THE CONGREGATION OF THE ROSARIANS
Fr. C. Bernard CR
THE CONGREGATION OF THE ROSARIANS
The Congregation of the Rosarians was founded by Fr. B. A. Thomas, O.M.I., of Jaffna in Sri Lanka on 2nd February 1928. There was something unique in the way the Congregation came into existence.
Fr. Thomas (1886- 1964) who was a man of very poor health had, on many occasions, been administered the Sacrament of the sick, even before his ordination to the priesthood; but he outlived nearly all his colleagues. He always taught his spiritual children to put unbounded confidence in Divine Providence. His life itself was an illustration of the principle he taught.
Fr. Thomas was fully convinced of the great need of the contemplative life for the growth of the Church. He saw that, unlike in earlier days, not only individuals but also nations as a whole were drifting away from God. Fr. Thomas foresaw the spread of atheistic Communism all over the world.
Our Blessed Mother, in almost all her apparitions particularly at Lourdes and Fatima, pleaded for prayer and penance to remedy this fearful apostacy of whole nations. The prayer she always recommended was the Holy Rosary. Fr. Thomas used to share these thoughts with his colleague Rev. Fr. Guyomar, O.M.I., who later became Bishop of Jaffna.
Quite providentially, it was at this time that Pope Pius XI, the Pope of the Missions in the Encyclical, Rerum Ecclesiae (1926) insisted on the establishment of indigenous contemplatives. This encyclical served as an inspiration to Bishop Guyomar, who suggested to his old friend Fr. Thomas, to found an indigenous, contemplative Congregation. Trie Congregation of the Rosarians was the fruit of this idea, inspired almost simultaneously in the mind of the Holy Father Pius XI, Bishop Guyomar and Fr. Thomas. In fact, Fr. Thomas would often say that Pope Pius XI was the real founder. Is it not a unique way of founding a Congregation?
Fr. Thomas founded the Congregation of the Rosarian Sisters too (1950). In India, they have convents at Trivandrum, Madras and Tuticorin. In Sri Lanka, they have four Houses. They follow the same rule.
The Rosarian Life
The Rosarian Life is purely contemplative. They pray not only during stated intervals, but the whole day and night; literally, they pray always. They pray the rosary uninterruptedly day and night, by taking turns, except when they recite the Divine Office. They recite the rosary very slowly and meditatively, before the Eucharistic Lord. Their solitude, silence, manual labour performed in union with Christ, are all conducive to prayer.
There is some misunderstanding about the Rosarian way of life. A learned priest, who knows the Rosarians, once remarked that they do not give sufficient importance to liturgical worship. This is not true. The emphasis they give to the Holy Rosary in no way diminishes the importance of the ‘Prayer of the Church.’ The Rosarians recite daily the entire Divine Office, in community. In fact, the founder has given a paramount place to liturgical worship.
Some think that in the post-Vatican era, contemplatives have no place 1 The Vatican decree on Renewal and Adaptation clearly states “Those communities which are totally dedicated to contemplation, giving themselves to God alone in solitude and silence through constant prayer and penance, will always have a distinguished part to play in Christ’s Mystical Body”.
All the recent Popes have extolled in glowing terms the great need of contemplatives for the Church. “Those who devote themselves to the contemplative life and who fulfill the duty of prayer and penance contribute much more to the growth of the Church and welfare of mankind, than those who labour in tilling the Master’s field” Pius XI. “The religious orders which are vowed to contemplation are in a certain way, necessary to the Church”—Pius XII. “Time and again we have spoken of the apostolic yield of contemplative life”— John XXIII. “The Church needs at all costs spiritual persons with powerful interior life, whose only occupation is to recollect themselves in God and to be set on fire with heavenly things. If such spiritual persons were lacking. . . there should result inevitably a deterioration of the energies of the entire Mystical Body”—Paul VI. “I do not fear to say that monastic life would have a function of primary importance in India today and tomorrow”—Cardinal Pignodeli. “No matter how urgent may be the needs of the active apostolate, communities totally dedicated to contemplation will always have a distinguished part in Christ’s Mystical Body where all members have not the same function”—Vatican II. Religious Life, no. 7. Perhaps to some people, even the supreme authority of the Church may not be convincing. One need not be surprised at this, since as Thomas Merton says, “The contemplative life is a mystery”.
“Who is like unto God?” is the basic motto of the Congregation. Their life is expected to be a practical demonstration of this motto. God is the source and end, the alpha and omega of all things: Without Him not even the least atom moves. God permits everything that happens, for His extrinsic glory and our own good. Blind trust in God to a heroic degree is the keynote of the Rosarian life. Their visits to the Blessed Sacrament, the daily Holy Hour and Benediction, the whole day exposition and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on First Fridays and some other Feast days, very frequent High Mass, all these point to the fact that they live up to this motto.
Though the Rosarians have excluded external ministry as such, the Founder had in his mind varied activities. Some of them are the sanctification of the clergy, Eucharistic adoration, making provision for closed retreats, evangelization through associate members, uplift of the labour class, making use of oriental arts and science to render homage to Christ, eradicating all caste distinctions and many such activities. Many who have seen the revised Constitutions said that they use it for their spiritual reading and meditation.
True to the oriental tradition, the Rosarians are vegetarians. They keep silence most of the time, with recreation on Sundays and feast days. They recite the first and last decades of the rosary with arms outstretched.
They are expected to earn their living by manual labour as not to be a burden to others. It is part of their penance and at the same time, they faithfully follow the Scriptural command to labour. Manual labour conduces to the health and vigour of the individual.
Growth of the Congregation
Though the Congregation had its origin in Sri Lanka, it spread more easily and rapidly in India. At present, there are four Houses in India: two in Tamil Nadu, one in Madhya Pradesh and one in Karnataka. Kerala, the cradle of vocations, has so far no Rosarian House. Bishops from many States invite the Rosarians to open new Houses and are willing to provide them with all facilities. They have already accepted the invitation of the Most Rev. Dr. R. Arulappa, Archbishop of Madras, Mylapore, for a new foundation.
The comer stone of the Congregation in India was Fr. Antony Fernando (Fr. Susainather, C.R). After thirty years of very successful missionary work in the dioceses of Trichy and Tuticorin, he joined the Rosarians in 1939. He is considered a saint by his acquaintances and a number of miracles are attributed to him. His life is being written.
Bishop Roche, the first Bishop of Tuticorin, was instrumental in establishing the first Rosarian House in India at Vadakangulam, in the year 1943. Bishop Mendonca of Trichy established a second House at Manaparai, near Trichy, in 1952. The late, saintly Bishop Severin, S.J., of Raigarh, Ambikapur, feeling the urgent need of prayer and penance for the missions, actually pleaded with the founder and succeeded in es¬tablishing a third House at Ambikapur, in the year 1955.
When the founder had to retire, due to ill health and old age, the Con¬gregation being diocesan, some of the Bishops favoured the idea of making each House autonomous. This step stopped all further progress for nearly a decade. Finally the Holy See intervened and appointed Fr. Dominic, O.C.D., as the Prior General. The special General Chapter held in 1970, updated the Consti¬tutions in the light of the directives of the Vatican Council. Fr. Dominic opened the Rosarian Training Centre in Bangalore in 1973 in a temporary building. The monastery is not yet built.
The first ordinary General Chapter took place at the end of April 1976, at which Fr. Chacko Bernard, C.R., was elected the first Rosarian Prior General.
The founder would often say that, to those who live truly the Rosarian life, it would prove to be a heaven on earth. Even those who left the Congrega¬tion keep very pleasant memories of the days spent in the Ashram. “I tell you the plain truth”, writes one, ‘I do not enjoy peace or happiness. I tell this frankly, because you know me very well. I have no difficulty for the necessities of life. But I do not have the peace and happiness I enjoyed in the Ashram. When I left I thought it was better I got out and was happy about it. But now the thirst for such a life is gnawing my soul. Please pray for me.” Another writes “I fell a prey to the cunning of the devil and left that holy place. I was deceived. Now I realize my mistake.” Those who live a true Rosarian life are unwilling to exchange it for any other. “Taste and see how good is the Lord”.
Anyone with good will and deep faith can be a Brother or a Priest in the Congregation. Candidates for the priesthood should have passed the S.S.L.C., or equivalent. For Brotherhood those with lower qualification may be admitted. Young priests who have a genuine contemplative vocation are accepted. For further particulars, write to or, visit any of the following Houses: —
Generalate: Rosarian Ashram; Carmelaram, P.O; Bangalore - 560 035
Novitiate: Fatimagiri Ashram; Vadakangulam, P.O; Tirunelveli Dt. Tamil Nadu - 627 116
Pushpavanam Ashram: Manjampatty, P.O; Tiruchy Dt ; Tamil Nadu - 621 307
Nishkalanka Ashram: Post Box - 1; P.O. Ambikapur ; Dt. Surguja ; M.P. - 497 001
Rosary Ashram: Vasavilan, P.O; N.P; Sri Lanka
Fr. C. Bernard CR