The Catholic Church encourages Catholics to recite the Rosary—a meditative prayer honoring the Virgin Mary and contemplating the mysteries of Jesus–every day. The origins of the Rosary are sketchy at best,” says Father William Saunders, PhD., although “the use of prayer beads” and repetitive prayer go back to the early days of the church. Saint Dominic gets credit for creating the most current and accepted version of the Rosary and its prayer beads in the 12th century.
Meditating on Mysteries
The “so-called” Dominican Rosary consists of 15 decades or mysteries of Jesus. The mystery groups–the Joyful Mysteries, the Sorrowful Mysteries and the Glorious Mysteries—each contain five individual mysteries for a total of 15 decades.
In 2002, Pope John Paul ll added five more mysteries of Jesus—the Luminous Mysteries—bringing the total of decades to 20. When reciting the Rosary, you can choose to meditate on all 20 decades for a full Rosary or contemplate only five decades at a time.
If you meditate on only five decades per day, the Church recommends the following order: Recite the Joyful Mysteries on Monday and Saturday, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday and Friday, the Luminous Mysteries on Thursday, and the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday and Sunday.
The “Mystery Bar” Rosary assists you in praying the Rosary and remembering which mysteries are said on which day. The purpose is to avoid becoming lost in the process and having more focus on the meditation of Christs Life and Significant Events called the Mysteries. Meditations on the Life of Christ is the primary reason for praying the Rosary. The specified mysteries are just a way to organize events that are significant in Christ’s Life.
What the Rosary Is Not
This is a good place to say what the Rosary is not. The Rosary is not a bunch of beads. The Rosary is not the physical instrument used to pray. The Rosary “IS” the prayers that are prayed, the Meditation of Christ’s Life, and the Fulfillment of our obligation, our responsibility, our desire to seek a closer relationship with God and to better relate to the Life of One that we strive to emulate.
What we call a Rosary is more correctly–Rosary Beads. For convenience and to simplify our communications the term “Rosary” is in common usage for what are actually the instrument of the prayer and meditation.