The Rosary is a widespread traditional devotion of roman catholics. The term "Rosary" comes from the Latin "Rosarium", which means "rose garden", probably originating from the symbolical designation of a collection of similar things, in our case, the prayers.
The Rosary is a combination of the physical object, having a crucifix, a medal and 59 beads, and the spiritual devotion, consisting of prayer and meditation.
The Prayers of the Rosary
The prayers that are repeatedly said are the Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be to the Father and the Fatima Prayer. These prayers, in a specific sequence make up a decade. The Sign of the Cross, the Apostles' Creed and Hail, Holy Queen are said once.
The Mysteries of the Rosary
While praying the decades, the Mysteries of the Rosary are recalled to mind while meditating on them. The Mysteries represent major events in the lives of Jesus and His mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. This meditation is one of the ways catholics thank and praise God for our redemption.
Until 2002 there were three groups of mysteries: the joyful mysteries, the sorrowful mysteries, and the glorious mysteries, each having five events, one for each decade of the Rosary. In 2002, Pope John Paul II introduced a new set of five mysteries, the luminous mysteries. Today, the total number of mysteries is 20.
The Origin of the Rosary
The use of "prayer beads" and the repeated recitation of prayers accompanied by meditation has its origin in the early days of the Church and also has roots in pre-Christian times.
Between the fourth and eleventh centuries, Christians leading a religious life recited many of, or all, the 150 psalms, daily. A well-known example are the Irish monks, who counted the psalms on knotted cords, during the seventh century.
The rosary underwent many modifications along the way. Starting with the recitation of the 150 psalms, continuing with the recitation of 150 Our Father prayers. The Hail Mary was introduced later, and took the place of the Our Father prayers.
Traditionally, the Rosary was presented to St. Dominic in 1208 by the Virgin Mary, during a Marian apparition. St. Dominic preached the use of the rosary in his missionary work.
The form of today's rosary developed in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.
The rosary has been promoted by numerous popes: Leo XIII was known as "The Rosary Pope". Pope Pius V introduced the rosary into the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar as the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, celebrated on October 7. Most recently, on May 3, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI stated that the Rosary is experiencing a new Springtime.
The fact that the Catholic Church continues to include the Feast of the Holy Rosary on the liturgical calendar testifies to the importance and goodness of this form of prayer.
The apostolic letter of pope Pius VI, Marialis cultus, dated February 2, 1974 defines the three major features of the Rosay.
a) Contemplative - "By its nature the Rosary calls for a quiet rhythm and a lingering pace, helping the individual to meditate on the mysteries of the Lord's life as seen through the eyes of her who was closest to the Lord." Without the contemplative element, the rosary becomes a "mechanical repetition of formulas. . .a body without a soul."
b) Christ-centered and Marian - "The Rosary is a 'compendium of the entire Gospel' centered on the mystery of the redemptive Incarnation." It is directed toward the events of Christ's life as seen by Mary.
c) In Harmony with the Liturgy - Since the rosary is centered on the same mysteries celebrated in the liturgy, it is "excellent preparation" for and a "continuing echo" of the liturgy.