Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Is Wearing a Rosary Around Your Neck Appropriate?

Q - I read this article (video below) this morning and I was wondering if you could address the issue on your blog. I have no issue with a young girl who desires to express her faith, but wearing a rosary around her neck at school (although not against Canon Law) is not I correct? A rosary should be used during prayer, not worn as jewelry. She could wear a rosary bracelet and probably be within the school dress code.

And I wanted you to know I bought my husband your book for Christmas. I read it before I gave it to him, and really enjoyed it.

A - Thanks for the questions. I am glad you enjoyed the book.

There are many similar stories of kids getting suspended for wearing a rosary. It started when two groups of people started wearing them frequently - celebrities and gangs. The celebrities did it as a fashion statement and the gangs did it as a symbol of their affiliation with the gang.

This caused problems in schools who started banning them to prevent the gangs from having their gang symbols in schools, but then there are the kids who are wearing them for religious reasons, or so they say. Thus, the courts have generally backed the kids and told the schools the bans are not constitutional.

The question of whether it is appropriate is another ball of wax. Remember that many religious wear them as part of their habit, especially the Dominicans. Also, there are some cultures that have worn them as a sign of their faith through the years. So, anytime it is worn as a devotional, this is acceptable.

The problem comes when the rosary is used as an accessory - a symbol of fashion or illegal activity. This is inappropriate. The Diocese of Colorado Springs supports the ban of wearing rosaries in public schools. Though I don't necessarily agree:
Msgr. Bob Jaeger, vicar general of the Diocese of Colorado Springs, said in an Oct. 12 statement that the diocese “supports every student’s first amendment right to openly wear religious jewelry.”

“In these increasingly secular times, when hostility towards individuals of faith continues to grow, it is imperative to remain vigilant against all forms of selective religious discrimination,” he continued.

However, he wrote, the diocese recognizes “the need to protect children and the right of school districts to regulate clothing and other items that have been misappropriated as symbols of gang affiliation.”

Because of this misappropriation, the diocese does not oppose the school district’s decision.

"Rosaries and similar devotionals are articles of faith intended to foster and promote prayer. Rosaries are not intended to be worn as jewelry. Students who have a devotion to the rosary should be encouraged to pray the rosary rather than wear it around their necks."

Msgr. Ricardo Coronado-Arrascue, the diocese’s judicial vicar and chancellor, told the Colorado Catholic Herald that rosaries may occasionally be worn on one’s clothes, as when some vowed religious wear a rosary attached to their belts. But he lamented that gangs have adopted the rosary in this manner.

"To belong in a gang is against Catholic teaching because it involves violent confrontation," Msgr. Coronado-Arrascue commented. "To use a Christian symbol to express that is contrary to the symbol and contrary to the faith. Rosaries are many times prayed to obtain peace. How can you wear a symbol of peace and have it represent violence and fighting?"
Remember that we are free to wear them if we wish, but should only do so as a devotion.
I hope this helps.

Video of the story:

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