The Doubtful Mysteries of the Rosary


Our Lady of the Portiuncula 

This past Sunday I was blessed to be able to celebrate Mass at Our Lady Gate of Heaven Parish here in Chicago, where I was privileged to serve as Pastor some twenty years ago. The parishioners invited me back to help rededicate the refurbished statue of the Blessed Mother that stands in front of the church. A pretty conventional work in concrete, the statue had been worn and damaged by decades of Chicago weather and, unfortunately, some vandalism.

Following Mass, we processed out to the front of the church. After a prayer of blessing reminding us that all images of Mary and other saints ultimately direct us to her Son in union with the Father and Holy Spirit, we prayed the Rosary using the Luminous Mysteries instituted by St. John Paul II in 2002. Since people don’t pray the Rosary as often as in the past, the use of these mysteries for some was also an introduction. Pope John Paul II added the Luminous Mysteries to this devotional prayer in part to remind the Church of her evangelical mission.

I wonder if it might be a good practice for the Church from time to time introduce a new set of mysteries to help address some of the challenges her people face. Today, for example, we live at a time of increasing secularization and materialism in many parts of the world, as well as declining faith and increasing skepticism about many institutions—government, corporations, schools and yes, the Church. More and more people, particularly the young, are professing no particular religious affiliation, only a vague commitment to “spirituality,” agnosticism or atheism. Ours is an Age of Doubt often accompanied by anxiety.

Perhaps it is time to introduce the Doubtful Mysteries of the Rosary:

  • The First Doubtful Mystery: John’s Birth is Announced to Zechariah (Lk 1:5-25)
  • The Second Doubtful Mystery: Jesus’ Birth is Announced to Mary (Lk 1:26-38)
  • The Third Doubtful Mystery: The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes (Mk 6:34-44)
  • The Fourth Doubtful Mystery: Jesus Invites Peter to Walk on the Water (Mt 14:22-35)
  • The Fifth Doubtful Mystery: Jesus Appears to Thomas and the Disciples (Jn 20:24-29)

These mysteries remind us that doubt and anxiety are not only part of the human condition but have also been part of the lives of those whom we honor as saints. In addition, doubt does not necessarily lead to a rejection of faith but rather can be a challenge for us to plumb the depths of our faith. We doubt not because we’re bad but because we’re human. Zechariah, Mary and the disciples of Jesus remind us that God can work with who we are and where we’re at. God can do amazing things with doubt. It’s true!—JC