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what is the rosary and how does it work>


This early Marian practice is really more about Jesus than about his mother.
a small bead stands for the dox-

T
he old story goes like this:
during the fight against the Al- ology: "Glory to the Father, and
bigensian heresy in Toulouse, to the Son, and to the Holy Spir-
St. Dominic (I 171 -1221) saw an it, as it was in the beginning, is
apparition of Mary while praying. now, and will be forever." That is
Mary told him to meditate on the the basic form, though many
life, death, and glory of her Son, Catholics add favorite prayers.
which would remedy the evils he
lamented. Dominic did so, even- A Christ-centered practice
tually formalizing the prayer as the V*/hat do the mysteries have
rosary. to do with the Hail Marys? The
Most historians believe, how- pray-er thinks about the biblical
ever, that the rosary was actually scenes while saying the prayers.
developed in the I Ith and 12th A rosary includes five decades, or
centuries. As the medieval church sets often small beads, each
dwelt more on the events of Je- preceded by a large bead and
sus' life and death, they elaborat- followed by a space. After saying
ed prayers on these events. the Lord's Prayer at the begin-
But devices similar to the qiicotmttmmt ning of each decade, the pray-er
rosary date back to the 2nd and bormiio.ctha announces the mystery for medi-
3rd century, when the desert tation. Then, while repeating ten
monks used first stones, and Hail Marys, she focuses her at-
eventually beads on a string, to tention on one of the 20 scenes,
count their prayers. moving on to the next mystery
when she comes to the next
How it's done Focus ON THE GOSPELS. Like many traditional de- decade. By the time she com-
Since the second Vatican votions, the Rosary involves visualizing Gospel scenes. pletes the circle, she will have
council in the early 1960s, the meditated on five episodes in Je-
rosary's popularity has dipped signifi- (Resurrection, Ascension, descent of sus' life. Catholics are encouraged to
cantly, and many Catholics under age 50 the Holy Spirit, assumption of Mary, and meditate on one set of mysteries each
rarely if ever use it in prayer Some crowning of Mary). Eighteen of the day—the joyful mysteries on Mondays
don't even know how it's done. Books twenty mysteries are about Jesus and and Saturdays, the sorrowful mysteries
like Alice Camille's The Rosary (Acta, are based on the Gospels or the book on Tuesdays and Fridays, the glorious
2003) and Scott Hahn's Hail. Holy of Acts. Five—the "luminous"—were mysteries on Wednesdays and Sundays,
Queen (Doubleday, 2001) offer easy-to- added in 2002 by Pope John Paul II. and the luminous mysteries on Thurs-
follow instructions, and Catholics eager To pray the rosary, the worshiper days.
to learn more about their heritage are first makes the sign of the cross; then, Catholics maintain that authentic de-
turning them into best-sellers. while holding the crucifix at one end of votion to Mary is praise of her Son. The
The rosary is essentially a group of the rosary, she recites the Apostles' rosary helps believers focus on the life
guided meditations, called "Mysteries." Creed. From then on, whenever she of Christ with the help of his mother
on the lives of Christ and his mother. encounters a large bead, she prays the and her perspective. When we pray the
The mysteries come in four categories: Lord's Prayer. Small beads signify the rosary, writes Catholic educator Alice
joyful (Annunciation. Visitation, Nativity. Hail Mary, woven from the words of Camille, "we seek the engagement of
Presentation, and finding in the Tem- Gabriel and Elizabeth: "Hail Mary, full of thought, imagination, emotion and de-
ple), luminous (baptism, miracle at grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are sire in order to move from the state of
Cana, proclamation of the Kingdom. you among women, and blessed is the simple reflection to union with Christ.
transfiguration, and Eucharist), sorrowful fruit of your womb, Jesus," with the lat- Since Mary was the first person to ex-
{agony in the garden, scourging at the er addition: "Holy Mary, Mother of perience that union, who can more
pillar, crowning with thorns, carrying of God, pray for us sinners now and at the perfectly show us the way?"
the cross, and Crucifixion), and glorious hour of our death." The space following —the editors

CHRISTIAN HISTORY & BIOGRAPHY