What is the Rosary?


     The Holy Rosary is an exchange of love. 

    It reanimates the Catholic faith by contemplating the divine mysteries, life of Christ and His mother, and improves our understanding of the truths revealed by God.  A rosary projects faith.  A rosary is divided into 4 sections (decades), namely, as is called, the Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious, and Luminous Mysteries.  

    They preserve the meditation channels to the joy of Christ, the passion and death of Christ, the Resurrection of Christ, the Assumption of Mary, the Mother of God, into Heaven and the descent of the Holy Spirit.  Its a sweet prayer that Our Lady of Fatima requested we pray.  The Holy Rosary has not been in Catholic history all its life.  It has a story behind it.


   The Holy Rosary is a prayer basically using a set of beads—the earliest prayer bead concept is not even Catholic.  It is not a prayer of              it goes back to Hindu prayer, circa 1600 BC.  But, around AD 1214, the Blessed Mother appeared to St. Dominic, in Prouille, Spain; he is the patron saint of astronomers. The line "Hail Mary, full of grace" is attributed to the Syriac ritual attributed to Severus, Patriarch of Antioch (c. 513).  The story of St. Dominic's devotion, however, to the rosary and apparition of Our Lady of the Rosary does not appear in any documents of the Church or Dominican Order prior to the writings of Blessed Alan de la Roche, some 300 years later.

   Throughout the middle ages, it had been customary for monks to recite the Our Father where they would recite 150 in a row, and to keep count, recited on a chord with knots to keep the count.  In reality, they were the monks who could not read. Those who could read recited 150 Psalms daily, but those who didn’t read substituted something easier, the Our Fathers. 


    The Catholic Church denounced the movement of the Cathars, a movement from the 12-14th centuries, which among other things did not believe Jesus was the messiah, but a form of an angel, did not believe in war and capital punishment, and had to renounce completely the material self.  Some scholars state the Cathars believed people would be caught in an endless state of reincarnation, where you were caught in and given the state of reincarnation if you did not leave behind the material world.  To the Cathars, reproduction was a moral evil to be avoided.  Cathars believed that one would be repeatedly reincarnated until one commits to the self-denial of the material world; similar to the Buddhist doctrine of reincarnation.  Sex was out.  Sodomy was in.  Abstaining from eating animal food was in, as eating anything considered to be a by-product of sexual reproduction was a no-no.  According to Pierre des Vaux-de-Cernay, Cathars believed that "Christ who was born in the earthly and visible Bethlehem and crucified in Jerusalem was evil; and that Mary Magdalene was a concubine." 


    The Cathars also refused the sacrament of the eucharist stating that it could not possibly be the body of Christ, asserting that the host, which is in the form of bread, came from straw, that it passed through the tails of horses, to wit, when the flour was cleaned by a sieve (of horse hair); that, moreover, it passed through the body and goes to a vile end, which, they say, could not happen if God were in it. They believed in 2 Gods, not one.  The God of the Old Testament was essentially evil.  The God of the New Testament was good. The alleged sacred texts of the Cathars besides the New Testament, include The Gospel of the Secret Supper, or John's Interrogation and The Book of the Two Principles.   The philosopher and Nazi government official Alfred Rosenberg, known for his rejection of and hatred for Christianity, speaks favorably of the Cathars in The Myth of the Twentieth Century.


A painting by Pedro Berruguete of Cathars being burnt at the stake.


    It is said de la Roche, a learned theologian, had a vision from Jesus who urged him to reinstitute the rosary as a form of prayer as adapted by St. Dominic (above.)  De la Roche was told, he claimed, the rosary was put into Dominic’s hands as a means to combat the Albigensian movementthe Albigensian movement, a corollary of the Cathar movement.



    Pope Pius IX said, "The Rosary is a compendium of the Gospel, and gives to those who pray it those rivers of peace of which the Scriptures speak; it is the most beutiful devotion, the most abundant in grace, and the most pleasing to the Heart of Mary."  And on Fatima and Lucia,  Sister Lucia was asked how to respond to those who say praying the rosary is just a series of fast copycat recitations of the same actions.  It is no where in the Bible.  Sister Lucia responded saying, "God created everything that exists in such a way that it is kept alive by the continual repetition of the same actions.  Thus, in order to preserve our life, we breathe in and breathe out always in the same way; our heart beats all the time according to the same rhythm.  The stars, the moon, the planets, the earth follow always the same course, which God has laid down for them.  Day follows night, year after year, always in the same way.  Likewise, the sun gives us light and warmth.  In so many places, the leaves appear in the spring, then they are clothed with flowers, next they yield fruit and, in autumn or winter, they lose their leaves.  Thus, everything follows the law which God has laid down for it, and yet it never occurs to anyone to say that it is monotonous."

    In 13th century Paris, four trade guilds existed of prayer bead makers, who were referred to as paternosterers, and the beads were referred to as paternosters, suggesting a continued link between the Our Father (Pater noster in Latin) and the prayer beads.  In the 12th century, the rule of the English anchorites, the Ancrene Wisse specified how groups of 50 Hail Marys were to be broken into five decades of ten Hail Marys each, and gradually, the Hail Mary came to replace the Our Father as the prayer most associated with beads.  Eventually, each decade came to be preceded by an Our Fathers.  James Sprenger in 1475 formed one of the first rosary confraternities in Cologne.  Rosary confraternities in Venice and Florence were formed in 1480 and 1481.   

    In 1571, Pope Pius V called for all of Europe to pray the rosary for victory at the Battle of Lepanto, in which the Christian belligerents included the Papal States. The Christian victory at Lepanto was at first celebrated as the feast of "Our Lady of Victory" on October 7, but was later renamed the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.  In 1569, the papal bull Consueverunt Romani Pontfices by the Dominican Pope Pius V officially established the devotion to the rosary in the Catholic Church.  Saint Peter Canisius, a doctor of the Church, is credited with adding to the Hail Mary the sentence "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners".

    Monsignor Annibale Bugnini, architect of the liturgical reform during Vatican II, proposed further changes to the structure of the Rosary, however, Pope Paul VI refused to implement his proposals on the grounds that changing such a well-established and also popular devotion would show a lack of reverence to Our Blessed Mother and unsettle the piety of the faithful.   In 2002, St. John Paul added the Luminous Mysteries, such as the Baptism in the River Jordan, the Wedding Feast at Cana, The Transfiguration, The Preaching of the Coming of the Kingdom of God and what the Holy Eucharist means.


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