Real Men Pray the Rosary

Real Men Pray the Rosary
Contemporary Catholics Retool Rosary
By Ana Campoy

MCALLEN, Texas, Apr. 9, 2010 ( — For years David Calvillo ignored his mother's pleas to pray the rosary, a thing he associated with old ladies and funerals.

Then he was handed a wooden-bead rosary at a religious retreat, where he prayed it among a chorus of 79 other men. After going through the 59 beads, he was impressed by the connection he felt with his fellow attendants, his mother and God, he says.

Now he's trying to sell others on the rosary's "power and strength," creating an online group called "Real Men Pray the Rosary." Its logo: A raised fist with a rosary dangling between clenched fingers.

"I'm a child of the '70s," said the mustachioed 49-year-old lawyer, alluding to the raised-fist salute of that era's Black Power movement. "I thought that would convey the right message."

Catholics, who will celebrate Easter this Sunday along with other Christians world-wide, have been saying the rosary for centuries. The necklace-like string of 59 beads represents a cycle of prayers—53 Hail Marys and six Our Fathers. As modern-day Catholics discover the rosary anew they are also updating the instrument and creating a market for nontraditional interpretations.

The basic concept, using beads to keep track of prayers, remains the same, but some rosaries are taking a decidedly contemporary form. There are several rosary iPhone applications; one lets users slide virtual beads on the screen.

Rosary manufacturers are offering a variety of novelty models, in many cases aimed specifically at men. One new model has football-shaped beads to encourage boys reluctant to sit through a litany of prayers. For other tastes there are rosary bracelets with peace signs.

While Catholics modernize rosary use, other Christian denominations are also looking for ways to make praying more accessible and relevant, from adopting different postures to revisiting repetitive reciting, experts say.

"Too often there's been a sense that your spiritual life is separate from your regular life," said Kurt Fredrickson, an associate dean at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. "All of these practices are ways to actually use your body and your surroundings as part of your prayer."

Saying the rosary is a form of meditation on the life of Christ through devotion to the Virgin Mary. It is said to have been started by St. Dominic in the 13th century. Several popes have promoted its use, most recently Benedict XVI, who has said the rosary "is not a pious practice banished to the past, like prayers of other times thought of with nostalgia. Instead, the Rosary is experiencing a new springtime."

Monsignor Anthony F. Sherman, executive director of the Secretariat of Divine Worship of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, welcomes the new forms of the rosary as long as they help Catholics think about how Jesus's teachings apply to their lives.

"If all these things lead to the heart of what the rosary is about, then praise be God; if they become a distraction that is another issue," he said.

Alan Bedard, president of Creed Rosary Manufacturing Co., of Wrentham, Mass., says overall rosary sales are up. A growing number of the company's clients are prayer groups that order customized models.

Some of Mr. Bedard's rosaries are made of gold and can sell for thousands of dollars. On the other end of the spectrum is Rosary Army, a group that teaches how to make a rosary by knotting nylon twine. Founder Greg Willits calls the rosary "a weapon of spiritual warfare" to keep men on the right path in a world full of temptations. During Lent, the Atlanta-based group has collected 5,000 nylon rosaries from members to be given away to selected individuals, rather than in bulk.

In Mission, Texas, in the Rio Grande valley, David Lerma started a group called Prayer Warriors that local Catholics commission for rosary-prayer sessions. Every Tuesday and Thursday, Mr. Lerma, a 46-year-old who drives a pickup truck and favors camouflage gear, goes to a different house with an oversized rosary made of rose petals encased in acrylic.

Mr. Calvillo, the McAllen lawyer, sometimes prays with the Prayer Warriors, but his main focus is on his "Real Men Pray the Rosary" Facebook page, where he has amassed more than 6,000 friends, including one who uses a rosary fashioned out of ball bearings.

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  1. Anonymous4:00 PM

    Great article, I pray my rosary everday with few exceptions. It is good to know that there are other men doing the same.

  2. I'm a revert back to the Church and fell in love with praying the Rosary. My wife does, and we pray it as a family too. I wrote an app for iPhone that just hit the App Store called "Rosary Gems" that I think would appeal to men. It's a different paradigm than the other Rosaries currently available:

    We have others in the works too, with designs specifically focused on men.

    For instance, if a man had a choice between a pink glass-beaded rosary and a pewter one, which one do you think he's going to get and be glad to take out either in private or public?

    This is the aspect of beauty and design we are working to bring to technology, especially mobile technology, to encourage us gadget-minded males to meditate on what is really important. And what a way to bless and safeguard your mobile device than to put our Blessed Mother in it, just a little bit.

  3. joe zurlo1:29 PM

    Dear Jesus please give me a bit more grace today to help me on my way;
    Make me stronger to see your will and my role in life so I may serve you and others without strife;
    Help me grow to feel your love for me and mine for you as the only entities in life that are true;
    Keep me focused on your love for me and help me resist all further temptations to be;
    I am in your Hands dear Jesus, and will use mine only in ways that pleases.