What’s all this about the rosary?
The Rosary is a meditation on the life of Jesus Christ. Tradition holds that the Rosary was given to St. Dominic in 1221 in a vision of Our Lady, the mother of Jesus. We know that the Rosary was instrumental in the conversion of the Albigensians in St. Dominic’s time. Those were people in Southern France that believed an evil god created the material world (including the body) and a good god who created the spiritual. (This is also called “dualism”.) The good god sent Jesus Christ, who was not himself god, but a creature, to free us from the evil principle. In other words, these people denied who God is and who Jesus is. Jesus, of course, is God! The rosary helped convert them, so it has a very evangelical role in the history of the Church.
In 1571 Pope Pius V ordered Catholics to pray the Rosary prior to the Battle of Lepanto and held a rosary procession in St. Peter’s Square. You have to keep in mind that these Catholics did not go to war easily, but had to for their own survival. The Rosary is attributed to the victory of John of Austria over the Ottoman Turks. Two years after the victory Pope Gregory XIII changed the title of the feast in honor of the victory from “Our Lady of Victory” to “Our Lady of the Rosary”, a feast day that the Church still celebrates today.
The Rosary is a way to pray and meditate on the Holy Bible. The two main prayers of the rosary, the Our Father (Matthew 6:9-13) and the Hail Mary (Luke 1:28,42), are found in the Gospels. Each mystery of the Rosary focuses on a different part of the life of Jesus Christ. There are 4 sets of mysteries in all. Those include the joyful, which focuses on the early life of Jesus; the sorrowful, which focuses on his death, the glorious which focuses on his resurrection, and the luminous which focuses on his earthly ministry.
How to pray in general.
If you have never prayed before, don’t be afraid. God hears you. Through prayer we experience communion with God. He wants each of us to be his disciple and he wants each of us to follow Him. Prayer can be as simple as “Thank you, God, for the weather today!” Really! It can be that simple. Or “Jesus, please forgive me my sins.” Maybe we want to pray for a need like “Jesus please heal my family member who is sick.” Prayer should be sincere and from the heart. That is what matters.
The rosary is a meditative prayer.
A prayer such as “Jesus, please heal my friend” are prayers of intercession, where we are asking for God’s help. The Rosary is a different kind of prayer. It a meditative prayer in which we love and adore God and call to mind everything he did for our salvation. We use rosary beads in order to help us remember where we are in our meditation.
As we pray the Rosary we are going to begin by holding the crucifix. On that prayer, we will say the “sign of the cross” and the Apostles Creed. If you know how to make the sign of the cross by touching your forehead at “Father”, your heart at “Son”, your left shoulder at “Holy” and your right shoulder at “Spirit”, great. If you don’t know how, that’s okay.
The first big bead after the crucifix we are going to say the Our Father. Then, the next three beads we are going to say Hail Mary’s for the virtues of faith, hope, and love. On the fifth and last bead before the circle begins we will say the Glory Be and then announce the first mystery. For the rest of the rosary we will make our way around the beads. You will notice 10 small beads in 5 sets, and 1 large bead between each set. The 10 small beads represent Hail Mary. The single large bead represents the Our Father. Each set is one mystery of the rosary that we will meditate on, for instance, that might mean remembering the crucifixion in our minds as we listen to scripture and pray.
If this seems complicated, it’s okay. You can either follow along with the brochure provided or listen to the Rosary Album. It can take several times practicing before you know which prayer goes with every bead. Jesus is so happy that you are meditating on the rosary even if you miss a bead.