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Roman Catholic Rosary Beads

By Abbot Father Michael Cuozzo+, OFE

The intention of this article is to simply introduce to the reader the venerable tradition of the Roman Catholic rosary beads or the Psalter of Mary. The rosary, because of its one hundred fifty Hail Marys corresponding to the number of the Psalms, is sometimes called the Psalter of Mary. Catholics have used the rosary for hundreds of years. Each bead of the rosary has its origin in Holy Scripture and Catholic tradition. Roman Catholic theologian Blessed Alan de la Roche (1428 – 1475), noted for his views on prayer said, “The Holy Rosary is the storehouse of countless blessing.”

If you were to ask what object is most representative of Catholics, you would probably say, “The rosary.”  We are very familiar with the images: a person in the front pew of the church silently moving lips while praying the rosary; a family fingering beads; the ladies of the Altar Rosary Society praying the rosary before or after Eucharist; a baby sucking on her mother’s rosary beads while praying; the oversized rosary hanging from the waist of a Roman Catholic Franciscans Abbot; more recently, an ornate rosary hanging from the rearview mirror of a 1956 Chevy.
The rosary assist us engage our body, mind, and spirit in our prayers.  Pope Saint Pius X (1835 – 1914) viewed, “The Rosary is the most beautiful and richest of all prayers to the Mediatrix of all grace; it is the prayer that touches most the heart of the Mother of God. Say it each day” (Cf. Msgr. J. Cirrincione and T. Nelson, The Rosary and the Crisis in the Faith, Tan Books and Publishers, p. 34).
The rosary comes from Latin rosarium, meaning “crown of roses” or “garland of roses” and the rose being one of the flowers used to represent the Blessed Virgin Mary. The rosary is a biblical form of prayer and all the prayers that are used come mainly from the Bible. It has 59 beads and five decades of 10 beads a piece. A single bead separates the weeks and decades. The rosary is said using beads to count recital prayers while we meditate upon on the biblical mysteries from the lives Jesus and Mary.


Anglican Prayer Beads

By Abbot Father Michael Cuozzo+, OFE
This brief article is to introduce to the reader a new tool to assist with contemplative prayer that is used in the Anglican Communion – the Anglican prayer beads. It is also known as the Anglican rosary, Christian prayer beads, or Anglican/Episcopalian prayer beads.
Since the earliest of times prayer beads are present in almost every culture. People have used pebbles or a string of knots or beads on a cord to keep track of prayers presented to God. Using prayer beads as a tool of meditation is as old as human history.    
Church prayer has been a pivotal part of Christian living. Saint Luke wrote that the newly baptized committed themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fraternity, to the breaking of bread and prayers (Acts 2:42). Saint Paul urges us to pray without ceasing to give thanks in all instances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18).  
Every major religious tradition used prayer beads throughout history. The earliest recorded examples are the Malabeads of the Hindu and Buddhist faiths. The Eastern Orthodox has a prayer cord with cross-knots, and the Roman Catholics have the rosary. The Roman Catholic rosary originated sometime between the 12th and 15th century. There are also the Islamic prayer beads called the Misbahaor the Tasbih.
The Rev. Lynn Baumann from the Episcopal Church in the United States created the Anglican prayer beads in the mid-1980s as an aid to contemplative prayer. Prayer beads have grown in approval among those seeking to enrich their prayer life. The prayer beads been adopted by Lutherans, Methodists, and other Protestant groups, thus giving rise to the term Christian prayer beads. There’s also a nondenominational variation known as the Earth Rosary. Consisting of four sets of 13 beads, which indicate the 13 weeks in each of the four seasons, the Earth Rosary has a total of 52 beads, representing each week of the year.
The Anglican prayer beads are made up of 33 beads, which represent the years of Jesus’ earthy life, while the Catholic rosary has 59. It is divided into four weeks of seven beads each, and the Catholic rosary has five decades of 10 beads a piece. A single bead separates the weeks and decades on both rosaries.  
Beads: Gateway to Prayer, an article written by Maryknoll Brother John Beeching enlightens us about prayer beads, “When we start to pray with beads, our prayer forms on our lips, but gradually it internalizes, welling from within our heart. As we progress, the prayer may become simply awareness or getting lost in the Divine.”
Anglican prayer beads is a simply tool to assist in one’s prayer life. Anglican prayer beads are used as a tactile aid to prayer. It helps to bring us into contemplative of meditative prayer by use of mind, body, and spirit. The touching of the fingers on each bead helps in keeping our mind from drifting, and the cadence of the prayers steers us more easily into quietness.
Trappist monk and priest Dom M. Basil Pennington reminds us in Praying by Hand: Rediscovering the Rosary as a Way of Prayer, prayer beads simply are a method or instrument “to help us pray, to enter into communion and union with God. Therefore, we should feel free to use it or pray it in any way that helps us to enter into that union.”

Nicene Creed (Prayer)

I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible. I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets. I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.

How do we pray with icons?

By Abbot Father Michael Cuozzo+, OFE
The Catechism of the Catholic Church points out, “the life of prayer is the habit of being in the presence of …God” (2565).  
“To pray is to pay attention to something or someone other than oneself. Whenever a man so concentrates his attention . . . that he completely forgets his own ego and desires, he is praying” (Jim Forest, Praying with Icons, Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1979), p. 29).  (Cf. Michael Cuozzo, The Theological Aspects of Holy Icons in the Orthodox Church (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Saint Elias School of Orthodox Theology, Nebraska, 1998), p. 84)
The Greek word ikon, from which the English term is derived, means likeness, image, representation. 
All icons are dogmatic statements, each one is a homily on the Gospel message, Saint Paul wrote: “Let us give glory to God! He is able to make you stand firm in your faith, according to the Good News I preach about Jesus Christ and according to the revelation of the secret truth which was hidden for long ages in the past” (Romans 16:25-26). Thus, the key to understanding iconography is to understand the Gospel.  (Cf. Michael Cuozzo, The Theological Aspects of Holy Icons in the Orthodox Church (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Saint Elias School of Orthodox Theology, Nebraska, 1998), p. 84)
Icons were created for the main purpose of offering access, through the gate of the visible, to the mystery of the invisible. Icons are painted to lead the faithful into the inner room of prayer, to bring them close to the heart of God. The icons themselves always before them, they were painted for both the glory of God and for salvation. (Ibid. pp. 84-85.)
As one prays with icons it is significant to gaze at the icon with complete attention and to pray with them. Gazing is probably the best word to touch the core of Eastern spirituality. The Andrew J. Krivak article “Gates of Mystery: The Art of Holy Russia” in America wrote: “The Father of Western monasticism, Saint Benedict, taught that prayer must begin with listening. In the Eastern Christian tradition, the essence of prayer is the gazing” (Andrew J. Krivak, “Gate of Mystery: The Art of Holy Russia,” America, Vol. 168. No. 4, 1993, February, p. 24).  (Cf. Michael Cuozzo, The Theological Aspects of Holy Icons in the Orthodox Church (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Saint Elias School of Orthodox Theology, Nebraska, 1998), p. 85)
It is important to remember that praying with icons is to just gaze attentively at an icon and let God speak. The icon inspires and instructs; it makes present the holy one depicted there; it is a channel for divine grace to pass to the person praying; it leads into prayer and communion with God. (Ibid.)

Apostles Creed (Prayer)

I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended into hell; on the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty; from there he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.

Athanasian Creed (Prayer)

  1. Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic faith;
  2. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.
  3. And the Catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity;
  4. Neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance.
  5. For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit.
  6. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.
  7. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit.
  8. The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated.
  9. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible.
  10. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal.
  11. And yet they are not three eternals but one eternal.
  12. As also there are not three uncreated nor three incomprehensible, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible.
  13. So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty.
  14. And yet they are not three almighties, but one almighty.
  15. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God;
  16. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.
  17. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord;
  18. And yet they are not three Lords but one Lord.
  19. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord;
  20. So are we forbidden by the Catholic religion to say; There are three Gods or three Lords.
  21. The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten.
  22. The Son is of the Father alone; not made nor created, but begotten.


Lectio Divina

By Abbot Father Michael Cuozzo+, OFE
“Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” (Saint Jerome, 340-420)
The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council (Concilium Oecumenicum Vaticanum Secundum 1962 – 1965) urged all Catholics to return to Scripture as a way of “supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Philippians 3:8)
“It is especially necessary that listening to the word of God should become a life-giving encounter, in the ancient and ever valid tradition of lectio divina, which draws from the biblical text the living Word which questions, directs and shapes our lives.” (Pope John Paul II Novo Millennio Ineunte, 39)
This brief article is a summary of the ancient practice of lectio divina. Lectio divina is Latin for Divine Reading. This style of prayer dates back to the early monastic tradition. Trappist monk Father Thomas Merton (1915 -1968) wrote, “It is understood that the personal prayer of the monk is embedded in a life of psalmody, liturgical celebration and the meditative reading of Scripture (lectio divina).”
How great it is to come into the depths of God’s Word. We are able to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:9) and his words are “more desirable than gold, than a hoard of purest gold, sweeter also than honey or drippings from the comb.” (Psalm 19:11) Love, peace, and happiness are ours when we learn to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.(Colossians 3:16)
“Lectio Divina is Latin for divine reading, spiritual reading, or “holy reading,” and represents a method of prayer and scriptural reading intended to engender communion with the Triune God and to increase in the knowledge of God’s Word. It is a way of praying with Scripture that calls one to study, ponder, listen and, finally, pray from God’s Word.” We are urged to listen with our hearts because it was the Word of God that we are hearing.
Trappist monk Father Thomas Keating (1923), founder of the centering prayer movement explain what lectio divina is not. “It is not traditional Bible study, not reading the Scriptures for understanding and edification, and not praying the Scriptures (though praying the Scriptures can be a form of lectio divina when a word or phrase is taken from the Scriptures to focus on for the purpose of going into “God’s presence.””) Father Keating exclaims that lectio divina is a beginning into the more intense practices of centering prayer and contemplative prayer.


Prayer for the Indwelling of the Spirit

Holy Spirit, powerful Consoler, sacred Bond of the Father and the Son, Hope of the afflicted, descend into my heart and establish in it Your loving dominion. Enkindle in my tepid soul the fire of Your Love so that I may be wholly subject to You. We believe that when you dwell in us, You also prepare a dwelling for the Father and the Son. Deign, therefore, to come to me, Consoler of abandoned souls, and Protector of the needy. Help the afflicted, strengthen the weak, and support the wavering. Come and purify me, Let no evil desire take possession of me. You love the humble and resist the proud. Come to me, Glory of the living, and Hope of the dying. Lead me by Your grace that I may always be pleasing to you. Amen.

The Jesus Prayer

By Abbot Father Michael Cuozzo+, OFE
The purpose of this brief article is merely to introduce the reader to the practice of the Jesus Prayer or the prayer of the heart.

Prayer is the center of our Christian being, the root of our experience of Jesus as the Risen Lord and Savior. Saint Paul insists the Christians of first century Thessalonica to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  And in his letter to Rome, the Apostle teaches the Christian community there to “be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12).  He not only advices unceasing prayer of the Christians in his care, but does it himself. “We constantly thank God for you” (1 Thessalonians. 2:13) he pens in his letter to the Thessalonian community; and he comforts Timothy, his “true child in the faith” (1Timothy 1:2) with the words: “Always I remember you in my prayers” (2 Timothy 1:3).

Prayer is all of life. Prayer is as essential to our life as breathing. To a certain extent, pray means to think and live our entire life in the Presence of God. A Russian and French theologian, writer, and professor of theology Paul Evdokimov has observed: “Our whole life, every act and gesture, even a smile must become a hymn or adoration, an offering, a prayer. We must become prayer-prayer incarnate.” This is what Saint Paul means when he writes to the Corinthians that “whatever you do, do it for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

In order to enter more deeply into the life of prayer, to live our entire life in the Presence of God, and to come to grips with Saint Paul’s challenge to pray unceasingly, the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Eastern Catholic churches offers the Jesus Prayer, which is sometimes called the prayer of the heart.The anonymous author of The Way of the Pilgrim reports that the Jesus Prayer writes: “When I prayed in my heart, everything around me seemed delightful and marvelous. The trees, the grass, the birds, the air, the light seemed to be telling me that they existed for man’s sake, that they witnessed to the love of God for man, that all things prayed to God and sang his praise.”


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