Updated: Jun 22, 2020
If you are not Catholic, rosary beads seem very mysterious – one of those things that Catholics do. Catholics however, are not required to pray the rosary. Rosaries are not magical – they contain no power of their own. They are simply a physical enhancement used in prayer. They are often created from inexpensive plastic beads connected with nylon string, or wooden beads joined by a simple chain, but there are exquisite rosaries made of silver, or gold, some with precious stones. They all serve the same purpose – to help one pray.
Rosary beads are not worn, there is not a “right” way to hold them. However, there is a right attitude to have when using them: one of worship towards God and veneration for Mary, the Mother of God.
Until the 1980’s, saying a complete rosary consisted of going through three sets of five mysteries based entirely on incidents found in Scripture, mostly in one of the four Gospels: The Joyful Mysteries... The Sorrowful Mysteries... and The Glorious Mysteries. One meditates on each mystery while saying ten Hail Mary’s,* one for each of the beads in each decade (set of ten beads), of the rosary. Most people will say five decades at one prayer sitting, but some will say a complete rosary. In the 1980’s, Pope John Paul II instituted a fourth set of mysteries based on Jesus’ life and teachings, The Luminous Mysteries... So now a complete rosary is comprised of four sets of five mysteries (twenty decades instead of fifteen). However, when most people speak of “Saying the Rosary,” they mean that they have prayed five decades reflecting on one set of mysteries.
Simple instructions and copies of the prayers are easily found on-line.
The rosary is a good, simple, humble way to enter into a meditative state as one prays, while reflecting on Biblical truths. Passing the beads through one’s hands enables one to be physically engaged as one is mentally engaged in prayer. Using them is really not that mysterious at all. Anyone can pray the rosary; you do not need to be a Catholic, but you must have faith to do so.
* “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.”
“Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with you.” Is what the angel said when he greeted her during the annunciation. “Blessed are you among women.” Was said by Elizabeth when she greeted Mary during her visitation. “Blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.” Is something every Christian believes. “Holy Mary, Mother of God,” identifies Jesus as God/man, not simply man. The belief that he was not divine was a heresy in the early church. Catholics believe that Mary is Holy that God would not allow his son to be born of a woman who was not Holy and that God made her so before she was born. “Pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death” is something we would ask any friend to pray for us. Mary is most definitely our friend.