The Month of the Rosary

My mentor at The Catholic University of America, the late Msgr. John Tracy Ellis, used to observe in his sparkling lectures that, “Old heresies never die. They just return under new names.” A “heresy” is a “wrong belief.” He would then go on to remind us that the oldest heresy in the Church was a denial of the reality of the Incarnation, doubting that God actually became one of us.

It almost seems just plain “too good to be true,” he would comment, too awesome to comprehend, that the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, God the Son, would become man, that the Word would take on flesh. So, whether it be heresies with exotic names like Gnosticism, Manichaenism or Albigensianism, for 2,000 years people have doubted the reality of the Incarnation from the start—and that heresy has never died. We sense it looming in every epoch of Church history. We see it now.

Msgr. Ellis is in good company. I was just reading remarks from Pope Benedict XVI, who wonders if indeed the critical temptation our faith faces today is to doubt the reality of the Incarnation. The Holy Father worries about the popular mindset that reduces the Gospel to a myth, a story, literature, symbol, poetry, metaphor or nostalgic pining by the evangelists.

Good theologian that he is, he knows well that myth, story, literature and metaphor are, indeed, inspired, crucial parts of the Gospel. However, the essence of revealed Christianity is that the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus really did happen, it is historical. The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Word, God the Son, became one of us. The Creed is true.

Msgr. Ellis and Pope Benedict both warn against reducing Christ to just an idea. And that’s worth thinking about this month of October, classically dedicated to the Rosary. As Coventry Patmor wrote, “Mary is our only savior from an abstract Christ.” No creature was more aware of the reality of the Incarnation than she was. Her Son was hardly just an idea. He was incarnate in her womb, born at Bethlehem, raised in Nazareth, He cried, He grew, He bled, He died. She held Him as a baby, she held Him as a corpse. You can hardly cradle an abstraction. Ideas do not have mothers, our God does.

Just like in the Gospels, people today want to “touch Jesus.” We have a God who can be touched. We have a God who is incarnate. We have a God who is flesh and blood. Nothing distant, impersonal or aloof about Him. The Church leads people to discover God incarnate in their lives.

I guess that’s why the Church maintains that the love of Mary is the best insurance of orthodoxy, the best protection against heresy. It’s tough to reduce God to an abstraction or an idea, if you believe He has a mother. It’s hard to deny the reality of the Incarnation if you marvel at the crib and the Pieta.

So we toll the beads reverently and make an act of faith that He—God’s Son—was conceived, born, grew up, worked, taught, healed, calmed, preached, invited to salvation, forgave sins, suffered, died, rose, ascended and sent His Holy Spirit to form His Church. It’s all true.

Join me in renewing your love for, trust in and devotion to our Blessed Mother and her Rosary this month of October.

Were you alarmed by the recent study showing how ignorant we believers are about the essentials of our faith? Turns out that apparently atheists know more about what we profess than we do.

If all of us knew, understood and appreciated the truth of the 20 mysteries of the Rosary, we’d pass the next test.

So many of our young people wear a rosary around their neck, have you noticed? Even baseball players do. I guess that’s good. But I asked one teenage girl if she knew what it was. “A necklace,” she replied. It is more than that…

“The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us!”

That’s the Incarnation. Believe it daily in the Rosary.