Prayed by Roman Catholics and many Anglicans/Episcopalians, the Rosary is a non-liturgical devotion that meditates on the life of Christ through the eyes of his mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. It makes use of three main prayers (Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be) as aids to meditation
The Rosary is structured around “Mysteries,” which are moments in the life of Christ/Mary that reveal deep spiritual truths. There are 4 sets of 5 Mysteries (for a total of 20):
The Joyful Mysteries
The Annunciation: When the Angel Gabriel told Mary she would give birth to Jesus
The Visitation: When Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth (John the Baptist’s mother)
The Nativity: Christmas! When Mary gave birth to Jesus
The Presentation: When Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple to dedicate him
The Finding of Jesus in the Temple: When Mary and Joseph lost Jesus but found him in the temple teaching the elders
The Luminous Mysteries
The Baptism of the Lord: When Jesus was baptized by John and revealed as God’s Son
The Wedding at Cana: When Jesus turned the water into wine
The Proclamation of the Kingdom: When Jesus first proclaimed that the Kingdom of God was at hand
The Transfiguration: When Jesus was revealed to 3 disciples in his divine majesty
The Last Supper: When Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist
The Sorrowful Mysteries
The Agony in the Garden: When Jesus wept in the Garden of Gethsemane
The Scourging at the Pillar: When Jesus was whipped by the Roman guards
The Coronation with Thorns: When Jesus was crowned with a wreath of thorns
The Way of the Cross: When Jesus carried his cross to Golgotha
The Crucifixion of our Lord: When Jesus was killed on the Cross
The Glorious Mysteries
The Resurrection of our Lord: Easter! When Jesus rose from the dead
The Ascension of our Lord: When Jesus returned bodily to the Father in Heaven
The Descent of the Holy Spirit: When God sent the Holy Spirit to the Church at Pentecost
The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin: When Mary was taken up bodily into Heaven
NB: Not all Episcopalians believe in this, but most who are Anglo-Catholics do
The Coronation of the Queen of Heaven: When Mary, representing the Church, is crowned as the Queen of Heaven, the pinnacle of God’s creation
Each of these mysteries is contemplated as you pray a “decade” of the Rosary.
A decade is the basic unit of the Rosary; it consists of 1 Our Father, 10 Hail Marys, and 1 Glory Be:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name; your kingdom come; your will be done on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial, and deliver us from evil. Amen.
Hail Mary, full of grace; the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and in the hour of our death. Amen. (x10)
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.
You can pray one decade (for one Mystery) or 20 (for all of them), but usually, people pray a different set of Mysteries each day. Typically they follow this pattern, but you’re not bound to it:
Sunday: Glorious Mysteries Thursday: Luminous Mysteries
Monday: Joyful Mysteries Friday: Sorrowful Mysteries
Tuesday: Sorrowful Mysteries Saturday: Joyful Mysteries
Wednesday: Glorious Mysteries
Sometimes it’s helpful (especially when starting out) to use Scripture verses to help you focus on the Mysteries at hand. There are numerous arrangements of “Scriptural Rosaries” that you can find online.
To start the Rosary:
Sign of the Cross: “In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”
Apostles Creed: I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again 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 (x1 — praying for the Church)
Hail Mary (x3 — praying one for Faith, one for Hope, and one for Charity)
Glory Be (x1)
Then pray however many decades of the Rosary you want or have time for. Announce the Mystery and spend some time thinking about it & what God is saying to you in it before you start the Hail Marys.
When you’ve finished praying the decades you intend to, you close with a hymn to Mary called the Salve Regina or Hail Holy Queen:
Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope. To you we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To you we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then, O most gracious advocate, your eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile, show us the blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary—Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God; that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Close with the Sign of the Cross in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Why the Rosary? Why Mary?
For some who come from Protestant backgrounds, praying the Rosary may seem strange, confusing, or even troubling. Are we praying to Mary instead of God? Why does Mary feature so prominently in a devotion that’s about Jesus?
While most Protestants tend to think of Mary as an ordinary Christian after the Reformation, since the earliest days of the Church, Mary has been given a particularly high seat of honor because of her unique role in the Incarnation. There’s a staggering variety of images and metaphors used to talk about her, but they all revolve around once central truth: Mary, in saying “Be it unto me according to your will,” became the vehicle for God to become human flesh in this world.
For this reason, Mary has been seen as both a key participant in the Incarnation—without her the Word would not have become flesh. And she’s been seen as a type, or image, of the Church. This has led the Church to see her as particularly meriting devotion: as we come closer to Mary, she points us more powerfully and more intimately to her Son, the object of our worship.
The Rosary builds on this idea that Mary is a helper or aid in strengthening our relationship with Christ. Just as the Church gives us a framework for understanding the wonder of the Incarnation, the Rosary invites us to take Mary’s vantage point as a spiritual aid in understanding God’s saving work in Christ. Mary is not the object of our worship but rather the most brilliant signpost pointing us to the object of all worship.
St. Paul, MN