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The Holy Rosary of
The Blessed Virgin Mary

A contemplative prayer meditation, the Rosary of the Virgin Mary represents an offering of a prayer crown of mystical roses to the Blessed Mother. In the Catholic tradition, it is thought that Jesus, like any good son, listens to the pleas of His mother, Mary, Our Lady of Light, who illuminates Heaven and Earth with her wisdom.

The Rosary evolved over time. The monastic Psalter based on the recitation of one hundred fifty Psalms was adapted to a simpler version for the laity. One hundred fifty Pater Nosters, or the Lord's Prayer, were counted on prayer beads. Others favored the Angel Gabriel's address to Mary: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among Women (Lk 1:28), recited in a series of fifty, a hundred, or a Psalter of one hundred fifty. Gradually, phrases were attached to the Psalms and the prayers of Jesus and Mary.

Eventually, the Psalms were omitted and the phrases referring to the life of Jesus and Mary, from her joyful Annunciation to His glorious Resurrection, became grouped into the Mysteries. Reflections on the Sorrowful Mysteries were added in the fourteenth century.

St. Elizabeth's exclamation: Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb (Lk 1:42) was combined with Angel Gabriel's address in a prayer known as the Ave Maria. Originally noted in the liturgies of St. James of Antioch and St. Mark of Alexandria, the current form emerged in the sixteenth century. The petition to the Holy Trinity: Glory be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, was formed into the prayer of the Glory Be and recited at the end of each decade.

According to legend, in 1214, the Blessed Mother appeared to St. Dominic in Toulouse, France, during a time of great cultural revolt against God and the rise of the Albigensians. St. Louis Mary De Montfort, the acclaimed Extraordinary Preacher of the Rosary, in his book, The Secret of the Rosary, said the Blessed Mother spoke to St. Dominic, who had been severely fasting, praying, and offering penances for the conversion of sinners: I want you to know that, in this kind of warfare, the battering ram has always been the Angelic Psalter which is the foundation stone of the New Testament. Therefore if you want to reach these hardened Souls and win them over to God, preach my Psalter.

St. Louis recognized that our entire perfection consists in being conformed, united, and consecrated to Jesus Christ. The simplicity of the Rosary offers a way to embark on a path of holiness over time by molding our wills to conform with the Will of Our Father and softening our hearts to be remade into the image of Christ.

In 1521, another Dominican, Alberto da Castello, wrote a book The Rosary of the Glorious Virgin, using the term Rosary for the first time. By the end of the sixteenth century, the fifteen Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious Mysteries were established with the tradition remaining until 2002 when Pope John Paul II, citing the Rosary as his favorite prayer meditation, added The Mysteries of Light, The Luminous Mysteries, for contemplation.

For centuries, lay people, religious, saints, and Popes have depended on the Rosary as a core meditation practice for the perfection of souls and as a method of plaintive, personal petition and spiritual support in times of trial. In many families, treasured rosary beads are handed down through the generations with love. Said alone or in a group creating a prayer weaving of special intentions to be offered up with each decade, the Rosary offers a welcome respite from the world and precious time for communication with Our Lord and His Blessed Mother.

Saying the Rosary helps to further open our hearts by reflecting on the great challenges of God to humankind. Character-deepening spiritual qualities are strengthened by saying the Rosary, including submitting our will to the Will of God with humility; having the courage to persevere through life's most serious challenges; denying self-interests for the benefit of others; remaining firmly committed to life vocations, including those of work, marriage, and religious service; responding to one's calling by developing spiritual gifts, and believing in the miraculous, personal care, and intercession of Christ and His Blessed Mother.


References

St. Louis Mary De Montfort, The Secret of the Rosary, translated by Mary Barbour, T.O.P., Nihil Obstat, Gulielmus F. Hughes, S.T.L.,       Censor Librorum, Imprimatur +Thomas Edmundus Molloy, S.T.D., Archiepiscopus-Episcopus Brooklyniensis, 1954 (New York, NY: Montfort Publications, 1995), p. 18.

Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter: ROSARIUM VIRGINIS MARIAE of the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II to the Bishops, Clergy and Faithful of the Most Holy Rosary, (Citta del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2002), Sec. "The Popes and the Rosary." "I myself have often encouraged the frequent recitation of the Rosary. From my youthful years this prayer has held an important place in my spiritual life. I was powerfully reminded of this during my recent visit to Poland, and in particular at the Shrine of Kalwaria. The Rosary has accompanied me in moments of joy and in moments of difficulty. To it I have entrusted any number of concerns; in it I have always found comfort. Twenty-four years ago, on 29 October 1978, scarcely two weeks after my election to the See of Peter, I frankly admitted: 'The Rosary is my favourite prayer. A marvellous prayer! Marvellous in its simplicity and its depth [...].'" 

Kathleen E. Quasey, Healer of Souls: The Life of Father Peter Mary Rookey and the International Compassion Ministry, Nihil Obstat, Rev. Anthony J. Brankin, S.T.L., Censor Deputatus, Imprimatur +Rev. George J. Rassas, Archdiocese of Chicago, 2005 (Philadelphia, PA: Xlibris Corporation, 2008), pp. 19-21. 

The Sorrowful Mysteries:
The Crucifixion of Jesus

Aria—Holy Spirit

I will Make It as
the Mourning of an Only Son.
(Amos 8:10)
The Sun shall Go Down at Midday,
I will Make the Earth Dark
in the Day of Light.
(Amos 8:9)
I will Turn your Feasts into Mourning,
and All your Songs into Lamentation.
(Amos 8:10)
I will Make It as
the Mourning of an Only Son.
(Amos 8:10)