Praying the Rosary

Peter Fournier and Catherine Fournier

The rosary is one of the most universal and popular devotions in the Catholic Church. It has a long and venerable history, honouring the Mother of God. Tradition ascribes the popular us of the roasry to Saint Dominic, founder of the Dominican Order. Charged by the Pope to preach against the growing heresy of Albigensianism, he was unsuccessful until he until he sought the intercession and aid of Mary. Appearing to Dominic, Mary gave him the rosary, telling him to use it as a weapon against the heresy. The devotion spread rapidly and in a matter of months, more than a hundred thousand heretics converted to the true faith.

Other miraculous intercessions have been attributed to the Holy Rosary, especially the deliverance of Europe from the Turks in 1571 and 1683. In recognition and thanksgiving for these victories and for the countless souls saved from war and heresy by Mary's intervention, the first Sunday of October was dedicated as the Feast of the Holy Rosary and the entire month of October to the Rosary. Just as then, the rosary is a powerful tool to avert the forces threatening the Church, society and individual souls today.

The Rosary prayer is composed of sets (called decades) of shorter prayers: the Our Father, ten Hail Marys, a Glory Be and an Oh, My Jesus. Saying a 'rosary' means saying either five or twenty decades. Each decade concentrates on an event in the life of Jesus, especially those in which Mary played an important part.

In saying twenty decades, we meditate on the five Joyful, five Luminous,five Sorrowful and five Glorious events of Our Lord and Our Lady's life. These twenty events are called the Mysteries of the Rosary.

A circle of large and small beads, with an additional short set of beads and a crucifix attached at one end, is used to give the rosary its structure and help keep track of the prayers. On the large beads the Our Father is said, on the smaller the Hail Mary and in the spaces, the Glory Be and the Oh My Jesus. It is customary to 'announce' the mystery before the Our Father, add your own intentions (if you have any) then begin the decade with the Our Father followed by the ten Hail Mary's and the other prayers. See a more detailed explanation below.

The rosary is an excellent and powerful prayer for both public and private use. It can be an opening to your daily prayers, the sum total of your daily prayers, a meditation at the beginning of Mass, a way to begin long car trips, a special devotion at public gatherings or a special times of the year. As with so many other aspects of the practice of the Catholic faith, though there are very specific recommendations and guidelines for our conduct, there are no rules, no set requirements.

The illustrations used in this article were collected on our recent trip to Rome (17 to 28 October 2000.) The mosaic images are from Santa Maria Maggiore and Santa Maria in Trastevere, both early Christian churches dedicated to the Holy Virgin. In these, and many other churches, the mosaics themselves date all the way from the 5th century to the the 14th, hundreds of years before the Rosary began as a recognised devotion. The frescoes are from the Scrovegni Chapel painted by Giotto in the 1300's, again long before the devotion of the Rosary began.

One of the most interesting things we learned in our explorations of Roma and her churches is that the Protestant charge that devotion to Mary is a recent, and abberant addition to the Church's practices is clearly contradicted by the early Christian churches, where it is as easy to find an image of Mary or the saints as of the crucified Christ.

The Mysteries of the Holy Rosary

The Joyful Mysteries

(Pope John Paul II has recommended that these mysteries be said on Mondays, and the Sundays of Advent and Sundays from Epiphany until Lent)

The Annunciation
The Annunciation - Santa Maria in Trastevere, XIII century

"Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you. . .
Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord: let it be done to me according to your word." (Luke 1: 28, 38)

The Visitation
The Visitation - Giotto
"Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb." (Luke 1: 42)
The Nativity
The Nativity - Santa Maria Maggiore 1291
"Mary gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger." (Luke 2:7)
The Presentation in the Temple
The Presentation - Santa Maria in Trastevere - XIII century
"When the time for the purification came, they brought him up to Jerusalem to offer him to the Lord." (Luke 2: 22)
The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple
The Finding in the Temple - Giotto
"After three days the found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions." (Luke 2: 46)
The Luminous Mysteries

(Pope John Paul II has recommended that these mysteries be said on Thursdays)

Christ's Baptism in the Jordan
"After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove." (Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22)
The Miracle at Cana
"Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory and his disciples began to believe in him." (John 2:1-12)
Jesus Proclaims the Kingdom
"This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel. " (Mark 1:15, Mark 2: 1-13, Luke 7: 47-48)
The Transfiguration
"Then from the cloud came a voice that said, "This is my chosen Son, listen to him." (Luke 9:28-36)
The First Eucharist
"This is my body, which will be given for you; do this im memory of me." (Matthew 26: 26-29, Mark 14:22-25, Luke 22: 15-20)
The Sorrowful Mysteries

(usually said on Tuesdays and Fridays throughout the year, and daily from Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday)

The Agony in the Garden
The Agony in the Garden - Giotto
"My soul is very sorrowful, even to death . . .
Father, not what I will, but what you will." (Mark 14:33, 36)
The Scouring at the Pillar
The Scourging - Giotto
"Then Pilate took Jesus and scourged him." (John 19:1)
The Crowning with Thorns
The Crowning with Thorns - Giotto
"The soldiers plaited a crown of thorns and put it on his head." (John 19:2)
The Carrying of the Cross
The Carrying of the Cross - Unknown
"Jesus went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called Golgotha." (John 19:17)
The Crucifixion
The Crucifixion - Unknown
"Father, into your hands I commend my spirit." (Luke 23:46)
The Glorious Mysteries

(Pope John Paul II has recommended that these mysteries be said on Wednesdays, and the Sundays from Easter until Advent)

The Resurrection
The resurrection - Greek icon
"You seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here: for he has risen, as he said." (Matthew 28:5-6)
The Ascension
The Ascension
"The Lord Jesus was taken up into heaven." (Acts 1)
The Descent of the Holy Spirit
Pentecost - Greek icon
"You will receive the Holy Spirit; and you shall be my witnesses . . . to the ends of the earrth." (Acts 1:8)
The Assumption
The Assumption - Santa Maria Maggiore XIII century
"A great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet." (Revelations 12:1)
The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The coronation of Mary - Santa Maria Maggiore
"On her head a crown of twelve stars." (Revelations 12: 1)
Rosary Image
  1. Make the Sign of the Cross and say The Apostle's Creed
  2. Say the Our Father
  3. Say three Hail Marys for the intention of an increase of Faith, Hope and Charity
  4. Say the Glory Be to the Father, and one O, My Jesus
  5. Announce the First Mystery, then say the Our Father
  6. Say ten Hail Marys
  7. Say the Glory Be to the Father
  8. Say the O My Jesus
  9. Announce the Second Mystery, then say the Our Father, ten Hail Marys, one Glory Be and O My Jesus
  10. Announce the Third Mystery, then say the Our Father, ten Hail Marys, one Glory Be and O My Jesus
  11. Announce the Fourth Mystery, then say the Our Father, ten Hail Marys, one Glory Be and O My Jesus
  12. Announce the Fifth Mystery, then say the Our Father, ten Hail Marys, one Glory Be and O My Jesus
  13. Conclude by reciting the Hail, Holy Queen

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 Spirit and Born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was cruscified, died and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirity, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life ever-lasting. Amen

Our Father

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

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

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

O My Jesus

(prayer of the Angel of Fatima)

O My Jesus, forgive us our sins; save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those most in 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, O most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us, and after this our exile, show us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement!, O loving!, O sweet Virgin Mary!
V: Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God
R: That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen.


Remember, O Most Gracious Virgin Mary, never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help or saught your intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, we fly to you, O Virgin of virgins, our mother. To you we come, before you we stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word incarnate, despise not our petitions, but hear and answer us. Amen.

Prayer after the Rosary

O God, whose only-begotten Son, by His life, death and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life; grant, we beseech Then, that meditating upon these mysteries of the most holy rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may learn to imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Fifteen Promises of Mary to Christians Who Recite the Rosary

(given to Saint Dominic and Blessed Alan)
  1. Whoever shall faithfully serve me by the recitation of the rosary, shall receive signal graces.
  2. I promise my special protection and the greatest graces to all those who shall recite the rosary.
  3. The rosary shall be a powerful armour against hell, it will destroy vice, decrease sin, and defeat heresies.
  4. It will cause virtue and good works to flourish; It will obtain for souls the abundant mercy of God; it will withdraw the hearts of men from the love of the world and its vanities, and will lead them to the desire of eternal things. Oh, that souls would sanctify themselves by this means.
  5. The soul which recommends itself to me by the recitation of the rosary, shall not perish.
  6. Whoever shall recite the rosary devoutly, applying himself to the consideration of its sacred mysteries shall never be conquered by misfortune. God will not chastise him in His justice, he shall not perish by an unprovided death; if he be just he shall remain in the grace of God, and become worthy of eternal life.
  7. Whoever shall have a true devotion for the rosary shall not die without the sacraments of the Church.
  8. Those who are faithful to recite the rosary shall have during their life and at their death the light of God and the plentitude of His graces; at the moment of death they shall participate in the merits of the saints in paradise.
  9. I shall deliver from purgatory those who have been devoted to the rosary.
  10. The faithful children of the rosary shall merit a high degree of glory in heaven.
  11. You shall obtain all you ask of me by the recitation of the rosary.
  12. All those who propagate the holy rosary shall be aided by me in their necessities.
  13. I have obtained from my Divine Son that all the advocates of the rosary shall have for intercessors the entire celestial court during their life and at the hour of thier death
  14. All who recite the rosary are my children, and siblings of my only son, Jesus Christ.
  15. Devotion of my rosary is a great sign of predestination.

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