THE HOLY ROSARY
The Holy Rosary
“Praise Him for His mighty deeds!”
Some people consider the rosary a peripheral devotion that detracts from the basics of the faith.
Just the reverse is the truth. The rosary is a user-friendly prayer; its simplicity plunges us into the heart of the Scriptures of the Christian mystery. While not an essential part of the Church’s public prayer, the rosary focuses on the essentials of our faith. “An epitome of the whole gospel,” Pope Paul VI called it.
The rosary’s main prayer concerns the central event of salvation history, the incarnation, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you… Blessed among women!” (Luke 1:28, 42). With the Angel Gabriel we acknowledge Mary as mother of the Redeemer; with Elizabeth, we congratulate her for wholeheartedly saying “yes” to God.
The rhythm of the Hail Mary draws us to meditate on realities that transform us as we ponder them. In the presence of Mary, who treasured God’s words in her heart (Luke 2:19, 51), we reflect on the event of Jesus’ life; The Joyful mysteries to His suffering and dying, and the glorious mysteries to His triumph over death.
Less obvious, but just as real as its New Testament connection, is the rosary’s link with the Bible’s great book of prayer, the Psalms. The rosary probably originated in the ninth-century Ireland when lay people who could not read, but who wanted to imitate the monks’ practice of praying the 150 psalms were advised to pray 150 Our Fathers instead. The devotion evolved and took many forms, with the one most familiar to us appearing in the fifteenth century. The whole rosary-all 15 mysteries-includes 150 Hail Mary’s.
Like the Psalm. Which call us to remember and proclaim God’s works, the rosary is a repeated recalling and declaring of what God has done to save us. Essentially, it helps us to meditate on the life of Jesus.
When Catholics recite the twelve prayers that form a decade of the rosary, they meditate on the mystery associated with that decade; if they merely recite the prayers, whether vocally or silently, they’re missing the essence of the rosary. It isn’t just a recitation of prayers, but a meditation on the grace of God. Critics, not knowing about the meditation part, imagine the rosary must be boring, uselessly repetitious, meaningless, and their criticism carries weight if you reduce the rosary to a formula. Christ forbade meaningless repetition (Matt. 6:7), but the Bible itself prescribes some prayers that involve repetition. Look at Psalms 136, which is a litany (a prayer with a recurring refrain) meant to be sung in the Jewish Temple. In the psalm the refrain is “His mercy endures forever.” Sometimes in Psalms 136 the refrain starts before a sentence is finished, meaning it is more repetitious than the rosary, though this prayer was written directly under the inspiration of God.
Fifteen Promises of the Rosary
In the thirteenth century, Saint Dominic and Blessed Alan received the following promises from Our Lady for all those who faithfully pray the Rosary:
- To all those who shall pray my Rosary devoutly, I promise my special protection and great graces.
- Those who shall persevere in the recitation of my Rosary will receive some special grace.
- The Rosary will be a very powerful armor against hell; it will destroy vice, deliver from sin and dispel heresy.
- The rosary will make virtue and good works flourish, and will obtain for souls the most abundant divine mercies. It will draw the hearts of men from the love of the world and its vanities, and will lift them to the desire of eternal things. Oh, that souls would sanctify themselves by this means.
- Those who trust themselves to me through the Rosary will not perish.
- Whoever recites my Rosary devoutly reflecting on the mysteries, shall never be overwhelmed by misfortune. He will not experience the anger of God nor will he perish by an unprovided death. The sinner will be converted; the just will persevere in grace and merit eternal life.
- Those truly devoted to my Rosary shall not die without the sacraments of the Church.
- Those who are faithful to recite my Rosary shall have during their life and at their death the light of God and the plenitude of His graces and will share in the merits of the blessed.
- I will deliver promptly from purgatory souls devoted to my Rosary.
- True children of my Rosary will enjoy great glory in heaven.
- What you shall ask through my Rosary you shall obtain.
- To those who propagate my Rosary I promise aid in all their necessities.
- I have obtained from my Son, that all the members of the Rosary Confraternity shall have as their intercessors, in life and in death, the entire celestial court.
- Those who recite my Rosary faithfully are my beloved children, the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ.
- Devotion to my Rosary is a special sign of predestination.
Benefits of the Rosary
1. It gradually gives us a perfect knowledge of Jesus Christ.
2. It purifies our souls, washing away sin.
3. It gives us victory over all our enemies.
4. It makes it easy for us to practice virtue.
5. It sets us on fire with love of Our Lord.
6. It enriches us with graces and merits.
7. It supplies us with what is needed to pay all our debts to God and to our fellow men; And finally, it obtains all kinds of graces for us from Almighty God.
HOW TO PRAY THE ROSARY
Rosary beads help Catholics count their prayers. More importantly, Catholics pray the rosary as a means of entreaty to ask God for a special favor, such as helping a loved one recover from an illness, or to thank God for blessings received — a new baby, a new job, a new moon.
- On the crucifix, make the sign of the cross and then pray 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 life everlasting. Amen.
- On the next large bead, say the 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.
- On the following three small beads, pray three Hail Marys. Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among 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.
- On the chain, pray the Glory Be. Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
- On the large bead, meditate on the first mystery and pray the Our Father. You pray the mysteries for each of the five sections (decades) of the rosary according to the day of the week:
- Mondays and Saturdays: The Joyful Mysteries remind the faithful of Christ’s birth:
- 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 the young Jesus teaching the Rabbis in the Temple.
- Tuesdays and Fridays: The Sorrowful Mysteries recall Jesus’ passion and death:
- 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.
- Wednesdays and Sundays: The Glorious Mysteries focus on the resurrection of Jesus and the glories of heaven:
- 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.
- Thursdays: Pope John Paul II added The Mysteries of Light, also known as the Luminous Mysteries, in 2002:
- 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.
- Skip the centerpiece medallion, and on the ten beads after that, pray a Hail Mary on each bead; on the chain, pray a Glory Be.
Although a decade is 10, these 12 prayers from a decade of the rosary.
Many Catholics add the Fatima Prayer after the Glory Be and before the next Our Father:
“O My Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell and lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy. Amen.”
- Repeat Steps 5 and 6 four more times to finish the next four decades.
- At the end of your Rosary, say the 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.
Pray for us, O holy Mother of God. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
O God, whose only-begotten Son, by His life, death, and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal salvation; grant, we beseech Thee, that meditating upon 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.
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.
Practically everyone who prays the Rosary “offers” the Rosary to God and Our Lady for an intention. Some people offer particular intentions before each decade. You can ask God to grant you a favor, heal a sick person, or convert a sinner. Some people offer the same intention every day–sometimes for years on end–especially when asking the Father for the conversion of a particular person. Intentions are as varied as the people who pray.
Ask for big and small gifts. Be bold! In this sense, the Rosary is an exchange of gifts between friends.
It is widely known that Our Lady answers seemingly impossible intentions to those who are first beginning to pray the Rosary. This is her way of drawing you closer to Her and to Jesus. If you are praying your first Rosary or returning to the Rosary after years of not talking to Our Lady, ask for something big, spectacular, “impossible.” She’ll often surprise you.
Meriting a Plenary Indulgence
The Catholic Church, exercising its authority to “bind and loose on heaven and earth,” and in perfect accord with God’s Mercy, has set the following conditions for the granting of a plenary indulgence for those who pray the Rosary:
- Be in a state of grace–that is your soul is free from mortal sin.
- Be free from attachment to–that is, not in the habit of–venial sin.
- Go to confession several days before or after praying the Rosary.
- Receive Holy Communion on the day you pray the Rosary.
- Say a prayer for the Pope.
By fulfilling these simple (but often difficult) conditions, you merit the grace to release one soul from Purgatory. While we are free to ask God to apply this grace to a particular soul, God can do as he pleases, according to His Will and Mercy. You can also ask God to apply this special grace to your own soul. A plenary indulgence will relieve the temporal punishment due to sin (it will not absolve the sin or cause the sin to be forgiven).
The Full Rosary
A “full Rosary” consists of saying all twenty decades, that is, all four sets of five Mysteries. A “Rosary” consists of praying five decades of one set of Mysteries. Many people pray a full Rosary every day; either by praying four separate Rosaries in the morning, midday, afternoon, and evening; or all twenty Mysteries at one time (it is not necessary to repeat the preamble–the Apostles Creed, etc.. –Between the four sets of Mysteries if one is praying a full Rosary. Conclude with Hail Holy Queen after the last of the Glorious mysteries).
The Family Rosary
The Family Rosary is usually prayed out loud after dinner or before going to bed. Family members can take turns “leading” the decades with one person praying the beginning of the prayers, and all others praying the endings. Some families announce intentions before they begin the Rosary; others take turns announcing special intentions before they begin the Rosary; others take turns announcing special intentions before the beginning of each decade. Many families add favorite prayers at the end of the Rosary, or ask favorite saints and angels to pray for them.
Any time you pray any set of prayers nine consecutive times, it is a novena (novena is Latin for nine). There are many traditional Catholic novenas, and several involve the Rosary. The most common is to say nine straight Saturdays or for nine consecutive hours in one day.
The Most Powerful Novena
Perhaps the most powerful novena is the 54 Day Rosary Novena, which is a series of six consecutive nine-day novenas. The first three novenas are offered for the intention, while the last three are offered in thanks to God in anticipation of granting the favor.
Blessing of the Rosary
Sinners are forgiven.
Souls that thirst are refreshed.
Those who are fettered have their bonds broken.
Those who weep find happiness.
Those who are tempted find peace.
The poor find help.
Religious are reformed.
Those who are ignorant are instructed.
The living learns to overcome pride.
The dead (the Holy Souls) have their pains eased by suffrages.