You know....it is funny that things you grow up with that seem perfectly normal to you....can be completely foreign to someone else. Many aspects of the Catholic religion are like that for non-Catholics. What is sad though is....sometimes even cradle Catholics don't have proper knowledge of certain aspects of their faith. One thing that jumps quickly to mind when I think about this is the rosary.
Growing up....the rosary was common place in my life. We said it as a family daily and always before every car trip of any length or during any time of fear or stress. Tornado season was always good for many extra decades. What I learned over time though.....was many of my Catholic friends did not know how to say a rosary. I remember teaching several how to say it and then making them say it with me. To me it was just crazy that being Catholic all their lives that they had no idea how to pray the rosary.
As an adult....later in my life, I quickly learned that when you deal with people outside the Catholic faith, that many find anything Catholics do as suspect. As I said before...I have been told by Protestants that as a Catholic I was not a Christian; that I would not go to heaven; and that I was a practicing cultist. The fact that I say set prayers, that we view the Mass as one long prayer, that our churches have statutes and that we light candles for special intentions can literally send some straight into a frenzy of misconceptions and misinformation. Thus....I have spent a great deal of my adult life not defending...for I feel my faith needs no defense.....but often explaining my religion and trying to correct some of the misinformation out there about it. Sometimes I am semi successful at my venture and sometimes not so much.....but I do continue to make the effort.
Recently I was posting something about the rosary on facebook with a picture of the rosary attached. One of my friends thanked me and said that they were not Catholic and had always wondered about the rosary. It dawned on me that there were probably many out there who either had little or no knowledge of the rosary or those that came up with their own ideas of what they believed us Catholics were actually doing holding those beads. So here...for your information is what I know about the rosary.
According to Wiki....The rosary (from Latin rosarium, meaning "Crown of Roses" or "garland of roses") is a Roman Catholic sacramental and Marian devotion to prayer and the commemoration of Jesus and events of his life. The term "Rosary" is used to describe both a sequence of prayers and a string of prayer beads used to count the prayers. While this definition covers the basics...it really doesn't give much detail. As a sacramental.....a rosary is NOT jewelry. I was brought up that wearing a blessed rosary as jewelry was considered sacrilegious and was never to be done. It is strictly to be used in prayer, being held in the hands.
A rosary is a set of beads divided into five equal parts known as decades. Each part contains one bead (often a larger bead) set apart and followed by ten beads (sometimes smaller)of equal distance apart. The larger or singular set apart bead is an Our Father (or Lord's Prayer) which starts each new decade. The ten smaller or equally spaced beads are each Hail Mary's. Following the final Hail Mary or tenth bead of each decade...a Glory Be is recited. Then the next decade is begun with the starting of another Our Father. To begin a rosary....you start at the crucifix (a cross with the figure of Jesus nailed to it representing the Crucifixion) with the Apostles Creed. This is followed by a singular or large bead (the Our Father) and then three evenly spaced or smaller beads (Hail Mary's), then a Glory Be which takes you to the center or centerpiece which then starts and ends the five decades. The centerpiece is often a picture of Jesus or His Blessed Mother or sometimes one side holds a picture of Jesus and the other side a blessed relic of some sort. On completion of the final decade of the rosary following the Glory Be.....either the Hail Holy Queen or the Memorare is recited to finish out the rosary.
So now that you know the technical workings....what does it all mean? Well the rosary actually has four parts, known as Mysteries....representing the four parts of Jesus life, death and resurrection....with each part having five separate sub parts or the five decades. The different Mysteries are said on different days and sometimes at different times of the year. When reciting the Mysteries....we meditate on the life of Jesus and focus on what each part of His life teaches us. The Mysteries of the rosary are:
- Joyful Mysteries
- The Annunciation. The angel Gabriel appearing to Mary and letting her know that she has been chosen to be the mother of God's only Son. We focus on her humility at learning this news.
- The Visitation. Mary visiting her cousin Elizabeth who was also with child and needed Mary's help. We focus on the love of neighbors.
- The Nativity. The birth of Our Lord. We meditate on poverty (poor in spirit), and a detachment from the things of the world.
- The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. Mary and Joseph presenting Jesus to the church elders. We think of purity and obedience.
- The Finding of Jesus in the Temple. Jesus straying from His parents to go back to the Temple and teach the elders. We meditate on wisdom, conversion, piety and the joy of Mary and Joseph finding Jesus.
- Luminous Mysteries
- The Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan. Jesus baptism by John. We meditate on openness to the Holy Spirit.
- The Wedding at Cana. Jesus turning water into wine. A miracle by any standard. We think of the understanding of the ability to manifest-through faith.
- Jesus' Proclamation of the Kingdom of God. Jesus proclaiming His kingdom. We focus on trust in God and the call of conversion to God.
- The Transfiguration. The illumination of Christ on the mount. We meditate on a desire for Holiness.
- The Institution of the Eucharist. Jesus at the Last Supper giving us His precious body and blood. We focus on adoration of our Lord.
- Sorrowful Mysteries
- The Agony in the Garden. Jesus agony at knowing that soon He must suffer and die. We think of sorrow for Sin and a uniformity with the will of God.
- The Scourging at the Pillar. Jesus being whipped and humiliated. We focus on mortification and purity.
- The Crowning with Thorns. The crown of dogwood thorns that was forced upon Our Lord's head. We think of contempt of the world and the courage of Jesus.
- The Carrying of the Cross. Jesus being forced to carry the heavy cross to His own Crucifixion. We meditate on patience.
- The Crucifixion. The death of Jesus upon the cross. We focus on salvation and forgiveness.
- Glorious Mysteries
- The Resurrection. Jesus rising from the dead. We meditate on faith.
- The Ascension. Jesus ascension into heaven. We think of hope and desire for ascension to Heaven.
- The Descent of the Holy Spirit. Jesus coming back and appearing to His apostles. We focus on Holy Wisdom to know the truth, Divine Charity, and worship of the Holy Spirit.
- The Assumption of Mary. Jesus bodily taking up His mother into heaven at the end of her life. We meditate on the grace of a happy and holy death and a true devotion to Mary just as Jesus Himself had.
- The Coronation of the Virgin. The crowning of Mary the mother of Jesus as Queen of Heaven. We think of perseverance and the desire for one day having our own crown of glory....and a deep abiding trust in Mary's intercession to her Son.
The rosary is very important. Throughout history and even in modern times.....Jesus has sent His mother Mary to warn the world of evil and sin and the dangers this sin can cause our world, our bodies and most importantly our eternal souls. She has appeared at Lourdes, France to the young Bernadette Soubirous and again in Fatima, Portugal to the three children Lucia Santos and Jacinta and Francisco Marto. One thing she always implores is for us to pray the rosary daily. Such a small thing to ask and yet as I said.....many Catholics don't even own a rosary....let alone know how to say it.
To me....the rosary has always given me an inner peace. It has often given me the ability to do something (pray) when all other options were out of my hands. When my youngest was in the neonatal care unit and we lived day to day not knowing if it would be his last or not....I literally prayed hundreds of rosaries. Then the day came that he was septic and we had been told he would not make it through the day. He was dying before our eyes. The only hope was to give him a drug that "might" destroy the infection but he was so fragile and his veins were undetectable. One doctor told us that they had done all they could for him....now he was in God's hands. Then he turned around and said....."but what better hands could he possibly be in....now go pray." Immediately I began praying the rosary. Suddenly a nurse came on duty and she walked to my sons bedside and she said...."If he has even one good vein....I will find it." Though she was not Catholic....she knew I was and she asked me to say a Hail Mary. Within seconds my son's cubicle was filled with nurses, doctors and the parents of other NICU babies. Catholic or not....everyone was praying the Hail Mary out loud. With one stick....the nurse was able to find a good vein and start the IV....a miracle in itself. Within an hour my son was on the road to recovery. Coincidence? No! My son was grey and we could visibly see the life leaving his tiny body. I have no doubt that the Hail Mary said with great reverence and great need by all in that room (non-Catholic and Catholic alike) and my many many rosaries were what saved my sons life. After all....nothing makes Jesus happier than us showing such reverence for His mother and that day He saw it a hundred fold. Almost thirteen years later....I have never forgotten that moment, that day and all those who prayed for my son in that cubicle. I know the power of prayer and most especially the power of the rosary.
Today....I still pray the rosary daily. My children have been brought up praying the rosary and they know its importance in both our physical and spiritual lives. Of late the world has given us much to pray about and I stress to them the importance of prayer for our soldiers, our country, our president, world leaders, church leaders and as of last week.....a smooth transition of Popes in the coming weeks.
For those who aren't Catholic....the rosary still maybe as clear as mud to you and its importance still not fully understood.....however...the importance and significance must not be lost on Catholics. The rosary not only has the power to stop wars, bring peace and save lives and souls....but it also answers Mary's request of us in her earthly appearances. And like my mother always used to say...."Nothing terrifies satan more, than a Catholic saying a rosary!"