Today the church celebrates an important Marian Feast, Our Lady of the Rosary. Why do celebrate this feast? Why do we bother with the rosary at all… it is just some ancient prayer of the church, right?? Wrong! Very wrong!
The Rosary is not a repetitious, boring, ‘religious’ activity… we can certainly make it feel like that… boring, words repeated by rote without any meaning. But that isn’t the Rosary. That is a waste of time. The rosary, when properly prayed, with intention – and with whatever YOUR intentions may be – is one of the most powerful and mountain moving forms of active prayer and meditation with which we are blessed. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once said, “The rosary is the book of the blind, where souls see and there enact the greatest drama of love the world has ever known; it is the book of the simple, which initiates them into mysteries and knowledge more satisfying than the education of other men; it is the book of the aged, whose eyes close upon the shadow of this world, and open on the substance of the next. The power of the rosary is beyond description.”
But the rosary began quite differently than that we know today. The use of “prayer beads” and the repeated recitation of prayers to aid in meditation stem from the earliest days of the Church and has roots in pre-Christian times. Evidence exists from the Middle Ages that strings of beads were used to count Our Fathers and Hail Marys. Actually, these strings of beads became known as “Paternosters,” the Latin for “Our Father.”
The structure of the rosary gradually evolved between the 12th and 15th centuries. Eventually 50 Hail Marys were recited and linked with verses of psalms or other phrases evoking the lives of Jesus and Mary. During this time, this prayer form became known as the rosarium (“rose garden”), actually a common term to designate a collection of similar material, such as an anthology of stories on the same subject or theme. During the 16th century, the structure of the five-decade rosary based on the three sets of mysteries prevailed.
Tradition does hold that St. Dominic (d. 1221) devised the rosary as we know it. Moved by a vision of our Blessed Mother, he preached the use of the rosary in his missionary work among the Albigensians, who had denied the mystery of Christ.
Originally, people prayed 150 Our Fathers representing the 150 Psalms. Then there was a parallel practice of praying 150 Hail Marys. Later, a mystery of Jesus’ life was attached to each Hail Mary.
Church Tradition and, let’s face it, LEGEND, tells us that St. Dominic (d. 1221) devised the rosary as we know it. Moved by a vision of our Blessed Mother, he preached the use of the rosary in his missionary work among the Albigensians, who had denied the mystery of Christ. Whilst that cannot by proved, and in fact may not be true, the development of the rosary as we know it owes much to the Dominican Order. One of St. Dominic’s Dominican contemporaries, Alan de la Roche, was known as “the apostle of the rosary.” He founded the first Confraternity of the Rosary in the 15th century. In the 16th century the rosary was developed to its present form—with the 15 mysteries (joyful, sorrowful and glorious). In 2002, Pope John Paul II added five Mysteries of Light to this devotion.
Let the rosary become YOUR BOOK, as Archbishop Sheen termed it, the book you ‘open’ when it seems like everything is just too much to bear or when you’re filled with such gratitude for love or when or when it is just a humdrum Wednesday. You will be amazed by the power of this beautiful prayer. The book opens when you realize you’re not merely praying the same words on the same beads every time, but when you actually begin to meditate and place yourself in the corresponding mysteries. You become an active participant in the life and times of Our Lord and His Mother.
Anyone who knows six easy prayers can pray a Rosary; you will also need to know twenty Mysteries to meditate upon as you pray. You do not have to be a Catholic.
The Order of Prayers
The Rosary begins with the Apostles Creed, followed by one Our Father, three Hail Marys (traditionally offered for an increase in faith, hope, and charity for those praying the Rosary), a Glory Be, and, if desired, the Fatima Prayers. Next come five mysteries, each consisting of one Our Father, ten Hail Marys, a Glory Be, and, if desired, the Fatima Prayers. Conclude with the Hail Holy Queen. Please say a few extra prayers after the Hail Holy Queen for the Pope.
If you do not have Rosary beads, it is perfectly okay to count with your fingers. Counting beads frees your mind to help you meditate.
Prayers for Praying the Rosary
THE APOSTLE’S CREED
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, Our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified; died, and was buried. He descended into Hell; the third day He arose again from the dead; He ascended into Heaven, sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst 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, Amen.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
FATIMA PRAYER (OPTIONAL)
O my Jesus, forgive us of our sins. Save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls into heaven, especially those in most need of thy mercy.
HAIL HOLY QUEEN
Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve: to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!
Leader: Pray for us O Holy Mother of God,
All: That we may be worthy of the promises of Christ.
Leader: Let us pray.
All: O God whose only begotten Son by his life, death, and Resurrection has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life; grant we beseech thee, that meditating on these mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
PRAYER FOR THE HOLY FATHER (FOR PRIVATE DEVOTION)
Leader: Upon this Rock He will build His Church…
All: …and the jaws of death shall not prevail against her.
Leader: O Mother of the Redeemer…
All: …Living Tabernacle of the Eucharist, and Luminous Rose of Heaven, with humble confidence we ask you to bestow upon the Holy Father all the graces and blessings reserved for him by the Holy Trinity from all eternity. Amen.
Leader: Help his friends…
All: …convert his enemies.
Leader: Saint Joseph…
All: …pray for us. Amen.
The Twenty Mysteries
Here is a brief listing and description of all twenty Mysteries.
THE JOYFUL MYSTERIES
- The Annunciation:The Archangel Gabriel “announces” to Mary that she shall conceive the Son of God.
- The Visitation:Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth, who is pregnant with John the Baptist.
- The Nativity:Jesus is born.
- The Presentation:Mary and Joseph “present” Jesus in the Temple where they meet Simeon.
- The Finding in the Temple:After losing Him, Mary and Joseph find young Jesus teaching the Rabbis in the Temple.
THE LUMINOUS MYSTERIES (THE MYSTERIES OF LIGHT)
- The Baptism in the Jordan:The voice of the Father declares Jesus the beloved Son.
- The Wedding at Cana:Christ changes water into wine, his first public miracle.
- The Proclamation of the Kingdom:Jesus calls to conversion (cf. Mk 1:15) and forgives the sins of all who draw near to him.
- The Transfiguration:The glory of the Godhead shines forth from the face of Christ.
- The Institution of the Eucharist:Jesus offers the first Mass at the Last Supper with his apostles, establishing the sacramental foundation for all Christian living.
THE SORROWFUL MYSTERIES
- The Agony in the Garden:Jesus sweats water and blood while praying the night before his passion.
- The Scourging at the Pillar:Pilate has Jesus whipped.
- The Crowning with Thorns:Roman soldiers crown Jesus’ head with thorns.
- The Carrying of the Cross:Jesus meets His mother and falls three times on the way up Calvary.
- The Crucifixion:Jesus is nailed to the cross and dies before His mother and His apostle John.
THE GLORIOUS MYSTERIES
- The Resurrection:Jesus rises from the dead.
- The Ascension:Jesus leaves the Apostles and bodily “ascends” to heaven.
- The Descent of the Holy Spirit:The Apostles receive the Holy Spirit in tongues of fire in the upper room with Mary.
- The Assumption:Mary is taken bodily–assumed–into heaven by God at the end of her life here on earth.
- The Coronation:Mary is crowned Queen of Heaven and Earth.
Mysteries for Certain Weekdays
Traditionally, many people say the Joyful Mysteries on Monday, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday, the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday, and start again with the Joyful Mysteries on Thursday, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Friday. The Glorious Mysteries are then prayed on Saturday and Sunday. Now that the Luminous Mysteries have recently been added, the schedule is:
Monday – Joyful
Tuesday – Sorrowful
Wednesday – Glorious
Thursday – Luminous
Friday – Sorrowful
Saturday – Joyful
Sunday – Glorious
Try to place yourself “into” the scene of the particular mystery as you pray, imagining the sights, smells, sounds, and emotions that Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and other participants experienced during the actual events.
It is also okay to meditate on the meaning of the words of the prayers as you pray them, or even to meditate on the person for whom you are offering the Rosary.
GOD BLESS YOU.