History of the Rosary
"The rosary probably began as a practice by the laity to imitate the monastic Divine Office (Breviary or Liturgy of the Hours), during the course of which the monks daily prayed the 150 Psalms. The laity, many of whom could not read, substituted 50, or even 150, Ave Marias (Hail Marys) for the Psalms. This prayer, at least the first half of it so directly biblically, seems to date from as early as the 2nd century, as ancient graffiti at Christian sites has suggested.
Sometimes a cord with knots on it was used to keep an accurate count of the Aves."
"The first clear historical reference to the rosary, however, is from the life of St. Dominic (died in 1221), the founder of the Order of Preachers or Dominicans. He preached a form of the rosary in France at the time that the Albigensian heresy was devastating the Faith there. Tradition has it that the Blessed Mother herself asked for the practice as an antidote for heresy and sin."
"One of Dominic's future disciples, Alain de Roche, began to establish Rosary Confraternities to promote the praying of the rosary. The form of the rosary we have today is believed to date from his time. Over the centuries the saints and popes have highly recommended the rosary, the greatest prayer in the Church after the Mass and Liturgy of the Hours. Not surprisingly, it's most active promoters have been Dominicans."
Why is it called the Rosary?
"Rosary means acrown of roses, a spiritual bouquet given to the Blessed Mother. It is sometimes called the Dominican Rosary, to distinguish it from other rosary-like prayers (e.g. the Franciscan Rosary of the Seven Joys or Franciscan Crown, the Servite Rosary of the Seven Sorrows). It is also, in a general sense, a form of chaplet or corona (crown), of which there are many varieties in the Church. Finally, in English it has been called "Our Lady's Psalter" or "the beads." This last derives from an Old English word for prayers (bede) and to request (biddan or bid)."
What prayers are used in the Rosary?
You'll need these prayers:
Hail Holy Queen
How do I pray the Rosary?
I've posted a diagram above since it's the easiest way to learn to pray the Rosary. Descriptions are unnecessarily complicated and fussy and pictures are much clearer.
What are the sets of mysteries?
There are four sets of mysteries that are meditated upon when praying the Rosary: the Joyful Mysteries, the Sorrowful Mysteries, the Glorious Mysteries and the Luminous Mysteries. Traditionally, only the first three were prayed, with the Luminous Mysteries being proposed by the Blessed Pope John Paul II. Some choose to only pray the three traditional sets of mysteries.
What are the Joyful Mysteries? When do you use the Joyful Mysteries?
The Joyful Mysteries are:
1. The Annunciation
2. The Visitation
3. The Nativity
4. The Presentation
5. The Finding of Jesus in the Temple
The Joyful Mysteries are prayed on Mondays and Saturdays, or on Mondays and Thursdays in the traditional schedule. The relevant Scripture passages for the Joyful Mysteries can be found here.
What are the Sorrowful Mysteries? When do you use the Sorrowful Mysteries?
The Sorrowful Mysteries are:
1. The Agony is the Garden
2. The Scourging at the Pillar
3. The Crowning with Thorns
4. The Carrying of the Cross
5. The Crucifixion
The Sorrowful Mysteries are prayed on Tuesdays and Fridays in both the new schedule and the traditional schedule. The relevant Scripture passages for the Sorrowful Mysteries can be found here.
What are the Glorious Mysteries? When do you use the Glorious Mysteries?
The Glorious Mysteries are:
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
The Glorious Mysteries are prayed on Wednesdays and Sundays, or on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays in the traditional schedule. The relevant Scripture passages for the Glorious Mysteries can be found here.
What are the Luminous Mysteries? When do you use the Luminous Mysteries?
The Luminous Mysteries are:
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 Luminous Mysteries and prayed on Thursdays in the new schedule and not used in the traditional schedule. The relevant Scripture passages for the Luminous Mysteries can be found here.
Where can I buy a Rosary?
Rosaries can be found in stores attached to churches, in Catholic bookstores, online, you name it. These are a few online stores where you can buy rosaries:
Cenacle Catholic Books and Gifts - includes rosaries for children and storage options
Inspired Treasures - rosaries made by an aspiring religious to help fundraise for her entrance into religious life
Notting Hill Carmelites - rosaries from Carmelite nuns in London
Handmade Wood Rosaries - from the Dominican nuns of Summit, NJ
Monastery Craftshop - rosaries made by Cistercian nuns