Monday, February 06, 2006

Book Review: Beads and Prayers

For my spiritual reading for January I skimmed through my shelves for an unread book and picked out Beads and Prayers: The Rosary in History and Devotion by John D.Miller. This book is a mixture of the history of the rosary with a wide range of other information about the rosary and related devotions. Topics covered include the history of the various prayers, Marian apparitions and the rosary, symbolism, indulgences associated with the rosary, papal documents and variations on the standard "Dominican" rosary. Appendices add information on other Marian prayers and devotions, including the Angelus. Unfortunately the book was written before the publication of Pope John Paul II's apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae in 2002, which leaves it feeling slightly unfinished (which is very unfair, as the author was not to know this!). It is a well researched, thorough book and definitely a worthwhile read. Here are a few snippets to whet your appetite:

* The connection of the rosary with the great St.Dominic is nothing more than legend, though it was promoted by another Dominic - the fifteenth century St.Dominic of Prussia - and so came to be associated with the Dominicans.

* The use of Paternoster and Ave beads for counting prayers was common throughout the middle ages, but not in the form of the modern rosary.

* The Hail Mary didn't take the form we know today until the end of the fifteenth century. Until then the Ave was just the first half of the modern prayer.

* The first official papal approval of the rosary came from Pope Leo X in 1520.

* In the late nineteenth century Pope Leo XIII wrote twelve encyclicals and five apostolic letters on the rosary.

* There are many different forms of rosary, such as the Brigettine Rosary with 63 Hail Marys and the Franciscan Corona with 72.

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