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History of the Rosary

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The Holy Rosary

History of the Rosary

The Rosary as we know it is traditionally connected with St. Dominic (13th century) and his disciples. However, certain elements of the Rosary are said to trace back much earlier, maybe even to apostolic times. The primitive 'rosary' is thought to have developed from the practice of the religious who regularly recited the 150 Psalms. To keep track of where they were, they may have used pebbles, knots, or other means of counting. The practice became more popular, but since most people were uneducated and illiterate, and because books of Holy Scripture were expensive and hard to come by (there were no printing presses or photocopiers), the faithful may have substituted 150 prayers such as the "Pater Noster" (The "Our Father" in Latin) for the 150 Psalms (the early beads were known as "Paternosters"). Eventually, the practice of using a early version of the Hail Mary prayer became popular, and this early version of the Rosary was often called "Our Lady's Psalter" (corresponding to the 150 Psalms). 

St. Dominic may be responsible fixing the Rosary in its traditional form - the form used today - by dividing the Rosary into fifteen decades with the corresponding meditation on the mysteries (considered the "essence of the Rosary"). Although St. Dominic may not have personally invented each element of the Rosary, tradition credits him with establishing the devotion to the Rosary and popularizing it in its traditional form. Tradition and the popes also tell us that the devotion of the Rosary was first revealed to St. Dominic by the Blessed Virgin in France at the beginning of the 13th century, where Our Lady appeared to him and commanded him to preach the Rosary. She is said to have given St. Dominic beads and taught him how to use them. He was commissioned by the Blessed Virgin to preached the use of the Rosary among the Albigensians (heretics of the time who rejected the Incarnation and who were given to suicide). The results were startling and miraculous; The powerful 'weapon' of the Rosary was used to convert the heretics and put a sudden end to their heresy.

From early on, the Dominicans (the religious order founded by St. Dominic) promoted and propagated devotion to the Rosary, as well as establishing the Rosary Confraternity. When its popularity began to wane, one of St. Dominic's future disciples, Blessed Alan helped to reestablish its popularity among the faithful. Since then, the Rosary has become an extremely popular Catholic devotion with immeasurable fruits. It has been promoted by numerous popes and saints.

Continued Below...

"For as the disastrous condition of the Church and of Society proved to Us the extreme necessity for signal aid from God, it was manifest to Us that aid should be sought through the intercession of His Mother, and by the express means of the Rosary, which Christians have ever found to be of marvelous avail. This indeed has been well proved since the very institution of the devotion, both in the vindication of Holy Faith against the furious attacks of heresy, and in restoring to honor the virtues, which by reason of the Age's corruption, required to be rekindled and sustained. And this same proof was continued in all succeeding ages, by a never failing series of private and public benefits, whereof the illustrious remembrance is everywhere perpetuated and immortalized by monuments and existing institutions." (Pope Leo XIII, "Iucunda Semper Expectatione", 1894)

Many miracles throughout Church history may be attributed to the Rosary. In the 16th century, the Rosary is credited with a miraculous victory by the Christians at Lepanto over invading forces, leading to a feast in honor of the occasion (October 7). The Rosary would later assist in other Church victories, both among individuals and groups, and Pope Leo XIII would ultimately add "Queen of the Rosary" to the Litany.

By the end of the sixteenth century (and maybe as early as the 14th century), the Hail Mary was fixed in the form we know it today, and the Glory Be's were also subsequently added. In various apparitions, the Blessed Virgin Mary herself requested that all say the Rosary. And, at Fatima in 1917, faced with the dire situation of the world and showing the shepherd children a vision of hell ("where poor sinners go") the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared over a period of months and asked that each decade of the Rosary be concluded with the following prayer: 

"O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who are in most need of Thy mercy."

Since Vatican II, Liberals have tried to change the Rosary, but this cherished devotion was considered "untouchable" until Pope John Paul II "shocked the world" by suggesting various novelties to the Rosary in 2002 (click here for more information).

Since its introduction, many great saints (including St. Padre Pio in recent times) have had a strong devotion to the Rosary, even saying many Rosaries themselves each day. The history of the 'heaven sent' Rosary has been filled with miracles, victories, conversions, and many other outstanding benefits. It can be said by the simplest, least educated person to the most educated. Popes, saints, and others have lavished the highest of praise on the Holy Rosary. Many that faithfully pray the Rosary may tell you great stories of the benefits the Rosary has brought to their lives. As Archbishop Fulton Sheen has said, "The power of the rosary is beyond description."

Also See: 

The Holy Rosary (Topic Page) 

The Rosary in History (Reflections) 

Rosary Facts 

How to Pray the Rosary

The Daily Rosary

Praise of the Rosary (Reflections)

Why Should You Pray the Rosary Daily? Click Here

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Also See...

* The Holy Rosary (Topic Page)

* How to Pray the Rosary (Topic Page)

* Sacramentals (Topic Page)

* Blessed Virgin Mary (Topic Page)


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