The Holy Rosary

The Rosary is a classic Catholic prayer which has been faithfully prayed for hundreds of years. In the Rosary, the heart ponders Jesus from the heart of His Mother Mary. The Church has long encouraged the faithful to pray the Rosary regularly. Pope John Paul II commented that: "The Rosary is my favorite prayer. A marvelous prayer! Marvelous in its simplicity and its depth… Against the background of the words Ave Maria the principal events of the life of Jesus Christ pass before the eyes of the soul. They take shape in the complete series of the… mysteries, and they put us in living communion with Jesus through - we might say - the heart of his Mother. At the same time our heart can embrace in the decades of the Rosary all the events that make up the lives of individuals, families, nations, the Church, and all mankind… Thus the simple prayer of the Rosary marks the rhythm of human life". (Pope John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae)

The Rosary is an effective means of learning to pray. The quiet, lingering rhythm of the decades occupies the senses while the mind enters into meditation of the mysteries. The mysteries of the Rosary are a summary of the key events of the Gospel, pondered from the perspective of Mary, the Mother of God. In the joyful mysteries, we rejoice with Mary in the life of Jesus from the announcement of His birth through His childhood. With her cousin Elizabeth, we exclaim: "Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb." (Luke 1.42). In the luminous mysteries, we reflect with Mary on the public ministry of Jesus. With the servants at the Cana wedding, we heed her advice: "Do whatever He tells you." (John 2.5) In the sorrowful mysteries, we reflect on the passion and death of Jesus. Standing at the foot of the cross with Mary, we hear Jesus exclaim: "'Woman, behold, your son.' Then He said to the disciple, 'Behold, your mother.'" (John 19.26-27) In the glorious mysteries, we reflect on the resurrection and beyond, and we pray with her for the coming of the Holy Spirit in our own lives, just as the first disciples did: "All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers." (Acts 1.14)

The heart of Mary is a storehouse of the events of the life of Jesus. "His mother kept all these things in her heart." (Luke 2.51) She pondered His life and mission as it unfolded and we follow her example as we pray the mysteries of the Rosary today. In pondering the mysteries of His life and mission with a spirit of faith and love, the grace of each mystery flows forth in our prayer. This meditation aids us in being formed into a faithful disciple of Jesus. In the mirror of these mysteries, we reflect on the mystery of our own existence in light of His, and we join our existence to His as we pray. In fact, the Rosary, when prayed regularly, weaves a chain of salvation into the fabric of our daily lives.

As Mary is Mother of God and Mother of the Church, she cares for us in a special way as we pray the Rosary with her. As Mother of Mercy, Mary intercedes for us before her Son. Her special virtues of humility, holiness, hidden wisdom, and perfection take hold in our hearts and aid us in becoming docile to the action of the Holy Spirit. She shelters us as her children from all that could assail us.

The Rosary provides a structured method of prayer, which can be varied somewhat according to circumstances. For example, a brief, relevant scriptural passage could be added just after the announcement of the mystery. The Word of God provides an added dimension and power to the meditation at hand. Adding a pause of silence after hearing the Word of God allows the Word a moment to soak in and meditation to take root before the vocal prayer gets underway. As each prayer is recited vocally, the words themselves call to mind the One on whom we meditate. We raise the eyes and heart to Our Father as we begin each decade. The name of Jesus is at the center of the Hail Mary. The Gloria invokes the Trinity at the close of each decade. The name of Mary weaves the decade together in a maternal embrace.

Praying the Rosary is an effective means of drawing down grace for peace in our families and in our troubled world. The Rosary is an ideal family prayer, which can draw hearts together from the youngest to the eldest. The family that prays the Rosary together draws Jesus amongst them with the heart of Mary. The Rosary is also a powerful means of uniting us in a common spirit of prayer. "I look to all of you, brothers and sisters of every state of life, to you, Christian families, to you, the sick and elderly, and to you, young people: confidently take up the Rosary once again. Rediscover the Rosary in the light of Scripture, in harmony with the Liturgy, and in the context of your daily lives." (Pope John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae)

Weaving Roses

The humble prayer of the Virgin:
Graces the lips of those who pray,
Shelters their hearts from error and sin --
Adhering them to her Son's way.

The rhythm of the words and beads
Engages the senses at hand;
The mysteries, like mustard seeds,
Sow faith as they grow and expand.

In her maternal heart are held,
The hearts and minds of those who pray;
Humility and hope soon meld,
To distill peace from disarray.

From her heart, we behold the Son
On the cross -- our redemption's won.

Blessed Mother, teach us to pray
The Rosary here at your side:
May its rhythm weave through our day;
In grace and peace may we abide. Amen.


Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae

Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2669, 2675-2678

How to pray the Rosary

prepared by:

Paul Buis

(c) Paul Buis, 2005