THE ORIGIN OF THE ROSARY:
Using beads as a way to pray is ancient, may predate Christianity.
Muslims use prayer beads, but they don’t pray the Rosary; they repeat various names for God.
The various prayers included in the Rosary changed over time; early on, it was mostly Our Fathers.
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, around the year 800, when someone died, the priest would offer a Mass, while the monks would pray 50 – or even 150 – psalms for the one who died. But for those who couldn’t read, they would be asked to pray 50 or 150 Our Fathers. The string of beads they used to count them off wasn’t yet called a Rosary, but a Paternoster – which is Latin for Our Father.
Saint Dominic, who lived and worked in the early 1200s, is closely associated with the Rosary because he promoted it. There are stories that he received a vision from our Lady about the Rosary, but that’s uncertain.
The practice of meditating on events in the life of our Lord became part of the Rosary around the 1400s.
WHAT ARE THE MYSTERIES ABOUT?
There are four sets of mysteries for us to meditate on. The Luminous Mysteries were composed by Saint John Paul II. Here are the mysteries:
Joyful (Jesus’ hidden life)
Annunciation Gabriel comes to Mary
Visitation Mary goes to Elizabeth
Nativity Jesus is born
Presentation Joseph & Mary dedicate Jesus in the temple
Finding of Jesus at 12 years old, Jesus is found in the temple after 3 days
Luminous (Jesus’ public ministry)
Baptism of the Lord i.e., by John the Baptist
Wedding of Cana Our Lord’s first public miracle
Proclamation of the Kingdom Jesus begins calling people to conversion and faith
Transfiguration of the Lord Jesus shows his divinity, anticipating the cross
The Holy Eucharist on the night before He died.
Sorrowful (Jesus’ suffering and death)
Agony in the Garden Jesus accepts the Cross
Scourging at the Pillar “By his stripes we are healed”
Crowning with thorns Mocking crowning as king
Carrying of the Cross Way of the Cross
Crucifixion Jesus dies on the Cross
Glorious (Jesus’ resurrection and the fruits of that)
Resurrection The Lord rises bodily from the grave
Ascension Jesus returns to his heavenly throne 40 days later
Outpouring of the Holy Spirit Pentecost: 50 days after Resurrection
Assumption of Mary Mary brought to heaven
Mary crowned Queen of Heaven i.e., beside her Son
There is no “official” way to pray the Rosary, but there are long-held traditions. (For a detailed explanation, go here.)
WHY PRAY THE ROSARY?
1. There is something powerful about the Rosary. It is the most widely practiced Christian prayer; among Roman Catholics, it is almost universal. It has been associated with many remarkable events and miracles:
a. Battle of Lepanto, 1571: The Ottoman Empire was striking hard at Christian nations, seeking to conquer them; when conquered, the Christians would be persecuted, converted or driven out. The Ottomans were threatening all of Europe, and Pope Pius V worked frantically to organize some resistance. He found a leader, John of Austria, who led a badly outnumbered alliance against the mighty Turkish fleet.
All this was happening hundreds of miles from Rome, where Pope Pius V had for weeks called all Christians to pray the Rosary. On October 7, he spent the night in prayer, begging for a miracle – for that was the only hope.
The next day, while meeting with Monsignor Busotti, one of his advisors, Pope Pius V
stopped suddenly in the middle of the room and put out his head in the attitude of one listening, at the same time making a sign to Busotti to be silent. Then he went to the window, which he threw open wide, leaning out, still silent and in the same listening attitude. Busotti on seeing the face of the old Pontiff suddenly transfigured, his tearful blue eyes turned to heaven with an ineffable expression, and his joined and trembling hands raised; Busotti’s hair stood on end as he understood that something supernatural and divine was happening, and thus he remained for more than three minutes, as the same treasurer afterwards declared on oath.
Then the Pope shook off his ecstasy, and with a face radiant with joy, said to Busotti, “This is not the time for business. Let us return thanks to God for victory over the Turks.”
It took almost three weeks for news of the miraculous victory to reach Rome – and after some calculations, it was determined that the pope’s vision happened just as the battle was won!
b. Fatima, 1917: Mary appears to three children, giving them prophecies of what would unfold in the century, including the following:
You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace.
The war is going to end: but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the Pontificate of Pius XI. When you see a night illuminated by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that he is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine, and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father.
To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of reparation on the First Saturdays. If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church.
The good will be martyred; the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated. In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she shall be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world."
This all happened, including the surprising end of the Cold War!
c. Philippines, 1986: the people were protesting while praying the Rosary. The military was ordered to gun them down; they saw Mary appear, saying “do not shoot!” They didn’t; and the dictator stepped down and a democracy established.
2. The Rosary has an amazing power to help you focus and to impart peace. Is this because:
a. It involves rhythm and repetition?
b. It focuses our thoughts on our Lord Jesus and how he saves us?
c. We are praying with Mary, our mother?
3. Many times when Mary has appeared or spoken to people, she has encouraged us to pray the Rosary.
4. It’s easy and accessible: you can pray on your fingers; you can pray in “installments” – i.e., one or several decades – and you can pray it any way you find it helpful.
5. While many Catholics disagree over many things, they are united by the Rosary.