The Dominicans of an earlier time preached a deep spirituality that underpinned the Confraternity of the Rosary. The term Confraternity does not always enjoy the respect and dignity that this Brother/Sisterhood deserves. St. Louis Marie de Montfort who was singled out by the Master of the Dominican Order for his preaching of the Rosary lamented the fact that in his day, there was no true Confraternity of the Rosary. This led him to propose his own Treatise on the True Devotion to Mary . His end product which lay hidden for many years is a recall to the original thrust of the Golden Rosary years of the Dominican Friars.
Much literature and many websites are still repeating the Holy algebra approach to the Confraternity. They set down a list that says do this and get that--say these prayers and gain these benefits. Fine, as far as it goes, but the truth is that this approach lacks spiritual depth. To get to the deep waters one has to go back centuries and pick up what many seem to have forgotten. De Montfort refers to the golden days of Alan de la Roche, who proclaimed the Holy Slavery of Jesus and Mary in the chain of the Rosary . One can see from where De Montfort drew his terminology.
William Pepin, in his work, Salutate Mariam, republished by the Dominican Rosary Centre in Santa Maria Novella, Florence opens up a whole wonderland of teaching in regard to the Confraternity of the Rosary. He uses the parable of the Prodigal to explain how one should live out the true spirit of a Brother/Sister of the Rosary. ‘ Listen,’ he says ‘to the Father who says to the Elder Brother: All that I have is thine. Lk:15,31. A true elder member of the Confraternity entrusts all that he is and all that he has to Jesus and Mary and responds to their gracious response: Beloved all that I have is yours. Take it and use it in the service of the whole Rosary family.
A true elder member of the Rosary Confraternity must not be jealous or even like the younger brother looking for his own share of the property. He must be willing to rejoice with and celebrate the others. Since all that the Father has is his, he himself has the right and indeed the obligation to put the robe of mercy on his brother’s back, the shoes on his feet and the ring of union on his finger. These are covenant terms and they symbolise the covenant of love and mercy that should pertain between the members.
Becoming a member of the Confraternity implies both a Contract and a Covenant . A contract is an exchange of goods or services. A Covenant goes further and implies an exchange of persons. The prayers to be said and the indulgences to be gained—the exchange of goods, as it were, point to the contract . They are the external and secondary practices. But the inner soul of the society goes beyond a simple contract to reach the heights of a sacred covenant . Both find expression in the words of commitment: I am all yours and all I have is yours .
A member with this rich understanding of the Rosary Confraternity gives up existing out of his own meagre ration. He enters the treasure–house of the King and lives out of his infinite supply. A member of this True Rosary Confraternity is no longer waiting in the dole-queue of his own poverty or giving out of his own begging bowl. In keeping with the Book of Revelation: 3:21 - The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne... the true elder member is seated on the throne and acts with the authority of the royal household behind him. Such a one reaches out to bless others with a boldness that moves mountains with an expectant faith the works even miracles.
Before ever members of the Confraternity meet to form a formal gathering or sodality, there is a depth of spirituality that needs to be unearthed. It is a lost treasure that lies deep in our Dominican tradition. I believe the time has come to reclaim and proclaim it.