The rosary is often misunderstood by those who are not familiar with the concept and ideas of Catholicism. The rosary is not a way of worshiping the Virgin Mary or intended in any way to distract from a believer’s true worship of God.
For Catholics, the rosary is a devotion to the Virgin Mary, a way of helping the person keep their mind focused during prayerful reflection. The mysteries of the rosary are events from the Bible. As a person prays the rosary, the ideal use of the rosary involves remembering specific events in Jesus’ life and reaching an ever higher level of union with Him.
History of the Rosary
In ancient Israel, Jews would often put a number of small stones in one’s pocket. As they worked, they would say prayers, dropping a stone each time to help keep track of their prayers.
While the idea of the rosary is not directly derived from this, the idea is similar. The rosary first started when laypersons expressed a desire for regular prayer. Monks were in the habit of reciting the 150 psalms, but the average layperson could not read, making this an almost impossible task.
The first “rosary” involved laypeople who used beads to keep track as they said fifty or one hundred “Our Fathers.” During the twelfth century, the “Hail Mary” of the time — only the first half was developed at this point in time — was used instead of the “Our Fathers.” Over time, the mysteries of the rosary, and the current order of prayer developed.
The Catholic Church’s Support of the Rosary
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is the major source of authority for the average layperson. It sets out the most important concepts and ideas put forth by the Church. The Catechism approves of the rosary by approving of two basic concepts: the appropriateness of honoring the Virgin Mary and the benefits of meditation as a way to reach a higher union with God.
The appropriateness of honoring the Virgin Mary is summed up with two phrases from the Catechism:
“From the most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been honored with the title of ‘Mother of God,’ to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs…”
“This very special devotion…differs essentially from the adoration which is given to the incarnate Word…”
The Catechism states multiple times — and it references multiple prayers — that meditation is another way for Christians to reach a higher union with God; it’s a way of becoming even closer to God with each prayer. Meditation and set prayers are used across multiple religions and denominations. The rosary is simply another derivation of this practice.
Basic Prayers of the Rosary
The basic order of the rosary is as follows: the “Apostles Creed,” the “Our Father,” the “Hail Mary” three times, and the “Glory Be.” The first mystery is announced. The person then says the “Our Father,” the “Hail Mary” ten times, the “Glory Be” and the prayer requested by the Virgin Mary at Fatima. The second mystery is announced. The same pattern is followed until all five mysteries are done. Then the person closes by saying the “Hail, Holy Queen.”
A Way To Get Closer to God
The set, familiar prayers of the rosary are not used to worship the Virgin Mary. The rosary is not intended to draw any glory away from God. A Christian who prays the rosary is basically using it as a “tool” to get closer to God.
Some Christians find spontaneous prayer the best way to God for them. Others find reciting common prayers the best way. As with many religious concepts and practices, each person should consult their religious institute and their own faith to decide what is right for them.