The Holy Rosary – From a person with reason to believe

What it is

The Holy Rosary is a Catholic devotion usually prayed on a circle of beads, with a short row of five beads and a crucifix attached at the bottom.

One prays the rosary to the Blessed Virgin Mary, not only to venerate her and glorify the Lord but also to implore the saint to pray to God on one’s behalf. This prayer for intercession can be for oneself, others, the whole world, and all souls in all time.

A distinction can be made between the instrument itself (the string of beads), and the type of prayer performed with it. For instance, Catholics often pray a different prayer called the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, apparently given to St. Faustina, using rosary beads.

How to do it

Before 2002, the full rosary consisted of 15 decades (ten beads per decade). After some introductory prayers, the first prayer is The Our Father, which is repeated on each large bead dividing the decades. A Hail Mary Prayer is said on each smaller bead, with one or two extra prayers at the end of each decade. At the completion of the cycle, Catholics say some closing prayers. Local parishes pray with a few minor variations but all prayers are sanctioned by the Catholic Chruch.¹

Each decade celebrates a holy mystery. A mystery is a particular event based on the New Testament story of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary.

  • The first group of mysteries involves the Joyful Mysteries (5 decades), dealing with the events leading to Jesus’ birth and growth to maturity
  • The next group of mysteries is the Sorrowful Mysteries (5 decades), focussing on the period from Jesus’ arrest to crucifixion
  • The third group is the Glorious Mysteries (5 decades), dealing with Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, as well as Mary’s assumption into heaven
  • To these three mysteries, Pope John-Paul II added the Luminous Mysteries in October 2002 making the former group of three mysteries (Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious) officially four (Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious and Luminous)

What it means

The Rosary is often accompanied by meditative contemplation on the mysteries of the life of Jesus and Mary.² Praying the Rosary is also understood as a vehicle for forgiveness, purification, and intercession.

Many secular and scientific people haven’t a clue what intercession is, which is unfortunate and potentially harmful

When I first became interested in Catholicism in the 1990s, praying the Rosary at times brought tremendous spiritual benefit. With Covid-19 I stopped going to Mass altogether and these days waver about going back vs. staying safe. I do, however, feel moments of grace at unexpected times like taking Holy Water at home, talking with friendly strangers while out for a walk or shopping, and even when writing about my faith. So for now, I’ll probably stay away from the church ‘made with hands’ while holding fast to its spirituality. After all, the New Testament does teach that the body is a temple.

Unknown Origins

No one really knows for sure how the Holy Rosary came into existence. Some believe that it was adapted from earlier Muslim prayer beads, introduced through the Crusades.

Others believe that the Catholic rosary existed prior to the Crusades.

Catholic tradition, itself, says the Holy Rosary originated with St. Dominic (1170-1221 CE).

Some New Age, feminist, politically correct, and secular misunderstandings

Not a few non-Catholics liken different goddesses to the Virgin Mary and similarly, some folks say that different prayer beads found around the world – such as Tibetan and Islamic – are equivalent to the Holy Rosary.

But these claim seems superficial at best because world religions differ on important points and for me, how they make you feel.


² This sentence was written by “Assistant” (2022). In OpenAI. [Online]. Available: It’s just about the only AI part I used for this entry—that and just benefitting from a different overview to round out any minor shortcomings in my first draft.


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