Saturday, October 20, 2007

Does Angel Ministries Distort Catholic Teaching? (part 2: The Rosary)

TO: AVA ZETTEL, AnGel Ministries – I am sending you (via email) 3 letters regarding theological questions that stem from reading your website. Someone came to our parish requesting to leave fliers for the “Just Give Me Jesus” women’s rally on April 18 and 19 at Wells Fargo in Des Moines, Iowa. After reading information on your website I would like to comment on how a knowledgable, practicing Catholic would likely respond to your ministry. God bless-Chris
my original email:

Hello. I was reading your statement of faith and the section about being certain of going to heaven and I had a question. What did you mean when you said 'you don't have to count beads'?Thank you.


Dear Chris,

Thank you for your email and for your question regarding this section repeated below in the Know You Will Go To Heaven portion of our Statement of Faith. As Christians we believe that our advocate is Christ Himself and that we need no other go-between, method or practice to speak to our Heavenly Father.
Chris, I pray this answers your question satisfactorily. Please let us know if you require further information.
Trusting Jesus for every provision for you,

Ava Zettel AnGeL Ministries 5115 Hollyridge Drive Raleigh, NC 27612-3111
Tel: 919.787-6606 Fax: 919.782-3669

My second email:

Thank you for your reply. However, you did not quite answer my question about what "counting beads" refers to.
You did write that "as Christians we believe that our advocate is Christ Himself and that we need no other go-between, method or practice to speak to our Heavenly Father."

1. What is the rosary?
By "method" in relation to "counting beads" I might guess that you are referring to praying the rosary, perhaps? Or am I off-base here? If this is the case, I would respectfully suggest that you learn a little more about this particular Catholic devotion.

For one thing, the rosary does not involve "counting beads." There are 5 "decades" of 10 beads on a rosary, to correspond to the 10 Hail Mary prayers and 1 bead for the Our Father. There are a total of 20 mysteries that trace the life of Christ. The one who prays does not "count" the beads. Originally, the 150 hail mary beads (the original 15 mysteries x 10 hail mary beads per mystery) was a number taken from the original monastic tradition of praying the 150 psalms in the desert.

However, the number of beads is more or less arbitrary. The objective is not to pray the Hail Mary 10 times as if the number really mattered… or as if it was some rigid formula or rite that was necessary to communicate with the Father (like a secret password). There are 10 beads simply to allow the one praying to enter into a rhythm of prayer and maintain focus, without the mind falling into distraction (like saying, "I am going to set the timer and pray for 30 minutes, and then once the timer goes off, I can finish my conversation with the Lord if I need to).

I must also point out that the Church does not anywhere teach that the rosary is a "method to speak to our Heavenly Father" that is necessary for salvation. Indeed, the Church teaches that the Rosary is one of the many ways of praying to God, in addition to Prayers such as the Jesus Prayer ("Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner"), and lectio divina ("sacred reading")--the use of imagination and contemplation in order to encounter our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Scriptures. In fact, although the Church recommends the rosary as a time-honored and fruitful devoion, technically, one could be a faithful Catholic “in good standing” even if they do not pray the rosary or if they do not even value it as a devotion. The rosary is simply a devotional prayer and not some go-between for talking to God.

Through repeating the prayers of the Hail Mary (which, for the most part, is taken right out of Luke Ch. 1), the Hail Mary prayers become a background rhythm that allows the prayer to meditate upon the individual mysteries of Jesus Christ:

  • The Joyful Mysteries [traditionally prayed on Monday, and Saturday]: the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Nativity, the Presentation, the Finding of Jesus in the Temple, the Finding of Jesus in the Temple
  • The Luminous Mysteries [traditionally prayed on Thursday]: the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, the Wedding Feast at Cana, the proclamation of the kingdom and call to conversion, the transfiguration, and the Institution of the Eucharist (Last Supper)
  • The Sorrowful Mysteries [traditionally prayed on Tuesday and Friday]: The agony in the garden, the scourging at the pillar, the crowning with thorns, the carrying of the cross, the crucifixion and death of our Lord
  • The Glorious Mysteries [traditionally prayed on Wednesday and Sunday]: The resurrection, the ascension, the descent of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost), the Assumption of Mary, and the Coronation of Mary

Many people also pray “scriptural rosaries” that include short sentences from Scripture read between each Hail Mary to more deeply enter into contemplation. [see my article:

The Bible talks of how Mary witnessed the actions of Jesus and heard his words and “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (Luke 2:19; 51). The rosary is a prayer form whereby we meditate and reflect upon the actions of deeds of Christ in our heart.

When I pray the rosary, I try to meditate on the mysteries from Mary’s perspective, I use my imagination and visualize the mystery from what her vantage point would have been. As Mary reflects upon the mysteries of Christ eternally in heaven (as do all of the other saints), when we meditate on the life of Jesus we do this in the company of all the other saints. There is only one body of Christ—not two—the holy ones who have passed away are not “dead”, in deed, they are more fully alive than we are here on earth because they are in communion with God (though not complete yet, as they await the return of their glorified bodies at the final judgment).

The following is an article on the rosary that I wrote for my personal website. It might help you understand why many Christians pray the rosary, in addition to reading Holy Scripture, etc., as a way to keep the mysteries of Christ in their mind and heart and continually reflect upon them:

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