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1916 Military Rosary Inspires New Combat Rosary

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Men’s faith formation has been a pet project of mine for the last half of my 26 years as a priest. Among many things, I ‘ve wanted us men to rediscover the treasury of Catholic devotions. If men are going to be the spiritual leaders of their own domestic church, we simply must explore these time-tested and Church approved jewels of our Catholic life.

As I poured myself into this endeavor, I was struck by how effeminate many of the sacramentals tended to be. It’s no wonder men are inclined to see these devotions as “what women do.” In particular, most of the rosaries looked like women’s jewelry. I began to scour the internet to find something truly masculine in a rosary.  Sure, there were the classic black or brown bead rosaries, but they still seemed weak to me.

One day I happened upon a very intriguing rosary among some of the collectors’ websites. It was tough. It was strong. It had a kind of gravitas to it. This was truly a man’s rosary. As I read the description, it turned out I was looking at an original World War I military rosary. As described, it was commissioned and procured by, believe it or not, the U.S. government and issued by the military, upon request, to soldiers serving in World War I. Some of these rosaries were also seen in WWII. All of these rosaries were made around 1916. Awesome!!

Now I was really intrigued. I began doing some research on these military rosaries, and I discovered that there were some knock-offs made since the originals in 1916. I wanted to stay clear of those, if I was going to take the dive and purchase an authentic World War I military rosary. So, what made these authentic?

It turns out that there are certain key elements to the original rosaries. The beads were the kind of beads one sees used for making dog tags. Some call them “lamp pull chain” beads. The government, after trying some prototypes in early production, discovered the best metal for avoiding rust and blacking was a silver washed brass or bronze. While all of the crucifixes are not the same, none of them had company marks on the back (the backs are blank) and they were all silver washed, brass crucifixes. Most of the crucifixes had a swirl or the letters INRI at the end of each cartouche. All of these rosaries measured between 16-17 inches, depending upon the size of the crucifix they used.

I found it very curious that I would occasionally come across a silver or gold plated rosary among collectors. It turn out that many veterans credited their survival to these rosaries. So, after the war, they went to a jeweler to have them gold-plated or silver-plated.

The most interesting and most identifying feature of these military rosaries was their center medals. The front of the medal always had some image of the Blessed Mother, which was usually Our Lady of Sorrows. But it is the back of this center medal that gives it away as an authentic 1916 World War I military rosary. They all had the same image of Jesus carrying his cross. This symbolized the burdens these soldiers were willing to shoulder for the sake of our freedom.

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After deciding upon the authentic military rosary I wanted, and receiving it in the mail, I looked at this “masculine and muscular” military rosary, and said to myself, “The men need to have these!!” However, I wasn’t about to go around paying the high price of the original military rosary. So, on a whim, I called the first pull chain company I found on the internet. I was surprised to hear how receptive they were for making a prototype for the bead portion of this new rosary for men, based on the original 1916 military rosary. A short time later, the prototype arrived in two pieces: The long fifty-bead section, and the short five-bead section to go from center medal to crucifix. It was amazing! It had a lustrous silver glow to it. It was weighty. It was manly!

Now, I was really fired up! I didn’t want to make a replica of the original. I wanted to respect the original that way. Instead, I wanted make one based on the original, but well suited for the Church Militant to do full-on spiritual warfare. It was time to choose the medals and crucifix.

Of course, the powerful Miraculous Medal was a must for the center medal, but I couldn’t forget about the very powerful “devil-chasing” St. Benedict Medal. One of my favorite features of this powerful medal against evil is the inscription on the back: “Vade retro satana” (“Step back, Satan”). So, I decided these rosaries would have a St. Benedict Medal dangling from the center medal. Also, I decided to offer add-on medals for every branch of the military for soldiers and vets (police and fire medals are offered too).

For the crucifix, the Pardon Crucifix was a must. It is the only crucifix I know that gives indulgences for carrying it or kissing it. These indulgences were declared upon the Pardon Crucifix by Pope St. Pius X in 1905, and were approved in the pardon of the living and the souls in Purgatory in 1907. These medals and crucifix makes this Church Militant Combat Rosary a powerful spiritual assault weapon against evil forces attempting to separate us from the love of God and His will for our lives.

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I had a few of these Combat Rosaries made for the men in our apostolate, the Knights of Divine Mercy, but folks started learning about them. There was so much demand that my sister agreed to step in and manage the production and sales of these rosaries. I am so excited that there is a truly masculine Combat Rosary made for men (women really like these too).

To get your own Church Militant Combat Rosary, go here.

14 thoughts on “1916 Military Rosary Inspires New Combat Rosary”

  1. I bought three of these rosaries for my sons and myself for Christmas last year: two silver and one gold. The boys chose the silver rosaries, so I took the gold. They are my favorite rosaries ever: strong, highly attractive, and with a pleasing weight.

    The only observation I’d make is that the silver rosaries seem to be slightly better quality than the gold, going by the ones we have: the crucifix and medals are thicker, and the silver finish still looks new, while the gold has tarnished quite a bit over the year. But these are only mild caveats–these are excellent rosaries.

  2. Just ordered one with a Navy medal. As Catholic men we have been called to fill the ranks of the the “Church Militant”. Deus Vult!

  3. An interesting side-project, but nothing more. Holiness has little to do with being “manly” and buying “manly” rosaries. This is a case of Catholicism colliding with consumerism in a most ugly way. The reason it’s so ugly is the fact that the author takes himself so seriously, as if this were a necessary or even commendable item to purchase. We need to disengage ourselves from this consumerist culture which says that what we buy and what we have, we are. I’d prefer to say the rosary with a simple, string of cotton-tied knots, than spend a bunch of money on a century old replica of a war rosary, as if war were something Christlike.

    • DO You not understand the FACT THAT OUR ROSARIES are in our BIBLES, I really feel sorry for you because there is a GOD who loves all , and here you are talking him down, replica and anything that helps us is good ,it keeps us on our toes as reminders of CHRIST who died for our SINS, I make ROSARIES and have gave over a thousand away ,it helps in good and bad times I BELIEVE IN THE POWER OF MY ROSARY .YOU NEED TO DO YOUR HOMEWORK AND LOTS OF READING THE BIBLE.

    • The rosary is a prayer tool okay and in Catholicism people treasure their rosaries maybe much the same as you treasure your Bible so it’s just like having your Bible other than that in Catholicism people have rosaries and also my friend you are not a true Christian. Because true Christians don’t attack other religions or other people from other religions or any of their methods or beliefs what you are my friends is an absolute idiot you need to rethink the way you practice and the way you conduct your prayer and I don’t even practice religion I haven’t since I was a kid in fact I could care less about religion I was brought up Catholic though and I know right away you smell like fish dude you smell like fish I don’t know what church you go to but you shouldn’t be allowed in a church any church you suck

  4. Thank you for this. I am often annoyed by rosaries breaking apart because they are flimsily-made. And yes, majority of them look feminine. I had begun looking at corded (rather than wire hoops), when I saw this. To “Scape Goat” – respectfully – I don’t see it as consumerist nor “as if war were something Christlike” because obviously it is not. However, in war, facing death, it would surely focus a man’s mind on eternal life as well as heartfelt prayer. A rosary is more prayer than beads, the beads being for counting only. But a “ruggedised” rosary is something that will not fall apart easily, and I can see value in that.

  5. I received my rosary earlier this week and could not be more pleased with it. It is substantial and strong with a good feel to it. I will be ordering more. I appreciated the explanatory card that comes with it, too. Thank you, Father.

  6. While some feel this is a ploy to make money I can say I honestly bought mine because I have children and they have broken some of my favorite rosaries around toddler age and some have come loose praying on them and carrying them in my pocket so I wanted an unbreakable rosary and this is it. The Only Suggestion I would make to the Fr. Is to perhaps make an optional Knights of Columbus Medal as an additional medal option and maybe one with a Crusader cross that says Soldier of Christ. Some Patron Sain’t medals would be nice I would have liked to have a St Michael Medal to add onto it or a KofC

  7. I have bought six of these beautiful Rosaries. Two for my sons (non believers right now), another two for my husband and his son (both Protestants), one for a very faithful Catholic man who recently came into my husband’s life (answer to my prayers) and one for me. I got the gun medal and am very pleased….the $5 extra I’m thinking is worth it.

  8. I just have a question, that doesn’t have to be posted.
    I was blessed to have n original metal rosary that was my Grandfathers. It’s well worn which makes me very happy and it is special.
    Question – Is the “Combat Rosary” being sold larger than the original?
    The reason I ask is that the original is small. The beads are small and I find it difficult to pray with and keep on the right one. My hands are normal fat fingers but not ridiculously large. In the pictures the “Combat Rosary” appears bigger.
    Does anyone know the answer to this question?
    God bless y’all.

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