Can I wear a rosary around my neck?

(CNS photo from UCAN)

My knee-jerk response to this was no, because that’s what the good sisters told me in Catholic school thirty years ago. But I did a little research, and found that it’s not quite as clear-cut as that.
On the one hand, it makes sense that the sisters told us not to drape rosaries around our necks. The rosary isn’t jewelry; it’s a sacramental, which is an object meant to help bring about spiritual effects through the prayer or devotion it inspires. (Sacramentals don’t have any sort of magic power in and of themselves; the positive graces come through the prayers.) Many people argue that if you wear a rosary around your neck, you are treating it more like a fashion accessory than a sacramental and are thus distorting its intended purpose.
On the other hand, many Catholics buy and wear rosary bracelets, which are like a decade of the rosary worn around the wrist. There are also rosary rings, in which small raised dots help people count off and keep track of their prayers. These are meant to encourage frequent prayer, and logically, if wearing a rosary around the neck does the same, it’s hard to argue that it’s wrong. And priests of the Dominican order wear the rosary hanging down from their belts, so clearly, the wearing of the rosary on the body is not a problem in and of itself.
The only official Church document I could find that addressed this, even obliquely, was the Code of Canon Law, which says, “Sacred objects, which are designated for divine worship by dedication or blessing, are to be treated reverently and are not to be employed for profane or inappropriate use even if they are owned by private persons.” (1171) So it seems that it all depends on the intent of the wearer. If you’re wearing it as a way to deepen your prayer life, there shouldn’t be any problem with that.


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