An Introduction to the Rosary
The Rosary is a method of prayer that is all about concentration. We use repeated prayers, and a tiny physical action to focus on biblical scenes; the repetition and the physical activity help us to concentrate, and drive away distractions. This technique could be used with more or less any words, but here I describe the traditional format, which links our prayers with the prayers of Mary, the Mother of Jesus.
You don’t have to have a set of rosary beads to do it, though they are helpful, but it is a good idea to hold something in your hands while you are praying, perhaps a crucifix or a cross. The rosary beads help because they are set out in the way they are so that they match the format of the prayers, and they help you to know that you are doing the prescribed number of prayers, but that matters much less when the rosary is being led by someone else. An ordinary set of beads, or even a beautiful stone, could work, as could a cross, but you should have something to occupy your hands.
The Rosary is all about contemplating scenes, which are called “mysteries” (not like murder mysteries, but like “the mystery of faith”). The mysteries come in sets of 5, which is how the beads are laid out. The traditional sets are the Sorrowful Mysteries, the Joyful Mysteries and the Glorious Mysteries, to which have been added in recent years the Mysteries of Light. The Sorrowful Mysteries, appropriate to Lent and Passiontide, are: Christ’s agony in the garden, his scourging, his crowning with thorns, his carrying the cross, and his crucifixion.
Praying the Rosary
It’s normal to start a session by making the sign of the cross, and then reciting the Apostles’ Creed, followed by the Lord’s Prayer, 3 Hail Marys, and a Glory Be (the words of all these are at the end of this document). That’s the introduction, settling yourself down, and as you do that it’s good to think of an intention for your prayers, if you’re offering your prayers for a particular purpose, or for someone in particular; the leader may also offer a general intention. If you’re using a set of rosary beads, this all happens on the small chain at the end, starting from the crucifix.
Having done the introduction, you then start on the first mystery, which the leader will announce, and perhaps describe. You then contemplate the scene while reciting a Lord’s Prayer, 10 Hail Marys, and a Glory Be. If you’re using the beads, then you start on the connecting bead or medal for the Lord’s Prayer, and then simply go round. After the group of 10, there is a single bead, where you say the Glory Be, and the Lord’s Prayer for the next mystery after it is announced. Each set of 10 is called a decade. When you get to the end of the fifth mystery, the leader will recite a final prayer to end the session, and end with the Grace.
When prayed collectively in church, people sometimes divide the prayers in half, so the leader says the first half and then everyone else says the rest, but obviously when alone you say it all, and it is perfectly normal to say the whole of all the prayers together.
The Prayers of the Rosary
Sign of the Cross.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe 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 to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will 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.
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.
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.
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,