Understanding the Rosary: A Wake Up Call

2015_Lenten blog 9 (image)Shortly before Christmas, I invited my boyfriend to join me in celebrating Las Posadas by saying a bilingual Rosary at my church. I might have padded the invite with the promise of homemade Mexican food.

As dinner wound down, the crowd broke out rosaries and prepared by saying the Apostles’ Creed, the Our Father, three Hail Marys, and a Glory Be. It was a Wednesday evening, so we read the piece for the First Glorious Mystery and launched into another Our Father, ten Hail Marys, a Glory Be and the Fatima prayer.

In Spanish. Naturally.

As we geared up for the Second Glorious Mystery, my boyfriend shot me a look as if to politely inquire, “I’m sorry, why are we saying the same four prayers, why are we saying them in Spanish and please, for the love of everything, how many more of these do we have left?” It occurred to me then that I might have forgotten to explain to him what a Rosary was.

I would like to say that I broke into a long-winded explanation on the purpose of the Rosary and its history on our way home, but since I didn’t actually know the purpose or history behind the Rosary, I just mumbled a bunch about the beauty of prayer and meditation and probably something along the lines of stopaskingsomanyquestions.

During this Lenten season, people occasionally ask me about the purpose of the Rosary. Their questions make me painfully aware of how little I truly know about the Rosary and how little I do to learn more about it. Let’s just say it’s been a bit of a wake up call.

So I started looking the answers up and made a tiny cheat sheet.

Tiny Cheat Sheet: Rosary Edition

  • The word rosary itself is Latin and translates along the lines of “a garland of roses.” The story goes that St. Dominic developed the Rosary sometime between the 12th and 15th centuries after having a vision of the Virgin Mary, but prayer beads and cords were used way before St. Dominic’s vision.
  • The Rosary is divided into decades, with each decade starting with a mystery. A mystery is a short reading that focuses on an aspect of Jesus or Mary’s life, with the word mystery meaning “a truth of the faith.” Still a little baffled by that translation of mystery. There are three traditional mysteries (Joyful, Sorrow and Glorious mysteries), as well as the Luminous mysteries, added by Pope John Paul II in 2002. When praying a decade of the Rosary (the Our Father, 10 Hail Marys, Glory Be and the Fatima prayer), Catholics meditate on that decade’s mystery.
  • The Rosary is said for a variety of reasons. We say it because of our devotion to Mary who intercedes on our behalf. Saying it gives us an opportunity to meditate on key moments in Jesus’ life. The Rosary also helps us become more intentional and thoughtful in our prayers.


For more information on the rosary, check out these sites:

The History of the Rosary

The Rosary

The Catholic Rosary

Spiritual Benefits of Praying the Rosary

A Beginner’s Guide to the Rosary