The Rosary is the “epitome of the whole Gospel” (St. Paul VI). While occupying the senses with the “praying of the beads” the one who prays the rosary prayerfully reflects, meditates, on the mysteries of Christ’s life. These mysteries, represented by the five groups of ten beads are taking from the Gospel, and from the Churches own reflection on the Gospel down through the centuries―especially with respect to the role of the Blessed Virgin. She is the Woman (Gen. 3:15) from whom Christ took His human nature, as well as the Woman who cooperated in His Redemptive mission to its completion (John 19:26-27).
The purpose of the Rosary, therefore, is a deeper understanding of all the mysteries concerning Christ. A mystery is something divine, because the Persons associated with it are divine. Human reflection alone reaches a limit of understanding. But by seeking God in what we can know by prayerful reflection, we dispose ourselves to His grace and to a deeper understanding of the truths of the Faith, and of ourselves in light of them.
Catechism 2708 Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion, and desire. This mobilization of faculties is necessary in order to deepen our convictions of faith, prompt the conversion of our heart, and strengthen our will to follow Christ. Christian prayer tries above all to meditate on the mysteries of Christ, as in lectio divina [prayerful contemplation of Scripture] or the rosary. This form of prayerful reflection is of great value, but Christian prayer should go further: to the knowledge of the love of the Lord Jesus, to union with him.
Thus, the testimony of the Saints, and of the Church herself, is that the perseverance in praying the Rosary, especially through times of both consolation and dryness, is the path to a deeper prayer life―to contemplation of God, to growth in virtue, especially faith, hope and charity, and thus in holiness. For good reason, therefore, the Blessed Mother in appearing to the three shepherd children of Fatima in 1917 asked them, and through them us, to pray the Rosary for peace in the world. Such peace is a gift of God that begins in the human heart and spreads outward to others. It is a gift we must ask for, both for ourselves and for those who won't ask. In this way we unite ourselves to His redemptive mission, as Our Lady did, and help Him accomplish it toward those who are alive today.
A Rosary proper is made up of 5 groups of ten beads, or decades, each of which constitutes one of the mysteries of the Rosary. In addition, as Pope St. John Paul II noted in his Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae it has become “customary” to say prayers before the decades, and also in conclusion. These are said on the Crucifix and group of one plus three beads hanging from the Rosary. As customary prayers they are to that extent also optional, or, others may be freely chosen. They do in fact vary from place to place, though the pattern suggested here is a common one.
The Preparatory Prayers
Starting on the Crucifix, we call to mind our Redemption and the truths of the Faith.
1. Holding the Crucifix make the Sign of the Cross, praying: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
2. Still on the Crucifix profess the Apostles Creed. “I believe in God, the Father Almighty . . .”
On the group of 4 beads, honor the Holy Trinity, One God and Three Divine Persons. On the three beads, one may also ask successively for an increase of Faith, of Hope and of Charity, the three theological virtues (1 Cor. 13).
3. On the single bead, pray the Our Father.
4. On the three beads, pray three Hail Marys.
5. On the space after the beads pray the Glory Be.
Prayer and Meditation on the Mysteries
On the 5 groups of 10 beads, or decade, a distinct mystery from the lives of Jesus and Mary is honored. A complete Rosary of 20 decades is composed of 5 Joyous Mysteries, 5 Luminous Mysteries, 5 Sorrowful Mysteries, and 5 Glorious Mysteries. At Fatima, the Blessed Virgin asked for a Terço every day for peace, which meant a “third” of the traditional 15 decade rosary, meaning a 5 decade rosary composed of one of the groups of mysteries. This remains the case, even though Pope St. John Paul II in 2002 added a fourth set of mysteries, the Luminous.
One may freely say a single set of mysteries each day (or once around the beads), or a complete rosary of 20 decades. One may pray any set of mysteries, or follow the traditional pattern. One may pray the rosary at one time, or spread throughout the day, and do so in a church, at home, or anywhere, as time and opportunity allows.
THE JOYFUL MYSTERIES Mondays and Saturdays. Sundays of Advent & Christmas.
1. The Annunciation 2. The Visitation 3. The Nativity 4. The Presentation 5. The Finding of Jesus in the Temple
THE LUMINOUS MYSTERIES Thursdays
1. The Baptism in the Jordan 2. The Wedding at Cana 3. Proclamation of the Kingdom 4. The Transfiguration 5. Institution of the Eucharist
THE SORROWFUL MYSTERIES Tuesdays and Fridays. Sundays of Lent.
1. The Agony in the Garden 2. The Scourging at the Pillar 3. The Crowning with Thorns 4. The Carrying of the Cross 5. The Crucifixion
THE GLORIOUS MYSTERIES Wednesdays and Sundays
1. The Resurrection 2. The Ascension 3. The Descent of the Holy Spirit 4. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary 5. The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
On the Decades
Announce the first Mystery. If possible, make a short meditation on the subject of the mystery. One can use the applicable Scriptures, a book created for this purpose (see EWTN's Religious Catalog store), or simply reflect on the scene, or one's relationship to the scene, such as one's weaknesses for which we should imitate Jesus and Mary.
1. On the single bead (the centerpiece serves this purpose for the 1st decade), an Our Father
2.On each of the ten beads, a Hail Mary
3, On the space after the decade, the Glory Be.
4. Finally, the Fátima Prayer. While the “Decade Prayer” is not a formal part of the Rosary, it has become customary to pray it as requested in 1917 by Our Lady of the Rosary of Fátima.
This pattern is then repeated for each of the subsequent mysteries of the Rosary.
The Concluding Prayers
After completed all the decades, it is usual to say the Hail, Holy Queen, and other prayers according to custom, though these are not formally part of the Rosary, nor obligatory. They are given in the customary order.
1. Hail Holy Queen, with its Versicle and Response.
2. The Rosary Prayer
3. St. Michael's Prayer
4. Prayers for the intentions of the Pope. This is necessary to gain the Plenary Indulgence attached to the Rosary said in a group. It may be the Creed and an Our Father, or an Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be, or even other prayers for his intention. A partial Indulgence is gained by an individual who says the Rosary.
5. Sacred and Immaculate Heart Prayers. (At Fatima Our Lady said that God desired these devotions alongside each other.)
The Rosary is then concluded as it began, With the Sign of the Cross.
Texts of the Prayers
I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. On the third day He rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.
Our Father, Who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done, On earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day, our daily bread, And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
Hail Mary: Hail Mary, Full of Grace, The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of death. Amen.
Glory Be Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
The Fátima Prayer:
O My Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need of Thy mercy.
Salve Regina/Hail Holy Queen
Hail, holy Queen, mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile show us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.
Versicle & Response
V. Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
The Rosary Prayer
O God, whose only begotten Son, by His life, death and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal salvation, grant, we beseech thee, that while meditating on these mysteries of the most holy rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that we may both imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise through Christ our Lord, Amen.
Other Commonly Used Prayers:
St. Michael's Prayer
St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly hosts, by the power of God, cast into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits, who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
Prayers for the Pope
Required for the Plenary Indulgence granted to the faithful who devoutly recite the Marian rosary in a church or oratory, in a family, religious community, association of the faithful or gathered together for some honest purpose. Also, joining the Holy Father's recitation by radio or TV. It must be five decades continuously prayed, together with, or joined to, meditation on the mysteries. A partial indulgence otherwise. (Apostolic Penitentiary, Manual of Indulgences, 2006, Grant 17)
The Prayer for the intention of Pope is satisfied by an Our Father and Hail Mary, or “any other prayeraccoding to individual piety and dvotion, if recited for this purpose.” (Manual, norm N20, 5.)