What is the Rosary?

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‘The Rosary, or Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary, [is a prayer] in which the same most Blessed Virgin is venerated by the angelic greeting repeated one hundred and fifty times, that is, according to the number of the Davidic Psalter, and by the Lord’s Prayer with each decade. Interposed with these prayers are certain meditations showing forth the entire life of Our Lord Jesus Christ.’ (Pope St Pius V, Consueverunt Romani, 1).

The Rosary (Latin: rosarium, ‘rose-garden’) is a method of prayer, which involves contemplating the mysteries of the life of Jesus, through the eyes of Mary, His mother and first disciple. The elements of the Rosary (beads, praying Hail Marys, meditating on the mysteries of Christ’s life) have existed for centuries. They coalesce in the time of St Dominic (d. 1221), and tradition says that Our Lady gave St Dominic the Rosary. The Dominican pope St Pius V established the Rosary in its current form in 1569.

As a prayer, the Rosary involves contemplating the mysteries of Christ through the eyes of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in company with her. This contemplation is the heart of the Rosary. Hence the Rosary is sharing in Our Lady’s prayer, or praying as Our Lady herself prayed. Scripture tells us that ‘Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart’ (Luke 2.19) and ‘His mother kept all these words in her heart’ (Luke 2.51). That is why Blessed John Paul II wrote that the Rosary ‘though clearly Marian in character, is at heart a Christocentric prayer’ (Rosarium Virginis Mariæ, 1). 

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