What is the Rosary?
The Rosary (Latin: rosarium, in the sense of “crown of roses” or “garland of roses”), usually in the form of the Dominican rosary, is a form of prayer used especially in the Catholic Church named for the string of prayer beads used to count the component prayers. When used of the form of prayer, the word is usually capitalized (“the Rosary”), as is customary for other names of prayers, such as “the Lord’s Prayer”, “the Hail Mary”, “the Magnificat”. When referring to the beads, it is normally written with a lower-case initial (“a rosary”).
The prayers that essentially compose the Rosary are arranged in sets of ten Hail Marys with each set preceded by one Lord’s Prayer and followed by one Glory Be. During recitation of each set, known as a decade, thought is given to one of the Mysteries of the Rosary, which recall events in the lives of Jesus and Mary. Normally, five decades are recited in a session. Other prayers are sometimes added after each decade (in particular, the Fátima Prayer) and before (in particular, the Apostles’ Creed), and after (in particular, the Hail, Holy Queen) the five decades taken as a whole. The rosary as a material object is an aid towards saying these prayers in the proper sequence.
A standard fifteen Mysteries of the Rosary, based on the long-standing custom, was established by Pope Pius V in the 16th century, grouping the mysteries in three sets: the Joyful Mysteries, the Sorrowful Mysteries, and the Glorious Mysteries. In 2002 Pope John Paul II suggested a new optional set of five, called the Luminous Mysteries, bringing the total number of mysteries to twenty.
For over four centuries, the rosary has been promoted by several popes as part of the veneration of Mary in Roman Catholicism. The rosary also represents the Roman Catholic emphasis on “participation in the life of Mary, whose focus was Christ”, and the Mariological theme “to Christ through Mary”, taught by Saint Louis de Montfort.
How to Pray the Rosary
- While holding the crucifix make the Sign of the Cross and then recite the Apostles 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.
- Recite the Our Father on the first large bead.
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.
- Recite a Hail Mary for an increase of faith, hope and charity on each of the three small beads.
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.
- Recite the Glory Be to the Father on the next large bead.
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.
- Recite the Fatima Prayer “O my Jesus” on the large bead.
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.
- Recall the first Rosary Mystery and recite the Our Father on the large bead.
- On each of the adjacent ten small beads (also refered to as a decade) recite a Hail Mary while reflecting on the mystery.
- On the next large bead, recite the Glory Be to the Father, the Fatima prayer.
- Each succeeding decade is prayed in a similar manner by recalling the appropriate mystery, reciting the Our Father, ten Hail Mary’s while reflecting on the mystery, the Glory Be to the Father, and the Fatima prayer.
- When the fifth mystery is completed, the Rosary is customarily concluded with the Hail Holy Queen, and the Sign of the Cross.
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.
The Mysteries of the Rosary
The Joyful Mysteries (Mondays and Saturdays)
- 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) (Thursdays)
- 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 (Tuesdays and Fridays)
- 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 (Wednesdays and Sundays)
- 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.