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What is the Rosary and Why Pray it?

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The Holy Rosary

What is the Rosary & Why Pray It?

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What is the Rosary?

Arrangement & Use of the Rosary

The Rosary & Repetitive Prayer

Why Pray the Rosary?

Also See...

"Of all the prayers, the Rosary is the most beautiful and the richest in graces; of all it is the one most pleasing to Mary, the Virgin Most Holy." (Pope St. Pius X)

What is the Rosary?

The Rosary is a very powerful prayer tool which contains a total of 59 strung beads, a crucifix and, possibly, a center piece. It is used by Catholics of all ages throughout the world to contemplate the Lord and his Blessed Mother, to help them prayerfully seek spiritual and temporal favors from God for themselves and for others, and to praise and thank God. The Rosary can bring about a deeply moving experience for those who have learned how to pray it well. Many of the great saints prayed the Rosary very often and the Rosary has been associated with countless miracles. 

As formally defined:

"ROSARY (Lat. rosarium, a rose-garden, whence, a wreath, or garland)" - "A string of beads consisting of five sets (decades) each of ten small and one larger bead (a crucifix with two large and three small beads is ordinarily added); the prayers said on these beads. Each decade is associated with a mystery of the faith and these mysteries number fifteen, so that a full rosary consists of this number of decades and corresponding prayers, but these are rarely met with... The beads are simply a device for keeping count." (Catholic Dictionary)

Note that in addition to referring the string of beads, the term "Rosary" may be applied to the prayers of the Rosary.

Arrangement & Use of the Rosary

A traditional Rosary begins with a The Rosarycrucifix, then a large bead, three small beads, and another large bead proceeding, perhaps, a center piece (see image at right). In a circular shape, there are five sets of small beads, each proceeded by a large bead. Note that each of the 5 sets of beads is a "decade" of the Rosary. Each decade of the Rosary corresponds to a particular Mystery. (Click here for more information on mysteries)

On each bead (and after certain beads) a prayer is said while the individual focuses on the mystery particular to decade. A full traditional Rosary actually has a total of 15 mysteries, divided into three sets of five: 5 Joyful Mysteries, 5 Sorrowful Mysteries, and 5 Glorious Mysteries. However, each of these sets of five mysteries are customarily referred to as a "Rosary" (even though they are, in actuality, only 1/3 of a full, traditional Rosary). Depending on the day of the week, one set of mysteries is selected for meditation when one prays a 5 decade Rosary. For more information on mysteries of the Rosary, click here. [Note: For Pope John Paul II's new mysteries, click here.]

Rosaries come in many colors and styles, from simple to elaborate (the style has no bearing on function). In addition to beads, Rosary rings and other "Rosary counters" are available for praying the Rosary. All Rosary beads and other appropriate Rosary counters should be blessed before use (click here for more information).

Essentially, the beads are used to help you keep track of where you are while praying the Rosary. While you pray, your fingers touch the beads, your mouth speaks the prayers (if not praying silently), and your intellect reflects on important events in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ and his Blessed Mother. In a sense, the prayers may "keep your mouth busy" with prayerful thoughts while your mind focuses on these mysteries and virtues. It is amazing the incredible effect a Rosary can have on an individual who meditates on the events related to our salvation. Additionally, by praying the Rosary, we are fulfilling the Blessed Virgin's prophesy in the Gospel of Luke (1:48): "For he has looked upon his handmaid's lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed", as well as petitioning for Mary's intercession, and honoring God. 

Many outstanding spiritual and temporal favors have been associated with the Rosary. As Archbishop Fulton Sheen has said, "The power of the rosary is beyond description." Popes, saints, and others have also lavished the highest of praise on the Rosary. One well-known poem sums up the sentiments of many Catholics when it remarks: "Sweet, blessed beads! I would not part with one of you for richest gem that gleams in kingly diadem". Perhaps that is one reason many Catholics are buried with their cherished rosaries, their 'life-long friends'.  

The Rosary & Repetitive Prayer

A criticism sometimes leveled against Catholics for praying the Rosary concerns Bible with Crucifix the issue of repetitive prayer, which was seemingly condemned in Holy Scripture. For example, the following Scripture passages appear to condemn repetitive or lengthy prayers:

"Thrust not yourself into the deliberations of princes, and repeat not the words of your prayer." (Sirach 7:14)

"In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words." (Mt. 6:7)

"They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation." (Lk. 20:47)

However, it is important to note the context of the above:

In St. Matthew's Gospel, it is not the repeating of prayers which is condemned, but the thinking that one will not be heard unless one repeats prayers. Passages in the Old Testament indicate the thinking of pagans who felt they were more likely to be heard if they repeated prayers frequently [e.g. 1 Kings 18:26-29.] 

In St. Luke's Gospel, lengthy prayers are also not condemned. It is the recitation of lengthy prayers as a pretext that is condemned.  

Finally, it is clear that a literal interpretation of Sirach, when taken out of context, is also not a mandate against repeating prayer as the following passages illustrate:

"Pray without ceasing." (1 Thes. 5:17)

Clearly, it would be impossible to pray without ceasing and not repeat the words of one's prayer.

"The four living creatures, each of them with six wings, were covered with eyes inside and out. Day and night they do not stop exclaiming: 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come.'"  (Rv. 4:8)

Certainly, forms of heavenly worship would not be condemned on Earth provided they were not done as a pretext or in another forbidden manner.

Even more importantly, note that Jesus himself repeated his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane as follows: 

"[Jesus] advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.'" (Mt. 26:39)

"Withdrawing a second time, [Jesus] prayed again, 'My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!'" (Mt 26:42)

"[Jesus] left them and withdrew again and prayed a third time, saying the same thing again." (Mt. 26:44)

Obviously, repeating an earnest prayer is not condemned in Scripture, but was, in fact, the very practice of Jesus Christ, our Lord, Himself during one of his most difficult moments.

Also, there are cases when even the strongest opponent of repetitive prayer may engage in actions that demonstrate our point concerning repetitive prayer. For example, when a receptive crowd cheers, whistles, and shouts as a dignitary passes, their actions betoken their praise. The more the crowd cheers, whistles, and shouts, the more the dignitary is being honored. Certainly, one wouldn't utter a single cheer, whistle, or shout and stop on the grounds that they "shouldn't be repetitive". In fact, they would do quite the opposite, realizing that the more they repeat themselves, they more they honor the dignitary. The same goes with our prayers, our acts of love to heaven. By its nature, love elicits repetition! The more one loves, the more one tells the beloved that they are loved. Such sentiments aren't measured or hampered by fear of repetition. They simply come from the heart! The same goes for the Rosary. Our prayers are comparable to greetings to our Blessed Mother and to the Holy Trinity. Who would dream of saying they loved someone once and never say so again in order to avoid repetition? Furthermore, repetition of the Rosary helps raise our mind to God and assist the mind in contemplation of the heavenly mysteries. 

Why Pray the Rosary?

Pope Leo XIII, The "Pope of the Rosary"For centuries, numerous popes, saints, and others have strongly encouraged all to pray the Rosary. And, the Blessed Virgin herself has urged us to pray the Rosary. The events which occurred in the early 1900's at Fatima were witnessed by thousands of believers and critics alike. In the apparitions, our Blessed Mother asked that the Rosary be said daily. She said that reparation made via the Rosary holds back the hand of God from striking the world with His just punishments. She concluded her apparitions by a 'miracle of the sun' that was witnessed by tens of thousands of people, and even by many critics.

Throughout its history, the Rosary has been considered a powerful weapon against the forces of evil. It has also been associated with countless miracles of all types. The Rosary has been attributed to one of the greatest military upsets in all of history as Christians carried rosaries into battle along with their swords and achieved astonishing results. The saints have called the Rosary a "ladder to heaven". At least one saint specifically attributes the salvation of his soul to the Rosary. Many promise great spiritual benefits to those who pray the Rosary. Popes have lavished it with indulgences. Those who pray it can tell you of the invaluable benefits it brings them.  

By praying the Rosary, you honor God, you obey your heavenly Mother, you conform to the wishes of many popes and saints, and you may strengthen your faith, resist sin, grow spiritually, fight evil, gain indulgences, and even benefit society at large.

Catholics are earnestly encouraged to pray the Rosary daily and non-Catholics are also invited and requested to pray it (click here for information on the Daily Rosary). You will be glad you did!

Pray the Rosary Daily. Start Today!

Also See: 

The Holy Rosary (Topic Page)

How to Pray the Rosary

Promises of the Rosary

Tips for Praying the Rosary

Rosary Facts

Rosary History

The Daily Rosary 

The Holy Rosary (Reflections)

"[M]ay the beads of the Rosary be in the hands of all" (Pope Pius XII)

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* The Holy Rosary (Topic Page)

* How to Pray the Rosary (Topic Page)

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