The Catholic Church encourages Catholics to recite the Rosary---a meditative prayer honoring the Virgin Mary and contemplating the mysteries of Jesus--every day. The origins of the Rosary are sketchy at best," says Father William Saunders, PhD., although "the use of prayer beads" and repetitive prayer go back to the early days of the church. Saint Dominic gets credit for creating the current version of the Rosary and its prayer beads in the 12th century.
Meditating on Mysteries
The original Rosary prayer consists of 15 decades or mysteries of Jesus. The mystery groups--the Joyful Mysteries, the Sorrowful Mysteries and the Glorious Mysteries---each contain five individual mysteries for a total of 15 decades. In 2002, Pope John Paul ll added five more mysteries of Jesus---the Luminous Mysteries---bringing the total of decades to 20. When reciting the Rosary, you can choose to meditate on all 20 decades for a full Rosary or contemplate only five decades at a time. If you meditate on only five decades per day, the Church recommends the following order: Recite the Joyful Mysteries on Monday and Saturday, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday and Friday, the Luminous Mysteries on Thursday, and the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday and Sunday.
Using the Rosary Prayer Beads
Rosary beads come in a variety of configurations, from single-decade to 20-decade strands. Each bead on the strand represents one of the individual prayers that make up the Rosary. The beads help you keep your place. After you recite each individual prayer, you move on to another bead. If you do not have Rosary beads, you can use your fingers to keep track.
Reciting the Basic Rosary
There are minor variations of the Rosary prayer but the basic version begins with the sign of the cross. You then hold the crucifix and recite the Apostles Creed. Move to the next large bead and recite one Our Father. Follow with three Hail Marys on the three small beads and one Doxology ("Glory Be") on the next bead to complete the beginning section. As you meditate on each individual mystery, recite the Our Father and say one Hail Mary for each of the 10 smaller beads on the strand. Repeat this until you finish all the decades you intend to meditate on that day. Finish the Rosary with the Hail Holy Queen prayer.
Almost everyone offers an intention before reciting the Rosary. You can even choose to recite a different intention before each decade. Intentions range from praying for the Pope to asking for special favors.
The Rosary Novena
A Catholic prayer for "special graces" repeated nine times is called a novena, which is Latin for the number nine. Novenas are used for many purposes, such as praying for others, praying for specific outcomes, praying for forgiveness of sins, etc. Saying the Rosary nine times in a row---nine times in nine hours or for nine consecutive Saturdays are most popular--constitutes a Rosary novena.
54-Day Rosary Novena
One of the most powerful novenas, according the Catholic Church, is the 54-Day Rosary Novena. Saying six Rosary novenas in row totals 54 days. Meditate on what you are asking for in the first three novenas. Give thanks in advance for future gifts and good fortune in the last three.
The Family Rosary
In the family Rosary, family members pray the Rosary out loud together. Each member takes turns leading the Rosary prayers. The church offers no official guidelines for praying the family Rosary; families are free to do what works best for them.
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