The Catholic Rosary resembles prayer beads, used as counters, of the Eastern religions, particularly Hinduism. In fact, the first rosaries were probably knotted string or cords dating back to antiquity. Other prayer counters, knotted ropes, originated in the fourth century by the Church Fathers of the Eastern orthodox and Eastern-Rite Catholic Churches.
These rosaries were used when praying the Jesus Prayer or the Prayer of the Heart which was composed simply as “Lord, have mercy” or “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.” Other counting methods, such as pebbles and pegboards, were also used by the early Desert Fathers. The various initial type rosaries eventually evolved into the great variety availed today.
The Hail Mary
Hail Mary, full of grace,
the Lord is with thee;
blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners now
and at the hour of our death.
The origin of the Rosary, according to tradition, began in 1214 when the Virgin Mary gave St. Dominic (c. 1170-1221) the Rosary in the similar form as it exists today except with various wordings of the Hail Mary. It seems the troubling occasion was the Albigensian heresy.
During the devastation of the heresy within the area of Toulouse St. Dominic besought the help of the Virgin; she, in turn, instructed him to preach the Rosary to the people to ward off the heresy and sin. Since that time the Rosary has been firmly established within the Church through the apostolic letters of various pontiffs beginning with Pope Leo XIII in 1883. All the encyclicals describe the same form of prayer as the Rosary and instituted by St. Dominic as a historical fact.
This historical fact is challenged by archeological evidence of numerous papers and works written by and about St. Dominic which do not mention the rosary or draw any connection between it and the saint. There was no allusion to the Rosary in the eight or nine early works of the saint’s life.
Witnesses that gave evidence for cause of his canonization were equally reticent. This in itself is a strange coincidence since Mary and the Rosary are so admired by the Church. Furthermore, the constitutions of the different parishes of the Dominican order of the time make no reference of the devotion. There are thousands of pages of information concerning St. Dominic which bear no mention of the Rosary.
However, the biographer of St. Albert (d. 1140) description of the man “A hundred times a day he bent his knees, and fifty times he prostrated himself raising his body again by his fingers and toes, while he repeated at every genuflexion: ‘Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb’.” The name of Jesus was added by St. Bernardino of Siena (1380-1444).
In summary, there is historical information that St. Dominic did not institute the Rosary. There are indications that the initial formulations of the rite begun long before St. Dominic. Others before him were practicing saying the fifteen prescribed decades of the, the doxology.
Hail Marys with the Our Father and Glory be to the Father determinedly spaced between them. The mysteries to be meditated upon were not introduced until some two hundred years after St. Dominic’s death. Then, the question still remains, why was St. Dominic given encyclical credit for introducing the Rosary to the people.
An answer to this question seemed to have been discovered by the Bollandists, an association of ecclesiastical scholars engaged in editing the Acta Sanctorum, who sought to trace the origin of current tradition.
Their findings converged upon the preaching of the Dominican Alan de Rupe, around the years 1470-1475. Apparently he was the first to suggest that St. Dominic instituted or revived the devotion of “Our Lady’s Psalter” (one hundred and fifty Hail Marys). It was agreed that de Rupe was a very earnest and devout person but possessed by delusions that caused him to base his revelations on the testimony of writers that never existed.
His preaching, however, was well attended leading to the establishment of the Confraternities of the Rosary by de Rupe and his colleagues in Douai, Cologne. De Rupe gained some reputation in the surrounding area that led to printing of books impregnated with his ideas. For these good works he repeatedly received indulgences as was the practice in this uncritical area.
The historical information inspired by de Rupe’s writings was later contributed by the confraternities themselves in the usual way thus increasing the Dominican influence. The first Papal Bulls wrote of the Rosary’s authorship with some reserve but later pontiffs used less caution thus allowing St. Dominic believed to be the author.
Traditionally the recitation of the Rosary means praying five decades of Hail Marys. Assigned to each decade are mysteries of faith which the person is to meditate as he prays the decade. These mysteries are prescribed and are to be meditated upon on certain days of the week.
The Joyful Mysteries, said on Mondays and Saturdays, are The Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary; The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, The Nativity of Our Lord, The Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, and The Finding in the Temple. The Sorrowful Mysteries, said on Tuesdays and Fridays, are The Agony in the Garden; The Scourging at the Pillar, The Crowning with Thorns, The Carrying of the Cross, and The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus.
The Glorious Mysteries, said on Wednesdays and Sundays, are The Resurrection of the Lord; The Ascension of the Lord, The Descent of the Holy Ghost, The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In 2002, Pope John Paul II in an encyclical letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae (October 2002) recommended an additional set of Luminus Mysteries (or the “Mysteries of Light”), said on Thursdays, which are The Baptism of Jesus; The Wedding at Cana, The Proclamation of the Kingdom of God, The Transfiguration, and The Institution of the Eucharist.
The Rosary has always been used as a form of punishment in the Catholic Church throughout Europe; during the Middle Ages people were frequently forced to wear heavy rosary beads around their necks and occasionally made to stand in front of the cathedral, sometimes in sackcloth, where they were ridiculed.
Often the victims were just guilty of minor sacrilegious acts such as falling asleep in church, not giving enough during the taking up of collection, or just not coming to church at all. Even though the Rosary was instituted to honor Jesus and Mary, it can be seen that it also has been used to serve the Church to keep the flock in line.
Even today priests frequently give the Rosary as a form of penance following the absolution for sins in confession. Penance given in this manner is not usually meant as a punishment, but as a form of reflection and spiritual growth to help the penitent to abstain from sin. A.G.H.
What is the Rosary
The Rosary, one of the most widespread Marian devotions in the Christian people and which stems from the apostolic zeal of Santo Domingo, is for the Dictionary:
“Prayer of the Church, commemorating the twenty principal mysteries of Life of Jesus Christ and the Virgin, reciting after each one an Our Father, ten Hail Marys and a Gloria Patri. “In truth, there are enunciated the essential elements that constitute it, to which are added, according to regions and devotions, other also important .
If we are allowed, we could say that the rosary is made up of first quality evangelical materials: the selection of the mysteries, ordered in four groups, joyful, luminous, painful and glorious, which are decisive steps of Jesus and Mary that lead us Of the Annunciation and Incarnation until the coming of the Spirit and the coronation of the Virgin.
The prayer that Jesus taught us to address the Father, and that which the tradition of the Church has prepared to greet Mary, using in part the words addressed to her by the Angel and her cousin Elizabeth; And, as a finishing touch to every ten Hail Marys, the formula of trinitarian praise.
It is necessary to add that meditation and contemplation of the mysteries are essential parts of the Rosary, without which his prayer would remain like a body without soul, and the vocal prayers impregnated of that climate of prayer and devotion. The Church celebrates on October 7 the feast of Our Lady, the Virgin of the Rosary.
How to pray
1. Make the sign of the cross and pray the symbol of the apostles or the act of contrition
2. Pray the Lord’s Prayer
3. Pray 3 Hail Mary and Glory.
4. Announce the first mystery. Pray the Lord’s Prayer.
5. Pray 10 Hail Marys, Glory and Jaculatoria.
6. Announce the second mystery. Pray the Lord’s Prayer.
7. Pray 10 Hail Marys, Glory and Jaculatoria.
8. Announce the third mystery. Pray the Lord’s Prayer.
9. Pray 10 Hail Marys, Glory and Jaculatoria.
10. Announce the fourth mystery. Pray the Lord’s Prayer.
11. Pray 10 Hail Marys, Glory and Jaculatoria.
12. Announce the fifth mystery. Pray the Lord’s Prayer.
13. Pray 10 Hail Marys, Glory and Jaculatoria.
14. Pray the Salve
SIGN OF THE CROSS + By the sign of the Holy Cross, of our enemies, deliver us Lord, our God. + In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
SYMBOL OF THE APOSTLES I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under the power of Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried, descended into hell, Day rose from the dead, ascended to the heavens and is seated at the right hand of God, the Father almighty.
From there he will 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 flesh and eternal life. Amen.
ACT OF CONTRICTION Lord my Jesus Christ, God and true Man, Creator, Father and Redeemer of mine; For being you who are infinite goodness, and because I love you above all things, it grieves me with all my heart to have offended you; Also weighs me because you can punish me with the pains of hell. Helped by your divine grace, I firmly propose never to sin again, to confess myself and to fulfill the penance
OUR FATHER Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; let your kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread; Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; Do not let us fall into temptation and deliver us from evil. Amen.
AVE MARIA God save you, Mary; full of grace; the Lord is with you; 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 Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, and for ever and ever. Amen.
JACULATORIES You can use one of these two: Mary, Mother of grace, Mother of mercy, defend us from our enemies and cleanse us now and at the hour of our death. Amen. O Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fire of hell and guide all souls to Heaven, especially those who need more of your mercy. (Prayer of Fatima).
HAIL God save you, Queen and Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope; God saves you. We call you the exiled sons of Eve; To You we sigh, groaning and weeping, in this valley of tears. Therefore, Lady, our advocate, return to us those your merciful eyes; And after this exile show us Jesus, blessed fruit of your womb.
Oh most clement, oh pious, oh sweet ever Virgin Mary! Pray for us, Holy Mother of God, so that we may be worthy to reach the promises of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Sentence. Omnipotent and everlasting God, who with the co-operation of the Holy Spirit, prepared the body and soul of the glorious Virgin and Mother Mary so that she would be worthy to be the abode of your Son; Grant us that, as we celebrate with joy his commemoration, by his pious intercession we may be freed from present evils and eternal death. By the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
JOYFUL MYSTERIES (Monday and Saturday) 1. The Incarnation of the Son of God. 2. The Visitation of Our Lady to St. Elizabeth. 3. The Birth of the Son of God. 4. The Purification of the Blessed Virgin. 5. The Loss of the Child Jesus and his find in the temple.
PAINFUL MYSTERIES (Tuesday and Friday) 1. Our Lord’s Prayer in the Garden. 2. The Flagellation of the Lord. 3. Coronation of thorns. 4. The Way of Mount Calvary. 5. The Crucifixion and Death of Our Lord.
GLORIOUS MYSTERIES (Wednesday and Sunday) 1. The Resurrection of the Lord. 2. The Ascension of the Lord. 3. The Coming of the Holy Spirit. 4. The Assumption of Our Lady to the Heavens. 5. The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin.
LUMINOUS MYSTERIES (Thursday) 
1. The Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan.
2. The Self-revelation of Jesus at the wedding of Cana.
3. The proclamation of the Kingdom of God inviting conversion.
4. The Transfiguration.
5. The institution of the Eucharist. New mysteries proposed by John Paul II to the contemplation of believers in the Apostolic Letter “Rosarium Virginis Mariae” (16-10-2002.)
They are called mysteries of light or luminous mysteries because in his public life Christ manifests itself as a mystery of light : “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (Jn 9: 5). These new mysteries are prayed on Thursday, passing the second contemplation of the joyous mysteries to the Sabbath.
Alan de Rupe, <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01246a.htm>