In the early 18th century, St. Louis de Montfort wrote The Secret of the Rosary “to teach people about the history and power of the rosary.” With that book as inspiration, Fr. Donald Calloway, a Marian Father, has endeavored to rewrite “the story of the rosary . . . for the people of our times.”
Champions of theRosary: The History and Heroes of a Spiritual Weapon has three parts: a detailed history of the rosary, profiles of twenty-six champions of the rosary, and information on praying the rosary.
Fr. Calloway traces the history of the use of prayer beads and the development of the prayers used in the rosary. He describes how our Blessed Mother instructed St. Dominic to preach her psalter. “He was to combine the fertilizing rain of the Ave Maria with his preaching on the saving mysteries of Christ.” She gave St. Dominic the fifteen original mysteries “focused on the Incarnation, Passion, and Glorious Triumph of her divine Son.” The book then traces the continuing development of the rosary through the centuries.
While much of this is fascinating, the more modern history of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries is most relevant for today’s readers. It underscores how much Our Lady wants us to pray the rosary and how much our world desperately needs it. The rosary can help “conquer spiritual threats of abortion, homosexual marriage, contraception, divorce, pornography, euthanasia, suicide, the occult, lukewarm Catholics, and Radical Islam.” We need to pray the rosary to bring peace to our world.
The section on Champions of the Rosary offers a short description of why he or she has earned that distinction, followed by quotes called “Rosary Gems” either by or about the person. While Fr. Calloway mentions these individuals during his historical narrative, this section allows each person and his or her contributions to be highlighted. The Rosary Gems also make for inspirational reading.
Champions profiled include such notables as St. Dominic, St. Louis de Montfort, Servant of God Lucia dos Santos, St. Maximilian Kolbe, Blessed (soon to be St.) Teresa of Calcutta, St. John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI. There are also several less well-known personages who have played a role in the development and promotion of the rosary.
The third section of the book explains why and how to pray the rosary. An appendix includes a selection of art works in which the rosary is depicted, presented in the chronological order of their creation.
Champions of the Rosary is an impressive and ambitious book, yet there are parts that are difficult to read and accept. Fr. Calloway paints Muslims in a very bad light. He refers to Muhammad as a false prophet and emphasizes how the rosary has been used to win battles against Muslims, especially the Battle of Lepanto in 1511. This battle is a historical fact and we remember it each year on October 7th with the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. However, this was a very different place and time. Instead of acknowledging that the world has changed, Fr. Calloway states, “Unlike the politically correct leaders of our time, St. Pope Pius V knew that the long-standing tension between Christianity and Islam involved a very real spiritual battle and a clash of creeds.”
Such a statement is not in keeping with the Vatican II document Nostra Aetate which notes the common elements of the two faiths and encourages mutual respect. In addition, in a pluralistic society such as the United States, we need to live in peace with others who believe differently from us. While Radical Islam is certainly a threat, the vast majority of Muslims simply want to be free to practice their faith and not live in fear. Fatima and other recent Marian apparitions have been calls to pray the rosary for peace, not to encourage military action.
Also, Fr. Calloway emphasizes the need to pray the rosary well – to pray slowly and meditate. This is no doubt the ideal, but those of us who are mothers may have a hard time ever achieving that ideal. If we pray alone, we might not have much time. If we pray a family rosary, there are many distractions. Yet, I would maintain that both are still valuable practices and should be encouraged even in their less-than-ideal forms. Judging by Fr. Calloway’s standard, I have most likely never prayed a true rosary in my life, yet I know that I have received answers to prayers through them. While there is always room for improvement, I think our Blessed Mother appreciates our efforts and intent.
The vast majority of these Champions of the Rosary were members of religious orders. There are only two women on the list and neither one was a mother in a traditional sense. These champions are very important, yes, but I would add to the list all the anonymous mothers who have taught their children how to pray this beautiful prayer.
All this being said, Champions of the Rosary is an important book. It’s message matters, perhaps now more than ever. If we all prayed the rosary daily and encouraged others to do so, we could change the world.