As among all books Holy Scripture is the most excellent, so among prayers the Rosary is the most magnificent. It is among prayers what the sun is among the stars. The Rosary prayers are the most sublime and the most efficacious we can utter: 1. Because of their origin; 2. Because of their contents; 3. Because of their beauty and power. The entire Rosary consists of one hundred fifty Hail Marys. It begins with the Apostles’ Creed; each of the decades is preceded by the Our Father and concludes with the Glory be to the Father, the beautiful doxology which the liturgy of the Church has borrowed from the liturgy of heaven.
The fifteen decades of the Rosary are prayed, as taught by Saint Dominic, in honor of the fifteen principal mysteries of the Redemption in which the Blessed Virgin participated most intimately. Her life was so closely interwoven with that of her Divine Son that the joys and sorrows of Jesus were also those of His most holy Mother, and she, as Queen of heaven, now has the greatest share in the glory of her Divine Son.
How to Say the Rosary
Make the Sign of the Cross: In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
(1) While holding the Crucifix in the hand, recite the Apostles’ Creed.
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 Ghost, 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, sits 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 Ghost, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.
(2) On the first large bead, recite 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) On the three small beads recite the Hail Mary for an increase 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.
(4) On the large bead, recite the Glory be to the Father.
Glory be to the Father, and to the son and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
Call to mind the first Mystery and reflect a moment upon it; then recite on the same large bead the Our Father.
(5) On the ten small beads, recite the Hail Mary, keeping in mind the mystery.
(6) On the large bead separating these ten small beads from the next ten, recite the Glory be to the Father. In each of the following decades continue as in the first: Recall the Mystery, then say the Our Father, the ten Hail Marys and the Glory be to the Father.
Explanation of the Rosary Prayers
We begin with the Sign of the Cross, which embodies the essentials of the Creed, and the Creed is the root of all supernatural life. The first requisite is faith; whoever desires to come to God must believe and must pray.
The Apostles’ Creed embraces all the Christian truths, the greatest mysteries of our holy Faith; it is therefore most fittingly chosen for the beginning of the Rosary. While we pray it, the eternal truths pass before our minds like rays of light, and the profession of our faith is without doubt the best preparation for our prayer.
There is a deep, interior connection between the Rosary and the Creed. The few, concise sentences of the Creed are developed in the Rosary. The words: “conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary,” develop into the joyful mysteries. The words: “suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried,” constitutes the mysteries of the sorrowful Rosary. The words: “arose again from the dead, ascended into heaven,” comprise the glorious mysteries. Therefore, in reality, the Rosary is simply a development of the Apostles’ Creed. From it buds and blossoms a tri-colored wreath: the white roses of the joyful mysteries, the red roses of the sorrowful, and the golden-yellow roses of the glorious mysteries.
The Our Father precedes each decade of the Rosary, like a precious pearl to which the Hail Mary is attached. Human lips cannot frame a prayer that will appeal more strongly to our Heavenly Father than the prayer which was taught by our Divine Redeemer Himself. He who gave us the life of grace also teaches us how to pray, how to preserve this life. The Our Father is short, that it may be learned by all; it is instructive and intelligible to ordinary persons and full of mysteries for the learned; it comprises all our duties toward God and our neighbor. It was appropriately called by Tertullian, in the fourth century, “a summary of the whole Gospel” and it also summarizes the psalms. Saint Chrysostom says, “Whosoever does not pray as Our Lord prayed is not His disciple: the Father hears the prayers of His Son.” Saint Augustine writes, “Every Our Father prayed well effaces venial sins; the seven petitions heal the seven falls referred to in Holy Scripture. Let us therefore prefer the Our Father to all other prayers.”
Saint Hugh, Bishop of Grenoble, prayed the Our Father many times during the day, not omitting it even during illness. On one occasion he had frequently repeated it during a night in which he suffered greatly; his servant remarked that it was too much of a strain and would certainly exhaust him. “Oh, no,” replied the holy Bishop, “the repetition of this beautiful prayer comforts and strengthens me.”
Our Father! — What reverence, what confidence, what love these words should infuse into our hearts! God, our Father — and Christ Himself desires that we call Him by that name! How pleasing to the ears of the Heavenly Father, our Creator, must be these words, uttered by the lips of His children! How beautifully is the fraternal love we should have for one another thereby expressed!
Who art in heaven — Our future home, where we shall live forever in the company of the saints.
Hallowed be Thy Name — In heaven, by the angels and saints who constantly sing holy, holy, holy; on earth, by all mankind, that the Name of God may be everywhere known and loved, and that through it we also may attain unto holiness.
Thy kingdom come — May God reign in us through His grace here on earth, as He reigns through His glory in heaven. May the kingdom of Christ be extended to all parts of the world!
Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven — Let us dwell on the thought of doing the will of God on earth as the angels and saints do it in heaven. This one petition embraces all perfection. Let us submit our will absolutely to the will of God; let us put no obstacle to the working of God’s will in us, that it may be done in us and by us.
Give us this day our daily bread – Daily bread for the body, daily Heavenly Bread for the soul — Holy Communion, and God’s grace.
Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us — Of how many sins are we daily guilty! Oh, may God pardon them! We shall willingly confess them, forgive our neighbor and make atonement.
Lead us not into temptation — As we must live in a world which has become a permanent occasion of sin, may God strengthen our will to resist temptation and remove the occasions of sin.
Deliver us from evil — From sin, the only evil on earth; and in the world to come, from eternal death.
Amen — I believe that Thou, O God wilt hear my prayer, as I petition, “so be it.” The prayer full of faith is heard.
All the attributes of God are signified in the Our Father; it contains the remedies against sin and the practice of all virtues. The more frequently a person prays it, the more he draws therefrom and the more he refreshes himself at the clear fountain of salvation which has sprung from the Heart of the Heavenly Father.
The principal prayer of the Rosary is the Hail Mary, repeated one hundred and fifty times. The multiplied Aves are the roses twined one after another into the wreath of Mary’s psalter. The Angelical Salutation is the message of joy brought by the Archangel Gabriel to our fallen world so needy of redemption, continued by Saint Elizabeth, and concluded by Holy Church for the supreme praise of the Mother of God.
The Hail Mary contains the whole doctrine regarding the Blessed Virgin. It introduces the mysteries of the Incarnation and the Redemption; it contains the hope of the patriarchs and prophets, the faith of the Apostles, the strength of the martyrs, the purity of virgins. It is the new canticle of the New Testament. It is the dew of heaven for the soul; the joy of angels, the consolation of the poor souls, the terror of hell. “For each salutation of Mary, you will receive a grace from her,” says Saint Bernard. This salutation brings blessings upon families such as were effected at the salutation of Saint Elizabeth.
If you are in the state of sin, a child of Eve, then exclaim Ave, and you will become a child of Mary. If you are in darkness, then exclaim, “Mary” and this name, which signifies light, will illuminate you and show you the right way as the Star of the Sea. If you stand in need of graces, then call upon Mary, full of grace; she is full of grace for you and for all.
If you feel abandoned by God, oh, then exclaim, the Lord is with thee I With Mary you will always find your God. If you fear to be under the curse of God through sin, then exclaim, blessed art thou among women. Mary has taken away the curse and changed it into blessing; whoever is with Mary is also blessed among mankind.
If your soul hungers and thirsts, call to Mary, blessed is the Fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Mary will give you the Bread of Heaven containing in Itself all sweetness, the Fruit of the Tree of Life which bestows life eternal.
If you are striving for sanctity, for progress in the life of virtue, exclaim “Holy Mary, thou art the fulness of holiness, from whom we draw eternal life.” I For she is the Mother of God and our , Mother, our intercessor, our mediatrix, who obtains for us the forgiveness of all our sins.
Pray for us sinners, Mary is the refuge of sinners, and it has never yet been known that anyone was left unaided by her, especially now, in this valley of tears, in this sinful world where the soul is surrounded by countless dangers; and afterwards, at the hour of our death, when Satan redoubles his rage, when there is question of the final decision for our happiness or reprobation.
Once Saint Mechtilde said to our Blessed Lady, “Ah, sweetest Queen of Heaven, would that I could greet thee with the sweetest salutation that ever a human heart has been able to conceive.” Instantly the glorious Virgin appeared to her, bearing on her bosom the Hail Mary written in letters of gold.
“A salutation more sublime than this, no man has yet conceived,” she said, “nor can anyone greet me more sweetly than he who salutes me with that reverence wherewith God the Father greeted me with Ave, electing me through His omnipotence to be free from every woe of the guilt or punishment of sin. The Son of God, likewise, so illuminated me with His wisdom that I am the exceedingly bright star lighting up heaven and earth. This is symbolized by the name Maria, which signifies ‘Star of the Sea.’
“The Holy Ghost, too, by penetrating me with His Divine unction, made me so full of grace that whoever seeks grace through me shall find it. This is signified by the words ‘full of grace.’ In the words ‘the Lord is with thee,’ I am reminded of the unutterable union and operation which the whole exalted Trinity accomplished in me when It so united the substance of my flesh to the Divine nature that God became man. The joy and bliss I experienced at that hour no human being can possibly realize.
“By the Words ‘blessed art thou among women,’ every creature acknowledges and testifies with admiration that I am blessed and exalted above all creation, whether of heaven or of earth. By the words, ‘blessed is the Fruit of thy womb,’ praise and exaltation are rendered to the most magnificent Fruit of my womb, the Divine Word, who vivifies, sanctifies and blesses all creatures forever.” Such is the Hail Mary, the prayer most often on Catholic lips after the Our Father.
Adding the Glory be to the Father to the mysteries is an imitation of the prayer of the psalms, where it is repeated after each psalm as a symbol of the eternal Gloria and Sanctus.
The holy Evangelist Saint John pictures to us the throne of God in heaven surrounded by the angels and saints, praising and magnifying the Lord. We unite our voices with those of the blessed inhabitants of heaven when we pray this sublime act of praise.
All our actions should be performed for the greater honor and glory of God. It is a pious custom to bow one’s head whenever the Glory be to the Father is said; this is to indicate the sentiments of great reverence and profound humility which should penetrate us. Humble acknowledgment of our own unworthiness, of our misery and nothingness, is the best sentiment for prayer.
Meditation, the Soul of the Rosary
How beautiful and sublime are the Rosary prayers! But to make these prayers perfect, meditation or silent reflection on the different mysteries of the life of Jesus and His holy Mother should accompany the Hail Man^s. This devout meditation on the mysteries gives to the Rosary its full value. The whole wonderful life of our Savior and the Blessed Virgin, from the moment of Our Lord’s incarnation to the great day when He crowned His Virgin Mother in heaven, should be brought before the eyes of the soul as a picture harmonious and comprehensible to everyone.
Too little stress is generally laid upon the importance of meditation, which, in reality, constitutes the very life and soul of the Rosary. The true nature of the devotion of the holy Rosary is contained in seriously thinking of the mysteries and in the pious affections our thinking excites in our heart. This devotion does not consist nor was it ever intended to consist, in a mere vocal repetition of the Our Father and Hail Mary, together with a mechanical fingering of the beads. The Rosary has two parts as it were, a body and a soul. The Our Father’s and Hail Marys and the beads form merely what one may call the body of the Rosary; while the meditation is its very life and soul. For it is by meditation that one strikes out sparks of love from the heart, and it is in the affections of the heart that the real value of the Rosary is found.
What makes the sublime devotion of the Rosary so insipid and tedious to many Catholics is the fact that meditation plays little or no part in its exercise, as it should if it is to be truly fruitful.