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The Mystery of the Rosary Beads

Updated on February 7, 2013
The Rosary beads.
The Rosary beads. | Source
The Crucifix portion of the Rosary.
The Crucifix portion of the Rosary. | Source
The decades of the Rosary.
The decades of the Rosary. | Source

By Joan Whetzel

Christians in the Orthodox, Anglican, and Roman Catholic traditions have been praying the Rosary for centuries. The Rosary is mainly a request to Mary - the mother of Jesus - to talk to God on our behalf, but it also calls anyone praying the Rosary to meditate on important events in Jesus' life and teachings.

What Is the Rosary?

In the real world, the Rosary is a set of beads used to count prayers. Spiritually, however, the Rosary is the set of prayers and guided meditations aimed at helping the faithful contemplate what Jesus' life was all about. The Beads themselves consist of a Crucifix connected to a small chain with five beads (separated as 1 bead, a chain piece, 3 beads, a chain piece, 1 bead, and a small chain piece), which is connected to a Rosary center medal. The Rosary center piece has three chain loop-connectors. One loop-connector attaches to the Crucifix chain, the other 2 loop-connectors are linked to both ends of the loop of decade beads. The loop of decade beads contains 5 decades of beads (each decade contains 10 beads) separated by a chain piece, a larger bead, and another chain segment. The decade loop starts and ends on the Rosary Center.

History of the Rosary

The Rosary comes from the Italian word, Rosario, which translates as crown of roses. It consists of 50 smaller beads separated by 5 larger beads. The 50 beads originally were used by monks to recite the 150 psalms, 1/3 of the psalms at a time. This evolved to an alternative of saying 150 Our Fathers (Pater Nosters) and later to the Rosary as it is today which has added the Nicene Creed, the Hail Mary (Ave Maria) and the Glory Be.

Why Pray the Rosary?

In the Roman Catholic Church, Mary is considered the perfect pray-er figure in the church. When the faithful pray to her, they are aligning themselves with her, praying together with her to the Father, who sent his only Son to save mankind. As the mother of Jesus, she helps us make Jesus welcome in our homes and in our hearts. As His mother, she is the perfect mother figure for us all. She also provides her mother's love to us by carrying our needs and prayers to God, to Jesus, as our ultimate intercessor. It is important to understand that we are not praying to Mary in the same way we pray to God. We are talking with her as a mother, as an intercessor, as a fellow disciple.

Repeating the prayers over and over again sounds like just saying rote prayers. Think of it this way, when our mind is chaotic, our soul stirred up by life's circumstances, we can't hear what God is telling us. But the repetition, and the rhythm, calms the mind and spirit and leads the soul into that place where we can receive the message or instructions that God has for us, where we can hear God whispering in the silence.

The Mysteries of the Rosary

The Rosary consists of 4 sets of Mysteries, based on the Gospel readings that pertain to Jesus' life and ministry here on Earth. The sets of mysteries include the 5 Joyful Mysteries, the 5 Sorrowful Mysteries, the 5 Glorious Mysteries, and the 5 Luminous Mysteries. Each day of the week is assigned one set of these Mysteries, allowing the pray-ers to meditate on, to contemplate on, the life of Christ as they pray. Each decade, in turn, has its own Mystery to meditate on which are meant to help us align our lives with the life of Christ.

The Five Joyful Mysteries are said on Mondays and Saturdays.

1. The Annunciation

2. The Visitation

3. The Birth of Our Lord

4. The Presentation of Our Lord

5. The Finding of Our Lord in the Temple

The Five Sorrowful Mysteries are said on Tuesdays and Fridays.

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 and Death of the Our Lord

The Five Glorious Mysteries are said on Wednesdays and Sundays.

1. The Resurrection

2. The Ascension

3. The Coming of the Holy Spirit

4. The Assumption of Our Blessed Mother into Heaven

5. The Coronation of Our Blessed Mother

The Five Luminous Mysteries are said on Thursdays

1. The Baptism of Our Lord in the Jordan River

2. The Wedding at Cana

3. The Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven

4. The Transfiguration

5. The Institution of the Eucharist

Saying the Rosary

To say the Rosary begin by making the sign of the Cross and praying the Apostles' Creed (Nicene Creed) on the Crucifix. Next, Say the Our Father on the first large bead, the Hail Mary on each of the next three beads and a Glory Be on the chain segment between the three smaller beads and the last larger bead. Then announce the first Mystery (depending on the which set of Mysteries being used) and say the Our Father on the next large bead (the one on the Crucifix chain, right before the Rosary Center). Then follow around the decade loop as follows:

  • · Recite the Hail Mary on each of the 10 smaller beads.
  • · Say the Glory Be on the chain segment.
  • · Announce the next Mystery (Mysteries 2 through 5) and say the Our Father on the larger bead.

Repeat these steps until your work your way back around to the Rosary Center. Finally, ay the Hail Holy Queen on the Rosary Center and close out with the Sign of the Cross.

The Prayers of the Rosary

The Prayers of the Rosary
The Prayers of the Rosary | Source


St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church. Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Wikipedia. The Apostles' Creed.

Catholic Supply. Glory Be.

EWTN. The Hail Mary.

Rosary Center. How to Pray the Rosary.

Catholic Online. The Mysteries of the Rosary.

Word IQ. Rosary.

A priest explains the Rosary and influence of John Paul II

Pray the Rosary

Praying the Rosary


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