October is the month of the rosary. Many people who are not Catholic do not understand Catholics’ dedication to this devotion. Here’s a quick summary for those who would like to understand:
The rosary is a group of beads that Catholics use to meditate on the life of Christ and significant events in it, and to pray. You don’t have to be Catholic to pray the rosary. All Christians who want to grow deeper in their faith find the rosary a very helpful way to do so. The rosary is not a charm, an amulet or an idol. It is a tool we use to pray and grow closer to God. Catholics call it a ‘sacramental’, a religious object that the Church gives us to increase our devotion. The two most common sacramentals other than the rosary are the Sign of the Cross and holy water (water prayed over, blessed, by a priest.) When Catholics sign themselves, either with or without holy water, they are reaffirming their faith in the Trinity and are non-verbally asking for God’s grace and protection. A sacramental is an efficacious sign of grace. That is, when used with devotion and sincerity, it is fruitful and brings us closer to God. So that’s what a rosary is (a sacramental) and does (help us grow in holiness). By praying the rosary we are outwardly committing ourselves to Christ, recognizing the main events of His life, re-affirming our Faith, and asking for God’s help and protection.
Basically, in praying the rosary, we meditate on four different “Mysteries” of the life of Jesus Christ, whom we believe to be the Son of God, true God and true man:
The Joyful Mysteries include:
1. The Annunciation (Luke 1:28)*- The Angel Gabriel comes to Mary asks her to be the mother of Jesus.
2. The Visitation (Luke 1:41-42) – Mary Visits her cousin Elizabeth
3. The Birth of Christ (Luke 2:7)
4. The Presentation (Luke 2:22-23)
5. The Finding in the Temple (Luke 2:46)
The Sorrowful Mysteries
1. The Agony in the Garden (Luke 22:39-51)
2. The Scourging at the Pillar (Mark 15:15, Isaiah 53:2-5)
3. The Crowning of Thorns (Matthew 27:28-30)
4. The Carrying of the Cross (Mark 15:20-21)
5. The Crucifixion (John 19:25-30)
The Luminous Mysteries (‘luminous’ meaning ‘light’)
1. Baptism of Jesus
2. Wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11)
3. Proclamation of the Kingdom (Jesus proclaims the Kingdom of God through His work and examples- you may look at any biblical references for any of the many miracles procured by Jesus) (Mark 1:14-15)
4. Transfiguration (Matthew 17)
5. Institution of the Eucharist (Matthew 26:19-30)
The Glorious Mysteries
1. The Resurrection (Matthew 27:60-28:9, Mark 16:2-11, Luke 23:54-56, and John 19:40-20:18)
2. The Ascension (Luke 44: 50-51)
3. The Descent of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:12-14 and Acts 2:1-8.)
4. The Assumption of Mary into Heaven (Explanation here)
5. The Crowning of Mary Queen of Heaven (Explanation and scriptural references here)
We think about the meaning of each mystery, in scripture (some people like to actually read scripture as they pray their rosary), and think about what each mystery means in relationship to our own lives. For example, when I pray the Joyful mysteries, specifically about the Annunciation, I think of Mary’s unwavering ‘yes’ to God and think about how I can say ‘yes’ to God in my own life, and trust Him more. When I pray the second Mystery, the Visitation, I think of Mary, pregnant with Jesus, who does not think of HERSELF, but rushes to her cousin Elizabeth, who is pregnant with John the Baptist. Mary has a servant’s heart. I think of how I may serve my relatives and friends and demonstrate love in my life. Etc. At some point I’ll share some of my meditations in case they might help you start your own. Here is a nice link to help you think about various aspects of each mystery as you pray.
We pray these basic prayers:
The Apostle’s 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, died and was buried;
he descended into hell;
on 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 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 body,
and life everlasting.
Basically, the Apostle’s Creed summarizes our Faith. In praying this prayer, we think about our faith in the Trinity- three Persons in one God, and all the basic beliefs. You can read a summary of those beliefs taken line by line here.
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.
Despite the popular belief of some Protestants and others, Catholics do not worship Mary. Mary is given respect and honor due to her unique position of being chosen the Mother of God. The Hail Mary helps us contemplate this unique relationship- It is a biblical prayer. (In Luke 1:28 the Angel Gabriel greets Mary by saying “Hail, full of grace”, and Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin says upon greeting her (Luke 1:42), “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb!”) In the prayer, we recognize God’s decision, so to speak, in choosing Mary from ‘among all women’ to be the mother of His Son Jesus. At the end of the prayer we say, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.” We literally invoke her to pray for us, just as we might ask a good friend or family member to pray for us and our intentions while we are here on this earth.
Something else to remember about Mary, whom Catholics frequently call the Blessed Mother (well, she was blessed, after all, wasn’t she? :) ). She is a role model for all mothers, indeed all people. She completely trusted in God’s divine will, even when she did not have all the answers laid out for her. She trusted that God would care for the details of her life. She simply said “Yes” to His call. In this way, all Christians are to emulate Mary. In repeating the prayer “The Hail Mary” over and over, we are not engaging in ‘vain repetition’ which is sometimes the accusation. “Vain” means useless or ‘producing no result’. It is far from vain to ponder the life and ‘yes’ (“fiat”) of the Blessed Mother of Christ. In pondering her life and applying the messages to our own, we can grow in faith and love ourselves, and grow closer to God.
The Our Father. This prayer Jesus himself taught. (Matthew 6:9)
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 Glory Be
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.
Note: The first three Hail Mary’s prayed (see diagram) are traditionally for Faith, Hope and Charity, and it is good to meditate on these virtues and how we can practice them in our lives when we recite the prayers.
I hope you will find this helpful as you endeavor to grow in your faith. Remember, whether or not you are Catholic, you can pray the rosary to enrich your life and grow closer to God!
*There are many references for these Mysteries in the bible. I chose the ones in this post after referring to this website, which so kindly listed them in an organized, easy to read way.
IF YOU LIKED THIS POST YOU MAY ENJOY ‘THE GENERATIONAL ROSARY‘ HERE about passing on the devotion of saying the rosary from one generation to the next….