|St. Dominic receiving the Rosary from the Blessed Virgin Mary|
The Rosary is a heavenly gift given to us by the Blessed Virgin Mary to her faithful servant St. Dominic in 1214, to convert the Albigensian heretics in Southern France. Mary had ordered St. Dominic to recite it every day and get others to do likewise. Saint Dominic understood the negative influence of the sinful heretics and how they were a hinderance to the conversion to the Albigensians. In response, St. Dominic withdrew into the forest near Toulouse to pray unceasingly for three days and nights, weeping and inflicting harsh penances upon himself to appease God's anger. The penances were so extreme that St. Dominic fell into a coma. It was at this point that the Blessed Mother appeared to him with three angels. Our Blessed Mother informed St. Dominic that the best weapon in this type of warfare, the weapon that the Holy Trinity wanted him to use to reform the world, was Mary's Psalter. Mary instructed St. Dominic, "If you want to reach these hardened souls and win them over to God, preach my Psalter." At this point St. Dominic arose, comforted and burning with zeal for the conversion of sinners, headed straight for the cathedral to preach on the Holy Rosary. Saint Dominic did so in such a fervent and compelling manner, that almost everyone at Toulouse renounced their false beliefs and embraced the Rosary. In a very short time, a great improvement was seen in the area as people began leading Christian lives and gave up their former bad habits.
St. Louis De Montfort, another of Our Blessed Mother's servants, chosen in the 17th century to propagate the Rosary, wrote the best known and most popular book on the subject of the Rosary entitled, The Secret of The Rosary. It is a "must read" book for anyone who is serious about the Rosary, its recitation and any aspect thereof. In his book, St. Louis De Montfort endeavours to express the importance and relevance of the Rosary in our lives, both for our time on our earthly pilgrimage and its significance for our eternal salvation. The Secret of The Rosary contains everything that can be said about the Rosary, in terms of its content, form, real worth and the necessary instruction for its application and use. The Secret of The Rosary will bring to the reader not only a better understanding of the Rosary as a form of contemplative prayer, but especially as a guide to the spiritual life.
For St. Louis De Montfort, like St. Dominic, the Rosary was not only a method of prayer, but an effective tool and weapon in his apostolic work. Saint Louis De Montfort preached the Rosary in and out of season, established it in every parish where he gave a mission and judged the fruits of the mission by the subsequent perseverance of its recitation. Saint Louis De Montfort knew there was no limit to the power of the Rosary and he attributed to it, much of his success with the conversion of sinners, as he is quoted saying, "Let me place my Rosary around a sinner's neck...and he will not escape me."
At this point, you have gained a basic historical understanding of the significance of the Rosary, but you might be wondering, what exactly is the Rosary, what prayers does it include, how do I pray it, and why should I pray it The remainder of this post answers these questions.
The Rosary is a set of prayers whereby you meditate on the life and passion of Christ, and on the life of Mary, reflecting upon her virtues and the many Gospel lessons contained within. The prayers that make up the Rosary are: The Apostles' Creed, Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, O My Jesus and the Hail Holy Queen. The Rosary is one of the contemplative forms of prayer of the Catholic Church. Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae states:
The Rosary, precisely because it starts with Mary's own experience, is an exquisitely contemplative prayer. Without this contemplative dimension, it would lose its meaning, as Pope Paul VI clearly pointed out: “Without contemplation, the Rosary is a body without a soul, and its recitation runs the risk of becoming a mechanical repetition of formulas, in violation of the admonition of Christ: 'In praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think they will be heard for their many words' (Mt 6:7). By its nature the recitation of the Rosary calls for a quiet rhythm and a lingering pace, helping the individual to meditate on the mysteries of the Lord's life as seen through the eyes of her who was closest to the Lord. In this way the unfathomable riches of these mysteries are disclosed”. (12)The Rosary can be recited any where at any time. You do not have to be in a church to pray it, although praying it in a church is certainly ideal. Recitation of the Rosary can occur on the subway, while walking in the park, commuting to work etc. So long as you can focus on the prayers and meditate on the mysteries, it is time properly spent in the recitation of the Rosary. Praying it while significantly distracted, leading your mind to wander out of the contemplative aspect of the recitation, is the exact opposite.
The Rosary is divided into four sets of mysteries: The Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful and Glorious mysteries. Each set takes approximately 30 minutes to recite. Each day of the week has assigned to it one of the mysteries, referred to as the "daily required recitation." This is but the minimum. You should endeavour to recite all four sets each day. Here are the days of the week and mysteries to be prayed:
- Joyful Mysteries - Assigned for Mondays and Saturdays throughout the year; also on Sundays during Advent and the Christmas seasons.
- Luminous Mysteries - Every Thursday during all seasons throughout the year
- Sorrowful - Tuesday and Fridays throughout the year and also on Sundays during Lent
- Glorious Mysteries - Wednesdays throughout the year; also on Sundays between Christmas and Lent and Sundays between Easter and Advent.
I won't get into the exact instructions for praying the Rosary simply because there are so many web locations, be it sites or blogs, that more than adequately provide this information already. What I would like to do is recommend the Rosary Center's How To Pray The Rosary, which is offered in many languages. At this page you will find an image of the Rosary, with easy to follow instructions coupled with links to all the prayers to be recited in the Rosary. In addition, you may want a hard copy pamphlet or booklet. May I recommend Tan Book's How To Say The Rosary pamphlet. You may also want to consider the Rosary Center's First Saturday Devotions "New Edition" booklet. It not only details the devotion stemming from the Fatima apparitions, but provides for a more in depth Rosary recitation experience, including: scriptural passages, images of the historical moments of Christ's and Mary's life, the spiritual focus and reflection for each mystery and intercessory prayers to Mary.
As to why you should pray the Rosary, the most important one being it was requested by Mary to St. Dominic. This request was further made at Fatima, in which our Blessed Mother chose to introduce herself as, "Our Lady of The Rosary." To further encourage Mary's requests, I would like to quote St. Louis De Montfort from his book, The Secret of the Rosary's Twenty Seventh Rose - Benefits:
To encourage you still more in this devotion practiced by so many holy people, I should like to add that the Rosary recited with the meditation of the mysteries brings about the following marvellous results:
- It gradually brings us a perfect knowledge of Jesus Christ;
- It purifies our souls from sin;
- It gives us victory over all our enemies;
- It makes the practice of virtue easy;
- It sets us on fire with the love of our Lord;
- It enriches us with graces and merits;
I would like to conclude this post with a further encouragement for the recitation of the entire Rosary, each and everyday. The complete daily recitation of the entire Rosary may seem difficult, challenging, perhaps even daunting for some, but it is possible. Like an athlete who trains for a marathon, you begin slowly, building up your endurance and capacity for prayer. In the end, once fully trained and conditioned, like a successful athlete that crosses the finish line at a marathon, you too will cross the spiritual finish line, completing a marathon of grace.
- It supplies us with what is needed to pay all our debts to God and to our fellowmen, and finally, it obtains all kinds of graces from God.