The Rosary: Why and How
There is much prayer power in the Rosary, because you are offering up the sacrifice of your time, sending it into the Immaculate and Loving Heart of the Blessed Mother of Christ, who adds her prayers to yours and sends them to His Sacred Heart that was pierced for love of you. Jesus then intercedes for you in unity with the Holy Spirit and the Father, all of Whom love you dearly and care about your prayer requests much more than you do! As you pray, trust God and let Him decide the best way and timing to respond to your requests.
More information on the Rosary:
Q: Why pray to Mary when we can go directly to God?
A: Think of how often you ask your friends to add their prayers to yours. Mary is a friend you have in Heaven. She is closer to God than anyone else, because when she was conceived in her mother’s womb, God created her to be full of grace so that Jesus could live in her womb years later (God cannot dwell where sin dwells). This is called Mary’s Immaculate Conception. Therefore, while enlisting the prayers of your sinful friends here on earth, why not also ask for the prayer support of one who is closer to God than any other human being?
Q: When was the Rosary invented? It’s not in the Bible.
A: The command to pray is in the Bible, but there are endless ways to pray. The Rosary relies on prayers that come from scripture: the “Our Father” taught by Jesus, the two basic parts of the “Hail Mary”, and the meditations upon the life of Christ, for example.
The Rosary is a “prayer of the people”, designed to be easily adopted by both illiterate and educated Christians. The method of praying a formula of prayers using beads for keeping track evolved from pious devotions very early in Church history. In the fourth century, a Christian ascetic named Paul the Hermit made a habit of repeating 300 prayers, according to a set form, every day. To record his progress, he gathered up three hundred pebbles and threw one away as each prayer was finished. Other ascetics devised similar ways of numbering their prayers. In monastic orders, monks began reciting all 150 chapters in the Book of Psalms, sometimes dividing them into three sets of 50 Psalms each. Lay brothers, most of whom were illiterate, substituted a simple form of prayer, usually the “Our Father”.
Counting beads on a string became popular by the 11th century. In the mid-12th century, the Hail Mary as a salutation (not a prayer) came into widespread use, accompanied by genuflexions or some other external act of reverence for Christ. The additional practice of meditating on certain definite mysteries about Christ and our redemption began with Dominic of Prussia, a Carthusian monk and ascetical writer (1382-1461) and, by the end of the 15th century, many varieties of meditations prevailed. Eventually, the mysteries were narrowed down to three, to teach our most important doctrines, and were promoted by popes; Pope John Paul II added a fourth set.
The word “rosary” comes from rosarius, meaning a garland or bouquet of roses. An early legend says this name came from Mary herself during an apparition when she took rosebuds from the lips of a young monk as he recited the Hail Marys; she wove them into a garland and placed them upon her head.
Q: Why say the same words over and over again? Isn’t this babbling?
A: It can be babbling, but it doesn’t have to be. Repeated words make it easier to meditate meaningfully; we can focus on the mysteries of God’s Kingdom while also being aware of the words we’re using to connect with that Kingdom. We can use the time to learn from the mysteries or we can allow our minds to wander and see where God leads us.
Q: What are the mysteries of the Rosary?
A: There are four sets of mysteries. The first (the Joyful Mysteries) draw our attention to the beginning of Christ’s life on earth. The second (the Sorrowful Mysteries) help us realize the immense passionate love Jesus had for us as He suffered and died to heal us and set us free from sin. The third (the Luminous Mysteries) covers the earthly ministry of Jesus. The fourth (the Glorious Mysteries) teach us about the resurrection power of the Christian life. In each set, there are five mysteries or lessons for learning about the Kingdom of God, so that we may be inspired to receive more of God’s love and open ourselves more fully to His miracle power.
Q: Why ten Hail Marys for each mystery? Why five mysteries for each Rosary?
A: The numbers come from the book of Psalms. There are 150 Psalms, and we pray 150 Hail Marys (ten for each mystery, times five mysteries, times three sets of mysteries).
Q: Must we do the prayers exactly the way they are written?
A: No. God is not a legalist. The Rosary is not a magic formula. God answers our prayers because He loves us and the people for whom we are praying, and because what we ask for is good and in line with His promises in Scripture, not because we do a Rosary. If you want to add some of your own, extra prayers to the Rosary, let yourself be moved by the Holy Spirit and add those prayers!