On numerous occasions, Our Lady has asked us to pray, and more particularly, to pray the Rosary. You can ask anyone who routinely prays the Rosary and they will tell you how much it means to them, to their prayer life, and to their general consolation and sense of peace in their life. It is a great gift to us, commended by many saints, including Pope St. John Paul II, who wrote, in in his Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae:
“The Rosary, though clearly Marian in character, is at heart a Christocentric prayer. In the sobriety of its elements, it has all the depth of the Gospel message in its entirety, of which it can be said to be a compendium. (1) It is an echo of the prayer of Mary, her perennial Magnificat for the work of the redemptive Incarnation which began in her virginal womb. With the Rosary, the Christian people sits at the school of Mary and is led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love. Through the Rosary the faithful receive abundant grace, as though from the very hands of the Mother of the Redeemer…. she continually brings to birth children for the mystical Body of her Son. She does so through her intercession, imploring upon them the inexhaustible outpouring of the Spirit. Mary is the perfect icon of the motherhood of the Church.
… [it] mystically transports us to Mary's side as she is busy watching over the human growth of Christ in the home of Nazareth. This enables her to train us and to mold us with the same care, until Christ is “fully formed” in us (cf. Gal 4:19). This role of Mary, totally grounded in that of Christ and radically subordinated to it, “in no way obscures or diminishes the unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power… (2)
Dear brothers and sisters! A prayer so easy and yet so rich truly deserves to be rediscovered by the Christian community…I look to all of you, brothers and sisters of every state of life, to you, Christian families, to you, the sick and elderly, and to you, young people: confidently take up the Rosary once again. Rediscover the Rosary in the light of Scripture, in harmony with the Liturgy, and in the context of your daily lives…”
The Rosary is what’s known in the Church as a “sacramental,” something that is “…instituted for the sanctification of certain ministries of the Church, certain states of life, a great variety of circumstances in Christian life, and the use of many things helpful to man… (CCC 1668). “Sacramentals do not confer the grace of the Holy Spirit in the way that the sacraments do, but by the Church’s prayer, they prepare us to receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it. For well-disposed members of the faithful, the liturgy of the sacraments and sacramentals sanctifies almost every event of their lives with the divine grace…” [Emphasis added] (CCC 1670)
Rosaries are composed of 59 beads, a crucifix and often, a center piece. An interesting fact: the word “bead” comes from the old English word “bede,” which meant “prayer.” In the middle ages, most lay people, including lay members of religious orders usually had neither the education to read, nor access to, the psalters that were used by the religious in monasteries for daily prayers. Consequently, they ended up using a string of beads, originally called “Pater Nosters,” (Latin for “Our Father”), to count the Hail Marys and Our Fathers as they prayed. Between the 12th and 15th centuries, the Rosary evolved to the point that 50 Hail Marys were recited with it. (3) In 1569, under Pope St. Pius V, the Rosary came into the general form with which most of us are familiar, ultimately with three sets (Joyful, Glorious and Sorrowful) of five mysteries each. Later, in 2002, Pope St. John Paul II added the five Luminous Mysteries. (Actually, according to the Magnificat Rosary Companion, he restored these mysteries which had existed in an earlier version predating the fifteen mysteries we were familiar with.)
So how about it, brothers and sisters, isn’t it time for all of us to rediscover the Rosary? Or if we have rediscovered it, to spend more time with it, perhaps? If anyone you know needs a refresher on praying the Rosary, there are abundant resources available to help. Most parish gift shops have some sort of pamphlet covering how to pray the Rosary. Some online resources include the following, which are rated highly for fidelity to Catholic teaching by the Catholic Culture website (click on the name to be taken there):
And what if you or someone you know needs a Rosary? Rosaries are available in prices ranging from less than a dollar apiece to a few hundred or more, depending on what they’re made of. You can find them at parish gift shops, Catholic religious supply stores and online. No matter where you get them, make sure you get them blessed. Following are links to some online Rosary purveyors:
Tradition holds that Our Lady made fifteen promises to those who pray the Rosary. You can find the 15 Promises of The Blessed Virgin for Praying the Rosary online. For a great summary on the Rosary and how to pray it, as well as information on the Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary, click here.
Enjoy your special time with Our Lady and Our Lord Jesus in your praying of the Holy Rosary!
1 - Pope Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus (2 February 1974), 42: AAS 66 (1974), 153.
2 - Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 60.
3 - St. Dominic, founder of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans), had been given credit, erroneously, for devising the Rosary, due in part to the writings of Alan de la Roche, who was not a contemporary of St. Dominic. However, St. Dominic is reported to have fostered a devotion to it, using it in his missionary work.