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The Use and Purpose of the Rosary

By Lynn Rader


The Rosary is a Roman Catholic tradition that may have originated in the early 1200's. Traditionally, it is said that the first rosary was given to Saint Dominic in an apparition by the Virgin Mary. However, historically it is believed that the creation and use of the Rosary may have gradually evolved through the centuries, originating as knots on a string to keep track of repetitive silent prayer.

The term Rosary comes from the Latin word rosarium which means "rose garden" or "garland of roses." Currently, the term Rosary represents a set of prayer beads which are used as a physical way of keeping track of prayer and meditation in a repeated sequence. The sequence, also known as a decade, consists of the Lord's Prayer followed by ten Hail Mary prayers, and a single praying of "Glory be to the Father,..." After each decade one should meditate on one of the Mysteries of the Rosary.

The Mysteries of the Rosary are 15 events in the lives of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary, his mother. These Mysteries are divided up in to three distinct groups, the Joyful Mysteries, the Sorrowful Mysteries, and the Glorious Mysteries.

The Joyful Mysteries

  1. The Annunciation - the Virgin Mary is visited by the angel Gabriel and told she will conceive the son of God.
  2. The Visitation - the Virgin Mary visits with Saint Elizabeth whom is 6 months pregnant with John the Baptist.
  3. The Nativity - the birth of Jesus Christ.
  4. The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple - Mary and Joseph present baby Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem to perform the redemption of the first born in accordance with the Law of Moses.
  5. The Finding of the child Jesus in the Temple - Jesus, at age 12, goes missing while returning from the Temple during Passover and is later found back at the Temple and in discussion with the elders who were amazed at his knowledge of the scripture.


The Sorrowful Mysteries

  1. The Agony in the Garden - Jesus prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane immediately after the Last Supper. He went with three of his disciples who fell asleep while he was in prayer.
  2. The Scourging at the Pillar - Jesus is stripped and scourged (beaten) unmercifully.
  3. The Crowning with Thorns - the Roman soldiers placed a crown of thorns on Jesus' head, dressed him in a purple robe, and said "Hail, King of the Jews".
  4. The Carrying of the Cross - Jesus carries his cross to the place of his crucifixion.
  5. The Crucifixion - Jesus is nailed to the cross and left to die.


The Glorious Mysteries

  1. The Resurrection - after Jesus' crucifixion, death, and burial in a tomb, Jesus resurrects on the third day, also known as Easter.
  2. The Ascension - Jesus' body ascends to heaven while in the presence of the apostles.
  3. The Descent of the Holy Spirit - the Holy Spirit descends on the Apostles and followers of Jesus.
  4. The Assumption of Mary - upon the Virgin Mary's death she was physically, body and soul, taken up into heaven.
  5. The Coronation of the Virgin Mary - God and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, place a crown on the head of Mary crowning her Queen of Heaven.


Most rosaries have 15 decades which correspond to each of the 15 mysteries of the rosary. Some may have more, which include the Luminus Mysteries added in 2002 by Pope John Paul II. Both rosaries also have a shorter strand, which starts with a crucifix followed by one large, three small, and one large bead, which connects to the rest of the rosary. The praying of the rosary starts with the short strand by reciting the "Apostle's Creed" at the crucifix followed by the "Our Father" at the first large bead, three "Hail Mary's" on the next three beads, and then the "Glory be to the Father,..." on the next large bead. The praying of the decades then follows until the Rosary is complete.

Rosaries can be made from a wide variety of materials including glass, wood, bone, crushed flowers, semi-precious stones and other precious materials including crystal, pearl, silver, and gold. Whatever the material, the Rosary is used today in the Catholic Church as a way to pray and meditate about the life of the Virgin Mary and her son, Jesus Christ.

Lynn Rader is the owner of Gifts of Love and Devotion which has a large selection of Unique Christian Gifts for every occasion including baptism, first communion, confirmation, and weddings. In addition, she is proud to offer heirloom quality baptism and christening gowns and rompers, as well as communion dresses and accessories. She also has a selection of memorials which can be given in remembrance for the loss of a loved one. Personalized gifts such as baptismal candles, wedding crosses, and rosaries are available in most of the categories and provide a more unique gift idea. Her inspirational decor for the home and garden sections include a wide variety of products to dress up the home while making a personal statement of faith.

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