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Anthony Jones wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • The Bible speaks against "vain repetitions", so how is saying the Rosary not vain repetition?
  • The Bible speaks against graven images, so how are medals and figurines not graven images?
  • If one does wear a medal, is it okay to wear it under clothes or should it be worn out where it can be seen?
  • If one is receiving Holy Communion on First Fridays for Jesus and First Saturdays for Mary, is it okay to go to both the First Friday AND First Saturday of each month?

Andrew

  { Questions on the Scriptures and Catholic disciplines and practices. }

Eric replied:

Hi, Andrew —

The prohibition against "vain repetitions" should be understood in context. It says vain repetitions as the pagans do. You see, the pagans treated prayers as kind of magic incantations. By using the deity's name, they wielded control over the deity. The more they used it, the more assured they were of power. So they felt that by multiplying words over and over mindlessly, they had a better chance of being heard.

This is not what the Rosary is about at all. It's a meditation on the mysteries of the faith. The words should be prayed sincerely, directed heart to heart, not as an incantation to obtain power.

Moreover, it is clear that repetitive prayer itself is not forbidden by Scripture because there are multiple instances of repetitive prayer in Scripture. For example:

the four living creatures in Revelation 4 who say "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, and is and is to come!" over and over ceaselessly.

Or, Isaiah 6:2, where the Seraphim say, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory."

Or, consider Psalm 118, where "His love endures forever" is repeated over and over. (Remember the psalms were used as prayers by the Jews.)

As in so many things, what matters is not the externals but the internals — not the appearances but what's in the heart.

As for graven images, read carefully the commandment:

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me...

Deuteronomy 5:6

It says you shall not bow down to them or serve them — this is the heart of the commandment. Here, too, we have examples where Scripture calls for graven images to be made. For example, God commanded the making of the brazen serpents (Numbers 21:8–9) which brought healing, and also the angels covering the ark of the covenant (Exodus 25:18ff). So images weren't absolutely forbidden; only images that were worshiped.

One reason why this prohibition is lived so differently in the Christian church compared to the Jewish community is the incarnation. Deuteronomy 4 gives a rationale for the commandment:
It says it's because they did not see God in any form (v. 15). But with the Incarnation, God did take a form — a human form. And in fact, he makes his dwelling inside of us and we become other Christs (Christian means "little Christ") and partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).
So this inaugurated a new economy of images.

It doesn't matter how you wear a medal.

You can go to both first Fridays and first Saturdays. Just be aware that they aren't always adjacent (if, for example, the first day of the month falls on the Saturday).

For more information see <Do Catholics Worship Statues?>.

Eric

Andrew replied:

Hi, Eric —

On reading back over what I sent, it may have looked like I was attacking but I didn't mean it that way. Let me tell you what's happened with me recently.

Not long ago I came across my Halley's Bible handbook and was reading in it. I read where it said that when Jesus's side was pierced, blood and water came out and the water was really serum and the blood that issued forth was evidence that His Heart had ruptured. This moved me so much and I remembered hearing about the Sacred Heart. I ordered a Sacred Heart medal for myself and have been wearing it, even before I got your answer about graven images. I started reading about the Sacred Heart online. I ordered a beautiful print of a painting of Jesus and His Sacred Heart and will frame it and put it up in my house when it arrives.

Then, for some reason, I wanted to read about the Lady of Fatima and from there have been reading about Catholicism online. I read something about Mary and how one can do First Saturday devotions to her. She seems so left out of most other Christian religions. I've only recently understood that the Roman Catholic Church is the rock upon which Jesus built His Church.

I've been saved and baptized but I've never really identified myself with any denomination, just
a Christian because I've never liked the idea of different sects. At any rate, I've been thinking about exploring the Catholic Church near me — or at least going to a Mass. Thanks for pointing out that the first Fridays and first Saturdays aren't always going to be one after another in a month; and thanks for the answers to my other questions too. I was surprised to get answers so soon.

  • Does one have to be a Catholic to do the First Friday and First Saturday devotions?

I'm wondering because I was thinking about doing them beginning in June, the month of the Sacred heart.

Thanks,

Andrew

Eric replied:

Hi, Andrew —

It is wonderful that you are so interested in Catholicism! Welcome. I did not suspect you were attacking since you were asking questions about how to wear the medals, which someone who was attacking the Church obviously wouldn't do!

Yes, the blood and water which flowed from Jesus's side also proves that he truly died.
I'd definitely encourage you to go to a Mass (although you won't be able to receive Communion) and after you've been for a while and studied some, consider making an appointment with the local priest to talk about receiving instruction. No commitment required, no salesman will call!

If you wish to go deeper, consider buying a cheap copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church to learn everything we believe as Catholics.

The Catechism contains the basics of our faith in an official form.

The First Friday and First Saturday devotions require receiving the sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist, which you can't receive as a non-Catholic. I'm sure both Mary and Jesus would be pleased if you went to Mass anyway, made a confession to God and a spiritual Communion.

(A spiritual Communion is where you ask to receive the Lord spiritually, uniting yourself to him in prayer, asking to be made a partaker of the divine nature (2 Peter 1).

You may want to do some reading. I recommend the conversion stories in Surprised by Truth edited by Patrick Madrid, and also Surprised by Truth II and III.

If you have further questions, or want some other reading recommendations, let us know.

Eric

Mike replied:

Hi, Andrew —

I just wanted to add to my colleague's fine reply.

I have a great devotion to both First Fridays and First Saturdays.
I have done them now for 25 years and have only missed 8 times.

This posting will help explain both devotions.

Mike

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