St. John Paul II declared it his favorite prayer in 1978.
In 2008, Pope Benedict said it “contains within itself the healing power of the Most Holy Name of Jesus.”
More recently, Pope Francis has invoked it in seeking an end to the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine.
Such is the depth of devotion in which the last three pontiffs have held one of the best-known Catholic devotions: the rosary.
Rosary recitation — a succession of prayers typically counted on hand-held strings of beads — can be a highly valuable ritual for all Catholics, according to Father Dismas Sayre, OP.
“The rosary helps them center more on God, with the help of Mary. It helps place us more calmly and quietly in the presence of God,” said Father Sayre, who serves as director of the Rosary Center in Portland, Ore., and as promoter of the Rosary Confraternity for the Western Dominican Province.
The rosary grew out of centuries worth of prayer rituals
According to a 2010 article from Saint Mary’s Press, the rosary was officially established as a devotion of the Catholic Church by Pope Pius V in 1569, based on prayer rituals that had gradually formed and spread in previous centuries. Those devotions had been largely influenced by St. Dominic (1170-1221) and, subsequently, members of the Dominican order he founded, the article noted.
Rosary recitation involves meditation on a total of 20 key events — or mysteries — in the lives of Christ and his mother. Each mystery is represented by the recitation of an Our Father, 10 Hail Marys (commonly referred to as a decade) and a Glory Be.
The mysteries are divided into four sets known as the joyful, sorrowful, glorious and luminous mysteries, and the faithful typically pray one set of five mysteries at a time.
“The repetition in the rosary is meant to lead one into restful and contemplative prayer related to each mystery,” noted the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “The gentle repetition of the words helps us to enter into the silence of our hearts, where Christ’s spirit dwells.”
The 20 scriptural events to be contemplated while praying the rosary are:
• Joyful — the annunciation to Mary; the visitation of Mary; the birth of Jesus; Jesus’ presentation at the Temple; and finding Jesus in the Temple.
• Sorrowful — Christ’s agony in the garden; his scourging; his crowning with thorns; the carrying of his cross; and his crucifixion and death.
• Glorious — Jesus’ resurrection; his ascension; the Holy Spirit’s descent upon the apostles; Mary’s assumption into heaven; and the coronation of Mary.
• Luminous — the baptism of Jesus; the wedding at Cana; the proclamation of the kingdom of God; the Transfiguration; and the institution of the Eucharist. The luminous mysteries were added by St. John Paul II in 2002.
Rosary recitation helps Catholics grow in their faith
Rosary recitation is a common group devotion, with many parishes offering the rosary before or after Mass, as part of prayer ministries, and on special occasions — particularly during May and October, which are Marian months in the Catholic Church. Notable examples of October rosary devotions are Rosary Coast to Coast and America Needs Fatima Public Square Rosary, which will take place in a number of locations across the Diocese of Rochester.
Father Sayre encourages individual rosary recitation as well — at home, at church or elsewhere. He noted that it’s not necessary to hold a rosary in order to pray it.
“The beads count the prayers, but it’s the prayers that count. I’ve used my fingers myself a few times,” he remarked.
Father Sayre said rosary recitation helps Catholics grow in their faith, noting, “We are so distracted by so much electronic noise in our world, that the rosary helps us to be with God for at least a little while, to, paraphrasing Scripture, ‘be still and know that he is God.’ We complain that it’s so hard to find God in this hectic, secularized world, but the rosary is right there.”
The Dominican priest added that praying the rosary helps advance vital intercessions for peace around the globe.
“In our day, it might be more important than ever. Our Lady told us at Fatima (in 1917) to pray the rosary for peace, and this is before the advent of nuclear weapons,” Father Sayre said. “The world needs prayer.”Tags: Why do Catholics?