bread around the sandwich. But the bonds that hold the members together and form the rich meat of the sandwich go beyond contract to reach the heights of a sacred covenant which embraces the person saying: all that is mine is yours---Totus tuus as John Paul 11 put it.

A member with this rich understanding of the Rosary Confraternity gives up existing out of his own meagre ration. He enters the treasure–house of the King and lives out of his infinite supply. This is the secret of sharing and interceding on behalf of the other members. A member of the True Rosary Confraternity is no longer waiting in the dole-queue of his own poverty or giving out of his own begging bowl. In keeping with the Book of Revelation: 3:21 - The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne... the true elder member is seated on the throne and acts with all the authority of the royal household behind him. Such a one reaches out to bless others with a boldness that moves mountains with an expectant faith the works even miracles.

This is the Rosary Confraternity to which I attach the claim of Archimedes: Give me a lever and I will move the world.

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