As this month of the Rosary comes to an end, I’d like to celebrate this wonderful prayer by sharing with you five things you may not know about its history, and how and why to pray it.
1. The Hail Mary is based on Scripture.
The first half of the Hail Mary prayer comes from two passages found in Luke’s Gospel: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28), and, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (verse 42). The angel Gabriel is greeting Mary before announcing that she will be the mother of God’s Son. Next, Elizabeth is greeting and honoring Mary at the Visitation.
The second half of the Hail Mary asks her to intercede for us. Catholics believe that the saints in Heaven can pray for us, just as we can pray for each other on earth.
2. The Rosary is the lay person’s Divine Office.
You have probably heard the story about Mary revealing the Rosary to St. Dominic in the 12th century. St. Dominic did pray and teach a form of the Rosary, and may have had some kind of miraculous confirmation that the prayer was a powerful one. At the same time, historians note that the prayer developed over centuries. It originated in the Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours.
Priests and religious pray the Divine office daily. At its core, it is a recitation of the 150 Psalms with antiphons, readings, and prayers. Lay people, who in the Middle Ages were often illiterate, wanted to join priests and religious in this prayer. Gradually, a simplified version that could be easily memorized was created. Before Pope John Paul II added the Luminous Mysteries, the full Rosary contained 150 Hail Marys. Like the Divine Office, each set of prayers ends in a Glory Be.
3. It’s intended for meditation.
For at least half my life I prayed the Rosary incorrectly! I concentrated on the words of the various prayers. Actually, we are meant to meditate upon (i.e., ponder) the mysteries assigned to each decade. The Rosary is thus a great tool to teach people Christian meditation. We picture events from the lives of Jesus and Mary and think about what they mean for us as we pray. I think this makes the Rosary an ideal vocal prayer.
4. The Church gives an indulgence to those who pray it.
If you say five decades of the Rosary in one sitting, you may receive a plenary (full) indulgence for your sins. A partial Rosary can result in a partial indulgence. You must also meet a few other conditions, as for all indulgences. The most difficult one is complete detachment from all sin. You must also pray for the pope’s intentions, and receive the Eucharist and sacramental Confession within a week of your prayer.
5. Some Protestants pray the Rosary or prayers derived from it.
Just as the Rosary was an adaptation of the Divine Office, some Protestant Christians have adapted it to their own traditions. In the 1980s, American Episcopalians created the Anglican Rosary. They use prayer beads to help them meditate on the life of Christ, but have no set–only suggested–prayers to say with their beads.
There are several Lutheran versions of the Rosary. Martin Luther believed in honoring Mary as Mother of God. However, not all Lutherans who pray the Rosary are comfortable saying the Hail Mary. They may pray the Jesus Prayer instead.
Individual Protestants sometimes pray the traditional Rosary.
As a bonus, here is a beautiful passage referring to the Rosary from Dante’s Paradiso.
Have you prayed your Rosary today?
Share with us: Did you know all five of these facts? How has the Rosary made an impact on your life?