Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Confraternity of the Holy Rosary

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Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Volume 13
Confraternity of the Holy Rosary

by Herbert Thurston


In accordance with the conclusion of the article Rosary no sufficient evidence is forthcoming to establish the existence of any Rosary Confraternity before the last quarter of the fifteenth century. Dominican guilds or fraternities there were, but we cannot assume without proof that they were connected with the Rosary. We know, however, that through the preaching of Alan de Rupe such associations began to be erected shortly before 1475; that established at Cologne in 1474 by Father James Sprenger is especially famous. People from all parts of the world desired to be enrolled in it. A casual English example occurs in the Plumpton Correspondence (Camden Society, p. 50), where a priest in London writes in 1486 to his patron in Yorkshire: "I send a paper of the Rosary of our Ladye of Coleyn and I have registered your name with both my Ladis names, as the paper expresses, and ye be acopled as brether and sisters." Even at that time the entry of the name of each associate on the register was an indispensable condition of membership, and so it remains to this day. It was undoubtedly to this and similar confraternities, which by degrees began to be erected in many other places under Dominican supervision, that the great vogue of the Rosary as well as the acceptance of a more uniform system in its recitation of the Rosary was mainly due. The recitation of the Rosary is alone prescribed for the members -- at present they undertake to recite the fifteen mysteries at least once in each week -- but even this does not in any way bind under sin. The organization of these confraternities is entirely in the hands of the Dominican and no new confraternity can be anywhere given without the sanction of the general. It is to the members of the Rosary confraternities that the principal indulgences have been granted, and there can be no need to lay stress upon the special advantages which the confraternity offers by the union of prayer and devotional exercises as well as the participation of merits in this which is probably the largest organization of the kind within the Catholic church. Moreover, in the "patent of erection", which is issued for each new confraternity by the General of the Dominicans, a clause is added granting to all members enrolled therein "a participation in all the good works which by the grace of God are performed throughout the world by the brethren and sisters of the said [Dominican] Order." An important Apostolic Constitution on the Rosary Confraternity , which may be regarded as a sort of new charter, was issued by Leo XIII on 2 October, 1898.

The Perpetual Rosary is an organization for securing the continuous recitation of the Rosary by day and night among a number of associates who perform their allotted share at stated times. This is a development of the Rosary Confraternity, and dates from the seventeenth century.

The "Living Rosary" was began in 1826, an is independent of the confraternity; it consists in a number of circles of fifteen members who each agree to recite a single decade every day and who thus complete the whole Rosary between them.

HERBERT THURSTON