St. Mary prayer group honoring tradition of the rosary

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 1, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; A pope who loves the prayer known as the rosary is giving new life to the widely recognized devotional.

Declaring the year between October 2002 and October 2003 the Year of the Rosary, Pope John Paul II has called for Catholics to reclaim the prayer and to add new mysteries to contemplate.

For centuries, the rosary has centered on three mysteries of the lives of Jesus Christ or the Virgin Mary &045; the joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries. The addition of the luminous mysteries makes sense, said the Rev. Alfred Camp, pastor at St. Mary Basilica.

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&uot;The rosary did not go into the ministry of Christ,&uot; Camp said. The luminous mysteries will fill that gap, beginning with Christ’s baptism and continuing with the wedding feast at Cana, the Sermon on the Mount, the transfiguration and the institution of the eucharist.

Meditating on the life of Christ provides an opportunity to &uot;thank the lord for all the mysteries of how God can become man. It is a great mystery. Christ’s life is a great mystery,&uot; Camp said.

In his apostolic letter, &uot;The Rosary of the Virgin Mary,&uot; published in the February edition of St. Anthony Messenger, the pope says adding the ministry of Christ for contemplation should &uot;renkindle renewed interest in the Rosary’s place within Christian spirituality as a true doorway to the depths of the Heart of Christ, ocean of joy and light, of suffering and of glory.&uot;

At St. Mary, a small prayer group meets daily after 8 a.m. Mass to say the rosary and offer special prayers, as they have been doing since 1979.

Dale Steckler, one of the founders of the group, said the new mysteries do not so much change the rosary as provide a significant addition to it, providing an opportunity to &uot;concentrate on Jesus’ working life.&uot;

Though widely known, the rosary often is misunderstood. The familiar beads with a dangling crucifix and a circular arrangement of five strands of 10 beads each and a lone bead connecting them strike chords even among non-Catholics.

The rosary is far more than a monotone recitation, however. Steckler described the devotional as &uot;all scriptural. If you concentrate on the mystery you’re praying, you’re really reliving a scriptural passage.&uot;

The Virgin Mary is the link to a better understanding of the mysteries. The rosary includes a recitation of 15 decades of Hail Marys, each introduced by the Lord’s Prayer and concluding with the Doxology.

As described by the pope in his recent letter, &uot;Against the background of the words ‘Hail Mary,’ the principal events of the life of Jesus Christ pass before the eyes of the soul. They take shape in the complete series of the joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries and they put us in living communion with Jesus through &045; we might say &045; the heart of his Mother.&uot;

The small prayer group at St. Mary prays for people in the community who are ill, for the community as a whole and for world peace.

&uot;If you focus on the Son, you love the Son; and you focus on loving others,&uot; Steckler said. &uot;Peace is going to come by our loving each other individually. You can love someone even though you don’t like what they’re doing.&uot;

The rosary has lost prominence among many Catholics. &uot;As kids, we were taught the rosary,&uot; Camp said. &uot;A lot of Catholics don’t say it anymore. They may carry the rosaries but don’t use them.&uot;

Pope John Paul II wants the rosary to become a family devotional again as it once was. &uot;At one time, this prayer was particularly dear to Christian families,&uot; he wrote. &uot;It is important not to lose this precious inheritance.&uot;

Steckler said the morning prayer group at St. Mary is open to anyone who wants to join it. Often visitors sit in with them. &uot;We have had some people join us who are not Catholic,&uot; she said.

Indeed, many believe the pope hopes to interest more than only those of Catholic faith to consider the rosary in a time when prayers for peace are multiplying.

&uot;There are people throughout the country, throughout the world, who are doing the same thing we’re doing,&uot; Steckler said of her small prayer group. &uot;Anyone is welcome to join us.&uot;