Skip to comments.Catholic Caucus: The Holy Rosary
Posted on 05/04/2003 1:10:58 PM PDT by Salvation
The Holy 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 rosary has been called the preparation for contemplation and the prayer of saints. While the hands and lips are occupied with the prayers (it can and should be prayed silently when necessary so as not to disturb others), the mind meditates on the mysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption represented by the decades. Meditation is the form of prayer by which the one who prays uses the mind and imagination to consider a truth and uses the will to love it and form resolutions to live it. In this way the heart, mind, and soul of the Christian is formed according to the Gospel examples of the Savior and His First Disciple, His Mother. In God's own time, when this purification of the heart, mind, and soul has advanced sufficiently the Lord may give the grace of contemplative prayer, that special divine insight into the truth which human effort cannot achieve on its own.
Why pray the Rosary today? Certainly, to grow in holiness and in one's prayer life. The following are a few others reasons why the rosary should be prayed often, even daily:
Pray the Rosary!
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Let us all pray for vocations and for the strengthening of families during the month of May, Mary's month.
Who will join me in a daily Rosary?
The Rosary and Sacred Scripture
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.
Luke 1:28 "And coming to her, he said, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you."
The Greek kecharitomene means favored by grace, graced. Its tense suggests a permanent state of being "highly favored," thus full of grace. Charity, the divine love within us, comes from the same root. God is infinite Goodness, infinite Love. Mary is perfect created goodness, filled to the limit of her finite being with grace or charity.
Blessed art thou among women
Luke 1:41-42a "When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, "Most blessed are you among women..."
Luke 1:48 "For he has looked upon his handmaid's lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed."
Among all women is a way to say the highest/greatest etc. of a group in Semitic languages (these words would likely have been spoken in Aramaic). Mary is being called the greatest of all women, greater than Ruth, greater than Sarah, greater than EVE! Since Eve was created immaculate (without original sin), Mary must have been conceived immaculate. And, although Eve fell into sin by her own free will, Mary must have corresponded to God's grace and remained sinless. She could not otherwise be greater than Eve. Thus, as the Fathers of the Church unanimously assert, Mary is the New Eve who restores womanhood to God's original intention and cooperates with the New Adam, her Son, for the Redemption of the world.
Blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus
Luke 1:42b "and blessed is the fruit of your womb."
Jesus is Mary's fruit. Good fruit does not come from anything but a good tree (Mt. 7:17-18)! The all-holy Son of God could not be the fruit of any other tree than the Immaculate Virgin.
Holy Mary, Mother of God
Luke 1:43 "And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
Kyrios is the Greek word used by the Jews in the Septuagint Bible (Greek translation) for Yhwh, the Divine Name of God. In her greeting of Mary, Elizabeth is saying: "How is it that the mother of my God should come to me." Against the heresies of the 4th and 5th centuries which tried to split the Person of Jesus into two, divine and human, denying one or the other, the Council of Ephesus in 431 AD proclaimed Mary Theotokos (God-bearer, i.e. mother of God). Jesus is a single Person, a Divine Person, the 2nd Person of the Most Holy Trinity. To be mother of the Person Jesus is to be mother of a Person who is God. Mary's title protects this truth against errors which emphasize or deny, either the divinity or humanity of the Lord.
Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Luke 2:35 "...and you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."
John 2:5 "His mother said to the servers, "Do whatever he tells you."
Mary sees a need and appeals to Her Son to satisfy it. He does. We turn to Mary to ask her to intercede with her Son in our daily spiritual and material needs, but especially at the hour of our death. At that moment our salvation hangs in the balance as the devil makes his final foray to deter us from the path to God (Rev. 2:10). It is not surprising, therefore, that both the Hail Mary and the Our Father conclude with an appeal to be delivered from the evil one.
The Power of Intercessory Prayer:
Intercessory prayer proceeds from faith in God that holy men and women who have died are as alive today as they were on earth (Luke 20:38). If the prayer of the just man avails much, how much more the prayer of the one made perfect (Rev. 21:27) and living with God in heaven (the patriarchs, apostles and other holy men and women).
James 5:16b "the fervent prayer of a righteous man is very powerful."
Rev. 5:8 "When he took it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each of the elders held a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the holy ones.
The angels, too, mediate our prayers. This is taught explicitly in the Jewish book of Tobit (Tob. 12:12), accepted by Christians as inspired until Luther on his own authority rejected it. It remains part of the Catholic Bible.
Tobit 12:12 I can now tell you that when you, Tobit, and Sarah prayed, it was I who presented and read the record of your prayer before the Glory of the Lord; and I did the same thing when you used to bury the dead.
Rev. 8:3 "Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a gold censer. He was given a great quantity of incense to offer, along with the prayers of all the holy ones, on the gold altar that was before the throne."
Is the rosary mindless babbling?
The purpose of the different beads on the rosary is to count the various prayers as they are said. Unlike the Moslem prayer beads and the mantras of Buddhism, the prayers of the rosary are meant to occupy our whole being, body and soul, while meditating on the truths of the Faith. Any prayer is vain, however, if said mechanically without devotion. Simply to repeat prayers is not the vain repetition condemned by Christ (Mt 6:7), since He Himself repeats His prayer in the Garden three times (Mt 26:39, 42, 44) and the Psalms (inspired by the Holy Spirit) are often very repetitive (Ps 119 has 176 verses and Ps. 136 repeats the same phrase 26 times).
Matthew 6:7 In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words.
Praise the LORD, who is so good;
God's love endures forever;
Praise the God of gods;
God's love endures forever;
. . . Praise the God of heaven,
God's love endures forever.
Matthew 26:39 He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will."
Matthew 26:42 Withdrawing a second time, he prayed again, "My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!"
Matthew 26:44 He left them and withdrew again and prayed a third time, saying the same thing again.
The Church believes that it is necessary for a Christian to meditate (prayerfully think about) the will of God, the life and teachings of Jesus, the price He paid for our salvation, and so on. Unless we do this we will begin to take these great gifts for granted and ultimately fall away from the Lord. Every Christian must meditate in some way in order to preserve the gift of salvation (James 1:22-25). Many Catholic and non-Catholic Christians prayerfully read and apply Scripture to their lives, that is, meditate on them. With the rosary this can be done virtually anywhere and anytime.
Archbishop Fulton Sheen said, "The rosary is the book of the blind, where souls see and there enact the greatest drama of love the world has ever known; it is the book of the simple, which initiates them into mysteries and knowledge more satisfying than the education of other men; it is the book of the aged, whose eyes close upon the shadow of this world, and open on the substance of the next. The power of the rosary is beyond description."
How To Pray the Rosary:
While the rosary and the indulgences attached to it by the Church essentially concerns the decades and the meditation upon the mysteries only, the following is a customary way of preparing for the rosary and concluding it.
Start by making the sign of the Cross:
Then recite the Apostle's Creed:
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
For those who prefer to follow the traditional order of the days it is:
While meditating on the Mysteries, recite:
One Our Father (large beads), 10 Hail Marys (small beads) and 1 Glory Be (before the next large bead) to make a complete decade of the rosary.
After each decade the Fátima Prayer may also be said (Pope Pius XII).
3. Concluding Prayers
After the completion of five mysteries (5 decades), or 15 or 20, the following is customarily said:
Hail Holy Queen (or Salve Regina may be sung)
(Verse) Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God.
(Response) That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
4. For the Intentions of the Holy Father
Catholics who say the rosary in a group, or, individually before the Blessed Sacrament,
may gain a plenary indulgence under the usual conditions, which includes prayer for the intentions of the Holy Father.
Note to everyone. I tried to fix the yellow strip. Those headings go with the days in the first table. I will try to re-post the two tables.
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Most Holy Virgin, who has deigned to come to Fatima to reveal to the three little shepherds the treasures of graces hidden in the recitation of the Rosary, inspire our hearts with a sincere love of this devotion, so that by meditating on the mysteries of our redemption that are recalled in it, we may gather the fruits and obtain the conversion of sinners, the conversion of Russia, and this favor that I so earnestly seek.... which I ask of you in this novena, for the greater glory of God, for your own honor, and for the good of all people. Amen,
(Say the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be three times each)
2. The Rosary Proper
The Rosary is essentially the decades and their associated mysteries, and only these must be prayed to "pray the rosary", either in satisfaction of Our Lady's requests, or, to gain the indulgences attached to praying the rosary.
The traditional Rosary is divided into three parts, each having five mysteries: Glorious, Joyful and Sorrowful. In his apostolic letter The Rosary of the Virgin Mary, Pope John Paul II proposed a new set of mysteries, which he called the Luminous, and which concern the period of the public life of Our Lord. For those who wish to say all 20 decades at once during the course of a day, they may be said in the following order: Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful and Glorious.
For those who wish to say only 5 decades per day, the Holy Father proposed the following schedule:
For those who prefer to follow the traditional order of the days it is:
This is a little closer. Can't quite figure out what the problem is.
The word rosary comes from Latin and means a garland of roses, the rose being one of the flowers used to symbolize the Virgin Mary. If you were to ask what object is most emblematic of Catholics, people would probably say, "The rosary, of course." Were familiar with the images: the silently moving lips of the old woman fingering her beads; the oversized rosary hanging from the waist of the wimpled nun; more recently, the merely decorative rosary hanging from the rearview mirror.
After Vatican II the rosary fell into relative disuse. The same is true for Marian devotions as a whole. But in recent years the rosary has made a comeback, and not just among Catholics. Many Protestants now say the rosary, recognizing it as a truly biblical form of prayerafter all, the prayers that comprise it come mainly from the Bible.
The rosary is a devotion in honor of the Virgin Mary. It consists of a set number of specific prayers. First are the introductory prayers: one Apostles Creed (Credo), one Our Father (the Pater Noster or the Lords Prayer), three Hail Marys (Aves), one Glory Be (Gloria Patri).
The Apostles Creed
The Apostles Creed is so called not because it was composed by the apostles themselves, but because it expresses their teachings. The original form of the creed came into use around A.D. 125, and the present form dates from the 400s. It reads this way:
"I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day he arose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. From thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen."
Traditional Protestants are able to recite the Apostles Creed without qualms, meaning every line of it, though to some lines they must give meanings different from those given by Catholics, who composed the creed. For instance, we refer to "the holy Catholic Church," meaning a particular, identifiable Church on earth. Protestants typically re-interpret this to refer to an "invisible church" consisting of all "true believers" in Jesus.
Protestants, when they say the prayer, refer to the (lower-cased) "holy catholic church," using "catholic" merely in the sense of "universal," not implying any connection with the (upper-case) Catholic Church, which is based in Rome. (This is despite the fact that the term "Catholic" was already used to refer to a particular, visible Church by the second century and had already lost its broader meaning of "universal").
Despite these differences Protestants embrace the Apostles Creed without reluctance, seeing it as embodying basic Christian truths as they understand them.
The Lords Prayer
The next prayer in the rosaryOur Father or the Pater Noster (from its opening words in Latin), also known as the Lords Prayeris even more acceptable to Protestants because Jesus himself taught it to his disciples.
It is given in the Bible in two slightly different versions (Matt. 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4). The one given in Matthew is the one we say. (We wont reproduce it here. All Christians should have it memorized.)
The Hail Mary
The next prayer in the rosary, and the prayer which is really at the center of the devotion, is the Hail Mary. Since the Hail Mary is a prayer to Mary, many Protestants assume its unbiblical. Quite the contrary, actually. Lets look at it.
The prayer begins, "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee." This is nothing other than the greeting the angel Gabriel gave Mary in Luke 1:28 (Confraternity Version). The next part reads this way:
"Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus." This was exactly what Marys cousin Elizabeth said to her in Luke 1:42. The only thing that has been added to these two verses are the names "Jesus" and "Mary," to make clear who is being referred to. So the first part of the Hail Mary is entirely biblical.
The second part of the Hail Mary is not taken straight from Scripture, but it is entirely biblical in the thoughts it expresses. It reads:
"Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen."
Lets look at the first words. Some Protestants do object to saying "Holy Mary" because they claim Mary was a sinner like the rest of us. But Mary was a Christian (the first Christian, actually, the first to accept Jesus; cf. Luke 1:45), and the Bible describes Christians in general as holy. In fact, they are called saints, which means "holy ones" (Eph. 1:1, Phil. 1:1, Col. 1:2). Furthermore, as the mother of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, Mary was certainly a very holy woman.
Some Protestants object to the title "Mother of God," but suffice it to say that the title doesnt mean Mary is older than God; it means the person who was born of her was a divine person, not a human person. (Jesus is one person, the divine, but has two natures, the divine and the human; it is incorrect to say he is a human person.) The denial that Mary had God in her womb is a heresy known as Nestorianism (which claims that Jesus was two persons, one divine and one human), which has been condemned since the early 400s and which the Reformers and Protestant Bible scholars have always rejected.
The most problematic line for non-Catholics is usually the last: "pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death." Many non-Catholics think such a request denies the teaching of 1 Timothy 2:5: "For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." But in the preceding four verses (1 Tim. 2:1-4), Paul instructs Christians to pray for each other, meaning it cannot interfere with Christs mediatorship: "I urge that prayers, supplications, petitions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone. . . . This is good, and pleasing to God our Savior."
We know this exhortation to pray for others applies to the saints in heaven who, as Revelation 5:8 reveals, intercede for us by offering our prayers to God: "The twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
The Glory Be
The fourth prayer found in the rosary is the Glory Be, sometimes called the Gloria or Gloria Patri. The last two names are taken from the opening words of the Latin version of the prayer, which in English reads:
"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 Gloria is a brief hymn of praise in which all Christians can join. It has been used since the fourth century (though its present form is from the seventh) and traditionally has been recited at the end of each Psalm in the Divine Office.
The Closing Prayer
Weve covered the opening prayers of the rosary. In fact, weve covered all the prayers of the rosary except the very last one, which is usually the Hail Queen (Salve Regina), sometimes called the Hail Holy Queen. Its the most commonly recited prayer in praise of Mary, after the Hail Mary itself, and was composed at the end of the eleventh century. It generally reads like this (there are several variants):
"Hail holy Queen, Mother of mercy, 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 toward us, and after this our exile show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary."
So those are the prayers of the rosary. Between the introductory prayers and the concluding prayer is the meat of the rosary: the decades. Each decadethere are fifteen in a full rosary (which takes about forty-five minutes to say)is composed of ten Hail Marys. Each decade is bracketed between an Our Father and a Glory Be, so each decade actually has twelve prayers.
Each decade is devoted to a mystery regarding the life of Jesus or his mother. Here the word mystery refers to a truth of the faith, not to something incomprehensible, as in the line, "Its a mystery to me!" The fifteen mysteries are divided into three groups of five: the Joyful, the Sorrowful, the Glorious. When people speak of "saying the rosary" they usually mean saying any set of five (which takes about fifteen minutes) rather than the recitation of all fifteen mysteries. Lets look at the mysteries.
Meditation the Key
First we must understand that they are meditations. When Catholics recite the twelve prayers that form a decade of the rosary, they meditate on the mystery associated with that decade. If they merely recite the prayers, whether vocally or silently, theyre missing the essence of the rosary. It isnt just a recitation of prayers, but a meditation on the grace of God. Critics, not knowing about the meditation part, imagine the rosary must be boring, uselessly repetitious, meaningless, and their criticism carries weight if you reduce the rosary to a formula. Christ forbade meaningless repetition (Matt. 6:7), but the Bible itself prescribes some prayers that involve repetition. Look at Psalms 136, which is a litany (a prayer with a recurring refrain) meant to be sung in the Jewish Temple. In the psalm the refrain is "His mercy endures forever." Sometimes in Psalms 136 the refrain starts before a sentence is finished, meaning it is more repetitious than the rosary, though this prayer was written directly under the inspiration of God.
It is the meditation on the mysteries that gives the rosary its staying power. 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).
Then come the Sorrowful Mysteries: the Agony in the Garden (Matt. 26:36-46), the Scourging (Matt. 27:26), the Crowing with Thorns (Matt. 27:29), the Carrying of the Cross (Luke 23:26-32), 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).
With the exception of the last two, each mystery is explicitly scriptural. True, the Assumption and Coronation of Mary are not explicitly stated in the Bible, but they are not contrary to it, so there is no reason to reject them out of hand. Given the scriptural basis of most of the mysteries, its little wonder that many Protestants, once they understand the meditations that are the essence of the rosary, happily take it up as a devotion. Weve looked at the prayers found in the rosary and the mysteries around which it is formed. Now lets see how it was formed historically.
The Secret of Paternoster Row
Its commonly said that St. Dominic, the founder of the Order of Preachers (the Dominicans), instituted the rosary. Not so. Certain parts of the rosary predated Dominic; others arose only after his death.
Centuries before Dominic, monks had begun to recite all 150 psalms on a regular basis. As time went on, it was felt that the lay brothers, known as the conversi, should have some form of prayer of their own. They were distinct from the choir monks, and a chief distinction was that they were illiterate. Since they couldnt read the psalms, they couldnt recite them with the monks. They needed an easily remembered prayer.
The prayer first chosen was the Our Father, and, depending on circumstances, it was said either fifty or a hundred times. These conversi used rosaries to keep count, and the rosaries were known then as Paternosters ("Our Fathers").
In England there arose a craftsmens guild of some importance, the members of which made these rosaries. In London you can find a street, named Paternoster Row, which preserves the memory of the area where these craftsmen worked.
The rosaries that originally were used to count Our Fathers came to be used, during the twelfth century, to count Hail Marysor, more properly, the first half of what we now call the Hail Mary. (The second half was added some time later.)
Both Catholics and non-Catholics, as they learn more about the rosary and make more frequent use of it, come to see how its meditations bring to mind the sweet fragrance not only of the Mother of God, but of Christ himself.
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Mary in many ways is considered Christ's first evangelist. Catholics believe that Christ is ever present with us in the Eucharist (as He promised He would be) and Mary continues to spread belief in Him through her apparitions. The fruits of these in the laity are always increased devotion and vocation. Her greatest appearance of the last century was at Fatima, Portugal in 1917 where the miracle of the sun was witnessed by 10,000 people and has been recorded as an historical event. The conversions which occur as a result of these appearances go to Christ, not Mary. She is his biggest cheerleader. The Spirit goes where it will.
Mark 9:32 "Though they failed to understand his words, they were afraid to question Him."
The "Trinity" is not explicitly taught in the Bible, yet Christians believe it. As Catholics we understand that Scripture both implicitly and explicitly teaches Christian doctrine. Can you find me any verse in the Bible which explicitly teaches the doctrine of the Trinity?
BTTT on the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary, 10-07-06!