Net Abbey

Online Catholic information and inspiration for everyone!



The Rosary and Mary

Net Abbey home page             
History of the Rosary

Any history should start with why do we pray with Mary in the first place.

In the wedding at Cana, when they ran out of wine, Mary asked Her Son (Jesus) to fix things and Jesus said "My time has not come yet" (He had not formally began His Ministry) In answer to that, His Mother said to the wine steward "Do as my son says" and Jesus DID do the miracle i.e. changed His Mind due to what His mother asked him.

But actually, I've had a couple of people come to me asking me to give a message to our son. Going to the Mom is something often done. And so we go to Mary to get a message to Her Son.

A joke runs like this. ST Peter has closed the gate of Heaven at Jesus' bidding because there are "too many people" coming in. But the people STILL continue to come in. When Jesus asks St Peter about it, St Peter said "Lord you know I did what you told me but every time I close the door, Your Mom opens the window!" :)

We know that Jesus shares His Mother with us because of the language he used on the cross "Woman, behold your son. Son (talking to John) behold your mother!" Using the term "woman, he was giving her universally to us" and since the most early days of the church, people have been praying WITH Mary (we pray with her like a prayer partner). We know this because there were drawings of her found in the catacombs of Rome with her arms raised in intercessory prayer.

As for the history of the Rosary, it's not real clear. Here is the clearest accounting I could find:

It is usually suggested that the rosary began as a practice by the laity to imitate the monastic Office (Breviary or Liturgy of the Hours), by which monks prayed the 150 Psalms. The laity, many of whom could not read, substituted 50 or 150 Ave Marias for the Psalms. Sometimes a cord with counters on it was used to keep an accurate count.

The first clear historical reference to the rosary, however, is from the life of St. Dominic (+1221), the founder of the Order of Preachers or Dominicans. He preached a form of the rosary in France at the time that the Albigensian heresy was devastating the faith there. Tradition has it that the Blessed Mother herself asked for the practice as an antidote for heresy and sin.

One of Dominic's future disciples, Alain de Roche, began to establish Rosary Confraternities to promote the praying of the rosary. The form of the rosary we have today is believed to date from his time. Over the centuries the saints and popes have highly recommended the rosary, the greatest prayer in the Church after the Mass and Liturgy of the Hours.

Rosary means a crown of roses. In English it has been called "Our Lady's Psalter" or "the beads." This last derives from an Old English word for prayers (bede) and to request (biddan or bid).


The Rosary is a powerful prayer for several reasons. First we are praying with the Blessed Mother who is in Heaven and close to Jesus. Second at any moment in the world, someone is praying the Rosary so we join with people all over the world when we say the Rosary. And finally, it is powerful, because the Rosary is a meditative prayer in so much as we listen to God.


The Hail Mary is mostly from the Bible except for the last line and can be found in Luke. "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you" is how the angel Gabriel greeted Mary when he came to tell her she was to become Jesus' mother. "Blessed are you among women" is what she said when she recited the Magnificat (when she went to visit her cousin Elizabeth). "Blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus" kind of follows.

Now the last line is not found in the Bible "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death".

Here we are asking Mary to pray for us at the two most important times in our lives... at this moment and at the hour of our death.

But we need to stop for a minute and explain why we refer to Mary as the "Mother of God" because that is often misunderstood.

In the early centuries, like around 350 or so, there were a group of people who decided to teach that Jesus is God but not man. And another group who decided that Jesus was a man but not God. (One group that still believes that today are the Jehovah's Witnesses i.e. that Jesus is a man, not God).

So anyway, the church did what they usually do when such arguments arise. They prayed a bunch on it and held a Council and proclaimed as a doctrine that Jesus is all God and all man. In order to bring that home, they named Mary "mother of God" in the way that Mary wasn't the mother of a body and Jesus wasn't a half and half. Mary was fully His Mother.

In other words, the term "Mother of God" says something about Jesus and not about Mary!


The Rosary starts with a sort of prayer "warm up" . First you say the Apostles creed, to remind us of what we believe in. Then say an Our Father and three Hail Marys. The three Hail Marys are generally said for the virtues of "Faith, Hope and Charity".

Now you are all warmed up and ready to start the Rosary.

The Rosary is usually prayed in groups of 5 "decades" - consisting of 1 Our father, 10 Hail Marys, then the Glory Be ("Glory be to the father and the son and the Holy Ghost - as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be - world without end, Amen").

While you are saying the Hail Marys you meditate on the different mysteries.

There are many ways to meditate. The easiest way is to sort of make a movie in your mind.

For example, suppose you are doing the first Joyful Mystery, the Annunciation (when the Angel Gabriel came to Mary to tell her she was to be the mother of Jesus). So what was Mary doing when the angel came to her? Picture what the room looked like. How she reacted (I bet she was a bit scared seeing an angel like that). How she said "Yes" to God's Will. How did she tell Joseph? (he reacted a bit negatively not believing her angel story at first and planned to "divorce her quietly" but then, in a dream, he was told that what Mary was saying was true. Mary had taken a vow of virginity and had not been intimate with Joseph so you can imagine how he first felt when she came up pregnant - he thought she'd cheated on him and her vow of virginity.

As you think about these things, you will find God will talk to you - will tell you a lot about what happened - that is the fun part of the Rosary - it gives us a great chance to listen to God - He's very interesting to listen to! :)


It's good to have a Rosary - it's not just "counting the beads" but somehow feeling it in your hands helps you to meditate better.

EWTN has Rosaries several times a day or you can get CD's or DVD's. There is a Holy Land Rosary which comes on EWTN which I love. You can either watch EWTN on cable or satellite TV or watch it on their website -

There are books you can get - Scriptural Rosaries are good - but others work well also... describe the mysteries and often tell where it is in the Bible.

You don't have to meditate on the specific mysteries... in the Joyful Mysteries, you can meditate on anything in the life and Ministry of Jesus. During the Sorrowful Mysteries, you can meditate on anything during Jesus' Passion. During the Glorious Mysteries you can meditate on anything after Jesus rose from the dead including saints also...

Pope John Paul II added the Luminous mysteries ("the mysteries of light").

Sometimes if you just need to talk to Jesus you can do that too, during the Rosary. For example, you could picture meeting with Jesus in a nice place and talking with Him - what would you ask Him? And if you specifically want to pray for someone you love, you can make them a character in the movie in your mind... like have a friend be the pious man at the temple where Mary goes after Jesus is born (who holds the baby Jesus and said now he can go in peace because he has seen the Messiah).

Here are some suggested meditations:

Joyful Mysteries

Sorrowful Mysteries

Glorious Mysteries

Luminous mysteries

Watch EWTN live


HolyLand Rosary: 4:30 AM MST (you can also DVR this off the TV if you have cable or satelite TV so you don't have to get up so early!) This Rosary is filmed in the Holyland where Jesus walked - it is very nice to look at the pictures and meditate!  I do this one every day!

International Rosary: 12:30 PM MST

Rosary with Mother Angelica and the Nuns: 8:30 AM MST and also 6:30 PM MST