Today is the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.
The rosary is sometimes called “the poor man’s breviary.” (The breviary is a book used by priests and religious in daily prayer containing prayers for the church year, including the full 150 psalms of the Psalter.) To use a breviary, one must be able to read and to have access to the book. The rosary grew up as a daily prayer for illiterate believers who would never own a book. The people praying the rosary became the book, as they recited prayers learned by heart.
While the patterns differ slightly from country to country, and throughout various religious orders, in the U.S. the usual structure of the rosary is:
The Our Father: Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
The Hail Mary (recited three times): Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Gloria Patri (Glory Be): 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. Amen.
Then the prayer moves to the body of the rosary. This consists of 5 decades of Hail Mary’s, each recitation of the Hail Mary accompanied by a meditation on the faith, often called a mystery. When all 50 Hail Mary’s are prayed, the rosary brings the one who prays it into the lives of Jesus and Mary, and into the full annual cycle of the church year.
Before each decade (or set of ten) Hail Mary’s, recite the Our Father. At the close of each decade of Hail Mary’s, recite the Gloria Patri (or Glory Be.)
At the conclusion of the rosary, recite the prayer known as Hail, Holy Queen: Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, hail, 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 merciful, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary! Amen.
Each of the decades focuses upon a mystery of the faith. (By “mystery” we do not mean a puzzle to be solved. A mystery is a truth we can never fully explore or comprehend or understand. There will always be more to discover.)
The mysteries are divided into three sets of five: The Five Joyful Mysteries – The Annunciation, The Visitation, The Nativity, The Presentation, The Finding in the Temple The Five Sorrowful Mysteries – The Agony in the Garden, The Scourging at the Pillar, The Crowning with Thorns, The Carrying of the Cross, The Crucifixion The Five Glorious Mysteries – The Resurrection, The Ascension, The Coming of Holy Spirit Upon the Apostles, The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin In October 2002, Pope John Paul II added five new mysteries to the rosary, called The Five Mysteries of Light. These focus on Jesus’ public ministry. They are – Our Lord’s Baptism, Our Lord’s Manifestation at the Wedding of Cana, Our Lord Proclaims the Kingdom of God, Our Lord’s Transfiguration, Our Lord’s Institution of the Eucharist Many people use rosary beads as an aid to prayer.
The beads help us keep our place in the recitation, but they are not necessary. You can use your fingers, or a knotted cord, to count the Hail Mary’s.
This sturdy prayer continues to delight believers. Because the prayers are ones most of us know, or can easily learn, by heart, we are set free from worry about what to say and can move deeper into being, with God, and with the world God made. Somewhere, every hour of every day, a person is praying the rosary. These prayers are the sinew of the Body of Christ, linking us as one.