Understanding the Rosary

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What is the rosary?

The rosary is a powerful prayer by means of which the faithful honor Jesus and His Blessed Mother while meditating on the principal mysteries of our Redemption which God began through Mary.

The word Rosary means "Crown of Roses", that is to say that every time people say the full Rosary devoutly they place a crown upon the heads of Jesus and Mary. Being heavenly flowers, these roses will never fade or lose their exquisite beauty.


History of the rosary:

At an early date among the monastic orders the practice of the recitation of the 150 psalms was constantly enjoined. To count these accurately there is every reason to believe that already in the eleventh and twelfth centuries a practice had come in of using pebbles, berries or discs of bone threaded on a string. Similar strings of beads have been found in the tomb of St. Rosalia (AD 1160). In the times before St. Dominic we can see that the Our Father's were prayed on pebbles or a string of beads.

St. Dominic, seeing the gravity of people's sins was hindering the conversion of the Albigensians, withdrew into a forest where he prayed unceasingly for three days and three nights. Tradition tells that our Lady appeared to him while he prayed. "My son," the Queen of Heaven said, "prayer and penance are the only way to win souls. Pray my Psalter and teach it to your people. That prayer will never fail." The Our Lady's Psalter was an old tradition of praying 150 Hail Mary's. He frequently prayed the Psalter as he walked along the road. Many people did. Those who could not read Holy Scripture and those who could not understand it often said a Hail Mary for each of the Psalms. Tradition tells that it was then that she taught him the way she wanted the Psalter said, the prayer that was to become her Rosary."Make clear to them the mysteries of their religion, the divine truths that God has revealed but that they cannot understand. Teach them to picture in their minds the events of my Son's life." Filled with new zeal, Saint Dominic began to teach his listeners to picture the life, death and resurrection of Jesus as they prayed the Rosary.

The simple words of the prayer kept their thoughts on heavenly matters for as long as their beads slipped through their fingers. The Rosary then became a prayer that everyone could understand. Those with little learning or scholars with profound knowledge could now picture the divine life, each in his own way.

The petition, "Holy Mary, Mother of God, Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death" had been included by the common man as "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners", and forms similar to this long before it was made official by the Church. The prayer book for the dying, by St. Anselm of Canterbury, a native Italian (died 1109), contains a Latin prayer in verse in which the last line is a petition to Mary for assistance at the hour of death. Very much like the "Holy Mary," it runs as follows: "Mary, Mother of Grace, Mother of Mercy, protect us against the Evil Spirit and take us to heaven at the hour of our death."

In 1568 the Hail Mary was added to the Our Father to become the prescribed form exactly as we pray it today. The Glory Be to the Father and the Fatima Prayer portion have been added and approved by the Church through the years to arrive at its present form as it is prayed today.

Learn How to Pray the Rosary

Follow the links below to learn the prayers and meditations of the Rosary.

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