Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 30, 2002
An introduction to the rosary
Meditating on mysteries of the rosary deepens faith in Jesus
By GLEN ARGAN
The rosary for centuries has been one of the chief forms of devotion used by Catholics. It has been a way to deeper faith in Jesus and deeper love for him.
The rosary is a Marian prayer - most of its prayers are addressed to Mary, the Mother of God. But Mary always leads us to Jesus.
And when we pray the rosary, our attention should not be on the Hail Marys which we pray, but rather on each particular "mystery."
The rosary has 15 mysteries - moments in the story of our redemption. Those mysteries are divided into three sets - focusing on Jesus' birth, on his passion and death, and on his resurrection.
We begin each set of five mysteries by praying the Apostles' Creed, the summary of all that we believe.
Then we pray the Our Father (the Lord's Prayer) and three Hail Marys, one for each of the three theological virtues of faith, hope and love.
Then come the five mysteries. Each mystery begins with the Lord's Prayer which we pray while holding the large bead. Then, as we meditate on the particular mystery of this decade of small beads, we pray 10 Hail Marys. The decade concludes with the brief Glory to the Father prayer.
Since the apparitions of Mary at Fatima, Portugal, in 1917 many people have added another prayer, the Fatima prayer, at the end of each decade.
Each set of five mysteries concludes with the Salve Regina, Hail Holy Queen. Many people say yet another prayer, known as the rosary prayer.
The history of the rosary goes back to the early ninth century. Central to the prayer life of medieval monks was the praying of the 150 psalms every week, a few psalms prayed at various times of prayer scattered throughout the day.
Devout lay people admired this form of prayer but, often illiterate, they were unable to memorize such a large number of lengthy prayers. So, Irish monks suggested they pray 150 Our Fathers instead of the 150 psalms.
Soon, people began carrying leather pouches containing 150 pebbles so that they could count the Our Fathers. Over the centuries, this form of prayer evolved into the rosary as we know it today.
October has traditionally been a special month for praying the rosary. This month Knights of Columbus councils will begin their annual Marian Hour of Prayer services across Alberta, this year using a travelling icon of Our Lady of the Rosary.
The feast of Our Lady of the Rosary is celebrated every Oct. 7, marking the victory of a Christian force over the Turks in a particularly brutal naval battle at Lepanto in 1571. Nearly 40,000 people were estimated to have been killed.
Pope Pius V immediately established the feast, after attributing the victory to the intervention of Our Lady whose aid was invoked through praying the rosary.
Despite its origins in war, the feast has become an opportunity for Christians to meditate more deeply on the mysteries of Christ's life.
Essential to the proper praying of the rosary is that the worshipper focuses his attention not on the words of the vocal prayers, but on the mystery assigned to each decade he or she is praying.
This is a form of meditation, rather than a way of talking with God or asking him for things. In this meditation, the person praying seeks to dwell in God's presence. In particular, he or she seeks to dwell in God's presence as revealed in the aspect of our redemption revealed in this mystery.
The repetition of the Hail Marys establishes a rhythm through which our minds and hearts can enter more deeply into the presence of God.
So the essence of praying the rosary is not speed; it is presence. It is better to linger over one decade in a meditative spirit than to ramble through them all with little attention.
Prayed this way, the rosary can lead us closer and closer to Jesus. Our hearts can slowly become one with his.