The Rosary is often regarded with deep suspicion and even contempt by Christians outside the Roman Catholic Church, but many people from all denominations find it to be a valuable devotional aid. One of the best introductory books about the rosary was written by a Methodist, and the distinguished Anglican scholar and theologian, Austin Farrer wrote as follows,
"If I had been asked two dozen years ago for an example of what Christ forbade when he said 'Use not vain repetitions', I should very likely have referred to the fingering of beads. But now if I wished to name a special sort of private devotion most likely to be of general profit, prayer on the beads is what I should name. Since my previous opinion was based on ignorance and my present opinion is based on experience, I am not ashamed of changing my mind."
Like all aids to devotion, the rosary is very much what we make of it. It may be a wonderful way to still the mind and to open the heart to God, or it may be an empty pretence at prayer: each person needs to decide for themselves.
The rosary is a circlet of fifty-five beads (including the medallion) attached to a short string of beads (called the pendant), ending with a cross or crucifix. Fifty of the beads are arranged in groups of ten known as decades and each decade is separated from the next by a spacer bead. As we allow the beads to pass through our fingers we repeat simple and familiar prayers while our thoughts dwell on some of the most important events from Our Lord's life and ministry.
It is usual to use the pendant to shape an act of thanksgiving as we prepare for our meditation. Whilst holding the crucifix, we say the Apostles' Creed. As we move on to the first bead we say the Lord's Prayer. The next three beads (representing the virtues of faith, hope and charity) each prompt us to say the "Hail Mary". The last bead is used to praise God as we say the "Glory be ..."
We are now ready to begin our meditation on the first mystery. We hold the chain between the medallion and the first bead and say the Lord's Prayer. We then allow the ten beads of the first decade to pass through our fingers, saying the "Hail Mary" as we hold each one. When we reach the spacer bead we say the "Glory be ...". Because the prayers are so familiar to most of us, we can give our minds free rein to contemplate one of the mysteries of Jesus' life. We then use the same pattern with the remaining decades of the rosary.
It is customary on completing the rosary to recite a hymn of praise like the Salve Regina.
The traditional mysteries of the rosary are;
The Joyful Mysteries; The Annunciation (Luke 22: 39 - 46), The Visitation (Luke 1: 39 - 56), The Nativity Luke 2: 1 - 9), The Presentation (Luke 2: 22 - 39), The Finding in the Temple (Luke 2: 41 - 51).
The Sorrowful Mysteries; The Agony in the Garden (Luke 22: 39 - 46), The Scourging (Matthew 27:26), The Crowning with Thorns (Matthew 27: 29 - 30), The Carrying of the Cross (Luke 23: 26 - 32), The Crucifixion (Luke 23: 33)
The Glorious Mysteries: The Resurrection (Luke 24: 1 - 8), The Ascension (Luke 24: 50 - 53), The Coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2: 1 - 4), The Assumption of Our Lady (Psalm 45: 1 - 4, Luke 1: 52, Revelation 3: 21), The Coronation of Our Lady (Revelation 2: 10 and 12: 1)
Some people choose to use the rosary as a seasonal devotion, saying The Joyful Mysteries during Advent and Christmastide, the Sorrowful Mysteries during Lent, and the Glorious Mysteries during Eastertide. Others prefer to keep the whole of Our Lord's life and ministry in mind throughout the year and may say the Joyful Mysteries on Monday and Thursday, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday and Friday, and the glorious Mysteries on Wednesday and Saturday.
In recent years those who have benefited from the rosary have suggested additional groups of mysteries;
Austin Farrer suggested Mysteries of Obedience; Baptism (Mark 1: 9 - 11), Temptation (Matthew 4: 1 - 11), Transfiguration (Mark 9: 2 - 8), Anointing (Mark 14: 3 - 9), Supper (Mark 14: 17 - 25)
Bishop Edward O'Rourke suggested the Mysteries of Jesus the Divine Teacher; Jesus is Baptised in the Jordan (Matthew 3: 13 - 17), The Wedding at Cana (John 2: 1 - 11), The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 - 7), The Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15: 11 - 32), The Transfiguration (Matthew 17: 1 - 9)
Pope John Paul II left us The Mysteries of Light; The Baptism of the Lord (Matthew 3: 1 - 17), The Wedding at Cana (John 2: 1 - 12), The Proclamation of the Kingdom (Mark 1: 15), The Transfiguration (Luke 9: 28 - 36), The Institution of the Eucharist (Matthew 26: 26 - 29)
The prayers associated with the rosary are;
The Apostles’ Creed
I believe in God, the Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead and buried;
he descended into hell;
the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven,
and sitteth on the right hand of God
the Father almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost;
the holy catholic Church;
the communion of saints;
the forgiveness of sins;
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer
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.
The 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 our death. Amen.
Some Christians are very wary about the Hail Mary, fearing that it offers worship to Mary. Apart from the Lord’s Prayer, there is no other prayer which is more deeply rooted in Scripture, combining as it does the greetings offered to Our Lady by the Archangel Gabriel (Luke 1: 28) and by her cousin Elizabeth (Luke 1: 42). The prayer does not imply any worship of Mary, but only an acknowledgement of the unique part that she played, and continues to play by her prayers, in our salvation.
The 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 Anthems of Our Lady (usually said at the end of the rosary)
(From Advent Sunday to the Presentation of the Lord)
Mother of Christ, hear thou thy people’s cry,
Star of the deep and Portal of the sky.
Mother of Him who thee from nothing made.
Sinking we strive, and call to thee for aid.
O. by that joy which Gabriel brought to thee,
Thou Virgin first and last, let us thy mercy see.
(From the Presentation of the Lord until Holy Week)
Hail, O Queen of heaven enthroned:
Hail, by Angels Mistress owned:
Root of Jesse. Gate of morn,
Whence the world’s true Light was born!
Glorious Virgin, joy to thee.
Loveliest whom in heaven they see,
Fairest thou where all are fair
Plead with Christ our souls to spare.
Joy to thee, O Queen of heaven, alleluia!
He whom thou wast meet to bear, alleluia!
As he promised hath arisen, alleluia!
Pour for us to God thy prayer, alleluia!
(From the day after Pentecost until Advent)
Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy: hail, 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 vale of tears. Turn then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us; and after this our exile show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.