If one were to ask a typical Catholic if it is appropriate to pray a Rosary during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, one would probably get replies like these (actual responses on “Catholic Answers”, the title of which is a stretch to say the least, website):
"I was taught that it is absolutely NOT okay to pray the Rosary during the mass. Our full attention should be on the mass, the Liturgy of the Word [bleh] and The Eucharist. [Was this person taught the dogmas of the Church with the same vehemence? Probably not.] What a wonderful idea to stay afterward, if you can, to pray it then though!!” [Because prayer and meditation is better after, not during Mass; after all, since everyone is so busy doing various things during Mass, who has time for meditation and prayer?]
“as [sic] the eucharist [sic] is the most important part of our faith, i [sic] would think that putting the rosary before our lord [sic] is a mistake , maybe out of ignorance [sic]” [Yes, and using absolutely no capitalization, not even when referring to Our Blessed Lord, and using absolutely no punctuation indicates the epitome of being informed!]
“If a person is able to participate in the mass, ie. meaning that he/she is able to pray along with others or responding to the priest with others, then this person should do. Praying the rosary and not focusing on what is going on during the mass is not something one should do [Because doing stuff is the only method of full and active participation! Focusing on the Mass apparently doesn‘t translate into focusing on what the Mass represents.]… I could imagine that if someone is deaf and is not able to hear anything, then maybe during the homily, he/she can pray the rosary. He/she should participate the rest of the mass.” [You see? Deaf, dumb and blind people just can’t participate fully and actively, so they need a consolation prize, even if it’s just during the homily!]
“The Mass is our highest form of prayer. Why would you say another prayer over,during or on top of the Mass?” [Since meditation is a higher form of prayer than vocal prayers such as saying the Hail Mary, Our Father, Glory Be, then according to this poor chap’s logic, praying the Rosary is a no-no at any time!]
If one were to break down the basic points of opposition contained in these above responses, it would all boil down to the same old erroneous interpretation of active participation as merely external acts and vocal prayers; in short, acting like ministers at the altar. It is apparent from these comments that there is a predominate attitude among the majority of mainstream Catholics that sees absolutely no liturgical value in meditative prayer. But what is the reason for this attitude?
The 20th Century Liturgical Movement ingrained the notion into the average modern Catholic that active participation is a plethora of external and physical human acts such as intoning vocal responses, singing, changing postures, etc., not to mention traipsing about in the sanctuary in the role of one of many “extraordinary ministers”. Acting like the ministers at the altar (i.e. priest, deacon, altar boy) has become for this generation, not just the primary means of liturgical participation, but the only means. Any other understanding would cut the legs out from under the new and hard fought post-Vatican II notion that there is no ontological difference between the ordained priesthood and the priesthood of the laity.
As a result, the use of rosary beads as an aid to meditating on the mystery of the Mass has become anathema. This attitude doesn’t so much consist in a distaste for the rosary, but a distaste for those who refuse to act like anything other than laymen meditating on the sacred mysteries unfolding before them during the Mass. It is a distaste for any practice that posits an ontological difference between the priest and layman. Indeed, very few things infuriate a progressive or neo-con Catholic more than a young lady in a chapel veil, mediating on the Passion of Christ while using her rosary beads during Mass.
(Part II: Active Participation and Meditative Prayer, coming soon.)