Non-Catholics often spread their “truths” about the Catholic Church, but these “truths” are rarely true. Here is what Bishop Fulton Sheen had to say on this subject:
“There are not over a hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions, however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church—which is, of course, quite a different thing.”
This is about one of those inaccurate “truths” — repetitive prayer or vain repetition.
Here is the Bible verse in question — Matthew 6:7:
In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words.”
In this verse, Jesus is contrasting Christian prayers with those of the pagans. Why the pagans? Because the pagans believed that if they recited a long list of divine names, they had a chance of forcing a response from one of those deities.
The United States Conference of Bishops Bible that I quoted from calls the repetitions “babble.” The King James version calls the repetitions “vain repetitions.” In any event, the repetitions referred to in Matthew 6:7 are not referred to in a positive light.
So God must hate vain repetitions or babbling, right?
Not so fast.
What Did Jesus Mean?
When Jesus made the statement condemning the pagans’ vain repetition, he was not talking about the Catholic Rosary or the Divine Mercy Chaplet or any of the other prayers that Catholics recite in repetition. To be sure, Jesus was not condemning repetitive prayer. What he was condemning were the pagans’ endless formations and attempts to force godless deities to answer their prayers. God condemns magical formulas and superstitious petitions.
Some Repetitive Prayers in the Bible:
Sacred scripture is packed with prayers that repeat.
•In Daniel 3:57 onwards, the words: “Bless the Lord, praise and exalt Him above all forever” are repeated multiple times.
•In Psalms 136, “God’s love endures forever” is repeated over and over and over.
•In Matthew 20:31, Jesus answers the prayer of the blind man because of his repetitive prayers.
•In Mark 11:9 the author writes, Those preceding him as well as those following him kept crying out (repeating), ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’”
•And how about the verse in Revelation 4:8? The four living creatures, each of them with six wings, were covered with eyes inside and out. Day and night they do not stop exclaiming: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come.” These praises will be repeated more times than there are even numbers for.
The Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet:
The Hail Mary or Rosary is a repetitive prayer that is 100% scripture. Catholics who recite the Rosary are to contemplate the life of Jesus throughout the prayers. If you knew nothing about the life of Jesus, by the time you had recited all of the decades of all the Rosaries, you would know more about the life of Jesus than most people know. In the Rosary, Mary does what she always does – she leads us to her son.
The Chaplet of Divine Mercy is a devotion that St. Faustina received from the Lord Jesus. The prayers are counted on Rosary beads. The Chaplet of Divine Mercy is recited at 3:00 in the afternoon, the hour that Jesus died in remembrance of his great love and sacrifice.
Good Intention — Bad Information:
Pastors often preach inaccuracies about Catholic repetitive prayer because of what they learned in seminary and from other Protestant pastors. Most do not mean any type of malice. They are simply “protecting their flock.” The sad part of this protection is that it prevents their flocks from receiving the fullness of the Church.
There have been Catholics who have left the church because of bad catechizes (teaching). In some cases, the Catholic religion was not adequately taught by parents, Catechism teachers and other sources. I am not sure why. I’m certain that there was no movement to stop teaching Catholics the deep pockets and scriptural relevance of their faith. For many Catholics, it just didn’t happen.
Today, however, Catholics are learning much more about their faith, the Bible and other important information about the sacraments and the religion. Jesus — and no other — is at the heart of the Catholic Church.
We are also accused of worshiping Mary, but I will leave her for another time. I will say, though, that Mary was what the angel Gabriel called her — “full of grace,” and we love and venerate her because she was the mother of God. But we do not worship her.
Ask a Priest:
Anyone who is going to refute the teachings and practices of the Catholic Church would do well to talk to a Catholic priest first. Pastors and Protestant theology teachers may honestly believe that they understand the Catholic faith and the errors they have been indoctrinated about. But until they talk to a Catholic priest, they will never know the truth, height and breadth of the Catholic faith.