The Basics of the Rosary | The Prayers of the Rosary
The Mysteries of the Rosary | Joyful Mysteries
Sorrowful Mysteries | Glorious Mysteries
Luminous Mysteries | Rosary FAQs
How to Pray the Rosary Handout - PDF
Answers to Your Rosary Questions
What is a rosary?
A simple rosary consists of a string of beads which includes a crucifix. Rosary beads are made from many types of material, such as pearl, hematite, crystal, glass, rose petals, and wood. Rosaries can be any color, shape, or size.
In his book The Secret of the Rosary, Saint Louis De Montfort says, "Every time people say the Rosary devoutly they place on the heads of Jesus and Mary 153 white roses and sixteen red roses. Being heavenly flowers, these roses will never fade or lose their beauty."
Click here to see our special How to pray the Rosary page. This page includes a diagram of the order of the prayers and all the words to the prayers, meditations for each of the mysteries, and a printable PDF "How to Pray the Rosary" handout.
The Mysteries of the Rosary are designed to help focus our prayers on the life, ministry, and Passion of Our Lord. It is recommended that you meditate on the mysteries of the rosary based upon the days of the week. Click on the title of each mystery to read more.
The Rosary (The Pauper's Psalter)
This popular devotion of Roman Catholic tradition has its origins in medieval times (around the 12th and 13th centuries). Many people of this age could not afford to purchase the Psalter (a book containing the 150 psalms) which were used by the religious orders and clergy. In order to supply the great number of faithful with some prayer form which would be easily accessible, itinerant preachers developed and encouraged the use of a string with beads upon it. Each bead would represent a prayer to be said--either the Lord's Prayer, the Hail Mary, and the Doxology. In time, other prayers would be added to make up what we now call the Rosary.
Originally, the rosary was called "The Psalter of Jesus and Mary" because it consists of the prayer Jesus gave us (The Our Father) and the prayer the Angel Gabriel gave us (The Hail Mary). The word Psalter, as mentioned above, refers to the Book of Psalms in the Bible, which has 150 psalms. When prayed completely, the original rosary (Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious Mysteries) has 150 "Hail Mary" prayers. The word "Rosary" comes from the Latin word rosarium, which means a garland or bouquet of roses. Each of the prayers of the rosary is an offering of a rose to Jesus through Mary.
The use of beads or knots when praying dates back to the early days of Christianity. String or heavy cord was tied with knots and used to help focus and keep track of the prayers. The word "bead" comes from biddan - an Old English word which means "to entreat" or "to pray".
This prayer combines two very strong currents within the spirituality of the Church. First, the Rosary desires one to meditate on the significant events of Christ's life. Second, this prayer also hopes to emphasize the unique role of Mary, Mother of God in the plan of salvation. These two currents of Roman Catholic theology are meditated on by the recitation of the following prayers within the Rosary itself: the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, the Hail Mary, the Doxology, the recitation of the Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious, and Luminous Mysteries.
In 1520, Pope Leo X officially approved the universal use of the rosary. In 1571, St. Piux V declared the first Feast of the Holy Rosary which was made universal by Pope Clement XI. In 1917 the Blessed Mother selected for herself the name "Our Lady of the Rosary" at Fatima when she appeared to three children in Fatima saying, "I want you to continue to say your rosary every day in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary to obtain the end of the war and peace in the world". In 2002 Pope John Paul II introduced new mysteries (Mysteries of the Light or Luminous Mysteries) to the Rosary and wrote his apostolic letter "On the Most Holy Rosary" (Rosarium Virginis Mariae).
Indulgences are often a source of confusion for Catholics and non-Catholics alike, so let's take a minute and make sure everyone is clear about the definition of "indulgence".
In the bible, sin is viewed as having two basic consequences: guilt and punishment. Guilt is washed away when a person seeks forgiveness, however the need for punishment remains. To completely clear away sin the person must perform an action that will work towards healing the wounds his sin has caused. For example, if a child takes a piece of candy from the store he must apologize to the store manager (to cleanse his guilt) and also pay for the candy (to satisfy the punishment).
The bible also views punishment as having two basic categories: eternal (forever) or temporal (for a short time). For example, when the Jews disobeyed God during their time in the desert the Lord became angry with them and wanted to destroy them (an eternal punishment). Moses pleaded with God who agreed to allow the Jews to live. He forgave their sins (their guilt) but the need for punishment remained. No one in that generation would be allowed to enter the promised land (a temporal punishment).
So... after a person repents and his guilt has been forgiven, an indulgence cleanses the temporal punishment required because of sin. A plenary (complete) indulgence means the temporal punishment is totally cleansed. A partial indulgence means that some of the temporal punishment is cleansed.
Both a plenary and partial indulgence is available for praying the rosary. To gain a plenary indulgence the faithful must complete the following:
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Rosaries on CD are a tremendous way to enhance your meditation while praying. Some contain just the prayers and the mysteries, while others include additional meditations and music. An audio rosary is a terrific way to enjoy the rosary while driving or while working out, when you may not be able to hold the rosary beads.