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Cindy Sheehan: Theology lesson from Martin Sheen

From Martin Sheen's speech:

For those of you who are not uh familiar with the Rosary, it’s a repetitive kind of prayer, that features the Hail Mary. I think any of you that watch the NFL or college football have heard of the Hail Mary. Well it’s a little more than what it’s thought to be, and it’s a very sacred prayer. And we will intone this prayer here this night and Cindy will read the names of 50 chosen fallen with each bead. And at the end of each decade we will sing a hymn, and these good people, these wonderful women are going to sing.

And we tried to print as many pages with the hymns on them, so if you are lucky enough to have one please share it with the others, but I think that many of you will know the hymns and follow along. It is a very sacred prayer, the Rosary.

The Rosary is not a prayer to be used to keep rhythm for an angry anti-war rap. It is a meditative prayer that has a specific form and function:

The purpose of the Rosary is to help keep in memory certain principal events or mysteries in the history of our salvation, and to thank and praise God for them.

  1. Make the Sign of the Cross and say the "Apostles' Creed."
  2. Say the "Our Father."
  3. Say three "Hail Marys."
  4. Say the "Glory be to the Father."
  5. Announce the First Mystery; then say the "Our Father."
  6. Say ten "Hail Marys," while meditating on the Mystery.
  7. Say the "Glory be to the Father."
  8. Announce the Second Mystery; then say the "Our Father." Repeat 6 and 7 and continue with Third, Fourth and Fifth Mysteries in the same manner.
As suggested by the Pope John Paul II the Joyful mysteries are said on Monday and Saturday, the Luminous on Thursday, the Sorrowful on Tuesday and Friday, and the Glorious on Wednesday and Sunday (with this exception: Sundays of Christmas season - The Joyful; Sundays of Lent - Sorrowful).

Meditating on a Mystery? What's that?

In conformity with the usage of the inspired writers of the New Testament, theologians give the name mystery to revealed truths that surpass the powers of natural reason. Mystery, therefore, in its strict theological sense is not synonymous with the incomprehensible, since all that we know is incomprehensible, i.e., not adequately comprehensible as to its inner being; nor with the unknowable, since many things merely natural are accidentally unknowable, on account of their inaccessibility, e.g., things that are future, remote, or hidden. In its strict sense a mystery is a supernatural truth, one that of its very nature lies above the finite intelligence.

The existence of theological mysteries is a doctrine of Catholic faith defined by the Vatican Council, which declares: "If any one say that in Divine Revelation there are contained no mysteries properly so called (vera et proprie dicta mysteria), but that through reason rightly developed (per rationem rite excultam) all the dogmas of faith can be understood and demonstrated from natural principles: let him be anathema" (Sess. III, Canons, 4. De fide et Ratione, 1).

I'm sure Martin Sheen meant to explain all that. So what are the specific Mysteries that are meant to be meditated upon while reciting the Rosary, and how does this meditation aid you?

  • Joyful Mysteries

    1. The Annunciation (Spiritual Fruit: Humility)

    2. The Visitation (Spiritual Fruit: Love of Neighbour)

    3. The Nativity (Spiritual Fruit: Poverty of Spirit)

    4. The Presentation (Spiritual Fruit: Purity of mind and body)

    5. The Finding of Jesus in the Temple (Spiritual Fruit: Obedience)

  • Luminous Mysteries

    1. The Baptism of the Lord (Spiritual Fruit: Gratitude for the gift of Faith)

    2. The Wedding of Cana (Spiritual Fruit: Fidelity)

    3. The Proclamation of the Kingdom (Spiritual Fruit: Desire for Holiness)

    4. The Transfiguration (Spiritual Fruit: Spiritual Courage)

    5. The Institution of the Eucharist (Spiritual Fruit: Spiritual Courage)

  • Sorrowful Mysteries

    1. The Agony in the Garden (Spiritual Fruit: God's Will be done)

    2. The Scourging at the Pillar (Spiritual Fruit: Mortification of the senses)

    3. The Crowning with Thorns (Spiritual Fruit: Reign of Christ in our heart)

    4. The Carrying of the Cross (Spiritual Fruit: Patient bearing of trials)

    5. The Crucifixion (Spiritual Fruit: Pardoning of Injuries)

  • Glorious Mysteries

    1. The Resurrection (Spiritual Fruit: Faith)

    2. The Ascension (Spiritual Fruit: Christian Hope)

    3. The Descent of the Holy Spirit (Spiritual Fruit: Gifts of the Holy Spirit)

    4. The Assumption (Spiritual Fruit: To Jesus through Mary)

    5. The Coronation (Spiritual Fruit: Grace of Final Perseverance)
As you can see, the Rosary is incredibly dense with theological meaning. It is not merely a sacred prayer, as Martin Sheen described it. In his dismissive description, the crowd is going to believe that they will be touched by the sacred by mumbling these words while thinking hateful thoughts of George W Bush, those thoughts instigated by the reading of the names of dead soldiers.

Not merely sacred, but extremely difficult and demanding. I think I've made it through once years ago. And I needed a guidebook to keep track of the Mysteries (as well as what specific thing you are supposed to meditate on with each Hail Mary, which I left out for brevity's sake -- for example, when you say the third Hail Mary of the First Glorious Mystery, the Resurrection, you are supposed to be thinking about how fearing the body of Jesus would be taken, the chief priests place guards at the tomb). But even if you can't remember the Mysteries, or lose track, or forget the event each Hail Mary represents specifically, it should be understood that the Rosary is meant to be a meditative exercise for the individual, the goal of which is to become a better Christian, and to reach a state of peace and spiritual contentment.

It is not a chant of vengeance, or a means of mob hypnosis. Indeed, the Rosary is best spoken quietly and alone. And without distraction.

Tossing in the names of the soldiers to replace the role of the Mysteries is offensive to me as a Catholic, and turns the Rosary on its head, making it into a means of generating discord and anger.

Martin Sheen poses as a Catholic, and uses the Rosary in an attempt to sanctify his political goals. This poseur should not be subverting the forms of his faith to the functions of his politics.

[Michelle Malkin has a round-up of Camp Casey stuff.]

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