ROME, 26 OCT 2010 (ZENIT)
Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: In a booklet entitled, "Prayers & Devotions for Eucharistic Holy Hour," Page 13 states: "It is not appropriate to pray the rosary or other devotional prayers to the saints. Benediction and adoration are for the purpose of giving our attention to the worship of Christ the Lord." The booklet was published by Liguori Publications (in 2000) and has both an imprimatur from the auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, Most Rev. Michael J. Sheridan, as well as an imprimi potest from Richard Thibodeau, C.Ss.R., provincial, Denver Province of the Redemptorists. On the other hand, another publication entitled, "Thirty-One Questions on Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament: A Resource of the Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy," published by the U.S. bishops' Committee on the Liturgy, states on Page 12, in answering question No. 27 (i.e., "May the Rosary be prayed during Eucharistic adoration?"), the following: "Yes. The Rosary, 'a prayer inspired by the Gospel and centered on the mystery of the Incarnation and the Redemption,' 'should be considered a prayer of deep Christological orientation,' and may rightly be counted among the prayers designed to 'direct the attention of the faithful to the worship of Christ the Lord.' ... [T]he recitation of the Rosary before the exposed Sacrament should help lead the faithful back 'to a knowledge and love of the Lord Jesus, to union with him, finding great encouragement and support in liturgical prayer before the Eucharist.'" Thus, which do you believe is the right and proper form of Eucharistic adoration: with or without the recitation of the rosary? — F.P., Black Eagle, Montana
A: I can only suppose that, although the pamphlet was published in 2000, it might have simply reprinted earlier material without being updated.
This is because on Jan. 15, 1997, the Congregation for Divine Worship published an official response to a doubt (Prot no. 2287/96/L) in which it clarified that it is permitted to publicly pray the rosary before the Blessed Sacrament exposed. This declaration is the basis of the response of the U.S. bishops' Liturgy Committee favoring the practice.
Although the statement is dated 1997 the response, along with an explanatory note, was actually published much later in Notitiae, the official organ of the Congregation for Divine Worship, and in Spanish (Notitiae  507-511). Since this review is not widely disseminated it is understandable that the publishers of the pamphlet might have missed it.
Before the Holy See's intervention, the appropriateness of praying the rosary during exposition was a matter of debate among liturgists. Some, in good faith, saw it as an inordinate mixing of Marian and Eucharistic devotions. A small number criticized the practice because they approved neither the rosary nor adoration.
In January-February 1999 the newsletter of the U.S. bishops' Liturgy Committee published an unofficial translation of the Vatican congregation's notes explaining the reasoning behind its decision. To wit:
Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and the Praying of the Rosary
1. The conciliar Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, number 13, says: "Popular devotions of the Christian people are to be highly commended, provided they accord with the laws and norms of the Church, above all when they are ordered by the Apostolic See ... But these devotions should be so drawn up that they harmonize with the liturgical seasons in such a way as to be in accord with the sacred liturgy, that they be in some fashion derived from it, and lead the people to it, since, in fact, the liturgy by its very nature far surpasses any of them." The Catechism of the Catholic Church adds to this citation from Sacrosanctum Concilium: "These expressions are a prolongation of the liturgical life of the Church, but are not substitutes for it."
Eucharistic exposition is a celebration related to the liturgy as understood in the Instruction Eucharisticum Mysterium, number 62, from the Roman Ritual: Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass and from the Ceremonial of Bishops which dedicates chapter XXII to this same topic.
The Holy Rosary is, without doubt, one of the pious exercises most recommended by ecclesiastical authority.
(See also The Catechism of the Catholic Church numbers 971, 1674, 2678, 2708).
A Catholic sensitivity never separates Christ from his mother or vice versa.
2. The Apostolic Letter Vicesimus quintus annus, number 18, says: "Finally, to safeguard the reform and ensure the promotion of the Liturgy it is necessary to take account of popular Christian devotion and its relation to liturgical life. This popular devotion should not be ignored or treated with indifference or contempt, since it is rich in values, and in itself it gives expression to the religious attitude towards God. But it needs to be continually evangelized, so that the faith which it expresses may become an ever more mature and authentic act. Both the pious exercises of the Christian people and also other forms of devotion are welcomed and encouraged provided that they do not replace or intrude into liturgical celebrations. An authentic pastoral promotion of the Liturgy will build upon the riches of popular piety, purifying and directing them towards the Liturgy as the offering of the peoples."
II. Relationship Between Eucharistic Exposition and the Holy Rosary
One quote from each of the three most important documents follows:
1. "During the exposition everything should be so arranged that the faithful can devote themselves attentively in prayer to Christ Lord ..." (Instruction Eucharisticum Mysterium, number 62)
2. "To encourage a prayerful spirit there should be readings from Scripture with a homily or brief exhortations to develop a better understanding of the Eucharistic mystery." (Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass, number 95)
3. The Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus indicates that the rosary "as a prayer inspired by the Gospel and centered on the mystery of the Incarnation and the Redemption should be considered a prayer of deep Christological orientation." (Number 46)
III. At this time it is important to note:
From the Second Vatican Council until the present, the following have been observed:
In the first two decades after the Council, more or less, there arose within the Catholic Church a tendency to suppress adoration before the exposed Blessed Sacrament within the Christian community.
In recent years, prayer before the exposed Blessed Sacrament has been increasingly appreciated once more. Two phenomena have been observed with adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, namely: adoration takes place according to the same style and mentality and with the same prayers as before the Council, or it is celebrated in accordance with the guidelines provided by the Church's documents.
Pastorally, this is an important time to encourage the prayer of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament according to the spirit of the Church documents. An opportunity to reorient this popular practice should not be wasted.
The restoration of the rosary should be promoted in its authentic form, that is, with its Christological character. At times, the traditional manner of reciting the rosary would seem to be limited to a recitation of the Our Father and the Hail Mary. Currently in some places the stating of the mysteries is accompanied by a reading of a brief biblical text to assist in meditation. This is very positive. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (Cf. 2708) indicated that Christian prayer ought to go further. It should lead to a knowledge and love of the Lord Jesus, to union with him, finding great encouragement and support in liturgical prayer before the Eucharist.
One should not expose the Eucharist only to recite the rosary. However, among the prayers that are used during adoration, the recitation of the rosary may certainly be included, emphasizing the Christological aspects with biblical readings relating to the mysteries, and providing time for silent adoration and meditation on them.
"During the exposition, the prayers, songs, and readings should be arranged so as to direct the attention of the faithful to the worship of Christ the Lord. To encourage a prayerful spirit, there should be readings from the Scriptures with a homily or brief exhortations to develop a better understanding of the Eucharistic mystery." (Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass, number 95) In the area of popular piety there is still much to be done so that pious exercises will support liturgical life and vice versa. There is a need to educate the Christian community to deepen the understanding of this pious exercise in order to appreciate fully its true worth.
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Follow-up: Rosary During Eucharistic Adoration [11-9-2010]
In the wake of our observations on praying the rosary during exposition (see Oct. 26), a Texas reader commented: "In regard to the rosary prayed aloud during exposition: Should not the rosary group consider that others may prefer just being with the Lord in silence? I find it distracting unless it is a prepared part of the adoration along with announced prayers, homily, etc. In other words, if you have exposition of the Blessed Sacrament with no attached program, I feel all prayers should be silent to allow meditation by others."
In principle I would agree with our reader. Whenever exposition is organized it is courtesy and common sense to announce a program which includes a timetable of the various activities to be held during the time of exposition. The rosary is just one of many possibilities such as prayers, readings, the Liturgy of the Hours, and various litanies. In all cases sufficient time for silent prayer should also be contemplated. The recently published Compendium Eucharisticum offers an ample selection of suitable prayers that may be used.
Another reader asked whether a hymn to Our Lady could be sung at Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
The norms for exposition clearly indicate a Eucharistic hymn or song should be song at Benediction. It may be the traditional Tantum Ergo or another Eucharistic themed hymn. Singing to Our Lady at this moment is somewhat incongruous from a liturgical point of view.
A Marian antiphon could be sung as a concluding refrain after the Blessed Sacrament has been reserved, either before or after the celebrant leaves the chapel.
Finally, a reader Parañaque City, Philippines, asked: "What is the stand or teaching of the Church if the rosary is recited during Mass?"
I believe the best answer to this are the words of Pope Pius XI (1922-1939): "The Church desires not that the faithful pray during Mass but pray the Mass." This principle is at the core of the post-conciliar reforms which seek to promote the full active and conscious participation of the faithful in the celebration of the sacred mysteries.
Indeed, the Pope's desire was already being fulfilled long before the Second Vatican Council as witnessed by the popularity of bilingual missals with which the faithful followed the prayers of the Mass.
That said, many Catholics in earlier times had used the rosary or other devotions as a means of keeping their minds attentive to prayer during the celebration. They knew they were at Mass, and they often fasted from midnight in order to receive Communion. Often it was their way of showing a deep faith.