What is the purpose of the Rosary?

The Rosary (Latin, "garland of roses" or "crown of roses") is a devotion in honor of the Virgin Mary (represented by a rose) consisting of a set number of specific prayers. Originally, in ninth ninth century Ireland, the Rosary consisted of 150 "Our Fathers" for the leity in place of the 150 Psalms traditionally chanted by monks, along with a bag of pebbles or a rope with knots tied in it to keep track of them. The Rosary in its present form was given to St. Dominic in 1214, who had supposedly received it from the Blessed Virgin while in a comatose state after flagellating himself for three days and nights in penance to appease the anger of God for the sins of the French Albigensians, who he was trying to convert. The Blessed Virgin revealed to him that the Angelic Psalter was the greatest weapon for worldwide reform and gave him a book of instructions on how to perform each stage of the psalter, at that time called the Psalter of Jesus and Mary. It was reported that Jesus later appeared to him to endorse the Rosary of his mother and encourage St. Dominic to preach it, afterwhich he started the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary. The practice of the Rosary eventually died out for almost a century (believed by some to be the reason for the Black Plague of the fourteenth century), but was revived in the fifteenth century by the Blessed Alan de la Roche, later to be expanded by St. Louis de Montfort in the 18th century.

        "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like the pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him." (Matthew 6:5-8)

The Rosary consists of fifteen decades, or tens of Hail Marys, with an "Our Father" between each decade, while at each decade one of the Mysteries of redemption is recalled successively. It is intended as a form of meditative prayer with the use of the rosary beeds (Paternosters, "Our Fathers") to keep count of each recited prayer, which may number in the hundreds. During the twelfth century, the rosaries that originally were used to count Our Fathers came to be used to count Hail Marys, a practice of devotion spread primarily by the Dominican Order of monks. Some claim that each time a Rosary is completed, a crown of roses is placed on the heads of Jesus and Mary. When questioned about the repetition of prayer in relation to babbling pagans (Mathew 6:7-8), Catholics will often reply that these prayers are meditative (Psalms 19:14, 77:12, 104:34, 119, 143:5, 145:5), then point out that there is much repetion in the Psalms (such as Psalms 148 and 150). Regarding prescribed prayers (Matthew 6:9-13, Luke 11:2-4), they will argue that Jesus gave them the exact words to use in prayer (whereas Protestants may argue that Jesus was providing a template). The Rosary consists of the following:

Apostles� Creed (Credo), begun with the crucifix: "I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and 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 into hell. The third day he arose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. From thence he shall 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 (Pater Noster or the Lord�s Prayer), said at each of the large beads: "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 debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors; And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, for ever. Amen." (Matthew 6:9-13)

Hail Mary (Ave�s, three of them), said on each of the three smaller beads: "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee." (Luke 1:28) "Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus." (Luke 1:42) "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen."

Glory Be (Gloria Patri), said at the space of chain between the last small bead the the next large bead: "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." (Revelation 4:8)

Decades (fifteen total): Twelve prayers, or meditations, devoted to the Mysteries of Jesus and Mary. The Mysteries include:

Joyful Mysteries

  1. Annunciation - The annunciation of the Angel Gabriel to Mary (Luke 1:26-38)
  2. Visitation - The visitation of Mary to Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-56)
  3. Navity - The nativity of Jesus in Bethlehem (Luke 2:6-20)
  4. Presentation - The presentation of Jesus to the Temple (Luke 2:21-39)
  5. Finding - The finding of Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:41-51)
Luminous Mysteries
  1. Baptism - The baptism of Jesus by John in the Jordan River (Matthew 3:13-17)
  2. Wedding - The wedding at Cana, where Jesus performed his first miracle (John 2:1-12)
  3. Proclomation - The proclamation of the kingdom of God (Mark 1:15)
  4. Transfiguration - The Transfiguration, with the appearance of Moses and Elijah (Luke 9:28-35)
  5. Eucharist - The institution of the Eucharist (Communion) at the Last Supper (Mark 14:22-25)
Sorrowful Mysteries
  1. Agony - The agony of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, where he sweat drops like blood (Matthew 26:36-46, Luke 22:44)
  2. Scourging - The scourging of Jesus at the pillar by the Roman guards (Matthew 27:26, Mark 15:15)
  3. Crowning - The crowning of Jesus with thorns (Matthew 27:27-31)
  4. Cross - The carrying of the cross by Jesus to Calvary (Luke 23:26-32)
  5. Crucifixion - The crucifixion and death of Jesus, where Mary is entrusted to John (Luke 23:33-46, John 19:25-27)
Glorious Mysteries
  1. Resurrection - The resurrection of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:1-6, Luke 24:1-12)
  2. Ascension - The ascension of Jesus to heaven (Luke 24:36-51)
  3. Descent - The descent of the Holy Ghost at Pentacost (Acts 2:1-4)
  4. Assumption - The assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven (Apocrypha - Judith 13:18-20, 15:10)
  5. Coronation - The coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Heaven and Earth (Revelation 12:1)

Hail Holy Queen (Salve Regina): "Hail holy Queen, Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope! To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. Turn, then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary."

        "This, then, is how you should pray: 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.' " (Matthew 6:9-13, Luke 11:2-4)

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Reference sources: Catholic Answers (http://www.catholic.com); Catholic Biblical Apologetics (http://www.catholicapologetics.org/ap080600.htm); Catholic First -- The Rosary, Roses of Prayer for the Queen of Heaven (http://www.catholicfirst.com/thefaith/prayers/holyrosary.htm#The%20Way%20the%20Rosary%20is%20Said); Fast Facts on False Teachings - Roman Catholicism (chapter 14, pp 211-232), by Ron Carlson and Ed Decker, ©1994 by Harvest House Publishers; The Holy Rosary (http://www.theholyrosary.org); New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/)