In his letter "Rosarium Virginis Mariae" (October 16, 2002) Pope John Paul II expressed his esteem for a method of praying that has nourished the faith of generations of Christians. The pope called on catholics - and other Christians as well - to pray the rosary and enter "the school of Mary," who knew Jesus Christ so well as His mother and who was His closest disciple.
Though it is not mandatory, the pope also suggested that five mysteries be added to the traditional fifteen. He called them "Luminous Mysteries," or the Mysteries of Light, which include the mysteries of Christ's public ministry between His Baptism and His Passion. While leaving the use of these mysteries "to the freedom of individuals and communities," Pope John Paul suggested that they could help make the prayer more deeply centered in the life of Christ.
THE ROSARY AND THE SCRIPTURES
Pope John Paul II also recommended the use of scriptural verses to accompany each mystery of the rosary in order to deepen the scriptural dimension of this prayer. Pray the Spiritual Rosary.
THE ROSARY: WHERE DID IT COME FROM?
Praying the rosary well is more important than knowing its history, yet knowing the origins of the prayer can teach us much about it.
The beginnings of the rosary are found in the early Christian practice of reciting the 150 Psalms from the Bible, either daily or weekly, as a way of prayer. Those unable to recite the psalms began to recite 150 prayers, mainly the Our Father, 150 times, often using beads to count the prayers. By medieval times the custom of saying "Paternoster" beads (the Latin for Our Father) was common in many countries of Europe. While saying the prayers it was customary to mediate on the mysteries of the life of Jesus, from his birth to his resurrection.
The rosary in its present form arose in late medieval Christianity when Mary, the Mother of Jesus, was seen as a guide to the mysteries of her Son. A decade of prayers called the Hail Mary was preceded by the Our father. Meditation on the mysteries of Christ remained at the heart of the prayer.
Through the centuries, saints like St. Dominic, many of the popes, as well as countless ordinary Christians have found the rosary to be a school of prayer and a source of spiritual blessing. It is both simple and profound. Not beyond anyone's reach, its repeated words bring peace to the soul. And the mysteries of Jesus that it recalls are also meant to be repeated on our own. We ask to "imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise, through Christ the Lord."
WHY WE PRAY THE ROSARY
The Rosary is a special way of praying. As we recite the prayers of the rosary, we think about certain stories in the lives of Jesus and Mary.
These stories are called "mysteries". A mystery is a story about God and God's life in another person. We use rosary beads to help us keep count of the prayers and the mysteries.
HOW TO PRAY THE ROSARY
The complete Rosary consists of twenty decades, but it is further divided into four distinct parts, the Joyful, the Luminous, the Sorrowful and the Glorious Mysteries, each containing five decades.
To say the rosary, begin by making the sign of the cross and saying the Apostles' Creed on the crucifix, one Our Father on the first bead, three Hail Mary's on the next three beads, and then a Glory Be to the Father. When this is finished, meditate upon the first mystery, say an Our father, ten Hail Marys and one Glory Be to the Father. The first decade is now completed, and to finish the rosary proceed in the same manner until all five decades have been said. When this is done, say one Hail Holy Queen.
As a prayer of faith, the rosary usually begins with two basic summaries of faith: The Sign of the Cross and the Creed. These prayers invite us to believe in God, the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit, and to remember God's plan of salvation proclaimed in the scriptures.
The rosary is made up of decades of prayers. A decade of the rosary consists of an Our Father prayed before ten Hail Marys. At the end of a decade the prayer "Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit" is said. Most rosaries have five decades of beads.