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‘New Age rosary’

Teresa R. Tunay, OCDS

…and that’s the truth

DO you notice how at Catholic gatherings like conferences, seminars, etc. rosaries are one of the most popular “tiangge” items? Rosary bracelets, rosary rings, rosary necklaces; with beads made of plastic, glass, wood, swarovsky and other semi-precious stones. Makes one wonder if they’re buying rosaries to pray them or to flaunt them a ala Madonna and Lady Gaga.

This is a rosary-shopping tip: look before you buy. During my last trip to Italy two months ago, I noticed that the so-called “New Age rosary” has crept its way into religious souvenir shops; while pilgrims have attested that they are given away at certain pilgrimage sites like Medjugorje.  Thus, people think they’re okay to use, coming from presumably holy or at least “blessed” places.

What does the “New Age rosary” look like, and why is it so-called?  It’s usually made of plastic, comes in white, pink, blue or black; no one knows where it came from, who designed it, and why it was designed, but it may have been called such because it bears symbols associated with New Age. Like the pentagram impressed on the crucifix’s four tips: the pentragram is a five point star commonly associated with occultism, Satanism, et al.  A serpent is usually wound around the cross, with its head ending up close to the Christ’s figure’s face, evoking the image of the caduceus, a winged staff entwined with two serpents which is the symbol of the Greek god Hermes, or his Roman counterpart Mercury in Roman. Conspicuously absent in the “New Age rosary” is the “INRI” sign.

There are symbols, and depending on your knowledge and orientation, any one symbol may be read in so many ways. Perhaps the designer of the “New Age rosary” wanted to project Jesus as a healer, so he/she turned the cross into a caduceus, which, by the way, is a popular medical insignia, being associated with the Greek god of healing, Asclepsius. (Note the logo of Mercury drugstore?) The caduceus is also a symbol of mediation between heaven and earth (and a plethora of other things and powers) and is sold at occult, New Age and witchcraft stores.  Jesus is a sublime healer and a “mediator between heaven and earth” like no other, so? As for the serpent found in this “New Age rosary”—don’t Christians associate the serpent with sin (Garden of Eden) and see it as a tempter which Jesus vanquished anyway?

Then, again, the pentagram—a five-point star within a circle—while being imbued by occult believers with  magical powers, may be seen by Christians as nothing more than a harmless “parol”.  The pentagram also strongly resembles the passion flower, so called because it is a lovely reminder of Jesus Christ’s passion with its five (penta) petals representing the five wounds of Christ, a crown of filaments likened to His crown of thorns, and with three styles that resemble and represent the three nails that pierced him on the cross.

What about the absence of the sign INRI over the figure’s head?  Could it be that the designer was Jewish and didn’t want any anti-semitic symbol there?  Or maybe he simply thought it would spoil the aesthetics of his masterpiece, so away with it!

What merits close examination is why these “New Age rosaries” are sold or given away at pilgrimage sites, riding on the atmosphere of piety or superstition enveloping these places. (Reminds me of how people from different persuasions try to take advantage of Catholics’ innocence or ignorance in order to push their own agenda, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses distributing flyers and teaching their “truths” to young people at the World Youth Day in Sydney!)

So what now? If you found one lying around in your favorite adoration chapel, would you use it but exorcise it first?  Do not fear this “New Age rosary” because you believe it’s “the work of the devil”.  As long as you don’t invest your faith in it, it’s only recyclable plastic—treat it as such.  Break the beads loose and dump them along with discarded mineral water bottles.

We give power to that which we fear or believe in. But we do have a choice—fear the devil or believe in Jesus Christ.  I believe in Jesus Christ, and Mother Mary’s rosary as it is, by the grace of God, is already an excellent vehicle to know, love and obey Him.

Ours is a free society. We can’t stop rosary-makers from promoting their beliefs (or to make money out of our gullibility), but we can protect ourselves from their spurious religiosity, whether new age or old age whatever, by purifying our own. We need no New Age “borloloy” as meditation aids, but we need not fear them either.

We should rather search our souls if we are so easily fazed by anti-Christ forces. Perhaps we fear the devil because Jesus Christ is only a plastic figure on our car’s dashboard. That can be a real problem. And that’s the truth.

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