The Rosary: One of the Most Powerful Prayers on Earth
The Rosary prayer has no doubt stood the test of time. As one of the most popular and miraculous devotions of the Catholic Church and faith, it remains a prayer that is embraced by both the young and old and is the prayer of choice by many of the world’s most well-known and famous saints.
If you are not familiar with the Rosary prayer, this is definitely a prayer you want to become familiar with; one you do not want to waste any time in delaying learning and praying. But as with most things in life, it is difficult to love and implement (especially as a spiritual discipline) anything that is not first understood.
Where does the Rosary come from?
Let’s begin by getting somewhat familiar with the history of this prayer. While most attribute the invention of the Rosary to St. Dominic in 1208 (for good reason), there actually existed for many centuries various practices among the laity of counting 150 Our Fathers and/or Hail Marys to correspond to the 150 Psalms that priests and religious would recite in the Divine Office. In fact, for centuries the Rosary was known as “Our Lady’s Psalter.”
So how does St. Dominic come into all of this? In 1208, Saint Dominic de Guzman received a heavenly vision of the Blessed Mother who instructed him to spread a new devotion called the Rosary. Tradition holds that Our Lady said to him, “I want you to know that, in this kind of warfare, the battering ram has always been the Angelic Psalter which is the foundation stone of the New Testament. Therefore if you want to reach these hardened souls and win them over to God, preach my Psalter” (Our Lady to Saint Dominic, from The Secret of the Rosary by Saint Louis de Montfort).
Make note that Our Lady uses the language of the Church militant. She does not speak of the Rosary in a soft, gooey sentimental manner in order to initiate good feelings or pan-religious unity. No. She refers to praying the Rosary as a “battering ram” against, amongst other things, heresy (heretical teaching). In other words, this is a universal call for all men and women to arm themselves with the Rosary in order to fight the non-stop flow of heresy, corruption, and godlessness.
Ever since that apparition, St. Dominic and now his Dominican religious order has been associated with the Rosary and its rapid-fire spread throughout Europe.
Regardless of which saint or era first began the Rosary, what is true is that many Dominicans have spread this devotion since the 15th and 16th centuries and remains to this day the chief promoters of the devotion worldwide. While the complete history of the Rosary is far too deep and extensive for this article, what has been stated thus far gives you an idea of how long this prayer has been around and prayed. And to think that it was Our Lady from Heaven herself that instructed us to pray it! This, by the way, doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface on all the countless miracles attributed to praying this most powerful prayer.
Why is it called the Rosary?
The Rosary became viewed spiritually and in art as a way to present a garland of roses to the Blessed Mother in a similar way that roses would be picked for a person’s earthly mother.
It should be reiterated that the Holy Rosary is to be prayed — not simply recited. In other words, when you pray the Rosary try to place yourself into the actual scene of the particular mystery you are praying (more on how to pray the Rosary forthcoming – see below). It is said that one single “Hail Mary” prayed from the heart is worth a thousand spoken only upon the lips. Almost every person who prays the Rosary “offers” the Rosary to God and Our Lady for a particular intention. Some will offer a particular intention(s), asking God for the grace for a certain petition, before each decade.
Why pray the Rosary?
Aside from the fact that our Blessed Mother has asked this of us herself, the Rosary is a major part of a Christian’s daily warfare. While the Rosary is not necessarily an “easy” prayer to recite, it does take some time (around 15-20 minutes) and discipline, it is a most powerful weapon against the devil. To that end, every minute is well worth it!
In a nutshell, the Rosary prayer is fulfilled by meditating on the Mysteries of the Rosary while reciting the prayers and keeping count on the beads. And not only is this an act of spiritual warfare, but it will lead to a profound experience in deepening one’s knowledge and love of Jesus Christ … and there is nothing in the world more important than that.
Using the Bible while praying the Rosary
The Rosary is Scriptural. All the mediations are drawn from the mysteries of Christ’s life in Holy Scripture. It can be said in other words that the Rosary is partly a history lesson. When praying the Rosary, an individual will announce a particular mystery from the life of Jesus before each decade (ten beads) of the Hail Marys. In order to deepen one’s meditation on this mystery, some find it beneficial to read a short passage from the Bible that corresponds to each mystery of the Rosary. This will lengthen the time in prayer but it will also enrich the experience providing you with many images to mediate on from the life of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and His (now our!) Blessed Mother.
How to pray the Rosary
Each Rosary (the full string of beads) has a crucifix at the end of a short extension below the loop. Begin by holding the crucifix and making the sign of the cross.
The Rosary is divided up into five sequins known as “decades,” called so because each decade contains ten small beads. During these decades it is customary to mediate on a “mystery” from the life of Christ. Tradition assigns different mysteries of the Rosary to each day of the week, but individual piety is not bound to it.
One begins the Rosary prayer with the Apostles’ Creed, which summarizes the great mysteries of the Catholic faith, then the Our Father, which introduces each mystery and is derived from the Gospels. The first part of the Hail Mary is the angel’s words announcing Christ’s birth and Elizabeth’s greeting to Mary. St. Pius V officially added the second part of the Hail Mary. The Mysteries of the Rosary center on the events of Christ’s life. There are three sets of the Mysteries: Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious.
The repetition in the Rosary is meant to lead one into restful and contemplative prayer related to each Mystery. The gentle repetition of the words helps us to enter into the silence of our hearts, where Christ’s spirit dwells. The Rosary can be said privately or with a group.
Praying the Rosary step-by-step
- Holding the crucifix of the Rosary with your right hand, make the Sign of the Cross and then kiss the crucifix;
It is good to begin your Rosary by offering it for some intention, i.e. “I offer this Rosary for all my spiritual needs and those of my family, for the conversion of sinners, in reparation for my sins and those of all sinners, for world peace and the triumph of Mary’s Immaculate Heart.”
- On the crucifix, pray the Apostles’ Creed;
- On the first single bead after the cruficix, pray an Our Father;
- On each of the next three beads, which are grouped together, pray a Hail Mary;
- On the next single bead, announce the decade and then pray an Our Father (Example: “The First Joyful Mystery, the Annunciation. Fruit of this mystery is …” and then, “Our Father, Who art in Heaven …”);
- On each of the ten beads that follow, pray a Hail Mary while reflecting upon the mystery assigned to this decade (see list of mysteries below). Some people find that looking at a picture depicting each mystery helps them mediate on the mystery more intently. After the ten Hail Marys, pray the Glory be and “O my Jesus …”;
- Repeat steps five and six until you have prayed all five decades of the Rosary.
After saying the five decades, many Catholics also pray the Hail Holy Queen, the St. Michael prayer, and then followed by the Litany of the Blessed Virgin at the end of the Rosary and accomplish the dialogue and prayer with:
V: Pray for us, O holy Mother of God;
R: That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray: O God, whose Only Begotten Son,
by His life, Death, and Resurrection,
has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life,
grant, we beseech thee,
that while meditating on these mysteries
of the most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
we may imitate what they contain
and obtain what they promise,
through the same Christ our Lord,
Traditionally speaking …
Traditionally, the mysteries of the Rosary are said according to the following schedule:
Monday – Joyful
Tuesday – Sorrowful
Wednesday – Glorious
Thursday – Joyful
Friday – Sorrowful
Saturday – Glorious
Sundays of Advent – Joyful
Sunday of Lent – Sorrowful
All other Sundays – Glorious
Those who are able are encouraged to pray all 15 decades of the Rosary every day (three full Rosary prayers). To this end, let us band together as His faithful prayer warriors and fulfill our Blessed Mother’s request to pray the Rosary (at least one full Rosary) frequently (daily!) for the salvation of mankind.
Tradition vs New Rosary
In October 2002, Pope John Paul II, in his Apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, recommended adding five more Mysteries to the Rosary which were to be prayed on Thursdays — the “Luminous Mysteries” which focus on Jesus’ public life. These Mysteries are: the Baptism in the Jordan, the Marriage Feast at Cana, the Proclamation of the Kingdom, the Transfiguration, and the Institution of the Eucharist. This option, however, disrupts the relationship between the Rosary and the Breviary’s Psalms. For this reason, more traditional Catholics stick with the classic three Mystery Rosary prayer (Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious) given directly by our Lady.
Meriting a Plenary Indulgence
The Catholic Church, exercising its authority to “bind and loose on Heaven and on earth,” and in perfect accord with God’s Mercy, has set the following conditions for the granting of a plenary indulgence for those who pray the Rosary:
- Be in a state of grace — that your soul is free from mortal sin;
- Be free from attachments — that is, not in the habit of venial sin;
- Go to confession several days before or after praying the Rosary;
- Receive Holy Communion on the day you pray the Rosary;
- Say a prayer for the Pope
By fulfilling these simple (but sometimes difficult) conditions, you merit the grace to release one soul from Purgatory. While we are free to ask God to apply this grace to a particular soul, God will do as He sees fit, according His omniscience, divine Will and mercy. You can also ask God to apply this special grace to your own soul. A plenary indulgence will relieve the temporal punishment due to sin (but it will not absolve the sin or cause the sin to be forgiven … only the sacrament of confession can do that).
As you begin, this is also worth knowing …
Our Lady’s 15 Promises for Praying the Rosary
- Whoever shall faithfully serve me by the recitation of the Rosary, shall receive signal graces;
- I promise my special protection and the greatest graces to all those who shall recite the Rosary;
- The Rosary shall be a powerful armor against hell, it will destroy vice, decrease sin, and defeat heresies;
- It will cause virtue and good works to flourish; it will obtain for souls the abundant mercy of God; it will withdraw the heart of men from the love of the world and its vanities, and will lift them to the desire of eternal things —“Oh, that souls would sanctify themselves by this means …”;
- The soul which recommends itself to me by the recitation of the Rosary shall not perish;
- Whoever shall recite the Rosary devoutly, applying himself to the consideration of its sacred mysteries, shall never by conquered by misfortune. God will not chastise him in His justice, he shall not perish by an unprovided death; if he be just he shall remain in the grace of God, and become worthy of eternal life;
- Whoever shall have a true devotion for the Rosary shall not die without the sacraments of the Church;
- Those who are faithful to recite the Rosary shall have, during their life and at their death, the light of God and the plenitude of His graces; at the moment of death they shall participate in the merits of the saints in paradise;
- I shall deliver from purgatory those who have been devoted to the Rosary;
- The faithful children of the Rosary shall merit a high degree of glory in Heaven;
- You shall obtain all you ask of me by the recitation fo the Rosary;
- All those who propagate the Holy Rosary shall be aided by me in their necessities;
- I have obtained from my Divine Son that all the advocates of the Rosary shall have for intercessors the entire celestial court during their life and at the hour of death;
- All who recite the Rosary are my sons, and brothers of my only Son, Jesus Christ;
- Devotion of my Rosary is a great sign of predestination.
To close …
In the simple-and-sweet words of St. Padre Pio, “Triumph over everything and everyone by way of the Rosary”; or in the words of Blessed Carlo Acutis, “The Rosary is the shortest road to Heaven.”
While we have only skimmed the surface in the article of the power of the Rosary Prayer, we hope that it at least peaks your interest to learn more about the Rosary or, if you are already familiar, that you will pick up these most precious and miraculous beads once again (and/or more often) and start praying — and pray without delay!
Pray with us
Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, Queen of Peace, pray for us. Lord God Almighty, Son of the Living God, have mercy on us. Out of Your infinite love, You lead the way forward. May You continue to grant us the wisdom, discernment, and courage to obey, Amen.