Today I went to the chapel and took my rosary, feeling compelled to pray before the Blessed Sacrament with Mary, Jesus’ sweet mother, and my mother, a mother most holy; to accompany her and Jesus along the path of the story of our salvation.
If you go to a reputable source to look up the rosary and how to say it, you will usually get the standard format and prayers, and how to proceed in the proper order through the prayers. I want to add a comments that have personally helped me to grow in this devotion that is greatly misunderstood to non-Catholics, and to help Catholics who aren’t finding it easy to deepen their experience of this prayer.
I usually pray an intention for the whole rosary…”Lord, I devote this prayer for ….” someone who is sick, suffering, or any special intention. I love when our prayer group or any special group of friends or family get together and join in on one intention together. “Let’s all say a rosary for Lynn’s brother who has an appointment tomorrow to get his lab results from the cancer treatment.” Then we all say our rosary, at whatever point in the day we can get to it, and it’s like the most mystical and amazing thing to understand that God’s time and place are not bound by human laws. He can accept our united prayer even if it’s hours apart, states or cities apart, or whatever divides us in the natural world, and it is no less powerful than if we were physically gathered together in a room at the same time.
To begin the Rosary, we state our beliefs about our faith in what is called the “Apostles’ Creed”; then an “Our Father”, and three Hail Mary’s, each with an intention to increase in us Faith, Hope and Love before finishing with a “Glory Be” and then go on to the body of the rosary. The rosary itself is made up of five groups of 10 beads, each representing a “Hail Mary” prayer, and then the bead that separates each “Decade” of 10 beads (pronounced with the accent on the first syllable, as opposed to the last like when you are discussing years) is the “Our Father” officially, but most traditions add a “Glory Be” here as well, and almost everyone I know has caught on to the Fatima prayer before going on to the next decade. (See below).
The most important thing I like to explain to people (and I have been blessed to do so with many people, but more Catholics than non-Catholics!) is that the rosary is a walk through the life of Jesus, and we are accompanied by his Blessed Mother, Mary. The way that happens is that she, like any friend, accompanies us in the rosary, and by walking those moments in her own life with her son, we get a special perspective on those miraculous events. Here is an outline of those events for the Joyful Mysteries.
Joyful Mysteries (we say these on Monday and Saturday); the scripture upon which they are based is noted afterwards so you can read before each mystery and make your own meditation as you pray…
- The Annunciation; The angel comes to Mary and professes her opportunity to bear the Son of God; and she says YES! We try to imagine this scene; maybe she is in a garden, or in her home, picking berries, or gathering water…the angel comes and she reacts. How does she react? Does she fall to her knees? Does she cry? Is she happy? (Luke 1:26-38)
- The Visitation: A very young and newly pregnant Mary has just been told that her older cousin Elizabeth is with child; they thought she would never have a baby but she is about to have John the Baptist. These two babies will spiritually meet in their mother’s wombs when Mary makes the very arduous journey to help her cousin. When they meet, John flips in Elizabeth’s womb, and she instantly knows Mary is carrying the Son of God. (Luke 1:39-56)
- The Birth of Jesus; We can imagine any part of the beautiful Christmas story that draws us in, and change any of it every time. Maybe its the journey on the donkey; the stable; the shepherds hearing the angels in the fields; the gaze on Joseph’s face when all of his sacrifices come to a glorious new beginning.
- Presentation; Simeon, who has been told by the Holy Spirit that he will see the Messiah in his life time, has been waiting in the temple when Mary and Joseph present Jesus for his consecration. Simeon hold the baby in joy and states his special destiny, while also prophesying over Mary that a “Sword will pierce your own heart”. (Luke 2:22-39)
- Finding in the Temple; Jesus, who is only 12 years old at this time, has disappeared from a large group that is in a caravan returning from a festival in Jerusalem. Mary and Joseph frantically search for him for THREE DAYS and finally find him in the temple talking with the teachers and asking them questions. When they ask him why he disappeared without telling them, he says “Didn’t you know I would be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:42-52)
The Hail Mary itself comes from Luke 1:28 “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you” (The Angel’s greeting to Mary) and then from the visit to Elizabeth, who exclaims “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!”, 1:42, then an appeal, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us Sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.” The full prayer is;
“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 at the hour of our death. Amen.”
By saying this ten times, it puts our spirit into a calming repetitive flow where we are focusing deeper and deeper on the events of Jesus’ life. As we pray, we picture what is happening in the scene. I take my own intention for that rosary, or decade, or even that particular “Hail Mary” and integrate it into the scene as well. Perhaps Jesus is putting his loving 12 year old arms around the person who needs the healing. Maybe as I see Mary helping Elizabeth with her baby, I see my own children in the arms of these loving, holy, women.
It isn’t a prayer that is easy to say on your own at first, so I recommend having a place to sit with a table and the readings or your bible in front of you. Perhaps begin by just saying an “Our Father” and 10 “Hail Mary’s” for a special intention. I also suggest getting a pamphlet with the rosary instructions or printing them off of a Catholic website, like EWTN.
After a few times, you will begin to develop a flow and find it comforting to know that like scripture itself, and because it contains scripture, it is a kind of living prayer (the Living Word of God), as you walk with Jesus through his life, death and resurrection by way of all of the four different sets mysteries. Each day you put your heart and mind into these scenes, you developing a more substantial understanding of Christ himself, his love for us, and you come to know him more intimately as you are a VIP in the scenes of the gospel.
Fatima Prayer: Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need of Thy mercy. Amen.
Glory Be: 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.
Coming soon; more about the rosary;