October is known as the month of the rosary, no doubt because October 7 is the feast of the Holy Rosary. The feast originated with the Battle of Lepanto when, against all odds, Christians overcame the Muslim forces attacking Europe—accredited to Christians praying the rosary. (Hmm. What would happen if all Catholics prayed the rosary to vanquish ISIS?) The rosary is associated with Catholics as much as the Mass is. It hangs in our cars, and our hands hold it in the coffin. Martin Luther, a former Catholic, did away with many Catholic things, but not the rosary. He prayed it every day until he died. The composer Hadyn prayed it whenever he got composer’s block. It was Pope St. John Paul II’s favorite prayer. After 9/11, he encouraged praying it for peace. When the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared in Fatima, Portugal, she, too, advised us to pray the rosary for peace. To those who think that after the reforms of Vatican II, the rosary is something to be thrown out the window, think again!
The rosary is a highly scriptural prayer. We pray two ways during the rosary: We say the traditional formula prayers (Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be), but at the same time we ponder the mysteries of Jesus, one mystery per decade (set of ten beads). I tell children that this takes practice, like mastering patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time. The repetitions of the Hail Marys is like soothing background music to our thoughts. (So soothing that the rosary can function as a remedy for sleepless nights.)
The rosary is known as a Marian prayer because we primarily honor our Blessed Mother by praying fifty-three Hail Marys. The rosary has been compared to a garland of roses we present to her. I also ask the children how they feel when someone says something nice about their mother. Then I comment that likewise Jesus is pleased when we praise his mother. We Sisters of Notre Dame (Our Lady) pray the rosary every day.
Rosaries can be beautiful crystal ones or homemade ones. There are also single decade rosaries. I have one of these made from crushed rose petals. Some people pray on ten-beaded bracelets or rings. Lacking any of these, we can always pray on our hands, which conveniently have ten fingers! The largest rosary is at a shrine in Windsor, Ohio. It is made of foot-high lamps near the tallest statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which is 50-feet high.
On the Internet are sites that explain how to pray the rosary, list the mysteries, and even allow us to pray along. The site at www.Comepraytherosary.org is one that enables us to praying the rosary individually or with others.
Variations: You can make up your own mysteries, such as the miracle mysteries or the parable mysteries. You can also stay mindful of the mystery by inserting in the Hail Marys words that refer to it. For example, for the Annunciation you might pray, “Hail Mary, full of grace, to whom the Angel Gabriel came, the Lord . . .”
By the way, the rosary developed over the years. The legend that Mary personally handed one to St. Dominic began because the Dominicans were chief promoters of the rosary.
What rosary has special meaning for you? When has praying the rosary been a comfort or joy for you?