Why and How to Pray the Rosary

“The Rosary, though clearly Marian in character, is at heart a Christocentric prayer … it has all the depth of the Gospel message in its entirety, of which it can be said to be a compendium” (Pope John Paul II – Rosarium Virginis Mariae, n. 1).

Recitation of The Rosary — one complete mystery, or five decades a day — is a voluntary devotion and not an obligation under pain of sin. But for anyone who wishes to respond to the message of Our Lady of the Rosary, as she declared herself to be at Fatima on 13th October 1917, and in which six times in succession she asked people to pray the Rosary every day, it would show a grave lack of appreciation not to comply with her request.

1. Why pray the Rosary ?

Let us remember first of all that as Pope Paul VI wrote in his Apostolic Letter, Marialis Cultus of Feb 2, 1974, “the Church’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin is an intrinsic element of Christian worship” (n. 56, cited in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 971).

This is because, as St Thomas Aquinas taught, when “the Word spoke all things were created” (cf. John 1: 1 – In the beginning was the Word). “When Mary spoke” (in response to the greeting of the archangel Gabriel: Lk 1, 38) “the Word was made flesh”.

The great saint and teacher on the role of Mary in our salvation is St Louis de Montfort. In his Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, (n. 15), he wrote that the most perfect devotion is “that which conforms, unites and consecrates us most perfectly to Jesus Christ. Now, since Mary is of all creatures the one most conformed to Jesus Christ, it follows that among all devotions that which most consecrates and conforms a soul to our Lord is devotion to Mary, his Holy Mother”.

It is significant that at Fatima Our Lady communicated her request for daily recitation of the Rosary to three very young children at the heart of two families. For generations the Rosary has been a prayer intimately linked with family life, and today it needs to be taken up again with renewed resolve and trust in the intercessory power of the holy Mother of God, in order to receive the grace both to maintain and deepen one’s Catholic life day by day, and also to enable the family to resist the pressures in society which threaten to undermine one’s faith.

As Pope Paul VI taught, the Church’s history shows how very fruitful this way of praying is not only to ward off and prevent evils but also to foster Christian life. “If evils increase, the devotion of the people of God should also increase (our emphasis) … This prayer is most pleasing to the Mother of God and most effective in gaining heaven’s blessings” (Paul VI,Christi Matri, 15 September 1966, Nos. 9, 10).

The marvelous transformation wrought by grace in the lives of the three shepherd children chosen at Fatima by Our Lady, due to their faithful compliance with her requests, and especially for daily recitation of the Rosary, is a powerful and attractive example for children and adults alike. Jesus Himself said that we will never enter the kingdom of heaven “unless you turn and become like children” (Mt 18: 3, 4).

In his homily at Fatima on 13 May 1982, St John Paul II said that the Rosary is Mary’s prayer in which she herself prays with us … “do you want me to teach you the secret of keeping your faith ? It is simple, pray very much, recite the Rosary every day”.

A great advantage of always having a Rosary in one’s pocket or bag is that it can be prayed in any place and at any time, whether one is in good health or unwell; and when praying it, the act of contemplating the mysteries of the life of Christ puts one “in living communion with Jesus through, one might say, the heart of his Mother” (Rosarium Virginis Mariae, n. 2). This form of spiritual communion through a prayer that has been highly recommended by popes and saints down the centuries, is a most efficacious way of uniting oneself with Jesus through Mary, and is second only to sacramental communion. For this reason it is particularly commended to those who are unable to receive Holy Communion on weekdays.

In the words of Blessed John XXIII: “For priests, the Rosary takes its place after the Mass and the Breviary, or the Liturgy of the Hours; for lay people, it ranks after participation in the Sacraments.”

Historically, the Rosary originated with St. Dominic [as Pope Leo XIII said in his first pronouncement on the Rosary, cited by John Paul II]. Dominicans have been its foremost propagators, and it grew with the desire for the laity to have 150 prayers to link them with the 150 psalms used in monastic prayer.

With the encouragement the Church has always given to the saying of the Rosary, and which John Paul II strongly reaffirmed with the luminous teaching in his Apostolic LetterRosarium Virginis Mariae of 16 Oct 2002, it would be unwise to ignore the Rosary.

2.    How to Pray the Rosary

When the Rosary is prayed with two or more people, it should be remembered that thereby one is praying in the presence of Jesus and Mary (Mt 18: 20). Accordingly, the Rosary should be prayed in a spirit of contemplation, reverently and without haste, so that one can meditate on the mysteries of the Lord’s life as seen through the eyes of the humble handmaid who was chosen to be His Mother. And at the commencement of each mystery, it would be appropriate to announce an intention for which to pray.

The constant repetition of the words addressed to Mary by the Archangel Gabriel – the ‘Hail Mary’, although the original Greek is rendered more correctly and fittingly as ‘Rejoice O Mary’—should not be seen as mechanical and dull. Rather like the continuous trickling of a brook, the spoken words carry an inner unspoken meaning that as Pope Benedict XVI said, “transcends the words themselves, and through them speaks to the heart. Thus, in reciting the Hail Mary, we must be careful that our voices do not ‘cover’ the voice of God who always speaks through the silence like the ‘still small voice’ of a gentle breeze (1 Kgs 19: 12. Accordingly, how important it is to foster this silence full of God, both in one’s personal recitation and in its recitation with the community”.

3. What days to pray the different mysteries

The Rosary has twenty “Decades” (groups of ten beads) for each of the twenty “Mysteries” or events that are contemplated in the divine life of our Lord in association with Mary his virgin Mother. If you say five decades a day, this is the recommended way:

Sunday – the Glorious Mysteries
Monday – the Joyful Mysteries
Tuesday – the Sorrowful Mysteries
Wednesday – the Glorious Mysteries
Thursday – the Luminous mysteries
Friday – the Sorrowful Mysteries
Saturday – the Joyful Mysteries

4. The Mysteries of the holy Rosary 

The Joyful Mysteries
1. The Annunciation (Lk 1: 28)
2. The Visitation (Lk 1: 41-42)
3. The Nativity (Lk 2: 7)
4. The Presentation (Lk 2: 22-23)
5. The Finding in the Temple (Lk 2: 46)

The Luminous Mysteries
1. The Baptism in the Jordan (Mt 3: 13-17)
2. The Marriage Feast at Cana (Jn 2: 1-12)
3. The Proclamation of the Kingdom and Call to Conversion (Mk 1: 14-15)
4. The Transfiguration (Lk 9: 28-36)
5. The Last Supper and Institution of the Eucharist (Mt 26: 26-29)

The Sorrowful Mysteries
1. The Agony in the Garden (Lk 22: 44-45)
2. The Scourging at the Pillar (Jn 19: 1)
3. The Crowning with Thorns (Mt 27: 28-29)
4. The Carrying of the Cross (Jn 19: 17)
5. The Crucifixion (Lk 23: 46)

The Glorious Mysteries
1. The Resurrection (Mk 16: 6)
2. The Ascension (Mk 16: 19)
3. The Descent of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2: 4)
4. The Assumption (Rev 12: 1)
5. The Coronation of Our Lady (Judith 15: 9-10)

5.    The way to say the Rosary

1. Make the Sign of the Cross, say the Apostles Creed.

2. Say the Our Father, followed by three Hail Marys, and then the Glory Be.

Then announce the Mystery, e.g. the First Glorious Mystery, the Annunciation, then optionally read a short extract of relevant Scripture, and pause for silent consideration, and optionally announce an intention.

3. Meditate on the first and then the other four succeeding Mysteries, saying the Our Father, ten Hail Marys, the Glory Be (and the Fatima Prayer) for each Mystery — it normally takes about 15 minutes to say the whole five decades.

4. Concluding Prayers: Hail Holy Queen, and Let us Pray: O God, whose only begotten Son, etc, as given below.

6. The Prayers to be recited

The Sign of the Cross
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Apostles’ Creed
I Believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried. He descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.

The Our Father
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

The Hail Mary
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Glory be to the Father
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

The Fatima decade Prayer
O Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell and lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of your mercy. (Note: this prayer is not an official part of the Rosary, but on 13th July 1917 Our Lady asked for it to be said after each ‘Glory be’.)

The Hail Holy Queen
Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, hail our life, our sweetness and our hope! To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve; to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. Turn then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us and after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.
V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God
R That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray: O God, whose only begotten Son, by His life, death, and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life; grant, we beseech Thee, that meditating upon these mysteries in the most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may both imitate what they contain, and obtain what they promise: through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


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