Vain Repetition – The Catholic Church has the Answer

Why do Catholics repeat the same prayer over and over again when they pray the Rosary? Is this not the vain repetition condemned by Christ in Matthew 6:7?

Catholics DO NOT just repeat the same prayer over and over again when they pray the Rosary. The Rosary is a progression of many prayers – the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Gloria, the Hail Mary and the Salve Regina – and these prayers are accompanied by many holy meditations. As the Rosary progresses, Catholics meditate on the joyful, the sorrowful, and the glorious mysteries of the life of Christ and His Mother. True, the Hail Mary is repeated many times during the course of the Rosary, and some of the other prayers are repeated several times, but this is not “vain” repetition, certainly not the vain repetition condemned by Our Lord. The vain repetition He condemned is that of people who pray standing “in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men.”

No prayer is vain, no matter how often repeated, if it is sincere, for Christ Himself engaged in repetitious prayer in the Garden of Gethsemani (“. . . he went again: and he prayed the third time, saying the selfsame word” – Matt. 26:39, 42, 44), and we are informed in the Apocalypse (Revelations) 4:8 that the angels in Heaven never cease repeating, night and day, the canticle: “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come.” The publican humbly repeated the prayer: “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner,” and he went away justified; whereas the pharisee went home unjustified after his long-winded extemporaneous prayer. (Luke 18:9-14). God was likewise pleased with the repetitious prayer of the three young men in the fiery furnace, whom He preserved miraculously untouched by the flames. (Dan. 3:52-90). Protestants also engage in repetitious prayer: the same prayers at mealtime grace, the same prayers at Benediction, etc. The time lapse is no factor; it is still repetitious.

Author: Paul Whitcomb
Nihil Obstat: Rev. Edmund J. Bradley Censor Deputatus
Imprimatur: Timothy Manning, Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles, Vicar General
April 13, 1961

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