Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Response to a dubium Concerning the Recitation of the Rosary during Eucharistic Exposition La constitución conciliar, Prot. No. 2287/96/L, 15 January 1997.
1. The conciliar Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, number 13, says: “Popular devotions of the Christian people are to be highly commended, provided they accord with the laws and norms of the Church, above all when they are ordered by the Apostolic See...But these devotions should be so drawn up that they harmonize with the liturgical seasons in such a way as to be in accord with the sacred liturgy, that they be in some fashion derived from it, and lead the people to it, since, in fact, the liturgy by its very nature far surpasses any of them.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church adds to this citation from Sacrosanctum Concilium: “These expressions are a prolongation of the liturgical life of the Church, but are not substitutes for it.”
– Eucharistic exposition is a celebration related to the liturgy as understood in the Instruction Eucharisticum Mysterium, number 62, from the Roman Ritual: Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass and from the Ceremonial of Bishops which dedicates chapter XXII to this same topic.
– The Holy Rosary is, without doubt, one of the pious exercises most recommended by ecclesiastical authority.(See also The Catechism of the Catholic Church numbers 971, 1674, 2678, 2708).
– A Catholic sensitivity never separates Christ from his mother or vice versa.
2. The Apostolic Letter Vicesimus quintus annus, number 18, says: “Finally, to safeguard the reform and ensure the promotion of the Liturgy it is necessary to take account of popular Christian devotion and its relation to liturgical life. This popular devotion should not be ignored or treated with indifference or contempt, since it is rich in values, and in
itself it gives expression to the religious attitude towards God. But it needs to be continually evangelized, so that the faith which it expresses may become an ever more mature and authentic act. Both the pious exercises of the Christian people and also other forms of devotion are welcomed and encouraged provided that they do not replace or intrude into liturgical celebrations. An authentic pastoral promotion of the Liturgy will build upon the riches of popular piety, purifying and directing them towards the Liturgy as the offering of the peoples.”
II. Relationship Between Eucharistic Exposition and the Holy Rosary
One quote from each of the three most important documents follows:
1. “During the exposition everything should be so arranged that the faithful can devote themselves attentively in prayer to Christ Lord...” (Instruction Eucharisticum Mysterium, number 62)
2. “To encourage a prayerful spirit there should be readings from Scripture with a homily or brief exhortations to develop a better understanding of the Eucharistic mystery.” (Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass, number 95)
3. The Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus indicates that the rosary “as a prayer inspired by the Gospel and centered on the mystery of the Incarnation and the Redemption should be considered a prayer of deep Christological orientation.” (Number 46)
III. At this time it is important to note:
– From the Second Vatican Council until the present, the following have been observed:
In the first two decades after the Council, more or less, there arose within the Catholic Church a tendency to suppress adoration before the exposed Blessed Sacrament within the Christian community.
In recent years, prayer before the exposed Blessed Sacrament has been increasingly appreciated once more. Two phenomena have been observed with adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, namely: adoration takes place
according to the same style and mentality and with the same prayers as before the Council, or it is celebrated in accordance with the guidelines provided by the Church’s documents.
Pastorally, this is an important time to encourage the prayer of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament according to the spirit of the Church documents. An opportunity to reorient this popular practice should not be wasted.
– The restoration of the rosary should be promoted in its authentic form, that is, with its Christological character. At times, the traditional manner of reciting the rosary would seem to be limited to a recitation of the Our Father and the Hail Mary. Currently in some places the stating of the mysteries is accompanied by a reading of a brief biblical text to assist in meditation. This is very positive. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (Cf. 2708) indicated that Christian prayer ought to go further. It should lead to a knowledge and love of the Lord Jesus, to union with him, finding great encouragement and support in liturgical prayer before the Eucharist.
– One should not expose the Eucharist only to recite the rosary. However, among the prayers that are used during adoration, the recitation of the rosary may certainly be included, emphasizing the Christological aspects with biblical readings relating to the mysteries, and providing time for silent adoration and meditation on them.
– “During the exposition, the prayers, songs, and readings should be arranged so as to direct the attention of the faithful to the worship of Christ the Lord. To encourage a prayerful spirit, there should be readings from the Scriptures with a homily or brief exhortations to develop a better understanding of the Eucharistic mystery.” (Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass, number 95) In the area of popular piety there is still much to be done so that pious exercises will support liturgical life and vice versa. There is a need to educate the Christian community to deepen the understanding of this pious exercise in order to appreciate fully its true worth.
Notitiae 34 (1998): 506-510; Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy, Thirty-Five Years of the BCL Newsletter: 1965-2000 (Washington, DC: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops): 1627-1629.