Question: How did the Rosary become associated with Mary?
Since the early days of the Church, Christians have used knotted cords or prayer beads to help keep track of their prayers. The rosary as we know it today evolved in the Middle Ages, when the “Hail Mary” prayer became widely known. The term “rosary” comes from “rosarium,” or a bouquet of roses; the prayers of the rosary were seen as a spiritual bouquet offered to Mary. In fact, there’s an old tradition that Mary herself appeared to St. Dominic (1170-1221) and gave him the rosary as an aid in his preaching against the Albigensian heresy, which denied the Incarnation of Christ.
While praying each decade, Catholics meditate on key moments in Christ’s life. Many of these involve Mary (the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Assumption, etc.) For this reason, the rosary is often seen as a way to draw closer to Christ through Mary. As Pope Paul VI wrote in his apostolic exhortation Marialis Cultus, the rosary helps us “meditate on the mysteries of the Lord’s life as seen through the eyes of her who was closest to the Lord.”
Ginny Kubitz Moyer is the author of Mary and Me: Catholic Women Reflect on the Mother of God. You can visit her blog at www.blog.maryandme.org