Roman Catholics pray the Rosary. Most Protestants don’t.
The Rosary is a string of beads and a crucifix. At the crucifix and at each bead a specific prayer is said. The prayers are well known to all Catholics: the Apostles Creed, the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Doxology or “Glory be . ,” the Hail Holy Queen, and the Fatima prayer (Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save all souls from hell, especially those in most need of your mercy.)
The Rosary prayer always starts with the sign of the cross: In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Then the Credo is said. So, the Rosary begins with a declaration of faith.
A single bead is next to the crucifix on which the Our Father is said. It is set apart from the other beads. It is the prayer Jesus taught his apostles to say, so Catholics reverence this prayer.
On the next 3 beads, clustered together, the Hail Mary is said on each, requesting the gifts of faith, hope and love (or charity).
Although the Our Father is familiar to all Christians, the Hail Mary is not. The Hail Mary is half biblical quote, and half prayer. The first half of the prayer comes from Luke (1:28, 42) “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.” The second half says, “Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, Amen.”
After these Three beads the Doxology is said in this form: “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. Amen.”
These are the introductory prayers.
Next comes a single bead set off from the following ten beads. On the single bead is said the Our Father. The Hail Mary is said on the next ten beads followed by the Doxology and the Fatima prayer. The Rosary is composed of five of these sets.
At the end of these five sets of beads, the last prayer of the Rosary is the Hail Holy Queen.: “Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope, to you do we cry, poor banished children of Eve, to you do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears; turn then most gracious Advocate, your eyes and ears toward us, and after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus. Oh clement, oh loving, oh sweet Virgin Mary! Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen.”
This prayer is based upon the belief that Mary, who is in heaven with her son (see Heaven is for Real where Mary stands beside her son.), intercedes for us just as she did at the wedding at Cana, and as Bathsheba (as Queen Mother) interceded for supplicants to her son, Solomon. Catholics believe that Mary is our mother just as she is Jesus’ mother. We believe that when Jesus gave his mother into the care of John, as his mother, so too he gave her to all the rest of us as our mother. We ask for her help. Just as we ask our living friends to pray for us when we need prayers, we ask Mary to pray for us because we believe she is as alive today in heaven as she was on earth.
Some people refuse to acknowledge that the Rosary is an efficacious prayer because it is repetitive. They say that Jesus said not to pray like the Gentiles who repeat meaningless words as prayers. But the Credo, Our Father, Hail Mary, Doxology, and Fatima prayer are not meaningless words.
The Rosary is repetitive on purpose. Catholics take seriously Jesus’ parable about the man seeking food from his neighbor. As Jesus said, the neighbor will get up and give him food because he kept knocking at the door – he would not go away. In the same way, Jesus also reminded his followers of the story of the woman who kept insisting that the judge hear her case and give her justice. The judge finally heard her case to make her go away. In other words, Jesus encouraged his followers to be tenacious in their prayer. The Rosary is a persistent prayer.
Some Catholics do not like to say the Rosary because of its repetitiveness. They get bored. So, the Church has given them something to think about while saying these prayers. For those blessed with an imagination, the following meditations are siggested: for the first Rosary of five sets of Hail Mary’s, the Church suggests thinking about the infancy stories of Jesus found in Luke: the Annunciation/Incarnation; the visitation of Mary to Elizabeth; the birth of Jesus; Jesus presentation in the temple; and last, finding of the boy Jesus in the temple. On each of these five sets of ten beads (called a decade), try to imagine each story. These are referred to as the Joyous Mysteries because each story has a moment of joy.
For the second Rosary of five sets, think about Jesus’ public life and ministry: His baptism, the wedding at Cana, the proclamation of the kingdom (his entire ministry), the Transfiguration, and finally the institution of the Eucharist. These are referred to as the Luminous Mysteries or the mysteries of the light.
The third set focuses on Jesus’ passion and death: The Garden of Gethsemane, the scourging at the pillar, the crowning of thorns, the carrying of the cross, and finally Jesus’ crucifixion and death. These are called the Sorrowful Mysteries.
The final set of five meditations begins with the Resurrection, followed by the Ascension, then the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles, followed by Mary’s being taken up to heaven, and last Mary being crowned Queen of Heaven as described in the Book of Revelation. These are the Glorious Mysteries.
The Rosary requires a knowledge of the New Testament. If you don’t know the stories about Jesus, or his teachings, it’s hard to have anything to think about. Not only are the prayers based upon the Scripture, so are all the meditations. The Rosary covers Jesus entire life.
Since the Rosary is a meditative prayer, it cannot be said amid noise. It requires quiet. It takes about fifteen minutes so say one Rosary. It soothes, quiets down the mind and emotions, leaves the person feeling peaceful. Saying the Rosary does not require the beads, it can be said, ticking off each prayer on the fingers. Some Catholic priests have made their rosary from the bits of bread they had been given to eat as prisoners of the Chinese Communists.
Sometimes we run out of things to say to Jesus, but we want to keep in contact, we want to continue praying. The Rosary is a great help.
There are those who say that the Rosary must be said with love or it is meaningless. Or, as some prefer to say, the Rosary must be prayed “from the heart” to have any value. These are discouraging remarks and keep people from even trying. I agree with G. K. Chesterton who said, “Anything that is worth doing, is worth doing badly.” In other words, if something is worth doing, it is worth doing. No matter how well or how poorly said, praying the Rosary is definitely worth doing.