If you were to ask people what object most signifies a Catholic, they would probably say the “rosary.” Many times you will see rosary beads hanging from the rear view mirrors of a car or truck. The word rosary means “a garland of roses.” It is the rose that is used to symbolize the Virgin Mary. In recent years though, the rosary is not seen as just a Catholic devotion. Many Protestants now say the rosary, since they are starting to realize it is a truly biblical form of prayer. The rosary consists of a set number of prayers which include: Apostles Creed, “Our Father” (Lord’s Prayer), “Hail Mary,” “Glory Be” (prayer is found by combining the Biblical truths found in Matthew 20:19 and Psalm 90:2), and the prayer “O my Jesus” (was revealed by Mary to the children at Fatima, and the truths found in this prayer are consistent with the General Judgment in Matthew 25:31-46).
How did the rosary come into existence? Who started it? Is it just a man-made invention?
What the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:
“…the rosary, an “epitome of the whole Gospel’…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 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.” (CCC#971, 2708)
The Bible has 150 Psalms. As part of their daily prayer life, Catholic priests have prayed these Psalms throughout the centuries. Because of this (and because most of them did not know how to read), lay people started to imitate the priests by memorizing the scriptural prayer the “Our Father” found in Matthew 6:9-13 and in Luke 11:2-4. They would pray it 150 times in place of the 150 Psalms.
Some Christians who had a devotion to Mary, our Lord’s mother, started to expand this prayer form. They would memorize the scriptural prayer the “Ave Maria” found in Luke (1:28): “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.” They would pray this 150 times, asking Mary to pray along with themselves to her Son and our Savior Jesus Christ. In time, there developed the meditation of certain mysteries of the life of our Lord as they prayed the 150 “Ave Maria’s”. This was done in order to make sure that Jesus was the main focus of this Biblically-based meditation.
It is believed that the rosary developed over the span of many years, somewhere between the 1100’s through 1569. In 1569, Pope Pius V, a Dominican Pope, fixed the formula that make up the rosary we know today. There are 15 decades x 10 “Hail Mary’s” per decade = 150 (which is the number of Psalms contained in the Old Testament).
The heart and soul of the rosary is the meditation of the mysteries surrounding the life of Jesus Christ:
The Joyful Mysteries are these: the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38), the Visitation (Luke 1:40-56), the Nativity (Luke 2:6-20), the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:21-39), and the Finding of the child Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:41-51).
The Sorrowful Mysteries: the Agony in the Garden (Matt. 26:36-46), the Scourging (Matt. 27:26), the Crowning with Thorns (Matt. 27:29), the Carrying of the Cross (John 19:17), and the Crucifixion (Luke 23:33-46).
The final Mysteries are the Glorious: the Resurrection (Luke 24:1-12), the Ascension (Luke 24:50-51), the Descent of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4), the Assumption of Mary into heaven (Rev. 12), and her Coronation (cf. Rev. 12:1).
From his book “Unabridged Christianity,” Fr. Mario P. Romero writes:
“Is the rosary a ‘man-made invention?’ The structure/format of the rosary was created by Christian men but all of the components that make up the rosary come from the Bible. Just as a modern-day preacher creatively assembles a sermon or a worship service with components found in the Bible, the rosary was composed by Christians who took various Bible and scriptural truths and “cut and pasted” them together (pg 160).”
In the rosary, we are asking Mary to pray along side us to Jesus Christ our Savior. It also invites us to meditate on the life of Christ over and over again.
Until next time, God bless.