As a convert to the Roman Catholic Church, a lot of questions I get from Protestant friends and family members are regarding the Rosary. What is it? How is it prayed? Does it mean you’re worshiping Mary? In this post, we’ll explore all of those questions and more. Let’s start off with talking about what the Rosary is.
What is the Rosary?
The Rosary is a devotion honoring Mary, but also centers around the life and death of Jesus Christ. It is one of the most defining aspects of the Catholic faith. To understand exactly what the Rosary is, one needs to understand the role of Mary and why the Catholic Church places so much honor upon her.
Mary was the mother of Jesus. Hand-picked by God, she said “yes” to bearing the Savior in her womb. It was through Mary that Jesus entered our world. She had a wonderful relationship with her Son and He loved her just like one of us love our mother. He honored her, he protected her, and he trusted her. She did the same for Him. This is why we place so much emphasis on honoring Mary. We honor Mary simply because Jesus honored her first, and we are to imitate Him in our lives.
As Catholics, we honor Mary and Worship God. Two distinct acts. We never worship anyone other than God. To do so would be in violation of the Commandments. The Catholic Church strictly forbids worship of anyone other than God. The type of honor bestowed upon Mary is called “Hyperdulia.” Hyperdulia is a term meaning special honor given solely to Mary because of her role in the mystery of Redemption. Mary is given this honor also because God bestowed special graces upon her including preventing her from obtaining original sin. She is also given special honor above all other saints. Adoration is the worship given to God alone. The special term for this worship is “latria.” The Catholic Church clearly teaches that honoring Mary is to be subordinate of the worship and praise given to her Son. Make sense?
Because of what I just said above, the Rosary came into existence many, many, many years ago. Catholic tradition shows that it was given to Saint Dominic in an apparition by Mary in 1214.
Isn’t This Mary Worship?
Praying the Rosary is not worshiping Mary. Jesus Christ is the center of the Rosary just as He is the center of everything else in our lives! When we say the “Hail Mary” we are actually not praying to Mary. We are asking Mary to pray for us. This is critical in understanding the Catholic tradition of the communion of saints and intercessory prayer. This lack of understanding leads non-Catholics to pointing fingers and making accusations that are not true. Mary is asked to pray for us just as you or I would ask someone on earth to pray for us. She intercedes on our behalf. And yes, she can hear us. With God, all things are possible, right? Those saints that prayed for us on earth wouldn’t stop that activity when in Heaven, right? I don’t think so!
Now that we are clear on what the Rosary is and that it is not Mary worship, let’s take a look at the prayers and mysteries in the Rosary itself and its existence in the Bible.
What Makes Up The Rosary?
In addition to the prayers below, there are four sets of mysteries of the Rosary – Luminous, Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious. The Joyful mysteries are prayed on Monday and Saturday, the Sorrowful on Tuesday and Friday, the Glorious on Wednesday and Sunday, the Luminous on Thursday. These mysteries are simply the different principal events in the life of Jesus and Mary. Each mystery has five principal events underneath it that are meditated on as the 10 Hail Marys are being prayed.
- The Sign of the Cross – In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
- The Apostles Creed – I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried, He descended into hell; the third day He arose again from the dead; He ascended into Heaven, sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty, from thence He shall come 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 life everlasting. Amen.
- The “Our Father” – Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
- 3 Hail Marys (said while meditating on the three divine virtues of faith, hope, and charity) – Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
- The “Glory Be” – Glory be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
- First single bead: Announce the first mystery (depending on the day of the week and/or season). A mystery
- The “Our Father”
- 10 Hail Marys while meditating on the first mystery
- After the 10th Hail Mary, the first 5 decades have been completed which make up a Chaplet.
- Second single bead: pray the “Glory Be” then the “O My Jesus” and then announce the second mystery.
- Repeat steps 6 through 8 until all 5 mysteries of the Rosary have been prayed.
- Say the “Glory Be”
- Say the “O My Jesus”
- Say the “Our Father”
- Say the “Hail Holy Queen” – Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve; To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us and after this our exile show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!
- Make the Sign of the Cross
Is the Rosary Biblical?
Absolutely. Not entirely word for word, but those words that do not appear in scripture are biblical in thought and nature. Let’s explore just how biblical it is!
The Apostles Creed
This is simply our profession of faith as Christians and is our baptismal promise!
The “Our Father”
This is entirely biblical. Matthew 6:9-13
All but very few of these come straight from the Bible. The ones that aren’t in the Bible are directly aligned with sacred tradition handed down from Jesus himself.
The Hail Mary
The first part of the Hail Mary is directly from the Bible: Luke 1:28 and 2:42. The second part of the Hail Mary is biblical in nature. Let’s break it down:
- Holy Mary – goes back to the Angel’s salutation to Mary in Luke 1:28 (full of grace). All Christians are called to be “holy.” This is biblical.
- Mother of God – again, the very meaning of the biblical annunciation. This is biblical in nature.
- Pray for Us – not explicitly mentioned in scripture, but is an act of intercession that can be traced back to the Wedding Feast at Cana when she intercedes with Jesus for the young couple. Intercessory prayer is biblical (1 Timothy 2: 1-5)
- Now and at the hour of our death: added only after the 19th century. These words are not directly in the Bible, but again are biblical in nature. Think of how Mary stationed herself at the foot of the cross in hope.
The “Glory Be”
A direct reference to the Trinity. (Father, Son, Holy Spirit). The word “trinity” does not appear in the Bible, but alludes to it. I don’t question praise due to the Trinity. Do you?
The “O My Jesus”
This is a prayer directed to Jesus. Biblical all the way through. Jesus saves us from the fires of hell and leads all souls to Heaven – especially those in need of His mercy (purgatory).
The “Hail, Holy Queen”
With the recitation of this prayer, we are saying that Mary is special to us because she is the woman that God chose to bear our Savior. How special is that? No other woman has been or will ever be again given that wonderful gift and grace. She is our hope. We love her because of who Jesus is! Didn’t Jesus deserve a loving mother who could also be our loving mother? All of the honor given to Mary is simply because of who Jesus is and what He did for us.
Why are Rosary Beads Necessary?
Rosary beads are simply a means of keeping track of where we are in saying the rosary. They allow us to focus our attention on meditation on the mysteries while keeping track of the many prayers that we pray.
There! I hope that this post was meaningful and helpful to you! See my other post on Catholicism and please feel free to provide me feedback and ask questions!