The Madonna of the Roses (1903), by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]
I think the convert’s concern was not with the repetition but with the focus on Mary, a concern that some Catholics share, especially American ones. I don’t think the Marian-centric aspect of the rosary is a heresy, but it still would be nice to have more Christ-centered contemplative prayers. There are other rosary prayers that are more God-centric, such as the Trisagion rosary or the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
My response is as follows:
The Rosary (see all of its parts) is a meditation on the life of Christ. Of the twenty mysteries, only two are primarily about Mary (Assumption and Coronation). So that is 90% Christ, 10% Mary in the focus of all the mysteries:
The Joyful Mysteries
- The Annunciation: The Archangel Gabriel “announces” to Mary that she shall conceive the Son of God.
- The Visitation: Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth, who is pregnant with John the Baptist.
- The Nativity: Jesus is born.
- The Presentation: Mary and Joseph “present” Jesus in the Temple where they meet Simeon.
- The Finding in the Temple: After losing Him, Mary and Joseph find young Jesus teaching the Rabbis in the Temple.
The Luminous Mysteries (The Mysteries of Light)
- The Baptism in the Jordan: The voice of the Father declares Jesus the beloved Son.
- The Wedding at Cana: Christ changes water into wine, his first public miracle.
- The Proclamation of the Kingdom: Jesus calls to conversion (cf. Mk 1:15) and forgives the sins of all who draw near to him.
- The Transfiguration: The glory of the Godhead shines forth from the face of Christ.
- The Institution of the Eucharist: Jesus offers the first Mass at the Last Supper with his apostles, establishing the sacramental foundation for all Christian living.
The Sorrowful Mysteries
- The Agony in the Garden: Jesus sweats water and blood while praying the night before his passion.
- The Scourging at the Pillar: Pilate has Jesus whipped.
- The Crowning with Thorns: Roman soldiers crown Jesus’ head with thorns.
- The Carrying of the Cross: Jesus meets His mother and falls three times on the way up Calvary.
- The Crucifixion: Jesus is nailed to the cross and dies before His mother and His apostle John.
The Glorious Mysteries
The Resurrection: Jesus rises from the dead.
The Ascension: Jesus leaves the Apostles and bodily “ascends” to heaven.
The Descent of the Holy Spirit: The Apostles receive the Holy Spirit in tongues of fire in the upper room with Mary.
The Assumption: Mary is taken bodily–assumed–into heaven by God at the end of her life here on earth.
The Coronation: Mary is crowned Queen of Heaven and Earth.
Even the final two mysteries that concentrate on Mary have some significant indication in the Bible, in Revelation 12, as I have written about at least three times (one / two / three). I argue that the “woman crowned with twelve stars” there has a dual application (not uncommon in the Bible) to both Mary and the Church.
The Apostle’s Creed merely mentions the Virgin Birth (which, of course, is more about Christ than Mary). The Our Father [or, Lord’s Prayer], Glory Be, and Fatima Prayer never mention Mary:
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
Fatima Prayer (Optional)
O my Jesus, forgive us of our sins. Save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls into heaven, especially those in most need of thy mercy.
The Hail Mary is three-quarters straight from the Bible:
Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. [Luke 1:28, spoken by the angel Gabriel +] Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. [Luke 1:42, spoken by Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist] Holy Mary, Mother of God [see the biblical rationale for this title], pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, Amen.
[+ learn more about the Greek word in play here, kecharitomene, and the translation “full of grace”.]
The Hail Holy Queen portion of the Rosary is indeed directed towards Mary (who prays for us to God), but even it ends (i.e., in the usual follow-up prayer in a Rosary) on a Christocentric note:
O God whose only begotten Son by his life, death, and Resurrection has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life; grant we beseech thee, that meditating on these mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
Thus, on the whole, the Rosary is quite Christocentric (much more about Christ than Mary), as all Marian devotion and Marian doctrines, rightly understood, are. And it is predominantly explicitly biblical. I would strongly contend that all of it is harmonious with biblical teaching.
Can We Honor Jesus Christ Through His Mother Mary? (vs. John Cranman)
Meta Description: Non-Catholic Christians may be surprised to know that the Rosary is an overwhelmingly Christocentric prayer.
Meta Keywords: Rosary, prayer, meditation, Marian devotion