Most people recognize a rosary when they see one. It is a popular Catholic symbol, but many may not be aware of what a rosary really is for, and why it is important to Catholics.
The word, rosary, comes from the Latin, rosarium, which means crown of roses. It is a bouquet that Catholics give to Mary as they participate in her life with a focus on her Son, Jesus Christ. The Rosary is a prayer, more specifically, a meditation, where Catholics get to know the Son by loving the Mother.
“The Rosary is essentially a contemplative prayer, which requires "tranquillity of rhythm or even a mental lingering which encourages the faithful to meditate on the mysteries of the Lord's life”.”
The Rosary is a form of Lectio Divina, from the Latin, divine reading. It treats the life of Jesus as living. There are four mysteries that encourage this contemplation. In each mystery there are five events, that is, five decades that are reflected on:
• The Joyful Mysteries: Mary’s fiat and the early life of Jesus.
1) The angel’s invitation for Mary to be the Mother of God; 2) Mary’s visit with her cousin; 3) the birth of Jesus; 4) Jesus’ presentation at the temple; 5) finding the child Jesus when he was lost;
• The Sorrowful Mysteries: The sufferings of Jesus, including His death.
1) Jesus is condemned to death; 2) His scourging at the pillar; 3) His crowing of thorns; 4) Jesus carries His cross; 5) Jesus dies;
• The Luminous Mysteries: The ministry of Jesus.
1) Jesus’ baptism; 2) Jesus’ first public miracle; 3) the proclamation of the Kingdom; 4) Jesus’ transfiguration; 5) the institution of the Eucharist;
• The Glorious Mysteries: Jesus’ defeat over death and the divine events that followed.
1) Jesus’ Resurrection; 2) Jesus’ ascent into heaven; 3) the descent of the Holy Spirit; 4) Mary’s assumption into heaven; 5) the crowning of Mary in heaven;
The events are called decades because of the number of prayers, specifically Hail Marys, said for each. Each decade consists of one Our Father, ten Hail Marys and one Glory Be. In order to keep track of the prayers said, Catholics use beads to count. The set of beads designed for these prayers is called a rosary (lower case “r”), and often has a crucifix attached along with an additional five beads for introductory prayers. This rosary is considered a sacramental because it is a physical reminder of our relationship with God; just as having a picture of a loved ones would be a reminder of them.
The Rosary is meant to be prayed daily. While many pray all four mysteries at once, some are able to only pray one mystery a day. Each mystery has a day of the week assigned. These combinations are recognized by the Church and allow for unity throughout the world. Even when praying alone, one can be comforted in knowing that all over the world fellow believers are meditating on the same mystery.
Come, pray along!
Click here for a STEP BY STEP GUIDE to praying the Rosary.