Book Review: The Secret of the Rosary

I recently finished reading The Secret of the Rosary by Saint Louis de Montfort.  In short, I think this is a terrific book that anyone who regularly prays the rosary should read and share with others.  First, who was Saint Louis de Montfort?  The wikipedia summary is:

Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort (31 January 1673 – 28 April 1716) was a FrenchRoman Catholic priest and Confessor. He was known in his time as a preacher and was made a missionary apostolic by Pope Clement XI.[1]

As well as preaching, Montfort found time to write a number of books which went on to become classic Catholic titles and influenced several popes. Montfort is known for his particular devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and the practice of consistently praying the Rosary.

Keep in mind that the average Catholic in the 17th century didn’t have EWTN media, the internet, and RosaryMeds to help them learn about the beauty and power of rosary prayer.  Saint Louis de Montfort basically wrote one of the first howto guides to praying the rosary and spelled out its benefits by telling stories of miraculous events people experienced when they devoted themselves to rosary prayer.

Not to be overly self-promoting, but I was amazed by the similarities between my book, The Rosary for the Rest of Us, and The Secret of the Rosary.  Both books touch on recommended ways of praying the rosary, the benefits Mary promised those who pray it, and even some of the challenges you might face trying to form a rosary praying routine.  Of course, Saint Louis de Montfort had years of theological study in a seminary and was a librarian so he had a lot more spiritual and historical knowledge to draw from for The Secret of the Rosary than I have for RosaryMeds.  Still, I am proud that The Rosary for the Rest of Us overlaps in subject matter with a book written by a saint!  Also, you won’t find commentary on each rosary mystery (not to mention that the Luminous Mysteries didn’t even exist in de Montfort’s time) in The Secret of the Rosary like you find in The Rosary for the Rest of Us.

Buy “The Secret of the Rosary from Amazon.com
Buy “The Rosary for the Rest of Us” from Amazon

The Secret of the Rosary provides a nice little kick of motivation to those who may feel a bit weary after praying the rosary day after day, week after week, and year after year.  Saint Louis de Montfort acknowledges many of the challenges associated with praying the rosary such as finding the time, finding it tedious, mindlessly going through the prayers, wanting to give it up, etc.  Evidently, a 17th century Catholic faced nearly all the same challenges a 21st century Catholic faces about achieving fruitful prayer.  But he offers a sense of hope and infuses a sense of pride for keeping up with rosary prayer even when it is hard.  In the book, he writes:

Even if you have to fight distractions all through your whole Rosary be sure to fight well, arms in hand: that is to say, do not stop saying your Rosary even if it is hard to say and you have absolutely no sensible devotion. It is a terrible battle, I know, but one that is profitable to the faithful soul. If you put down your arms, that is, if you give up the Rosary, you will be admitting defeat and then, having won, the devil will leave you alone.

He often talks about the struggle of good vs. evil, God’s final judgement, and other personal encounters people had with Mary about rosary prayer.  Unlike today’s white-washed view of evil, 17th century Catholics weren’t afraid to acknowledge the terrible reality of Satan and Hell.  When de Montfort writes about the dire consequences of falling into sin and the rewards for remaining in God’s grace, you can’t help but see the rosary in a new light.  No one who reads The Secret of the Rosary can possibly think of the rosary as a silly little necklace or just mindless repetition of prayers when you know all the good it has produced and how many souls it has saved.

I think everyone will take away at least one action item from this book.  For example, I realized that I need to slow down and take my time praying the rosary.  Often, I try to “beat the clock” and get through all five mysteries and additional prayers before arriving at work on my morning commute.  When I know I’m getting close to my office complex, I tend to speed up the prayers in a mad dash.  After reading The Secret of the Rosary, I now realize that there isn’t really no point in racing through Hail Marys so I can check off praying the rosary on my daily todo list.  Essentially, Mary cares more about the quality of your prayers, not the quantity.

Oh, one last point about The Secret of the Rosary.  It’s a fast read.  Each chapter (or Rose as de Monfort calls them) is only a few paragraphs.  So you really don’t have to dedicate a lot of time to the book.  You can read a few chapters a day almost like a daily prayer book.

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Book Review: Truth and Life Dramatized Audio Bible

Have you ever said to yourself that one day you would read the entire Bible?  And yet, the Bible never seems to make it to the top of your reading list.  After all, you have so many other books, magazines, blogs, websites, and newspapers to get through like RosaryMeds (hint, hint).  So who has time to read the Bible?  Well, now you have no excuses to avoid going through at least part of it.  You can listen to the Truth and Life Dramatized Audio Bible which covers the entire RSV-CE New Testament.

I listened to this audio Bible driving home from work over the course of three months.  Unlike hearing small, isolated passages during Mass on Sundays, I really got the “full picture” hearing the New Testament for a longer period of time and in order.  I definitely noticed the differences in tone and meaning between the various Gospel writers as well as the various letters.  And unlike the slow, monotone pace the readings are often read during Mass, the passages in the Truth and Life Audio Bible are acted out and accompanied with music and sound effects which really makes the New Testament come alive.

The only shortcoming of an audio Bible compared to a written one is that there are no footnotes or commentary to go along with it.  It’s not very convenient to stop the audio and look up the meaning of phrases, places, and people.  Perhaps listening to the audio Bible while following along with a study Bible would be the best way to approach this if you are really interested in gaining a deeper understanding.  But even if you do not understand every detail, listening to the Bible in full is a good way of absorbing the overall themes of the New Testament.

The Truth and Life Dramatized Audio Bible is about 22 hours long.  You will finish it in less than a month if you listen an hour a day.  Is that a little too optimistic?  How about listening for 30 minutes each day?  Even if you took some days off between readings you would still complete it in about two or three months.  You could make it part of family time where you all sit around the iPod and listen to the Bible (like a modern-day radio program).  Listen to it while going on walk or jog.  Listen to it during your normal prayer time to shake up your routine a little bit.  Listen to it on your commute to work like I did (prayed the rosary while going, listened to the Bible coming back home).  Regardless of how you listen to it, you will be able to check the New Testament off your reading list in now time.

Buy the Truth and Life Audio Bible now on Amazon.

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Book Review: The Screwtape Letters

Cover of "The Screwtape Letters"
Cover of The Screwtape Letters

I just completed reading C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters.  The book is divided into several letters from a senior devil, Screwtape, to a junior devil, Wormwood, who is working on bringing a man’s soul under the influence of Satan.  Each letter investigates a tactic that Satan’s minions use in order to move us away from God, who is referred to as the Enemy throughout the book.  Screwtape instructs his apprentice on how to manipulate human attitudes towards prayer, love, lust, war, politics, the Church, ambitions, etc. in very subtle ways so that someone’s soul will be on the path towards Hell without even realizing it.

The Screwtape Letters does a great job of taking some complex moral and ethical questions and discussing them in simple terms.  Because of the “us vs. them” format of the book you almost feel like you are reading Satan’s playbook on how to tempt you into sin.  While most of the time we learn about how we should live, it is equally useful to learn how NOT to live.  In other words, understanding Satan’s tricks and lies are sometimes just as important as knowing God’s love.  And C.S. Lewis makes it so easy to understand the nature of evil due to the casual nature of the book being in the form of personal letters.  Screwtape’s candor does not hold back the evil intent behind his various tactics.

This book is not heavy in terms of exploring deep theological arguments in Catholic doctrine.  After all, C.S. Lewis was more of “buffet style” Christian where he picked and chose elements from different denominations scattered with some of his own personal beliefs.  So he leaves the deep discussion of doctrine and theological arguments to St. Thomas Aquinas and other doctors of the Church.  Instead, Lewis provides a good introduction and a more light-hearted discussion on the nature of evil for those of us who do not hold a Ph.D in theology.

Personally, I felt that the book got a little stale towards the end once the novelty of learning about morality from the other side wore off.  It sort of felt like Screwtape starts to repeat himself in later letters as he brings up the same themes but uses different examples.  Even in the postscript, C.S. Lewis admits that this was one of the least enjoyable books he wrote because the ideas just came so easily to him.  He admitted that he feared he would smother the readers if he wrote a longer book.  Regardless, it is an interesting read and would suggest that everyone gives it a try.  I can also see it making a great gift for those who need a little theological refresher but do not want to dive into more serious texts.