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Testimony of Former Catholic:

Donna Morley

Growing up in a strict pre-Vatican II Catholic household, I knew the meaning of prayer and authority but it was prayer by rote and the unquestioned authority of the church hierarchy. Let me explain.

Praying By Rote

As a Catholic, at a very early age, I was encouraged to pray the Rosary (a series of beads). Such praying is quite tedious. At the beginning of the Rosary, a Catholic will pray a prayer titled “Glory Be to the Father”.

After that, they pray a series of “decades” on the Rosary (the Rosary is divided up into 10 decades of beads).

Each decade consists of one “Our Father” (the large beads)" ten "Hail Marys" (the small beads), and one "Apostle's Creed" (to be said when your fingers come to the Crucifix).

I understand that many of you may be confused. Let me simplify it for you. Each time after I prayed the Rosary I had recited the “Apostle's Creed” once, the “Our Father” ten times, the “Hail Mary” one hundred and fifty times, (yes, that’s right, 150 times) and the “Glory Be” ten times.

I was taught from my Saint Joseph Daily Missal that,


*       If I pray five decades of the Rosary--on my behalf or on the behalf of a dead family member or friend, I or the deceased one, would get 5 years off the time we spend in Purgatory (praying the Rosary is viewed in the church as a type of Indulgence).


*       If I was to recite five decades of the Rosary in unison with others, publically or privately, I earn ten years off of Purgatory.


*       I was able to gain an additional 10 years off if I recited in unison the Rosary with my family.


*       If I was praying the Rosary while driving a car or doing housework, I was guaranteed to get time off Purgatory, but there was a condition–I had to at least have the Rosary hang around my neck or be attached to my person (such as a sweater I might be wearing), while I was praying.

This was the type of repetitious praying I was involved in–especially during Lent when a Catholic must give up something or do some sacrificial act. I really thought of such praying as sacrificial because it took a lot of time to pray a total of 171 prayers each day of Lent (40 days of Lent x 171 = 6,840 prayers!). And, along with that praying, came pride as I saw the benefit I could have on the dead person I was helping get out of Purgatory (a temporary place of fire) and into Heaven (will explain a bit more about Purgatory in a minute).

I was not only involved in repetitious praying on my own, but such praying was done when attending Mass. I knew the Mass backwards and forwards. I could recite it from beginning to end. The same exact words and prayers said during the Mass are repeated week after week, year after year. Actually, century after century. For well over 1500 years the same exact script has been said during the Mass. The only change made, since the 1960's, is that the Mass is now performed in English instead of Latin--the universal language for the church over the centuries.

One thing is certain, during Mass every Catholic, world-wide, knows when to stand, when to sit, when to say “Amen,” when to make the sign of the cross, and when to say the “Our Father” and the “Glory Be.” There doesn’t have to be any heart in this at all. As long as you are at Mass going through the motions, then you are seen as acceptable to God.

When praying the rosary, or when praying at Mass, Jesus is never included. Ask most Catholics and they will tell you they do not pray to Jesus (unless they’ve become born again, and haven’t left the church yet). The closest I ever came to praying to Jesus was when making the sign of the Cross I would recite: “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

As a Catholic, I had a deeper reverence for Mary and the Saints than I ever did for Jesus. This is true for many Catholics. They will tell you, for instance, that they pray to Mary because she was Christ's mother; herself born without sin (called the "Immaculate Conception"); and most importantly, that she intercedes for the sinner. Since 1589 Catholics have prayed these words to their mediator--the “Blessed Mother Mary,”

Hail Mary, full of grace! the Lord is with thee;

 blessed art thou among women,

and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,

pray for us sinners

now and at the hour of our death.


This prayer (again, prayed 150 times when praying the Rosary) has become so much a part of popular piety that it never occurs to the average Catholic that exaltation of Mary is not found in the Bible.

If there are any Catholics reading this testimony, please do not be offended, when I say in love, that Jesus has warned us against repetitious praying. When I came to realize this, I wanted to change my prayer life completely! Listen to the words of Jesus. He says, “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition, as the Gentiles, do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words” (see Matthew 6:7,8).

The Lord also tells us that He is against heartless and mindless praying:

...this people draw near with their words

and honor Me with their lip service,

but they remove their hearts far from Me,

and their reverence for Me consists of tradition

learned by rote. (Isaiah 29:13).

The Priests, and the Nuns

Along with having a deep reverence for Mary, I also revered the priests and the nuns in the church. I had always believed that they were the only ones who could really know God and be close to Him. After all, the priests were God’s representative, and the nuns were the “Bride of Christ.”

In my father’s family line we have had (and continue to have) priests and nuns, a monsignor and even a monk (a relative on my grandmother’s side of the family). This monk went off to a monastery in New York and no one ever heard from him again. What devotion! I thought.

I believed that anyone in the Order was “above” others. They live celibate lives (considered to be more spiritual). They not only pray the Rosary more than most Catholics but the nuns have their rosary with them at all times. The beads are on their person, dangling down their habit (habit refers to the nun’s clothing).

These “holy people” are addressed by all Catholics by their given titles, such as “Father”, “Sister,” “Monsignor”, “Bishop”, “Cardinal.” Even family members are expected to address them in the same way. Without diminishing the respect and honor I have for my family, let me share with you what I mean by this. At a family reunion, for instance, one of our family priests had attended the gathering (surprisingly). Cousin “Jim” (names are changed) was addressed by all his relatives as “Father.” Never once did anyone just call him “Jim.” This is the same for the nuns in the family. My own dear grandfather (who accepted Christ at age 90 and is now in glory!) would have never called his nieces by their first name. He always addressed them as “Sister.” My father’s uncle was a monsignor in the church and was always addressed by the family as “Monsignor” (with last name), r