I just read a quote from Pope Pius XI:

“If you desire peace in your hearts, in your homes, and in your country, assemble each evening to recite the Rosary. Let not even one day pass without saying it, no matter how burdened you may be with many cares and labors.”  

(common in Catholic pages about praying the Rosary such as here, here, here, and here as well as pamphlets on the Rosary such as here)

Has the Church provided a way for us to interpret such a statement? I doubt that Pope Pius XI meant that unless you pray the Rosary you are not a very spiritual person. I think we must look at the context of the quote.

The Church has made many statements that must be interpreted such as "baptism is necessary for salvation", but at the same time there is no teaching saying that you cannot enter Heaven without being baptized. People have told me that we must look at the context in which the Church said something. How should we interpret this statement from Pope Pius XI?

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    Maybe you should clarify the context where you found this quote. Not everything a pope says, however profound, is “the church” speaking.
    – ABM K
    Commented Sep 6, 2023 at 16:24
  • I just found it on websites talking about the Rosary. I cannot say where it is taken from Commented Sep 6, 2023 at 16:35
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    in that case I hope you will get an answer from someone who can place it in the right context :)
    – ABM K
    Commented Sep 6, 2023 at 16:37
  • Exactly. That is very important! Commented Sep 6, 2023 at 16:49
  • I made a light edit for capitalization, formatting, phrasing improvement. I also added example sources of the quote from many web pages but I couldn't find the source in Pope Pius XI's own writings, which we need for interpretation. Although the ideas are present, the exact quote is not in these 2 encyclicals: Ingruentium Malorum and Ingravescentibus Malis. Commented Sep 6, 2023 at 18:44

1 Answer 1


In the comments there is some discussion about context. Until that is answered, I am afraid a more general answer will have to do for the moment. But maybe it helps you on your way:

Has the Church provided a way for us to interpret such a statement?

In general it is useful to understand the position of the pope and of anything he says. The dogma on infallibility may sound as if anything a pope says is to be believed as religious truth, but that is not the case. There are certain contextual aspects on any dogmatic statement of a pope. What a pope says is NOT to be understood as infallible unless, popular said, it is very clear that it is. Such statements are extremely rare.

But that doesn’t imply that what a pope says has the same weight as what any person in the world may say. The pope is elected to sit on the chair of the apostle Peter, to be the rock of unity of the Church of Christ (well, that is what we believe, non-Catholic Christians may believe otherwise of course) and we do believe the Holy Spirit, the 3rd Person of God, leads the Church, so the position of the pope is very important indeed. What a pope says is not to be taken lightly, even if it doesn’t have a formal, dogmatic status.

But that still doesn’t tell you how to interpret his words. As in all things, the words of a pope should be listened to with faith, with guidance by the Church. It is very good indeed to consider by yourself what words mean, from Holy Scripture, from a pope, from a sermon in your local parish. But always challenge your personal views by the views of the Church. So if you ask “what did pope Pius XI mean exactly by these words?” you should try to understand the viewpoints, the teachings of this pope more general, and even more try to understand the teachings of the Church about this particular subject.

It is rather seldom that you can take one sentence from Holy Scripture, from a pope, or any other Catholic source, and answer the meaning of it by one other simple statement.

Are you not a very spiritual person if you don’t pray the rosary?

I can’t possibly know for certain what pope Pius XI exactly thought in private, but it isn’t Church teaching that praying the rosary is a litmus test for your level of spirituality. I would even say on the contrary. The spiritual treasury of the Church is very well filled with different gifts to mankind. The rosary is a very deep and valuable prayer for any spiritual life, but it isn’t the only one. Another one, just as an example, is the liturgy of the hours, the daily prayer cycle around the book of psalms, all clergy and religious orders pray.

And please note there is no contest to be the most spiritual person, more than your brother or sister. Living a spiritual life is something you, and everybody, is invited to. What is good for one person may not be the best for another.

Is there room for the not so absolute?

You refer to the teachings about baptism, in a way I interpret as a question if statements of the Church are to be understood as absolute. Do you need to be baptised? Yes. Can you enter heaven without being baptised? Yes.

The thing is, the Church does teach some things as really, really absolute. But a lot of things are more of the form “we know for certain this, but it is always God's freedom to let His love be greater than this”. Your baptism question is a great example. Yes, being baptised does, absolutely certainly, make us die in our old life and be reborn, resurrected, in Christ. We don’t just hope so, we know so. And this gives us an open invitation to enter heaven when we leave this earth. But can you reason from this starting point to a negative? Can you say: therefore, if you didn’t receive baptism, heaven is closed for you? No, you cannot. It is always God’s love that can still allow you into heaven.

For the rosary, you can follow the same path of thinking: yes, the rosary is a very good prayer. But if you don’t pray the rosary, that doesn’t make you bad.

  • I have been told that baptism is required for people with the faith. Only invincible ignorance can make baptism not neccesary. I intepret the pope as he telling what he has found works for a lot of people. But when he recomends the Rosary he does an infavour to some of us. It is easy to fail at communication. When you really like something you just want to recomend it to all people. I think I have done the same mistake Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 12:22

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