Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
One of the most recognizable and enduring of Catholic devotions is the holy rosary. In recent years it has experienced a resurgence in popularity from Catholics, who would like to take their faith to the next level.
The use of beads to help guide one’s prayers is not confined to Christianity. In fact, the word “bead” is derived from the Old English word for “prayer.” (We get the word “bid” – “to ask” – from the same root.) The rosary’s original number of 15 mysteries came together because the laity wanted to in some way share the prayer-life of local monasteries, who prayed the 150 Psalms. (With ten Hail Mary’s per decade/mystery, you end up with 150 – the number of the Psalms.)
Although earlier forms existed, it was undoubtedly St. Dominic in 1214 who spread its popularity. Unfortunately, some Catholics have not grown up with the rosary as a devotion in their homes. It’s not too late to change that, whether you teach your children or yourself!
The whole point of the rosary is meditation. It is divided into various “Mysteries” of the lives of Jesus and Mary. These Mysteries are in turn divided into groups for meditation. One begins by thinking of the Mystery (perhaps even visualizing it), then while praying the prayers, one meditates on that scene. Each decade consists of one Our Father (single bead), then ten Hail Mary’s, then one Glory be (on the chain after the last Hail Mary bead). After the last decade in a Mystery, one prays the Hail, Holy Queen. These prayers form a type of “holy chant” in the background and, when done well, help keep us focused, avoiding the distractions of the world around us. It is the original multitasking! Except this multitasking actually works. While it is indeed a Marian prayer, St. John Paul II points out that it is ultimately a Christocentric prayer – Christ-centered – since all of Mary’s life was a “Yes” to Christ, and everything about her flows to and from that “Yes” that we are called to imitate.
The mysteries are as follows…
Joyful Mysteries (Mondays & Saturdays): The Annunciation; The Visitation; The Birth of Jesus; The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple; The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple
Sorrowful Mysteries (Tuesdays & Fridays): The Agony in the Garden; The Scourging at the Pillar; The Crowning with Thorns; The Carrying of the Cross; The Crucifixion
Glorious Mysteries (Wednesdays & Sundays): The Resurrection; The Ascension; The Descent of the Holy Spirit; The Assumption; The Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth
On October 16, 2002, St. John Paul II proposed a new set of Mysteries – the Luminous Mysteries (the Mysteries of Light) for those who wish to do them.
The Luminous Mysteries (Thursdays) are: The Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan; The Miracle of the Wedding at Cana; The Proclamation of the Kingdom; The Transfiguration of Jesus; The Institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper.
As always, we pray for each other.