For many Catholics, the Rosary is a vestige of "old religion," a devotion best left to elderly women in half-darkened pews. To Pulitzer Prize winner Garry Wills, however, this practice is a vital spiritual tool untarnished by centuries of use. In this insightful book, the author of Why I Am a Catholic reflects on the Rosary as a time-honored aid to contemplation and regeneration.
Wills (Why I Am a Catholic) shares his personal practice of the rosary in a book that is both inspiring and refreshing. His approach excels chiefly in the reflections he has written on the gospel stories that are used as subjects of contemplation for each section of the rosary beads. In these, Wills relies extensively on the work of the late scripture scholar Raymond Brown to expand upon passages that have become overly familiar to many. The author's own translations of the Christian scriptures are a further enhancement, as is the inclusion of images by Renaissance artist Tintoretto. Though the rosary is often viewed as part of the life of Catholics before the sweeping changes wrought by the Second Vatican Council, Wills considers the devotion to be both timely and timeless. It is timely, he writes, quoting Pope John Paul II, because of its usefulness as a tool for quiet and regeneration in an increasingly noisy society, and timeless because its repetition of prayers said on a strand of beads is an ancient aid to contemplation. Wills begins the book with a brief history of the devotion and carefully explains how to take it up. His guide will be helpful to anyone interested in the rosary, but especially to those seeking new insights into its practice. (Nov. 7) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
The use of prayer beads as an aid to repetition, concentration, and religious reflection is common to a variety of religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. In this fine book, Wills (history, Northwestern Univ.; Why I Am a Catholic) captures the Catholic need for meditation and provides a full history of the rosary tradition, including relevant paintings from Jacopo Robusti (Tintoretto). Though Wills fully addresses the prayers and ritual mechanics of the rosary, his intent is not to follow the pattern but to aid in contemplation and meditation on the four mysteries (Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful, and Glorious). The text serves either to enrich the study of the rosary or to help readers meditate on the Holy Mysteries and reflect on related aspects of Jesus Christ's life. It should not be taken as a devotional to be used on a daily basis; instead, it helps us better understand what the mysteries are in conjunction with the scripture and history behind the meditation. Recommended for larger Catholic religious collections.-L. Kriz, West Des Moines P.L., IA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Wills dispenses with the diatribes against the Catholic hierarchy in Papal Sin (2000) to offer reverent reflections on the practice of the rosary. Over the centuries the rosary became a sometimes-controversial emblem of Catholicism, especially in its association with indulgences (a linkage relegated to obscurity by recent pontiffs). In the post-Vatican II era, it has been regarded in some quarters as a quaint relic. Against this background, Wills defends the rosary in its purest form. In an age of confusion that has renewed interest in meditation, he notes, the rhythmic repetition of these beads invites practitioners "to retire into that secret of our deeper life in Christ, to reflect on his actions and their private meaning for us, and to do this at our own pace, seeking our own peace." Pope John Paul II added a set of five "luminous mysteries," or mysteries of light, to go with the traditional three sets: the joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries. Wills analyzes what the episodes associated with each mystery signify in the life of Jesus. In particular, he affirms the special status of Mary-accepting yet concerned about her son's mission-against those who see her as a distraction from understanding Christ: "From the early struggles with heresy, it was her role to stand between some who thought Christ not fully human and some who thought him not fully divine." When not sensitively explaining the rosary's use in times of spiritual struggle, Wills employs vivid imagery, as in this description of a painting of the Annunciation by the Renaissance master Tintoretto: "The dove of the Holy Spirit plunges like a dive bomber, trailing a squadron of fighter angels." The pretentiousness andsarcasm that sometimes marred Wills' prior religious writings take a back seat here to his considerable erudition and eloquence. A miniature masterpiece of biblical exegesis. (28 pp. of full-color illustrations)Author tour
A glorious book on that most uniquely Catholic of Christian devotions. (Andrew M. Greeley, author of The Catholic Revolution)
Wills has given us... a deeply personal essay about far more than just the rosary. (Phyllis Tickle, compiler of The Divine Hours)
Garry Wills retrieves one of the treasures of Catholic faith.... More, this book is itself a stirring prayer. (James Carroll, author of Constantine's Sword)