The Catholic Rosary – The Divine History and Mystery Represented in Several Styles

According to Catholic theology, “Praying the Rosary” became an established practice in the 13th Century. The legend of a visitation by The Virgin Mary to St. Dominic explains that Mary told the faithful to pray The Rosary as a weapon against evil.

Catholic rosaries often contain 59 beads, although some variations exist. The largest variants contain more than 150 beads, while smaller ones will have closer to 30. Rosary beads are typically grouped in sets of ten, and such a set is called a decade. Rosaries normally contain a crucifix.

Saying The Lord’s Prayer, The Hail Mary, and The Glory Be faithfully is said to upset the machinations of Satan and his demons as they roam the earth looking to lead us to sin and upset our peace of mind.

The Traditional Way to Pray the Rosary

Some prayer is better than none, but when time allows and/or if praying in a church in a group setting, a traditional format is used with a leader saying the first part of the prayer and the congregation following. It starts with The Apostles Creed or Nicene Creed, The Lords Prayer (Our Father) followed by three Hail Mary’s and a Glory Be. The Fatima Prayer may also be included.

Then there is one Our Father, Ten Hail Mary’s, etc. as it repeats four times for the prayers to meditate on the mysteries, counting the prayers on the beads. It can take some practice.

Those who follow Roman Catholicism who did not learn this as a child, or are new to the faith, may find attending group Rosary prayers helpful for getting the rhythm of it. In addition to instruction, a group of people praying together is a powerful force that pleases God Almighty.

Therefore, most Catholic Churches offer this devotion, traditionally before Mass or during the week. Group Rosary prayer is also offered on many Catholic television and radio stations so that viewers and listeners can pray together. Virtual Rosary gatherings are more popular than ever these days, where some cannot get to pray as a group in person.

For Catholics, The Rosary is more than just a recitation of prayers. Through the Rosary prayers, Catholics meditate on highlights of Christ’s birth, miracles, death, and resurrection.

Saying “The Rosary” is possible without any beads in hand; however, Catholics find the tactile sensation of “counting” prayers to aid in meditating on the meaning of each mystery. Before looking at the various styles of Catholic Rosary Beads it’s important to remember that the meaning of the prayers and what they represent remain constant.



The Rosary Prayer Mysteries

The Joyful Mysteries include The Annunciation, The Visitation with Mary’s Cousin Elizabeth. , The Nativity, The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple (according to Jewish custom), and The Finding at the Temple (where Jesus is found by Mary and Joseph teaching the elders). This is the first string of beads (decade) of the Rosary which is to be prayed traditionally on Monday and Saturdays.

The Mysteries of Light include Baptism in the River Jordan, Manifestation at the Wedding (Jesus turned water into wine), The Proclamation (Call to Conversion), Transfiguration of Light in front of the apostles, and Institution of the Eucharist (at The Last Supper). This decade is traditionally prayed on Thursdays.

The Sorrowful Mysteries include The Agony in the Garden (before Jesus’s arrest), The Scourging at the Pillar, The Crown of Thorns, The Carrying of the Cross, and the Crucifixion. Tuesdays and Fridays are days set aside for these prayers, particularly during Lent and on Good Friday.

The Glorious Mysteries include Jesus’s Resurrection, The Ascension into Heaven, Decent of the Holy Spirit (Upon the Apostles), the Assumption (Mary is taken up to Heaven), and The Coronation( of Mary as the Queen of the Angels). Catholics particularly meditate on these mysteries on Wednesdays and Sundays.



A Variety of Beaded Strings

Although the purpose of the Rosary Prayers is similar, the styles of beads vary. Rosaries are sold by makers of fine crystal such as Swarovski as well as plastic from Dollar Stores. Within those price ranges are individual styles.

Although The Cross is always the largest piece on the chain, a miraculous medal depicting the Virgin Mary, Micheal the Archangel, or a Saint may also be attached. Catholics worship the Holy Trinity (God the Father, Jesus the Son, and The Holy Spirit) yet also ask Mary, the Angels, and Saints to intercede for us and help provide strength and courage in the face of adversity.

Child’s First Rosary: Most Catholic children receive their first set of Rosary Beads as a child during their first Holy Communion. It is usually the most popular style of 59 beads made of plastic held in place by string, given as a commemoration by the parish–traditionally pink or light blue for girls, navy blue or brown for boys.

Some families do; however, buy a more expensive Rosary made of glass or crystal beads for a child to honor the child’s Baptism (presented to the parent) First Communion or Confirmation.

Wedding Rosary: When the Catholic Church joins two people in marriage they are said to be one in all ways. Catholic couples are encouraged to pray together for their relationship, their families, and for the world. To bond couples together in prayer, some newlyweds are given a Wedding Rosary, which is two strands of 59 beads looped together.

Chaplet: Sometimes it is not practical or possible to carry a full set of beads so a small string of five to ten beads serves as a reminder to pray the Rosary prayers and reflect on the mysteries. Chaplets are often carried in pockets and purses as a testament to faith.

Rosary Bracelet: The bracelet is modeled after a Chaplet with the difference being that it can be worn around the wrist. Rosary Jewelry is a popular item in Christian shops and websites. Wearing a bracelet of this kind is more (or should be more) than a mere fashion statement.

Ring of Tiny Beads: Many rings are designed with a cross and small nubs that a person can count while saying the prayers. This type of ring is subtle and suitable to wear just about anywhere, yet makes it possible to have a full experience of praying The Rosary anytime that time allows.

Vocational Rosary Beads: Anyone who was taught by Catholic nuns who wore full long habits can easily remember the large string of black Rosary Beads hanging from their belts. It’s amazing to think of the weight of the Rosary Beads, along with the thick weight of the habits and headdresses.

Most modern nuns wear a much abbreviated, yet modest costume, but still, carry a string of Rosary Beads at all times. In fact, many convents support themselves partly through the making of religious articles, especially Rosary Beads.

The Irish Rosary: For centuries in Ireland (as in other lands), Catholic Christians have suffered persecution. Devout champions of the faith were often imprisoned. That meant of course no access to the celebration of Mass or any group prayer activity. To be caught with any Roman Catholic religious symbols was strictly forbidden. Punishments were swift and cruel. Both sides of the many historic “Holy” Wars were absolutely certain that they were the ones right in the fight and God was on their side.

Even today in Ireland, some view Catholics as Idolators, extremists, and even terrorists. Prison nor the threat of death could not break the faith, and many devout Catholics smuggled in a symbol of their faith by using a small hand-carved wooden carved cross attached to string with tiny knots throughout to use while saying their silent prayers.



At Home/On the Move

Many Catholics keep a Rosary hanging over a crib or bed for protection. Some of the devout keep a Rosary in the car, not as an ornament but to represent their faith in God and hope for a safe journey or God’s grace for safe passage to Heaven should an accident happen.

Last Rites and Last Rosary

For the terminally ill or accident victims, priests, and lay workers do their best to provide Catholics with a Rosary in the hospital or at home if they don’t have one. It is not uncommon to see a priest or lay volunteer praying The Rosary with patients before surgery.

Many Catholic doctors and health care workers also use The Rosary prayers as a calming touchstone of their faith while performing their important duties. Immortality is part of the Christian faith, and Catholics have several rites including a Requiem Mass and symbols of God’s love. In an open casket wake, a Rosary(often black) is placed in the casket with the decedent.

If Catholics are buried, their Rosary usually goes to the grave with the deceased. If Cremated (which the Church now allows) the beads are given to their spouse or family member or interred with the ashes.

Although prayer beads of different sorts have been used for centuries by many faiths, and the beads can be made of virtually any material, the Rosary is special to Catholics because of the power of the Rosary Prayers. The beads are a symbol of our obedience to Mother Mary, Queen of Heaven, who centuries ago instructed the faithful to fight the evils of the world with prayers to The Lord as the most powerful weapon.


Gene Botkin

Gene is the director of the Theosis Christian Project. He studied physics and military science before founding the Project. Gene is currently pursuing his doctorate in systems engineering at an engineering college in the Ozarks. The Theosis Christian Project is his attempt to expand Holy Orthodoxy in America.

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