All religions have prayers that resonate through believers and tie into their belief systems in an intricate and intimate way. For Catholics, the Rosary is that prayer.
Why do Catholics pray the Rosary? The Rosary is a powerful prayer to God, prayed through his mother, Mary. Catholics also believe that Our Blessed Lady, herself, came from heaven and asked us to unite ourselves with her Son through this prayer each day.
Praying the Rosary is one of those images that comes to mind when we imagine older, Catholic women or nuns in habits. Even Hollywood outlines these images in movies- these women grasping their Rosary in one hand, making the sign of the cross with the other. However, the Rosary is much more powerful and wonderful than Hollywood makes it out to be.
The creation of the Rosary
A Rosary is the beaded necklace sometimes worn by Catholics. You can also find Rosaries in pockets, inside of a bible, or other places close to its owner. Rosary is also the name of the prayer that is said while holding this necklace. The beaded pattern on the necklace corresponds to the prayers being said during the Rosary.
The word “Rosary” itself comes from Latin, meaning a garland made of roses. The rose is often used to symbolize the Virgin Mary, or the mother of Jesus. Those praying the Rosary are, in effect, praying through Mother Mary.
The Rosary is a biblical form of prayer, with the prayers composing it coming mainly from the Bible. It is a devotion in honor of the Virgin Mary, consisting of a set number of specific prayers.
The Rosary prayers has been a tradition in the church for a very longtime. It is said that in the 13th Century, the Virgin Mary herself appeared to St Dominic. She then gave him a Rosary.
It is said that Mother Mary then asked that Christians begin using the Rosary and pray the Hail Mary, Our Father, and Glory Be prayers in the place of the Psalms. This original Rosary was said to have 15 Decades, which match the 15 Mysteries.
A Rosary is arranged in sets of 10 Hail Marys, that are called Decades. Each decade is preceded by one Lord’s Prayer and then followed by one Glory Be. During the reciting of each set- thought should be given to one of the Mysteries of the Rosary.
The Mysteries of the Rosary recall happenings during the lives of Jesus and Mary. Five decades are recited per Rosary. Other prayers can sometimes be added before and after each decade. The beads help us to stay in proper sequence when reciting.
The standard 15 Mysteries was originally established in the 16th Centuray by Pope Pius V. He grouped the mysteries into 3 sets: the Joyful Mysteries, the Sorrowful Mysteries, and the Glorious Mysteries.
During 2002, Pope John Paul II said that a new set of five should be added. This new mystery, called the Luminous Mysteries.
When reciting the Rosary, the Glorious Mysteries are said on Sunday and Wednesday. The Joyful Mysteries are said on Monday and Saturday. The Sorrowful Mysteries are said on Tuesday and Friday and the Luminous Mysteries are said on Thursday. Five decades are recited in each session.
During the history of the Catholic Church, popes and saints have continued to recommend the praying of the Rosary. St. Louis de Montfort said, “When the Holy Rosary is said well, it gives Jesus and Mary more glory and is more meritorious than any other prayer.”
It is said that Mary continues to appear, holding a Rosary, and asks that we continue to pray the Rosary prayers as a way to lead us to Jesus. She is said to present our needs before Him. By saying the Rosary, we strengthen our relationship with Jesus and remember the events of His life.
When do we pray to the Rosary?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
‘Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion, and desire. This mobilization of faculties is necessary in order to deepen our convictions of faith, prompt the conversion of our heart, and strengthen our will to follow Christ. Christian prayer tries above all to meditate on the mysteries of Christ, as in lectio divina or the rosary. This form of prayerful reflection is of great value, but Christian prayer should go further to the knowledge of the love of the Lord Jesus, to union with him’ (CCC 2708).
The prayers of the Rosary are comprised of decades, which is 10 Hail Marys. The decades are preceded by 1 Lord’s Prayer and followed by 1 Glory Be. Each set represents one of the Mysteries.
- Five Luminous Mysteries are recalled on Thursdays. This was added by Pope John Paul II in 2002
- Five Sorrowful Mysteries related to Jesus’ suffering and death. These are recalled on Tuesdays and Fridays.
- Five Glorious Mysteries are prayed on Wednesdays and Sundays and remind the faithful of Jesus’ resurrection and the glories of heaven.
- A selection of prayers are used during the
recitation. They include
- The Aposle’s Creed
- Our Father
- Hail Mary
- Glory Be
The prayers of the Rosary
There are twenty mysteries reflected upon in the Rosary, and these are divided into five main mysteries which correspond to the five decades of the rosary.
The Rosary begins with the Apostle’s Creed, followed by one Our Father, three Hail Mary’s and one Glory Be. This is followed by five decades, which both begin and end with one Our Father and Glory Be and ten Hail Mary’s.
The rosary beads themselves help the sayer to keep court of the number of Hail Mary’s said as you think about the Mysteries. The fingers move as the prayers are being said, which keeps your mind free of counting and focused on the mysteries.
Some Catholics will admit to being overwhelmed by the Rosary. Depending on the speed of the recitation, the process can take 20 minutes or more. Because of the importance of these prayers, scholars have suggested that we “chunk” the prayers- chopping it down into several manageable pieces to complete throughout the day.
Other questions concerning the Rosary surface periodically. Some of those questions include:
- Does our focus on Mary distract us from a relationship with God?
- Why are we repeated the same prayers over and over?
- Should we focus on the prayers, the mysteries, or both?
- Shouldn’t prayers be personal, like conversations, rather than these repeated prayers?
- Does saying a rote prayer really bring me closer to God?
It is important to remember, as suggested, that you can pray the Rosary in chunks throughout the day. You can also pray anywhere! Pray in traffic, standing in line at the Post office, or while exercising.
Set goals before your prayer. One session, you may focus on His death, another on His life. Focus on His name as you say your prayers. Every recitation can be varied in your heart and mind.
If you have specific needs- emergencies that come up or important decisions to be made, you can quickly say a decade for that specific need.
The repetitious prayers become music to the Lord. As John Paul II stated, lovingly repeating this prayer “embodies the desire for Christ to become the breath, soul and all of one’s life” (RVM, 27).
The Included Prayers:
- The Apostles’ Creed
- The Lord’s Prayer-
- The Hail Mary
- The Glory Be
- The Closing Prayer
Catholics utilize the Rosary, prayed through Our Blessed Lady herself to unite us with her Son through this prayer.
If you are interested in learning about other Religions in the world, then check out this book on World’s Religions on Amazon.