Published on Those Catholic Men

Catholics are regularly challenged on the practice of saying the Rosary. The scriptural quote used as an argument against this practice is most often Matthew 6:7 which reads, “In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words”. It’s worth noting that in other versions of the Bible, the word “babble” is swapped with “use vain repetitions”. Either way, I think the point still comes across – empty, repetitive prayers are bad. To many, praying the Rosary is perceived as being a being a pointless repetition of 50 Hail Marys, 5 Our Fathers, 5 Doxologies, and some various other prayers. This is a fair point and a valid question, and I think that it is worth addressing.

So, Scripture clearly states that empty and repetitive prayers are to be avoided. I am not here to tell you that this passage is untrue; it most certainly is true and the Catholic opinion on the matter is a resounding “Amen!” The issue being presented is not with repetitive prayer, it is with empty repetitive prayer. If one reads a little bit further in Matthew’s gospel, we see that we are given the Lord’s Prayer and told, “Pray, then, in this way”. We are given the Lord’s Prayer to pray repeatedly!

Now, I can pray the Our Father in as little as 7.84 seconds, but it’s hard to imagine that I would have prayed it with any sort of depth whatsoever. On the other hand, one could spend hours meditating over the words of the very same prayer that takes me under 8 seconds to utter in its entirety. Does being able to say it in such a short time make it a bad prayer? No, of course not; it’s me who is at fault. I have turned a beautiful prayer given to us by Jesus Christ into a 7.84 second string of empty words. I could do this with any sort of prayer, even ones that are “freestyle”. I can say all sorts of nice things, but if I don’t say them truly from my soul with a profound sense of humility, contrition, thanksgiving, praise, etc., I am just babbling on with empty words.

This holds true for the Rosary. I’m not going to restate everything I’ve already said, but it stands to reason that the Rosary can and should always be prayed with a real desire to become closer to Christ. The mysteries of the Rosary are among the most joyful, sorrowful, glorious, and luminous events of the New Testament. They encompass the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ, and we are given a tool to be able to better understand these mysteries through the meditation that is the Holy Rosary.  Pope Saint John Paul II had this to say about the Rosary:

Against the background of the words Ave Maria 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 – we might say – the heart of his Mother.

So yes, Scripture does tell us that vain, meaningless repetition is not the type of prayer in which we should engage. The message is not, however, against repeating a prayer – in Matthew 26:44, we see that Jesus repeats himself in prayer: “He left them and withdrew again and prayed a third time, saying the same thing again.” Therefore, repeating a prayer is simply not against the Christian faith, it can’t be. The Rosary is indeed repetitive, but if prayed with the proper conviction, it is far from vain; in fact, it is one of the most intimate and inspiring prayers that we can pray – in praying the Rosary, we share in the meditation of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection alongside Mary, the mother of God and of our own faith who holds all these things in her blessed heart (Luke 2:19).

This is a good video/webpage for anyone who would like learn a bit more and to see the mechanics on praying the Rosary.

2 thoughts on “Matthew 6:7 and the Rosary

  1. There are videos of Mother Angelica leading nuns in the Rosary and these seem to be being thoughtlessly repeated at a fairly rhythmic if not rapid pace. “Thoughtless” might be the operative word here – I think I heard Fr Richard Rohr explain the rosary as a device for breaking the chain of endless persecuting thoughts running through our minds without paying any particular attention to the words. And that the Hare Krishna chanting was designed for the same purpose. (It might’ve been in his Contemplative Prayer video.)
    I’ve tried used Hail Marys this way myself while using a set of rosary beads I bought in a St Vinnie’s for the purpose.
    I believe the aim of contemplative prayer can be to sit in (thoughtless) silence and feel the presence of the Father, and perhaps occasionally to receive any ideas or answers the Father might wish to give us.
    What do you think Max?

    Sincerely, Anthony.


    1. Hi Anthony. I think you’re right on about the aim of contemplative prayer, as you have put it. While praying the Hail Mary, we are asking the Mother of God to lead us closer to Christ. She loved her Son more than any other person has, and it is through her own example that we can be led into a relationship with Him. Mary had no anxiety or fear about her fiat, her “yes”, to the Lord, and it was her God-given state of grace that allowed her to set the perfect example of faith, spending her whole life feeling the presence of the Father, which is what we search for in contemplative prayer.

      Pax et Bonum,


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