“The Rosary is the prayer that always accompanies my life; it is also the prayer of the simple and the saints… It is the prayer of my heart.”
These words of simple and profound devotion were written by Pope Francis as a preface to the small book The Rosary: Prayer of the Heart by Fr. Yoannis Lahzi Gaid. They show how the Holy Father has a most trusted prayer for the faithful at heart.
In fact, on November 17, 2013, after his Angelus address, the Pope spoke about a spiritual medicine to the pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square: the Misericordina. It is a package similar to that of a medicine box—but instead of pills, found inside are a leaflet with instructions and a rosary, whose beads bring a lot of good to the heart, to the soul, to the whole life. (Read: Pope Francis gives away 6,000 rosaries to young pilgrims of Milan)
But what is the Rosary? And why do Catholics from around the world pray it, especially in October which is considered as the Month of the Holy Rosary?
Praying the Holy Rosary
There is special attention given to capitalization when it comes to the word “rosary,” which comes from the Latin rosarium, meaning rose garden, or “crown of roses.” As such, each bead in a rosary represents a rose that is offered up to Our Lady of the Holy Rosary. When we use the capital “R,” we refer to the prayer, which is recited using the crown of roses called a rosary, with the small “r.” (Read: Four Little-known Facts About the Holy Rosary)
Conceived in the Middle Ages and later promoted by the Dominicans, the Rosary spread rapidly thanks to the ease with which one could pray it. It was also called the Gospel of the Poor, because it allowed the illiterate to meditate on the Christian mysteries without having to read.
The apparitions in Lourdes in 1858, where the Blessed Virgin had a rosary with white beads joined by a gold chain on her right arm, also helped spread the devotion to the prayer. (Read: Prayer to Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary) The beads help the faithful keep track of the prayers they recite—and each rosary has five decades, symbolized by 10 beads, with breaks for meditation.
Five Decades of the Holy Rosary
Representing a significant moment in the life of Jesus, a mystery is meditated upon every 10 beads. The rosary has 20 mysteries that were introduced by John Paul II in 2002, and they are the following:
- Five Joyful Mysteries. Annunciation, Visit of the Virgin Mary to St. Elizabeth, Birth of Jesus, Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, Finding of Jesus in the Temple;
- Five Sorrowful Mysteries. Jesus’ Agony in the Garden, Scourging at the Pillar, Crowning with Thorns, Carrying of the Cross, Crucifixion and Death of Our Lord Jesus;
- Five Glorious Mysteries. Resurrection of Jesus, Ascension of Jesus to Heaven, Descent of the Holy Spirit, Assumption of Mary, Coronation of Mary; and
- Five Luminous Mysteries. Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, Wedding at Cana, Announcement of the Kingdom of God, Transfiguration, and Institution of the Eucharist.
Each “tour” of the Rosary allows one to meditate and pray over five mysteries. (Read: Prayers of the Rosary) Pope Francis usually recites one a day, and, according to the day of the week, he meditates on one of the four mysteries: Joyful on Mondays and Saturdays; Sorrowful on Tuesdays and Fridays; Glorious on Wednesdays and Sundays; Luminous on Thursdays.