We hang it on the rearview mirror of our car, on the hands of religious statuettes, and even wear it as a necklace, bracelet, or ring. No matter what form it comes in—from the humble wood, plastic, and metal to the fancy Swarovski crystal and Murano glass—a rosary has a way of making us feel comforted and safe. And who hasn’t felt just a little bit calmer and relaxed (to the point of falling asleep!) after reciting the rosary?
In celebration of the Feast of the Holy Rosary, My Pope traces the origins of this beloved form of devotion that invites us to contemplate on the life and death of Jesus Christ.
Did you know…
…The word “rosary” is taken from the Latin “rosarium,” meaning rose garden. An appropriate name indeed, given the belief that each Hail Mary you recite means giving a rose to Mama Mary. Coincidentally, the rosary “bead” was previously spelled “bede,” which in turn comes from the Old English word “gebed,” meaning “prayer.”
…Versions of the rosary have appeared as early as the third century. Though historians trace the origin of the rosary to St. Dominic, who was said to have received it from the Blessed Virgin Mary herself in the 13th century, versions of the rosary have appeared as early as the third century via knotted prayer ropes, which had anywhere from 33 knots (referring to the 33 years of Jesus’ life) to as many as 500 knots, the typical prayer rope of hermits. Early Christians also kept track of their prayers using 150 pebbles placed in a pouch.
…Roman Catholic theologian Alan de la Roche was responsible for introducing each decade of the rosary with an Our Father followed by 10 Hail Marys in the 12th century. In the 16th century, Pope Pius V assigned mysteries—Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious—to each of the decades, to encourage people to contemplate on Christ’s life. Pope John Paul II added the Luminous mysteries in 2002.
…Pope Francis is a fan of the Holy Rosary! He often gives them away (he recently gave 6,000 rosaries to Catholic communities in Syria; former US President Barack Obama carries a rosary blessed by the Holy Pontiff in his pocket), and admits to falling asleep when he prays it.
“Saint Teresina of the Baby Jesus also did so,” he said in a report by The Telegraph. “She used to say that the Lord, God, the Father, likes it when somebody falls asleep.”
“The Rosary is a prayer that always accompanies me,” he adds. “It is also the prayer of the ordinary people and the saints… it is a prayer from my heart.”