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Eastern Christian monks started the Christian practice in the third century. The modern Roman Catholic rosary's origin is most often associated with St. Dominic, founder of the Dominican order in the early 13th century. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, "it reached its definitive form in the 15th century through the preaching of the Dominican Alan de la Roche and his associates, who organized Rosary Confraternities at Douai in France and at Cologne. In 1520 Pope Leo X gave the rosary official approbation." In October of 2002 Pope John Paul II added an optional group of mysteries (Mysteries of the Light) to the Rosary (see Rosarium Virginis Mariae).

But, what makes the rosary special? The Blessed Mary herself gave us the reasons (as given to St. Dominic and Blessed Alan). Here are the fifteen promises of Mary to Christians who recite the rosary.

1. Whoever shall faithfully serve me by the recitation of the rosary, shall receive signal graces.

2. I promise my special protection and the greatest graces to all those who shall recite the rosary.

3. The rosary shall be a powerful armor against hell, it will destroy vice, decrease sin, and defeat heresies.

4. It will cause virtue and good works to flourish; it will obtain for souls the abundant mercy of God; it will withdraw the heart of men from the love of the world and its vanities, and will lift them to the desire of eternal things. Oh, that souls would sanctify themselves by this means.

5. The soul which recommend itself to me by the recitation of the rosary, shall not perish.

6. Whoever shall recite the rosary devoutly, applying himself to the consideration of its sacred mysteries shall never be conquered by misfortune. God will not chastise him in His justice, he shall not by an unprovided death; if he be just he shall remain in the grace of God, and become worthy of eternal life.

7. Whoever shall have a true devotion for the rosary shall not die without the sacraments of the Church.

8. Those who are faithful to recite the rosary shall have during their life and at their death the light of God and the plenitude of His graces; at the moment of death they shall participate in the merits of the saints in paradise.

9. I shall deliver from purgatory those who have been devoted to the rosary.

10. The faithful children of the rosary shall merit a high degree of glory in heaven.

11. You shall obtain all you ask of me by the recitation of the rosary.

12. All those who propagate the holy rosary shall be aided by me in their necessities.

13. I have obtained from my Divine Son that all the advocates of the rosary shall have for intercessors the entire celestial court during their life and at the hour of death.

14. All who recite the rosary are my son, and brothers of my only son Jesus Christ.

15. Devotion of my rosary is a great sign of predestination.

The Rosary is a prayer taken directly from Holy Scripture, with the first part of the Hail Mary taken from the words of the Archangel Gabriel, who called Mary "Full of Grace," and the second part from the lips of Mary's cousin Elizabeth, who exclaimed, "Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb!" The Holy Catholic Rosary is the life and ministry of Jesus, given to us by the Virgin Mary herself for meditation and prayer in an orderly, reverential manner, whereby we learn who Jesus is.

Pope Paul VI: "The Rosary is a treasure of graces."

Pope John Paul II: "The Rosary is my favorite prayer... The simple prayer of the Rosary marks the rhythm of human life."

The Catholic Rosary Prayers are powerful and efficacious in seeking Christ and as a weapon against the evil one. The very powerful prayer of the heart can lead those who feel weak in their prayer life toward a deeper relationship with Jesus, through his Blessed Mother (who always and only points the way to Him), by creating a general mood, and an attitude and posture of prayer, through which their open spirits can learn from the Holy Spirit.

How Rosary Beads Are Arranged and Beginning the Prayer

The Catholic rosary beads are set up as follows: At the bottom, or beginning, is the Crucifix, a representation of our Lord Jesus on the Cross, dying for us so that we are redeemed from sin and death. Then there are five introductory beads, usually made with 1 large bead then 3 small beads, and again, one large bead. Then there is a rosary center, with a depiction of the Blessed Mother, or Jesus, or a representation of the Holy Spirit as a dove, a saint, or a rose, or a combination of these. Then begin the decades of the rosary, so named because each of the five sections consist of ten beads each.

Begin with the opening prayers as follows and say once before the entire rosary: O God, come to my assistance. O Lord, make haste to help me. +In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

In some places it is now customary to recite what has come to be called the Fatima prayer, which traces its beginning to Our Lady's appearance and her instructions at Fatima in 1917:

O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, and save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those most in need of your mercy.

Take the crucifix in hand, and prayerfully recite the Apostle's Creed: I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth; And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, Born of the Virgin Mary, Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell; The third day, He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God, the Father almighty; from whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit; The holy Catholic Church; The communion of saints; The forgiveness of sins; The resurrection of the body; And life everlasting. Amen.

There are next five beads, and beginning with the first large bead, recite the prayer that Jesus taught us: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy Name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

On the next 3 small beads, recite once on each bead, to ask Mary to obtain for us by her petition to God the three theological gifts of faith, hope and love: Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

On the second large bead, again recite: Glory be to the Father...etc.

Next begin the decades of the rosary, and these are prayed in groups of five decades. Each set of five decades is dedicated to what are called the Mysteries. There are four sets of Mysteries on which to meditate, The Joyful, the Luminous, the Sorrowful, and the Glorious, which comprise the entire Rosary prayer. It is permissible to pray one set of Mysteries per day, consisting of five decades, or once around the rosary. Praying the 5 Joyful Mysteries on Mondays and Saturdays, the 5 Sorrowful on Tuesdays and Fridays, and the 5 Glorious on Wednesdays and Sundays is a traditional way to recite, with the addition of the 5 Luminous Mysteries recited on Thursdays.

The Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary The First Joyful Mystery: The Annunciation: The Angel Gabriel declares God's will for Mary to become the Mother of Jesus, and Mary humbly and amazedly accepts that Salvation will enter the world through her body. The Second Joyful Mystery: The Visitation: Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth, who carries John the Baptist in her womb, who leaps for joy at the sound of Mary's voice. We see a testament that within the wombs of all women live children with very present individual souls, present before their birth. The Third Joyful Mystery: The Birth of Jesus. Salvation entered the world in suffering, lived it in suffering and finished it in suffering. Suffering is the one and only thing that ALL human beings share in the world, and God chose to both share it with us, and to sanctify it by attaching it to God himself. Suffering is no longer empty and meaningless, but is purposed for the Salvation of the world. The Fourth Joyful Mystery: The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple: Simeon proclaims the coming of the Lord. What do his ancient eyes see? The Fifth Joyful Mystery: The Finding of the boy Jesus in the Temple: Jesus says He is about His Father's work. He has always know who He is, and yet he submits in obedience to His earthly Parent and Guardian.

The Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary The First Luminous Mystery: Jesus' Baptism in the Jordan: The sky is violenlty rent, the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus. God thunders "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased! The Second Luminous Mystery: Jesus' First Miracle at the Wedding of Cana: Jesus does His mother's bidding, and performs His first Miracle at her request, which she makes in sympathy for the humiliation of the wedding party. Do we suppose that if He listened to her then, that He later stopped honoring her requests for those humiliated and hurting in the world? The Third Luminous Mystery: Jesus' Proclamation of the Kingdom: The Kingdom of God is at hand. Not always in the future, but at hand this very instant, and then, and always. The Fourth Luminous Mystery: The Transfiguration: Jesus is revealed to Peter, James and John, with Moses the Law and Elijah the Prophet, Christ glorified above them all. The Fifth Luminous Mystery: The Institution of the Eucharist: This is My Body. This is My Blood. Jesus said it...why do so many not believe it?

The Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary The First Sorrowful Mystery: The Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane: Jesus prays to have the cup of suffering and death pass from him, but prays for his Father's will. The Second Sorrowful Mystery: The Scourging of Jesus: Jesus is cruelly flogged, the flesh is torn from His back. The Third Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning with Thorns: A cruel mockery, and an irony none of His torturers know. The Fourth Sorrowful Mystery: Jesus Carries His Cross to Calvary: Falling three times under the weight of the cross, looking deeply and silently into the eyes of His mother.. The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery: Jesus Dies on the Cross: He commends his soul to God, after giving us His mother as our own Mother.

The Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary The First Glorious Mystery: The Resurrection of Jesus:Why do you look for Him among the dead? He is risen! The Second Glorious Mystery: The Ascension into Heaven Jesus returns to the Father, to come again as He left, in a cloud of glory! The Third Glorious Mystery: The Descent of the Holy Spirit: In the upper room, after 50 days, a sound like a rushing wind, and flames on the brows of the disciples. The Fourth Glorious Mystery: The Assumption of Mary into Heaven Jesus gives the reward to His Mother that His entire Church will later receive. The Fifth Glorious Mystery: The Crowning of Mary as Queen of Heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and crowned with 12 stars.

On the rosary center announce the First Mystery, pausing to meditate upon its impact and meaning, then begin with the prayer that Jesus taught, the "Our Father..." and then on each of the ten beads prayerfully recite the "Hail Mary, full of grace...etc." At the end of the first ten beads, recite "Glory be to the Father....," and the Fatima Prayer, "O my Jesus, forgive us our sins...." Repeat on the next four decades, announcing and meditating on the next mystery at the start of each.

As you reach the five beads at the bottom of the rosary leading to the Crucifix again, recite to Mary the "Hail, Holy Queen" prayer:

Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy! our light, our sweetness, our hope! To thee do we cry, poor, banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us; and after this our exile show unto us the blessed Fruit of Thy Womb, Jesus; O clement! O loving! O sweet Virgin Mary!

+In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.