The exact origins of the Rosary are unknown. Many believe that the Rosary was first established by St Dominic following a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1214. It was certainly promoted by Dominican Friars during the 15th century.
Long before that time, however, the Muslim practice of using Tesbih (a string of 99 beads used to recount the names of Allah) had been noticed by Christians. Some argue that Christianity adapted the Muslim practice in order to encourage people to learn simple prayers by rote and reflect on biblical passages (the ‘Mysteries’).
Today’s Rosary comprises of 20 Mysteries (thanks to Blessed Pope John Paul II who added an extra five ‘Luminous‘ ones towards the end of his pontificate).
It’s significant to note that for a prayer which is associated with Mary, the focus is mostly on events in the life of Christ.
The usual practice is to pray one set of Mysteries at a time. For each Mystery one Our Father, 10 Hail Marys and one Glory Be are said, in that order. Rosary beads are used to help keep count of the prayers.
Before beginning the set of ‘Mysteries‘, it is usual to make the sign of the cross, say one Our Father, one Hail Mary and one Glory Be and then the Apostles Creed.
At the end of the set of Mysteries, the Salve Regina is said followed by the concluding prayer:
O God, whose only-begotten Son, by his life, death, and
resurrection has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life,
grant, we beseech you, that meditating on these mysteries
in the most holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may
both imitate what they contain, and obtain what they promise.
Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
Some people say that they find the repetitious nature of the Rosary off-putting. The saying over and over of basic Christian prayers such as the Our Father and the Hail Mary forms a mantra to focus one’s mind while reflecting upon the events of each Mystery.
Traditionally, people have an ‘intention’ for each decade or sometimes just for one set of Mysteries. An intention can be anything from praying for the Holy Souls to specific requests for people to get better, be blessed, rest in peace, the good of the parish, and so on.