In the past weeks I had been reading an interesting book about the Rosary. The book was written by the American Father Donald Calloway, belonging to the Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. Father Calloway is a sort of world expert on the Rosary, this prayer that is also an invincible weapon against the enemies of our spiritual life. So I put to him a few questions.
Father, can you tell us your story before becoming a priest?
I was born in 1972. My parents did not believe in God or religion. I had three fathers before I was 9 years old. When I was a teenager, I rebelled against authority and got into a lot of trouble. I began doing drugs at age 13, and when my family moved to Japan (my third father was a military officer) I ran away from home. Homeless, I began working for the Yakuza (Japanese mafia). I was eventually kicked out of Japan. Back in the USA, I went to jail several times and also to two drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers. None of it worked. My parents had a radical conversion to Catholicism and started going to church every day. I thought they were crazy. I had long-hair down to my belt and a tattoo. One night in 1993, I read a book on my parent’s bookshelf about Marian apparitions. That book changed my life. I started going to church and became a Catholic, too. Ten years later, I was ordained a priest. I have been a priest for over 15 years now.
Why you have chosen a Marian congregation?
I chose a Marian congregation because Mary brought me to Jesus and the truth of Catholicism. I would not have become a Catholic had it not been for the Virgin Mary. Every man needs a woman in his life. As a priest who has made the sacrifice of not getting married, I still require a relationship with a woman. My woman is Mary. She is my Queen, my Princess, and my Lady! She gives me the courage to sacrifice myself for souls. She gives me courage to fight off the wolves that seek to attack the souls entrusted to my care. Without the beauty of Mary before my eyes, I would run away. For her, I will conquer nations!.
You wrote a lot about the Rosary. What is the origin of this form of prayer?
The Rosary came into existence in the 13th century when a priest named St Dominic was having a tough time preaching against a particular heresy known as Albigensianism. Saint Dominic asked heaven to help him bring these lost souls back to Catholicism and, tradition says, Our Lady appeared to him and gave him the Rosary. There have been developments to the Rosary over the centuries, but the essence of it was given to St Dominic. This understanding has been confirmed by countless popes and saints.
What has the Church taught about the Rosary?
The Church has given her consent for the faithful to pray the Rosary from its very beginning (the 13th century). It is a prayer that combines vocal prayer and mental prayer (meditation). Saints, popes, and many holy mystics have promoted it. It is the most recognized Marian prayer in the entire Catholic world. Pope Leo XIII wrote 11 encyclicals on the Rosary.
Why meditate the mysteries of the Rosary and say the Hail Marys? Why is it more effective?
Saying the Hail Mary’s is like background music to the meditation. Everybody always knows that a beautiful scene is always better and more beautiful when there is music. It is certainly possible to meditate without praying vocal prayers. However, in the Rosary we are asking Our Lady to teach us about Jesus. This is why many popes have called the Rosary the school of Mary. Praying the vocal prayer of the Hail Mary while meditating on the mysteries of the rosary is comparable to listening to the Psalms of the Old Testament while taking a walk and contemplating the beauty of nature.
Some people find extremely difficult to avoid distraction praying the Rosary. What you would say to them?
Nobody has ever prayed a perfect Rosary. We are not angels. Our minds get distracted easily. This is very human. We should not give up, though. We should continue to bring our attention back to the mystery each time we get distracted. God understands that we get distracted. He knows we are not machines or robots. We are his children. Distractions while praying the Rosary are like children playing with butterflies. God is not upset with this. He will take all the butterfly kisses he can get from his children.
One of the most famous book on the Rosary is the one of St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort. Can you tell us something about him and the book?
Yes, St Louis-Marie’s book is the greatest book ever written on the Rosary. I read it many times during seminary, and as a priest I have re-read it many times, as well. My book Champions of the Rosary seeks to bring his book up-to-date. His book was written in the 18th century and there are many things that have happened with the Rosary since then. His book is the greatest; mine is probably the most comprehensive.
Can you tell us what the other saints think of the Rosary, maybe giving us some examples?
The Founder of the Legion of Mary, the Servant of God Frank Duff, said that he thought that there has not been a single saint since the 13th century who has not prayed the Rosary. Every saint loves the Rosary. Some of my favorite saints who have promoted the Rosary are Blessed Bartolo Longo and St Anthony Mary Claret.
Bartolo Longo was from Naples. In his youth, he left the Catholic Church and became involved in the occult. It got so bad that he became an ordained Satanic priest! Eventually, however, he became depressed and suicidal. He finally went to talk to the Catholic priest and the priest recommended the Rosary. Needless to say, Bartolo embraced it and had a radical conversion. He built the Basilica of the Rosary of Our Lady in Pompeii, Italy, and is now a Blessed of the Church! Saint Anthony Mary Claret was from Spain and became a bishop in Cuba. He mandated that all his priests had to pray the Rosary with their people in church. He was hated by the Freemasons and they even stabbed him in the face! Our Lady, however, frequently appeared to him in visions and told him that he was to be the “new Dominic” in his times for the promotion of the Rosary.
You said the Rosary is a powerful weapon. In what sense?
St Paul says that the Word of God (in the New Testament) is a spiritual weapon. Well, almost the entire prayers of the Rosary come right out of the New Testament. Therefore, the Rosary is a spiritual weapon. What is a weapon used for but to fight against an enemy. The enemy of our souls is Satan, sin, and the spirit of the world. With the Rosary, using it daily, we can defeat the devil, the world, and our sinful selves. Many, many saints and popes have referred to the Rosary as a weapon. St Padre Pio, St Josemaria Escriva, St John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI are some of the recent people who have used this terminology.
If you need to give three reasons to pray the Rosary to someone opposed to that, what would be these reasons?
1) Love your mother. You love your mother, right? Sure you do. Then, give her roses. In addition to being a spiritual weapon, it is also a crown of spiritual roses. When we pray it we give Mary, our spiritual mother, a wreath of spiritual roses.
2) Jesus is pleased by it. Jesus is not offended if someone prays the words of the New Testament while meditating on the mysteries of our salvation. Praying the Rosary shows that we are grateful for what Jesus has done for us, and we never want to forget it. By thinking of all that our Savior did for us on a daily basis, we are showing Jesus that we love him very much.
3) Be a saint! You are never going to become holy without praying. Spontaneous prayers are good, but if you don’t have a consistent structured prayer routine in your day, you will not advance in virtue and build spiritual muscles. By praying the Rosary, you will begin to avoid anything that displeased God and Our Lady. Your life will change when you pray the Rosary.