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The Rosary: A complete guide to its origin and how to pray it


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Philip Kosloski - published on 10/07/21

Here is a guide to the origin of the Rosary as well as how to pray the popular devotion.

Over the centuries the Rosary has stood the test of time and remains one of the most popular devotions in the Catholic Church. It is a prayer that is embraced by both old and young and has been the prayer of choice of many saints.

Here is a complete guide to the Rosary, including its origin and various ways to pray it.

Who invented the Rosary?

While most attribute the invention of the Rosary to St. Dominic, for many centuries there existed various practices among the laity of counting 150 Our Fathers or Hail Marys to correspond to the 150 Psalms that priests and religious would recite in the Divine Office.

Regardless of which saint “invented” the Rosary as we know it today, what is true is that many Dominicans have spread this devotion since the 15th and 16th centuries and remain to this day the chief promoters of the devotion around the world. 

Did St. Dominic invent the Rosary?

Why is it called the “Rosary”?

The Rosary became viewed spiritually and in art as a way to present a garland of roses to the Blessed Mother in a similar way that roses would be picked for a person’s earthly mother.

Why is this popular devotion called the “Rosary”?

Why pray the Rosary?

The purpose of the Rosary is fulfilled by the meditating on the Mysteries of the Rosary while the individual recites the prayers and keeps count on the beads. It can lead to a profound experience in Christian meditation, deepening one’s knowledge and love of Jesus Christ.

What is the purpose of the Rosary?

Use the Bible while praying the Rosary

Typically when praying the Rosary, an individual will announce a particular mystery from the life of Jesus Christ before each decade of Hail Marys. In order to deepen your meditation on this mystery, some have found it beneficial to read a short passage from the Bible that corresponds to each mystery of the Rosary.

This will naturally lengthen your time of prayer, but it will also enrich it and provide you with many images to meditate on from the life of Jesus Christ and his Mother.

How to use the Bible when praying the Rosary

How to pray the Rosary

Each rosary (the string of beads) has a crucifix at the end of a short extension below the loop. Begin by holding the crucifix and making the sign of the cross.

The Rosary is divided up into five sections known as “decades,” called so because each decade contains 10 small beads. During these decades it is customary to mediate on a “mystery” from the life of Christ. Tradition assigns different mysteries of the Rosary to each day of the week, but individual piety is not bound to it.

A beginner’s guide to praying the Rosary

A simplified form of the Rosary

The most common way of praying the Rosary consists of meditating on five mysteries that are taken from various events from the life of Jesus Christ. An individual is directed to meditate on these different mysteries while praying five decades of Hail Marys.

However, that is not the only way to pray the Rosary.

In the Golden Manual, a book of devotion from the 18th century, the author recommends praying on a single mystery during the entire five decades.

Simplify your Rosary by using this rarely used method

Your Guardian Angel can help you pray the Rosary

While it’s true that Guardian Angels will do whatever it takes to get us to Heaven, they are still created spirits and are unaware of our thoughts, unless we intentionally reveal them. They have not been given special access to our thoughts, whereby they force themselves into our mind. Only God is able to know exactly what is going on in our mind, as he is the creator and sustainer of us all. As a result, if we want our Guardian Angel to finish our Rosary, we need to ask him to do it. 

Does my Guardian Angel finish praying the Rosary if I fall asleep?

Click the slideshow to see what seven popes have said on the Rosary

Devotions and FeastsPrayers for a Particular NeedRosary
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