May 31, 2007

Book Review

The Rosary by Gary Willis

Not being Catholic I thought I'd enjoy this short (185 page) book on the history and use of the rosary. Sadly, Gary gives us only 3 pages concerning the history of the rosary. The rest of the book is an overview of the four groups of mysteries that supplement the liturgical cycle.

As you can imagine, a 3-page "history" is a Britannica entry instead of an in-depth overview, but where Gary fails as a historian he shines as an art critic. He chose to use the paintings of Tintoretto to illustrate each of the mysteries (where related works by Tintoretto exist) and his commentary on the paintings is luminous. I don't particularly care for Tintoretto, but Gary's prose made me want to care, and I consider that an achievement on his part.

This is an odd little book that would do well as an overview for middle or high school students if it weren't so eager to cover recherche points of theology from time to time. I started this book at the beach and was dismayed to find I needed a dictionary. In other words, the book is uneven in tone, inadequate as a history and our narrator is eager for non-Catholics to feel at ease with non-Biblical material such as the assumption and coronation of Mary.

But, I came to it with few expectations and it delighted me with it's unvarnished adoration of Tintoretto's work. So, if you're interested in a biased and truncated overview of the rosary, coupled with flowery art criticism, then this book is at your pleasure!

Book Review Bonus Club: Skip over to Lisa's to read about her childhood case of Papal Envy.

Posted by Chai-Rista at May 31, 2007 01:26 PM | TrackBack

The Assumption and Coronation are inferred from the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception; like all the odd doctrinal stuff in the Catholic church, there is an internal logic to it which Catholics find persuasive, and others usually don't. I love the rosary, it is one of the many fine medieval things that the "spirit of Vatican II" crowd in the church tries to deemphasize (along with associated practices such as the Scapular, the litanies, etc.) but that most Catholics my age view as being one of the misplaced treasures of the faith. John Paul II did a great deal to revive it.

Did Wills discuss the story of St. Dominic receiving the rosary from the Blessed Virgin Mary herself, or did he pooh-pooh that as being ahistorical and superstitious? I know the common practice today among church academics is to claim that all the saints happened to be schizophrenics, and that there is no such thing as divine intervention and miracles. (Which is why I usually stick with stuff written pre-Vatican II).

Posted by: The Colossus at June 1, 2007 07:22 AM

I agree with you that the rosary is a treasure. I have one and I'd love to have learned its use as a child. At my advanced age I'm not sure it could ever be ingrained to the level I'd like.

Gary relates the story of St. Dominic. He may have mentioned the view of the scholars, but he never pooh-poohs anything about the faith. He LOVES Catholicism and uses this book to explain to Protestants why / how they can accept some of the Marion doctrines the rosary contemplates. I think he'd like to see Protestants adopt the practice.

Posted by: Chai-Rista at June 1, 2007 07:23 PM

Four Mysteries? I grew up with the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious. Was another one added I don't know about?

Posted by: Margaret at June 3, 2007 02:31 AM

Yep - the Luminous Mysteries have been around for awhile now. Look here:

Posted by: Chai-Rista at June 3, 2007 01:24 PM