The Rosary: a short introduction

Twenty minutes a day keep the devil away.

Your priest has probably never told you anything about the Rosary. Let us correct this unfortunate situation with some short remarks.

The Rosary is both a cycle of prayer and a small object used to help the faithful in reciting it. The objects are easily available – e.g. on on ebay – and they can be from extremely cheap to refined pieces of jewellery. I will deal here with the way to pray the rosary.

There are some regional variations in the way of praying the rosary and every faithful can adjust some parts as he likes. Personally, I recite the rosary as follows:

1) Sign of the Cross. Creed of the Apostles; Pater Noster; three Hail Marys; Glory Be; Fatima prayer.

2) Five decades, each composed of the following: Pater noster; ten Hail Marys; Glory Be; Fatima Prayer. At the beginning of each decade I introduce a short pause to reflect on the mystery and/or to ask Our Lord or the Blessed Virgin for a particular grace.

3) “Hail, Holy Queen”. Sign of the Cross.

During the three Hail Marys of the introduction you can meditate on the three Theological Virtues (Hope, Faith and Charity). During each of the ten Hail Marys of every decade you can meditate on the traditional mysteries of the day or substitute them with some other meditation you prefer. The traditionally used mysteries are – in this context – 15 episodes of the life of Our Lord or of the Blessed Virgin. They are divided into three groups of five (the joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries). Every day you meditate on one set of five mysteries, one mystery for every decade. The five mysteries added by John Paul II (“improving” on several apparitions of Mary) and called the mysteries of light are not traditional and are therefore not considered here, but again there is no obligation as to what is the object of the meditation.

The way to pray (and the beauty of the rosary) is to allow your lips to regularly go through the Hail Marys whilst keeping your mind fixed on the relevant mystery. The mind being what it is, you’ll discover that you are easily distracted. Still, the fact that you are vocally (this is much better than to do it mentally!) reciting the Hail Marys will help your mind to keep focused.

Traditionally, a vocal recitation of the prayers will not require you to be sure that you never, ever lose concentration (and you will!). What will initially happen is a constant bouncing of your mind from the meditation to the words of the Hail Mary to what you want to eat for dinner and back to the words of the Hail Mary or to the meditation, in a play of wandering thoughts whilst still trying to remain anchored in the meditation. In time, you will discover that you become more and more focused on the mysteries and your rosary becomes more spiritual, more relaxed (because you are not constantly “trying to stay focused”) and more rapid.

When a good practice has been attained, allow some twenty minutes for the rosary in its entirety (meaning here: the daily five decades). You can split the rosary into its components but not split a decade. Imagine that every Hail Mary is a rose you are giving to Mary, with the rosary being a beautiful garland.

The rosary is a beautiful way to transform boring times of your day into an uplifting experience: for instance whilst waiting for the train or as an alternative to reading junk newspapers during your commute. A complete decade will take you (with practice) not more than three or four minutes. You’ll see how refreshingly beautiful it is.

Much more could be said about the Rosary and many are the Internet sites dedicated to this beautiful devotion. Two links are given on the right hand site. Therein you will find descriptions of the mysteries and visual helps to aid your meditation efforts, historical informations, etc.; the spiritual meaning and the benefits of the rosary will also be discussed more in-depth. Please do not neglect to read the Promises of Mary to the Christians who recite the rosary!

Here ends this little introduction. I hope that you will find the Rosary uplifting and that you will one day start his recitation as a daily practice. I have found the practice extremely beneficial and cannot imagine a life without it anymore.


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76 Responses to The Rosary: a short introduction

  1. Father, I do not understand why you say that the Luminous Mysteries “improve” on apparitions of our Lady. They are the Baptism of our Lord, the Marriage at Cana, the Proclamation of the Kingdom, the Transfiguration and the Institution of the Eucharist. All are entirely Biblical, and only one is an incident in the life of our Lady as well as our Lord. As meditative subjects they amply fill the gap in the traditional Mysteries between the Finding of our Lord in the Temple at the age of twelve, and the commencement of his Passion with the Agony. I use them regularly and would highly recommend them. As commended by the late Holy Father, they surely have become part of sacred Tradition (which does not mean “old”).


  2. Brother Burrito says:

    Thanks Mundabor,

    It never occurred to me to split the Rosary up during the day. Your tips on verbalisation/meditation are jolly useful too. I firmly amend to try harder with this Devotion, so highly recommended as it is.

    I agree with Fr Paul’s points too, re the Luminous Mysteries: as the poor man’s breviary, the Rosary gains from the extra variety these provide.


  3. Benedict Carter says:

    Dear Fr./Mr. Spilsbury,

    For the sake of good order, may I ask you to confirm if you are a Catholic priest or an Anglican vicar on the Anglo-Catholic wing?

    Either way, you are welcome of course.


  4. teresa says:

    I just visited Father Spilsbury’s blog, it is very edifying and interesting.


  5. heracletian says:

    From the (1968?) Enchiridion of Indulgences, I think the recital of the Marian Rosary can, with the appropriate conditions and disposition, receive a plenary indulgence. The Holy Rosary, the Stations of the Cross, the Reading of Sacred Scripture, the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament are all listed therein. I’d love to see these become part of every Catholic’s devotional life. I could also do with taking my own advice.


  6. patphillips1 says:

    Thanks for this on the Rosary – it’s so hard to find Rosary books these days which only have the 15 mysteries . . . off topic, I know, but has anyone seen Dr Oddie’s article on the Catholic Herald blog about the Soho ‘gay’ Masses?


  7. Mundabor says:

    Mr Spilbury,

    (I am not a “father” btw 😉 but we have two excellent ones here 🙂 ), my “improving” is a slightly ironic reference to the fact that many conservative Catholics see it as less than entirely appropriate that a Pope thinks that Marian apparitions would leave any kind of “gap” which must then in some way be filled, after centuries of moving and successful devotion, by JP II.

    The Rosary is the result of Marian apparitions to, among other, St. Dominic and Blessed Alan De La Roche. Being these private revelations one can give them faith or not, but the idea that the Blessed Virgin would have overlooked that there is a “gap” is in my eyes rather extraordinary theology.

    More in general, the idea that in the post V II years everything has to be “improved” and not even the Rosary can be left alone is rather unpleasant to all those conservative Catholics who – like me – have developed a strong dislike for this “improvomania”.

    On the other hand, the choice of meditation themes is – as I have written above – free and therefore the use of the meditation themes as exposed by the late JP II not “wrong” in itself.

    You’ ll have understanding, though, for the fact that I do not think that the Blessed Virgin’s instruction left any “gap” or “inbalance” whatsoever and will therefore continue (as, I am sure, countless millions of Catholics the world over) to recite my rosary as it has always been done.

    I must also disagree with your idea that something introduced by the late JP II would be ipso facto part of the sacred tradition.
    Firstly, with this train of thoughts an admirer of the Novus Ordo would call himself a “Traditionalist”; secondly, no Pope can be individually seen as creator of “Sacred Tradition”. The Pope is a custodian of the Tradition, not a creator; no Pope can ever change anything to it.



  8. Mundabor says:


    under certain circumstances the recitation of the Rosary even procures a plenary indulgence, though this puts us into the difficult question of how difficult it is to obtain one (my personal answer: extremely difficult, highly improbable, very rare).

    I think the basic idea of the Rosary is that it is very difficult to think of someone faithfully reciting the rosary every day and still managing to go to Hell. One can certainly manage to do both nevertheless, but then something very wrong must have sneaked into his rosary making it insincere and unfruitful.

    I will post an entry about indulgences in the next day or two.



  9. toadspittle says:

    If you forget where you are, do you have to go back to the beginning and start all over again?


  10. Benedict Carter says:


    ” … the idea that in the post V II years everything has to be “improved” and not even the Rosary can be left alone …”

    Hear, hear!

    And ditto re Tradition: various Popes have taught explicitly that no Pope can add anything to it.

    However, I am not sure that the Rosary is part of “Tradition” per se. It is a “traditional” prayer but the two terms are not identical. I think JPII was absolutely free to add five “Mysteries of Light” but whether he was wise to do so is another thing altogether.


  11. toadspittle says:

    Naughty old Toad at 14.54.

    But, just between me and my fellow-loonies on this blog, I have to admit that – when I am trying to clear my mind, or divert my thoughts, or simply fall asleep – I still say the rosary like a mantra.
    Used to say it while running marathons.
    Once I decided that saying all those Hail Marys was silly and I tried to substitute an Auden poem instead. No good. The Hail Marys were too deeply ingrained in me, like those flies stuck in hundreds of millions of years old amber.


  12. Mundabor says:

    Yes BC,

    the rosary is most certainly not part of the Tradition; I was referring to (and negating) the concept that something be now part of the Tradition because introduced by JP II. This is simply not the case.

    I’d call the Rosary a “traditional Catholic devotion”.
    I think that JP II made a mistake in giving us the “rosary according to John Paul”. The mysteries he introduced are very well known and everyone was free to use them even before he had his own “improvement” ideas. He has downplayed the importance of the Rosary as the fruit of Marian revelation (yes, I know, but I can’t see how you can add your own ingredients to Mary’s recipe without doing that) without really adding anything.



  13. toadspittle says:

    also let us not forget that Mr. Spilsbury makes Very Fine Cakes! (Or am I confusing him with Mr.Kipling, who also makes Very Fine Pomes?) God will know the name.


  14. Benedict Carter says:



    The Soho Masses are a scandal. The fight is breaking out into the mainstream Catholic media now. Good news. The Bishops have surrendered to secular ideology. And it’s always the faithful laity who fight back – been that way in past centuries too.


  15. Benedict Carter says:


    Devotion to the Holy Rosary is a mark of one who will be saved, so they say.


  16. heracletian says:

    under certain circumstances the recitation of the Rosary even procures a plenary indulgence, though this puts us into the difficult question of how difficult it is to obtain one (my personal answer: extremely difficult, highly improbable, very rare).
    The question is not difficult at all: the devotion prescribed, sacramental confession, complete detachment from sin, prayers for the Holy Father, reception of the Eucharist. The Church would not open the Treasury of Christ’s merits to the faithful if the grants were nigh on impossible to receive. The ‘detachment from (even venial) sin’ is a challenge, but then that is the call and striving of every sincere Christian. Though I certainly do agree that the meditative habit of the Rosary is generally beneficial to the soul’s health quite apart from these considerations.


  17. toadspittle says:

    Off topic, I’m afraid, but would anyone care to knock out a few words on the necessity of Satan (or evil) existing?
    Otherwise, there’s no point to it all, is there?

    What’s the point of guys in white hats if there are no guys in black hats?

    I am indebted to a lady (Mimi?) who raised this fascinating notion the other day.
    God knows on which ‘thread.’


  18. Benedict Carter says:


    Excellent idea and an enormously important topic.


  19. I am happy to confirm that I am a Priest currently serving in the Church of England, although I tend to identify myself as “of the See of Ebbsfleet”, to make clear my distance from the General Synod and its works. I belong to the Society of the Holy Cross, a congregation of priests inspired by the example of St Vincent de Paul.


  20. hopeful62 says:


    Satan’s existence is repeatedly referred to by Our Lord in the New Testament. The Church founded by Christ has constantly testified to his existence and his malign influence. His effect on the lives of others is clearly evident – pick up any newspaper, even a village one, and read it for a day and you will see his hand at work. Finally, his effect on on our own lives is clearer still if we were but to reflect for a few moments on the sins we everyday commit.

    However, you might have meant something more profound and philosophical when you used the word ‘necessity’. From my, very limited, knowledge of philosophy only God necessarily exists, everything else is contingent.

    As to why God created Satan and maintains him in being, well…that’s a very profound question that theologians and philosophers have debated for a long time.

    Rest assured, he does exist and the Rosary is a vital weapon in mankind’s armoury to protect us against his wickedness. A daily prayer to St Michael the Archangel is helpful as well.



  21. omvendt says:


    The problem of evil is indeed a very serious question.

    Would you agree with me that if God does not exist talk of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ makes no sense?


  22. Mundabor says:

    “The Church would not open the Treasury of Christ’s merits to the faithful if the grants were nigh on impossible to receive”.

    Very interesting matter, Heracletian.
    I disagree with your point though I understand that there will be legitimate disagreements on this.
    My arguments are as follows:

    1) It is reasonable to think that such a huge treasury as a plenary indulgence would not reasonably be open just for an average effort. This would, I think, rather make a mockery of the entire indulgence matter and of purgatory a place where only the very lazy go. Just look at the Enchiridion and see how easy it would be to get a plenary indulgence every time one makes a good confession.

    2) I prefer to give faith to St. Philip Neri, who once preached on a day for which a plenary indulgence was granted and received from God the knowledge that of all the people in the fullly packed church ontly two (he and an old woman, say some source) would profit from the plenary indulgence. And those were times when churchgoers took their devotions seriously, I think. Makes sense to me. A living saint and a saintly old woman could have the necessary complete detachment; an ordinary sinner who goes to confession and two or ten days later is the victim of the same tendencies cannot aspire to the same claim. If we assume 500 people in the church this makes 0.4%. Not really bad for an express ticket to Paradise, methinks.

    3) It also make sense in my eyes because purgatory is there to purge us and prepare us for Paradise. Before we enter paradise, we must be sufficently (and obviously, in high degree) purified. Paradise without purification would burn us in a fraction of a second, be totally unbearable! The saintly man is already almost at a point that he can be allowed to get through. This is why the plenary indulgence is efficacious for him: because he is already almost there! It is still a huge gift, but it is not an entire Kingdom for: a good confession (one does it anyway), a Rosary in the church (20 minutes of serious effort, but millions do it every day at home), Mass (one does it anyway) communion (most do it anyway) and prayer for the intention of the Pontiff (two minutes of serious effort; make it five, I am generous……).

    4) It is my understanding that the idea of an “easy” plenary indulgence is another fruit of Vatican II. I might be wrong here, but I think that in former times even very good people expected purgatory at death, not paradise. I also think this rather salutary, as I can imagine few things more dangerous than to think that Paradise so easily achievable. In general, I’d say that every “generous” interpretation coming from the V II years should be avoided. Father Cumanus here says “when I go to purgatory” and I am sure he is further in detachment from sin than all of us and collects indulgences as Berlusconi collects prosecutions.

    Just my two pence of course. It is not for me to say how “complete” your detachment from sin is. But in my book, as long as I continue to sin my detachment is not really complete, I merely wish it to be so.



  23. Mundabor says:

    Mr. Spilbury,

    You will hopefully excuse my frankness but here we are committed to “Catholicism pure and simple”, not to niceties to make everyone feel comfortable. Therefore I dare to ask, if this is not too intimate:

    1) Are you entertaining any thought of conversion to the Only Church? (For the sake of completeness: this is what Anglicans call the RC Church).

    2) Are your parishioners doing the same? Many? Just a few?

    3) If you would answer to 1) in the afffirmative, how do you cope with some hard truths whose acceptance you are requested to swallow as a precondition to entering the Church (to wit: that you don’t have valid orders now and never had whilst a Vicar)?

    (Please, please don’t tell us that you are one of those who think they can have their cake (= think that their orders are valid) and eat it (= think that thay bring these “orders” validly into the Catholic Church) because you would not only be a great disappointment, but give a huge blow to the confidence many here have in the Ordinariates).

    4) How about the money? Are provisions being met for those vicars with family and children? How about the pension? How about the lodging? How about the property of the Anglican parish?

    If you feel you shouldn’t answer, you have my full understanding. The matter is highly interesting for us, this is why I ask.



  24. churchmouse says:

    Benedict Carter and toadspittle (although I still prefer Moratinos) — Re the road to salvation and recitation of the Rosary: Bishop Hugh Doyle said ‘No one can live continually in sin and continue to say the Rosary: either they will give up sin or they will give up the Rosary.’


  25. heracletian says:


    Far be it be from me to suggest that gaining a plenary indulgence is ‘easy’ – it is a soul’s disposition against sin and towards God that is key. That is as easy or as difficult as a soul makes it; a simple act of childlike abandonment is what is required. Simple, but not easy. Pride is the block: sometimes this can express itself in presumption, but it also can manifest itself in a morbid sense of one’s sinfulness. Judas, in the end out of pride, could not believe there was a way back. On the other hand, great sinners can, in a moment of deep repentance, be properly disposed: the weeping woman, the repentant thief, the countless fallen men and women through time, including BC, who simply have ‘given up’ on their own remedies and thrown themselves at the feet of God – a God who will not spurn a humble and contrite heart, who can ‘say but the word’ for a soul’s healing. God can be scandalously generous, as the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard gets across. In the OT, Naaman the Leprous Syrian is offended that his great disease could be remedied in a very undramatic way. The Story of Jonah, in part, conveys a God more merciful than a true Israelite like Jonah would wish it. In the Gospels, Jesus tells us that the one who welcomes a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward. He tells the Parable of an Unforgiving Servant who initially receives a ‘plenary indulgence’, a complete remission of debt, in answer to his pleas simply for time to pay. The Parable also shows how quickly one can fall back into sin after such a great remission – hence we should continue to ‘work out our salvation in fear and trembling’. Nonetheless, Christians are meant to ‘aim for heaven’ in this life, by a plenary, not partial, acceptance of the graces He offers during our pilgrim journey. Purgatory is the remedy for a partial acceptance.

    Whatever our opinions, the Church gives us access to the treasury under conditions clearly explained, the ‘complete detachment from sin’ condition being cardinal as to whether the indulgence is plenary or partial. Regarding the example taken from St Philip Neri (a saint for whom I have great affection, since he is the patron of my baptismal and childhood parish), the lack of granting plenary indulgences is easily explained in terms of dispositions. And though I have no reason to doubt this private revelation, my first port of call is the public teaching of the Church, which gives to Her children copious means of attaining plenary and partial indulgences. God is generous with his grace: where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.

    There is another reason why indulgences are important: they can be applied as suffrage for the souls in purgatory. So I hope I am more in the right about the prospects of gaining plenary indulgences than yourself, Mundabor, since if I predecease you, I might have to rely on your charity in this matter.


  26. Brother Burrito says:

    Mundabor, contact the forum, latest thread, urgent


  27. mmvc says:

    Father Spilbury,

    One of the most helpful teachings on the Rosary I have heard was given by Father John Corapi. I particularly like this observation of his: ‘to pray the Rosary is to pray the Gospel’. Since we have the Mysteries of Light how very true that is.


  28. mmvc says:

    Sorry, Father, I’ve just noticed that I misspelt your name. Apologies and welcome to the blog.


  29. glynbenedict says:

    Fr Spilsbury: I, like you, was an Anglo-Catholic priest. I know exactly how you must be feeling at this awful time, and I sincerely wish you well as you consider your future. I must say that I have found the Catholic Church to be a warm, friendly, comforting home, so please do not judge all of the contributors to this blog by the posts of one or two members. With every good wish, GB.


  30. Brother Burrito says:

    I saw that one too MMVC. It is the one where he remarks that when there were only 15 decades, that equated to 153 Hail Marys, the same number as the fish caught at the end of John’s Gospel. Fr Corapi then shrugs and says that JP2 spoiled that holy coincidence for all time!

    He is a must-see on EWTN. A great preacher.


  31. Mundabor says:


    you have made some moving arguments, and profound ones. Much as I woudl like to believe you, I still have difficulties, though, to cope with, so to speak, such generosity.

    In the end I think that those in St. Philip Neri’s church were, on average, better Christians than todays’ average; thus my less optimistic prognose. But again, you have argumented beautifully.

    I am now very much curious to know what was the prevalent idea in the V II years, that might give us a better clue.



  32. Mundabor says:

    On Mr. Spilbury may I add, before I go to sleep, a couple of words.

    1) To us Catholics, Mr. Spilbury is not a priest. Full stop. He may be the best man alive. He is still not a priest.

    2) This is nothing to do with being nice. This is to do with being Catholic.

    3) I have engaged in conversation with Mr. Spilbury, hoping that he would give some interesting insights. It does not mean that I start thinking like an Anglican to please Mr. Spilbury. If he wants to engage in conversation, brilliant. If he doesn’t want, I’ll respect his decision.

    4) This is a Catholic blog. Whoever comes from outside has every right to our attention and to our decent and civil answers. But he’ll certainly understand that
    he has no right to have the discussion on his own un-Catholic terms, asking us to adopt un-Catholic terminology, to be instrumental through silence of his error and enforce him in it.

    5) Obviously, every discussion should be made in charity. But charity can never exclude Truth. If you take Truth away what you have is not charity, merely accommodation.

    6) Benedict Carter put it beautifully: please tell us whether you are a Catholic Priest or an Anglican vicar, and welcome in both cases.

    I have rather the impression that Mr. Spilbury will not have much of a problem with being called Mr. Spilbury. I am just pointing out that you can’t be “Catholic pure and simple” and be “nice” at all costs. It’ ll be the one or the other.



  33. Caroline says:

    As to Mundabor’s assertion that FATHER Spilsbury is NOT a priest, I will say here what I have said privately, that he is contradicting Pope Benedict in his Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus:

    “VI. § 1. Those who ministered as Anglican deacons, priests, or bishops….”



  34. toadspittle says:

    omvendt , at 19:53 yesterday, said
    ”The problem of evil is indeed a very serious question.
    Would you agree with me that if God does not exist talk of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ makes no sense?”

    The very short answer is No.

    If for no other reason than sheer survival. ”The Social Contract,” for instance, (as I recall,) does not involve God.
    This is an interesting topic, but one that may well require several thousand words to arrive at no satisfactory conclusion.

    Still, that’s why we are here…


  35. toadspittle says:


    …ask ourselves whether God or Satan (or both or neither) is/was responsible for the Lisbon earthquake 0f 1755, the recent watery troubles in New Orleans, the Tsunami, the upset in Haiti and/or the eruption of Vesuvius…

    We might ask ourselves whether these sadly frequent events have any meaning, good or evil…

    They don’t seem to be rewards. Could they be punishments? Augustine seemed to think the latter.


  36. Mundabor says:

    an Anglican vicar is not apriest, period.

    The fact that a Pope may decide to call him, on occasion, “priest” is an inaccuracy which does not change the doctrinal facts of th ematter in the least.

    Let us take the example: “Church of England” (as they call it). Not more than 60 years ago you’d get a rap for writing it as the Anglicans do, and you would have been expected to write “so-called church of England”. The modern laxism and political correctness makes so that nowadays you can read church of England and even “Church of England” in official documents. It is not because it is correct. It is because it is politically correct and because it is a diplomatic document.

    This does not change the Church’s position whether the so-called church of England is a Church in the slightest.

    This is that the so-called church of England does NOT exist as Church. (Syllabus of Errors, number 37: “National churches, withdrawn from the auhority of the Roman pontiff and altogether separated, can be established”). – Note that “churches” is not capitalised. This is the correct way to write everytime one is referring to a so-called church.

    Therefore, whilst I consider extremely questionable but in the end unavoidable in this PC times that someone calls a Vicar “priest”, I go with the Catholic doctrine rather than slavishly following a diplomatic document and am, with this, fully orthodox and fully Catholic.



  37. Mundabor says:

    “They don’t seem to be rewards. Could they be punishments? Augustine seemed to think the latter”.

    Moratinos, I am away all day today, but I will not leave without having helped you 😉

    This is all the consequence of the Fall. There were no earthquakes in the Garden of Eden. The fallen nature is not only the fallen nature of man, but the reality of disease and calamity in which the fallen man must now live. I do not think that Augustine’s theory is official Catholic doctrine; on the contrary, we know that some saints lived very short lives or lives plagued by sufferances and disease (Padre Pio, St. Therese of Lisieux come to mind) but they made of their suffering a way to get nearer to God.



  38. patphillips1 says:

    Please can someone do a post on the crucial devotions of the First Fridays / First Saturdays. Thanks and God bless.


  39. Brother Burrito says:


    I second that request.

    (PS, visit the Help! page to find out how to get a proper posting name and avatar)


  40. sandygrounder says:

    Hopeful 62

    “The rosary is the scourge of the devil.” Pope Adrian VI

    I am glad you mentioned the Prayer to St Michael. I and many others say it at the end of the rosary.

    Mundabor: Thanks for this posting and for your advice about praying the rosary.


  41. Dear Mundabor,
    it would be helpful and courteous if you would spell my name correctly, but that is a small matter. I do not propose in a public blog to go into personal details, but I can assure you that I was ordained priest by a Bishop whose orders are accepted as valid by the Holy See.


  42. patphillips1 says:

    Has anyone ever read Apostolicae Curae, the Church’s teaching on the invalidity of Anglican Orders? It can be found here:- In 1998, when Pope John Paul II put out his Apostolic Letter Ad Tuendam Fidem, the then Cardinal Ratzinger wrote a doctrinal commentary on this Letter, pointing out the nature of the assent owed to the truths set forth by the Catholic Church In this commentary, he mentions Apostolicae Curae by name, as having to be definitively held by Catholics.


  43. joyfulpapist says:

    Just a small point. Priests are not called ‘Father’ in Latin. Official church documents refer to priests as ‘Dominus’.

    Indeed, the practice of calling diocesan priests ‘Father’ is a young one. Until the 19th century, in most parts of the world, the term was reserved (in the Catholic church) for priests who were members of monastic orders. And the honorific ‘Father’ was widely used by Protestants of all denominations.

    But in the mid-19th century, Protestants began to drop the titles. By the 1920s, only Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and some Episcopal clergy and nuns were being addressed as ‘‘Father’’ or “Mother.” The evidence suggests three reasons for this change in nomenclature.

    Most significantly, the decline of “Father” in Protestantism coincides with the rise of Irish immigration to the United States in the 1840s. Before that time, Roman Catholic priests in America were usually addressed as “Mister,” for most were secular (nonmonastic) clergy with roots in Europe or England, where Roman Catholic practice restricted “Father” to priests of monastic orders. Secular priests were called “Mister,” “Monsieur,” “Don” or other vernacular equivalents.

    Irish Roman Catholics, however, addressed all priests — whether secular or monastic — as “Father.” And by the end of the Victorian period, the Irish had influenced English-speaking Roman Catholicism to call every priest “Father.”

    This change clearly influenced Protestant usage. Catholic priests called “Mister” and protestant clergy called “Father” had lived side by side in America. Following the Irish immigrations, however, Protestants began to see the title as redolent of priestcraft and popery.

    In the early church, the term ‘Father’ was used only for bishops – hence our term ‘Pope’, from ‘Pappas’ for our Holy Father, the Bishop of Rome.


  44. Brother Burrito says:

    Excellent as ever JP!

    You’ve just helped me win an argument.


  45. Mundabor says:

    “I can assure you that I was ordained priest by a Bishop whose orders are accepted as valid by the Holy See”.

    Mr. Spilsbury,
    let us agree to disagree on this as, I am sure, civilised people can do without particular animosity.

    If you feel that you could answer some of the other three questions I posed yesterday, I think this could be highly interesting for our readers. Once again, you have my full understanding if you don’t.



  46. Mundabor says:

    Please can someone do a post on the crucial devotions of the First Fridays / First Saturdays.

    They are, respectively, the devotions of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Unless new elements intervene in the next days, I would like to prepare something on the matter. But as always, now that you know the names you can google them and you will find information aplenty.

    Both are among the most important Catholic devotions. But I do think that the Rosary is, so to speak, the mother of all devotions. My sincere suggestion to anyone wanting to explore the beautiful world of catholic devotions would be to start ideally from the Rosary or perhaps with some Novena. A Novena is good because it allows one to take the habit (=learn not to skip days). One a novena has been recited for the usual nine days once or twice, a daily Rosary will become easier to digest.

    Important: as with every Catholic devotion, do not get discouraged if you initially “fail” (eg: interrupt a novena). Discouragement is what the Devil is waiting for. Perseverance is what carries the day.



  47. Frere Rabit says:

    It has taken me a while to catch up with this thread Mundabor. I am on the pilgrimage road on a bicycle, in very difficult circumstances in some ways, which I will not go into here – but you will be aware of thgem elsewhere on our communication system. Now that I have seen what is written on this thread, I have to make my own position publicly clear, rather than hidden on our private communications.

    The direct and indirect insults to an ordained minister of another denomination (or if you want to force the point an ‘ecclesial community’) are entirely unacceptable and as one of those who was instrumental in setting up this Catholicism Pure and Simple blog, to break away from the crassness of Damian Thompson’s blog, I did not put in all that work to erect another pile of crassnessin its place.

    Your comments are entirely unnecessary; they are prompted by a desire to make clever rhetorical points to hurt someone from another Christian tradition; and finally they suggest an insecurity among traditional Catholics which is entirely false. If you are secure in your faith and therefore confident of being right, you have no need to insult others. This weakens our whole cause on this blog. I need to state this publicly for the sake of our joint enterprise in this work. You do not speak for us all, but for yourself, and it is a pity you spoke this way. We have all given your views a great deal of tolerance, but you have taken advantage of us to make this blog your mouthpiece. I am sorry for what you have done here.

    Lord have mercy upon us.


  48. teresa says:

    Prayer is good, but without charity there will be no real prayer.


  49. teresa says:

    And will Our Lady like us to pray Rosary without the real spirit of Christian love?


  50. teresa says:

    Enough said.


  51. (X)MCCLXIII says:

    Dear Mundabor,

    You can find answers to some of your questions in this blog post.


  52. omemiserum says:

    please don’t get too hung up on titles. The HF does refer to Anglican “priests”. But it would be a mistake to infer any parity with Catholic “priests”. Indeed, even non Christian religions have “priests” and and are referred to as such by the Catholic Church. A Hindu “priest” is as much a “priest” as an Anglican or Budhist. It’s just that none of them are the same as “Catholic Priests” – and neither would any of them they suggest they were.

    But I think poor Mr Spilsbury’s dilemma is of another kind. You see the poor man knows, deep down, that he’s not the real thing. And this is his grief. It is what he aches to be , more than anything in the world. He wants to be an authentic Catholic Priest and not to be doubting his orders. He knows that Anglican Orders are “absolutely null and utterly void” (Apostolicae curae) in Catholic terms – and it’s just as well that most Anglicans couldn’t give a stuff about this, or there might be an outbreak of fervour Romewards such as the imminently-Beatus JHN would have envied!

    Dear Mr Spilsbury, Peter has opened to you and your confreres yet another escape route. It’s one that has always been there – and indeed one that so many of us took in the years following the first Anglican Suicide Attempt in 1992. You are absolutely welcome – and the door is wide open. But you must come in on the Catholic Church’s terms, not you own. No matter how “valid” you think were the orders you are marked with via some schismatic bishop (and, in all charity, I must question your assertion that the Holy See considers such orders “valid” in any conventional sense), you are not a Catholic Priest. When, as I hope and pray, you have made your submission to Peter, you will immediately be released from the spiritual turmoil that trying to square the circle of being a Catholic Christian out of communion with the Catholic Church.

    Mundabor’s search for clarity in this matter is not based on point-scoring rhetoric; FrereRabbit has clearly got his/her own agenda going on behind the scenes, above. Mr Spilsbury and his friends deserve better: come on over – the Barque of Peter is passing! Don’t miss it.


  53. teresa says:

    Father Spilsbury is ordained in the Catholic Church.


  54. joyfulpapist says:

    A debate on whether or not Anglican orders are valid is entirely appropriate on this blog.

    Refusing someone their usual honorific on the specious grounds that Catholic teaching reserves that honorific for ordained priests is not appropriate. First point is that the grounds are wrong. The honorific ‘Father’ has not traditionally been used solely for biological fathers and priests; and priests have not traditionally been called ‘Father’ unless they were in a monastic order. On a blog that is proud of its adherence to tradition, these things matter. Second, that being the case, we come down to a question of manners.

    I am not a monarchist. But if a member of the royal family of, say, Sweden, were to post here, claiming their usual honorific, I would use it in addressing them. If a Judaic religious teacher posted here, I would be have no difficulty with calling them Rabbi. Professor? Doctor? Even Ms – although I find it aesthetically displeasing.

    Mundabor, had you opened a conversation about ordination, I would have no beef with you. But it is plain rude to go on calling our guest ‘Mr’ when his preferred honorific is ‘Fr’, and when there is no Catholic teaching that insists on the reservation of that honorific.


  55. glynbenedict says:

    Frererabit and Joyful: I could not agree more with you both. Courtesy is essential and costs nothing. GB


  56. omvendt says:

    toad: “The very short answer is No.”

    Thanks for replying to my question – and an admirably brief reply too! LOL

    I’d like to make a few more comments.

    I suggested that without God ‘good’ and ‘evil’ make no sense. To elaborate upon that I think it’s fair to say that sans God the cosmos has no ultimate purpose or meaning, nor does humankind. We would then have to agree with Sartre that “man is a useless passion.”

    That sounds quite impressive as a mood: to actually live life in accordance with such a view is a different matter entirely.

    So to talk about good and evil from such a perspective seems rather inappropriate: we should really confine ourselves to describing unfolding phenomena, material events, etc.

    Furthermore, when I use the terms ‘good’ and ‘evil’ I’m assuming that, in a fundamental sense, these terms have objective meanings or ‘values’. These values, therefore, cannot be derived from the findings of a committee, or based on some Rousseau-style social contract or the opinions of a majority. If that were the case, a fundamental moral value could be good on Monday and evil on Tuesday.

    Moreover, we could never make sense of moral progress in society unless we accept that fundamental moral values are objective. Moral progress implies getting closer to some objective standard of moral perfection. This ultimate moral standard can only be derived from the good God – not shifting human opinions.

    It’s only because we implicitly believe in objective moral standards, and the possibility of moral progress in societies, that we welcome the abolition of slavery or the end of apartheid, and so on.

    As you’ve pointed out there’s a great deal more to be said here, but I’d like to make one or two remarks regarding disasters natural and man-made.

    Mundabor’s earlier remarks cover succinctly a lot of what I would say myself.

    I’d just like to say in addition that, to my mind, you imply (perfectly legitimately) that much of the evil in our world seems gratuitous: the earthquake in Lisbon, the Tsunami, the eruption which destroyed Pompeii, for example.

    I think it can be argued that in the case of, say, an earthquake, to describe that as a pointless evil we would have to know two kinds of facts: we’d have to know the balance of good as opposed to evil produced over centuries after the occurrence of the event, and the balance of good as opposed to evil that would have resulted over centuries had the event not taken place.

    But, of course, we’re not in a positions to make those kinds of assessments. Only God can know if such catastrophes are ultimately ‘gratuitous’ evils.

    Nothing that I’ve said is in any way intended to sound flippant or callous.

    Like a great many others, I believe that the Problem of Evil is the only serious objection to the existence of God.

    I hope you’ve found the endurance to keep going right to the end of this post!

    As Ben said, you’ve raised a very important and controversial topic.


  57. Frere Rabit says:

    omemiserum: You refer to my ‘agenda’. My agenda is simply that it is unnecessary for Mundabor and others to be rude. I find it odd that you assume any other agenda, and that inference is unhelpful to any debate. I’ll thank you to be polite on our blog, even if one of our own team has seriously let the side down.


  58. marcpuck says:

    Mundabor at 2034, Why disagree with an ‘assurance’ offered by the gentleman? He may be mistaken in his conviction as to the validity of his orders, you may be mistaken (perhaps you know or know of the ordaining bishop? I have no idea), but surely it would be better to accept the assurance and then perhaps restate the Apostolicae Curae norm?

    And, no–for what it’s worth– I don’t see any animosity in your public conversation with Fr Spilsbury.


  59. Caroline says:


    Outstanding comments.


    I am not “hung up on titles,” although you appear to be.

    A little less condescension and a little more courtesy would improve your comment immeasurably.

    BTW, out of idle curiosity, what does omemiserum mean? I can only find me+miserum which is said to mean “poor, miserable, wretched, unfortunate, unhappy, distressing” [me].


  60. joyfulpapist says:

    Caroline, O me miserum translates as ‘woe is me’ or ‘o wretched me’.


  61. toadspittle says:

    omvendt says:July 18, 2010 at 23:25

    You see my position very clearly. Yes, I am of the opinion, that without God the cosmos seems to have no real ‘purpose,’ except to be itself and try to keep perpetuating itself. What that ‘self’ is is up to us to decide, either collectively or individually. Yes, this is a bleak view in some (in fact, all) respects, but it is the one that seems most convincing to me.
    Just because we would all like it/life/the cosmos to have a happy ending, is no guarantee that it will.
    I use the words ‘seem’ and ‘appear’ a lot, I notice, because I am open to suggestion. But, I must, at present, go along with the likes of Sartre, Heidegger and Schopenhauer.
    I suppose, in a nutshell, my position is that, there being insufficient evidence for the existence of God – no evidence, really – we must amuse ourselves with art and music and blogs and stuff until we die.


  62. Caroline says:


    LOL. Thanks. I pretty much figured that out; I was more or less just being catty! 😉


  63. toadspittle says:


    I will brood Kantian-style while dogwalking and write more later, I fear.


  64. joyfulpapist says:

    It’s from Cicero. In the passage, Cicero is being catty. I’m stuck as to the relevance, but I dare say it amuses him.


  65. toadspittle says:


    While I was dogwalking I got distracted into thinking about burkas. A tricky one.

    What I think we need now is your idea of what, apart from mathematics, constitutes a timeless, unchanging ‘truth.’
    Water boils at 100 degrees centigrade at sea level, I suppose, but I suspect we would want to go deeper than that.
    I will, maybe unnecessarily, elaborate a bit. I believe in many ‘truths.’ So do you . There may be some, many even, we can agree on. What might they be?


  66. omvendt says:


    Well, I bet we would agree that rape is evil. And that it is evil always and everywhere.


  67. toadspittle says:


    Yes, rape is evil. So is lying. So is murder. When I was a kid is was taught, ”Thou shalt not kill.” A little different, but beside the point.
    So where do we go from here?
    Do you agree some things are evil – whether there is a God or not?


  68. omvendt says:


    toad: “Do you agree some things are evil – whether there is a God or not?”

    The very short answer is No. ;-0 (Prolly made a horlicks of the attempted smiley)

    As I strove to explain earlier, objective values only make sense (only exist, if you will) if God exists.

    Good and evil entail ultimately some kind of cosmic purpose. If there is no God then the universe cannot be said to have any purpose. Ultimately, there’s no place for ‘good’ and ‘evil’ acts in such a cosmos. In a moral sense, we cannot derive an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’.

    Now I’m not for one moment suggesting that atheists are incapable of good acts.

    What I am saying is that without God, without an objective standard of Natural Law grounded in God, what we’re left with is describing phenomena, or a bunch of opinions or whatever.

    Nietzsche, of whom I suspect you’re rather fond, didn’t shirk from the moral consequences of the ‘God is dead’ philosophy. I think he encapsulated neatly the essence of his views on morality in the title of one of his books: ‘Beyond Good and Evil’.

    Much more that could be said on this topic it goes without saying. (So why am I saying it then? ;-0)

    Be that as it may, I anticipate more of your characteristically succinct and robust observations.


  69. toadspittle says:

    (Caroline is very clever and can show you how to do smileys. I will not try, but will stick to less grave concerns.)

    You say..

    ”Good and evil entail ultimately some kind of cosmic purpose. If there is no God then the universe cannot be said to have any purpose.”

    You might as well say; (and for all I know, you do) ”A painting must have a subject. If there is no subject, it’s not a painting.”

    And you might believe that. People do.

    You make a (for me) false premise, then derive a conclusion from it. I happen to agree with this conclusion, but that is irrelevant.

    I do believe the universe doesn’t have any ‘purpose,’ at least any that we know so far, anymore than my dogs have a ‘purpose.’ They are simply dogs. The are born, they try to reproduce, they die. They dig big holes in the yard without any (to me) discernible purpose. It’s what they do.
    You might as well say the Grand Canyon has a ‘purpose.’ Why should it? Maybe you are right. Maybe God put it there to make us say, ”Crickey!” when we look over the edge.
    And maybe not.


  70. toadspittle says:


    To bring the point closer home, it seems as if you are saying, ”God makes things possible. Possible things happen, therefore there is a God.”



  71. omvendt says:


    I’m under a little pressure of time here so I’ll try to be brief. I’ll probably add a few more comments later.

    Here is the argument in a nutshell.

    If God does not exist, objective values do not exist.
    Objective values exist.
    Therefore, God exists.


  72. toadspittle says:


    What you intend to do, I hope, is to name some, or all, of the objective values contingent on God.


  73. omvendt says:


    I don’t think we’re going to get very much further with this conversation. I’ve tried to be as clear as I can. (Maybe that’s not very clear.)

    So I’m not going to repeat myself ad infinitum about objective moral values. I did suggest that fundamental moral values ( Natural Law) are derived ultimately from God.

    I gave an example of an objective moral value when I said that rape is evil, and evil at all times and in all places. Maybe you think that’s just a matter of opinion. But that’s not the impression I got when you condemned rape as evil. You did not qualify that remark by saying, ‘but that’s just my opinion’.

    Nor did you say, ‘Yes, but that was just decided as part of a social contract’.

    Rather puzzling given that you did suggest that moral value is derived from ‘survival value’ or a ‘social contract’. Clearly, there’s nothing in either of those theories that can posit that moral value is objective.

    I take it that by ‘survival value’ you’re referring to some kind of Darwinian sociobiology. I get nervous when I hear that kind of talk: Jeffrey Dahmer was a keen proponent of sociobiological theories of morality.

    I’m not going to present you with a list of ‘moral values contingent (whatever that means) on God’.

    I will give you another example of an objective moral value, namely, that is wrong to torture babies for fun.

    Again, perhaps you think that’s just a matter of opinion, or something that could be decided by some kind of ‘Rousseau-style’ process.

    But I doubt very much if you believe that.

    I suspect that you know quite well that there are basic principles of right and wrong that everyone knows exists (which is not to say that all moral questions have crystal clear boundaries and are easily resolved). I suspect you know that objective moral value can only be securely ‘grounded’ in God. So I suspect that your professed views on morality are derived from your will rather than your intellect.

    But then again I could be wrong. 🙂

    Whatever. Now I need to make like a drum and beat it.


  74. heracletian says:

    Newman advances a subtle and powerful argument for the existence of God on the basis of the phenomenology of conscience. It’s discussed in Grammar of Assent, Ch. 5 and elsewhere.

    It no doubt develops some of Butler’s ideas on conscience – Butler who made the following assertion in defence of the objectivity of moral values based on the ‘inward feelings’ (the operation of conscience):

    Since, then, our inward feelings, and the perceptions we receive, from our external senses, are equally real; to argue from the former to life and conduct, is as little liable to exception, as to argue from the latter to absolute speculative truth.
    Sermon II


  75. toadspittle says:


    I agee. We disagree.

    And now, it seems I have been a little too ‘robust’ for someone else and upset them.

    I will step back and ponder things for a few days. Maybe torture a few babies.
    Don’t want to rain on the parade.


  76. omvendt says:


    I don’t have any issue with your being ‘robust’.

    I’ve just noticed that you don’t put forward any arguments.

    When it’s pointed out that you make, for example, a self-refuting statement, you decide you want to talk about something else.

    What I must acknowledge that you do very well is make sarcastic comments.

    And sometimes they’re even funny.

    You do come away with some good one-liners!

    Hasta lluego.


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