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The Rosary is an important and traditional prayer recited by many Roman Catholics, combining prayer and meditation in a sequence of ten 'Hail Marys' called a decade. [1] (http://www.rosary-center.org/nrosary.htm) The name comes fron Italian Rosario, that means "crown of roses". A standard rosary involves the repetition of five decades of the Rosary. A complete Rosary involves the completion of twenty decades. While the Rosary was said by many Roman Catholics in the past, its use has declined since Vatican II.

Table of contents

The Mysteries

The Nativity
The third of the Joyful Mysteries
The Rosary was traditionally 'dedicated' to one of three sets of 'mysteries' to be said in sequence, one per night; the Joyful Mysteries, Sorrowful Mysteries and the Glorious Mysteries. In an unprecedented break with tradition, Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Rosarium Virginis Mariae (October 2002) introduced a fourth set, called the Mysteries of the Light. Each set has within it five different themes to be meditated on, one for each decade of ten Hail Marys.


  1. Annunciation
  2. Visitation
  3. Nativity
  4. Presentation at the Temple
  5. Finding in the Temple


  1. Agony of Jesus in the Garden
  2. Scourging of Jesus at Pillar
  3. Crowning with Thorns
  4. Carrying the Cross
  5. Crucifixion

The Crucifixion of Jesus
The fifth of the Sorrowful Mysteries


  1. Resurrection of Jesus
  2. Ascension of Jesus
  3. Descent of Holy Spirit
  4. Assumption of the Virgin Mary
  5. Coronation of Blessed Virgin Mary


  1. Baptism of Jesus
  2. Wedding of Cana
  3. The proclamation of the Kingdom of God
  4. The Transfiguration
  5. The institution of the Eucharist

Types of Rosaries

Some national variations in terms of prayers used and structure occur as to the form of Rosary recited.

One Frequently Used Form

  • a sign of the cross on the Cross and then the "Apostles Creed";
  • an "Our Father" on the first red bead;
  • a "Hail Mary" on each of the three small beads;
  • a "Glory Be to the Father" on the next large bead;
  • an "O my Jesus" on the large bead;

The Resurrection of Jesus
The first of the Glorious Mysteries
  • an "Our Father" on the large bead;
  • a "Hail Mary" on each of the adjacent ten small beads;
  • a "Glory Be to the Father" on the next large bead;
  • again an Our Father, ten Hail Marys, the Glory Be to the Father, and the Fatima prayer for each of the following decades;
  • a "Hail Mary" and a sign of the cross.

A Regularly Used Alternative

  • Opening prayer (variable)
  • One 'Our Father', three 'Hail Marys', one 'Glory Be to the Father'
  • Decade 1: One 'Our Father', Ten 'Hail Marys', One 'Glory Be to the Father'
  • Fatima Prayer: O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, and lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of Your Mercy. (Our Lady at Fatima, 13th July 1917)
  • Decade 2
  • Fatima Prayer
  • Decade 3
  • Fatima Prayer
  • Decade 4
  • Fatima Prayer
  • Decade 5

The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Heaven
The fifth of the Glorious Mysteries
linked into the Hail Holy Queen prayer
  • Prayer: 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 valley 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. Pray for us, that we may be made worthy of the Promises of Christ.
  • Litany (the response after each is 'Pray for Us'. )
Holy Mary, Holy Mother of God, Holy Virgin of virgins, Mother of Christ, Mother of divine grace, Mother most pure, Mother most chaste, Mother inviolate, Mother undefiled, Mother most amiable, Mother most admirable, Mother of good counsel, Mother of our Creator, Mother of our Savior, Virgin most prudent, Virgin most venerable, Virgin most renowned, Virgin most powerful, Virgin most merciful, Virgin most faithful, Mirror of justice, Seat of wisdom, Cause of our joy, Spiritual vessel, Vessel of honor, Singular vessel of devotion, Mystical rose, Tower of David, Tower of ivory, House of gold, Ark of the covenant, Gate of heaven, Morning star, Health of the Sick, Refuge of sinners, Comforter of the afflicted, Help of Christians, Queen of Angels, Queen of Patriarchs, Queen of Prophets, Queen of Apostles, Queen of Martyrs, Queen of Confessors, Queen of Virgins, Queen of all Saints, Queen conceived without original sin, Queen assumed into heaven, Queen of the most holy Rosary, Queen of Peace. Pray for Us.

  • Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world,
  • R/ Have Mercy on Us

  • Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world,
  • R/ Have Mercy on Us

  • Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world.
  • R/ Hear Our Prayer

  • Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
  • R/ That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

  • Final prayer (variable)
  • One Our Father, three Hail Marys, One Glory be to the Father.

Eastern Christians also use similar strings of beads to pray, although among the Orthodox their use is mainly restricted to monks and bishops, not being common among laity or secular clergy. Many Eastern Christians use a prayer rope instead; its use is much more prevalent, and it is typically associated with the Jesus Prayer.

The Rosary is consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of the Virgin Mary.

The Origins of the Rosary

According to tradition, in 1214, St. Dominic received the first Rosary from the Blessed Virgin, in the first of a series of apparitions, as a means of converting the Albigensians and other so-called "sinners". However, the historical record indicates that the Rosary predates St. Dominic's time by centuries (indeed, similar prayer beads are found in many religions, and some have been found dating back to the antiquity), and the story of it being received by St. Dominic appears to be an invention from long after St. Dominic's death.

In her supposed apparition at Fatima (1917), the Virgin Mary allegedly revealed that every time a Hail Mary is recited, is like a rose was offered Her, so a complete Rosary is like a crown of roses. (This idea of a Rosary being a crown predates Fatima by centuries, and was expressed on several occasions by medieveal Catholics.)

Rosary Beads

Our Lady of Lourdes
Catholic Image showing Mary
appearing at Lourdes with Rosary Beads
A Rosary Beads usually contains 50 beads in groups of ten (the decades), with an additional large bead in between each. Some beads have been known to have one hundred or one hundred and fifty are also known. These numbers were chosen to match the number of psalms, or a third or two-thirds of them. This was because in ancient times monks and clergy used to recite the entire psalter every day; the practice of saying one hundred and fifty Pater Noster's developed as an alternative for those who were illiterate or who could not afford a psalter. It was only in the Middle Ages, however, when prayer to Mary became common among Catholics, that the use of Ave Marias instead of Pater Noster's came about.

Traditionally, 15 decades used to be said in total, a total increased to 20 with the addition in 2002 of a fourth set of 'Mysteries.' Each decade traditionally corresponds to a mystery of Redemption, although the mysteries did not originate until the 15th or 16th centuries, and even then there was not universal agreement on what they were.

In a common form beads are true olive seeds; in past times there was an opinable commerce of Rosaries made with pretended olive seeds from the Garden of Gethsemane[?]. Beads are sometimes made with sacred relics (or believed).

See also: prayer, Blessed Virgin Mary. Legion of Mary[?].

Compare with: prayer rope

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