‘The Romish Doctrine concerning … invocation of Saints, is a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God.’ Art. XXII
There is an innate suspicion about the intercessory prayer of saints in the many parts of the Anglican Church. This suspicion has sometimes degenerated into outright hate for the communion of saints and for the Catholic tradition of the Church. However, time and again few individuals have tried to reconcile Anglicanism with the ‘invocation of saints’ – a good example being Bl. John Henry Newman’s Tract 90, where he formulates a reply to the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion.
One of the most criticised Catholic forms of prayer is the Rosary. This Marian prayer par excellence involves the constant repetition of the Hail Mary, the Lord’s Prayer, and other prayers as arranged around the structure of fifteen mysteries of faith. Interestingly, an Anglican from of the Rosary has been proposed in certain church environments aimed at keeping the repetitive nature of the prayer whilst casting out the Catholic tradition. The result is not very inspiring. If literal reading of Scripture is all that matter in prayer, than the ‘Jesus Prayer’ might be more appropriate and less convoluted.
In my personal experience, praying the Rosary is a very powerful tool for intercession; the repetitive rhythm of the Rosary allowing prayer for specific people and situations to come to the fore, whilst encouraging contemplation of the mysteries of faith. In this sense, the Rosary allows me to stretch out the needs of those from whom I pray on the canvas of the fifteen mysteries – from its beginning, to its final completion and crowing, the story of redemption forms both the solid foundation and the backdrop to intercessory prayer. I have experienced great comfort in entrusting worries to God in this way. Moreover, very far from being some sort of idolatrous distraction, the prayers of Mary, sought repeatedly in the Rosary, have contributed greatly to strengthen my trust in God’s care for all. In the Rosary, Mary is not only Mother of God, but a sister to the faithful, journeying with us toward the fulfilment of redemption.
As a side note, I ought to add that reciting the Rosary in public, for example whilst walking in the parish, is a good tool for mission, as it recalls people to being prayerful, breaking down the stereotype that prayer is only done in private or in church.