In this post I am going to explain to you what the Rosary is. But first, if you’re any kind of Protestant like I was, and you inwardly cringe, or even outwardly shutter at just the thought, much less the mention of that “R” word, I want you to do something for me. Do this:
Locate your “file” on the Rosary in your brain. Open up the file and delete every piece of evidence you have on it. Shred it up. Burn it up. And now throw it out the window to the wind. Okay? Okay. Now we may begin with a clean slate.
Dear Protestant, I am going to tell you about something amazing. Something that has turned my daily prayer and devotion time into one of the most beautiful, thoughtful, and awe inspiring things I have ever come across in my entire life. This beautiful thing blew my mind when I first learned about it. It has continued to blow my mind on a daily basis.
This beautiful thing is a Bible study on a necklace. That’s right, a piece of jewelry you can wear that will help you study and meditate on many different aspects of the birth, life, suffering, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This necklace helps me focus my thoughts on Christ. Before I explain to you this beautiful thing, I’d like to give you some history on how this Bible study on a necklace came about.
First, this Bible study on a necklace isn’t just a “Catholic thing” as its origins began in the 9th century. It is truly a Christian thing. Monks had made a habit of reciting all 150 psalms on a daily basis. Because many lay-people couldn’t read at the time, they had a difficult time reading and memorizing all of the psalms. So the monks encouraged them to recite the Our Father, or the Lord’s Prayer, 50-150 times. The monks and lay-people used strings of beads to help them keep count. The word “bede” in Middle English, where we get our modern word “bead,” originally meant prayer. Throughout the centuries, other easily remembered prayers were added, until the 15th century when the Rosary was settled in it’s present form.
At this point, I can easily hear my dear Protestant friends say (as I can hear my past self asking), but why pray a prayer over and over and over? Isn’t that the vain repetitions Jesus condemns? Besides, didn’t you say it’s a Bible study on a necklace?
A repetitious prayer (or any prayer, for that matter) is only vain if the person repeating it is saying it mindlessly, trying to get it over with, or thinking they will earn favor with God because of their many words. Jesus wasn’t condemning the repetitious Jewish prayers, of which there were many (go read a few psalms, and tell me if they aren’t repetitious). Jesus was condemning the hypocritical prayer practices of pagans who think there is something magical about prayers, and think they are earning points with God. But prayer, including Rosary praying, doesn’t change God. Prayer changes me. What’s more, repetition brings about hope and healing, as my life can well attest to, before and after I found the Rosary. (Read Do Catholics Pray Vain Repetitions? By Catholic Answers for more on this topic.)
And now, the part you’ve been waiting for dear Protestant, here is why I call it a Bible study on a necklace.
As you pray the prayers in the Rosary, you meditate on a different aspect from the life of Jesus Christ. One “decade” is one set of 10 beads on the necklace. There are 5 decades in one necklace, with one bead in between, separating each decade. There is a different mystery for each decade to meditate on. I don’t mean mystery as in something you can’t comprehend, but rather a mystery of the faith, or divine revelation. There are 4 sets of 5 mysteries – 20 different aspects of the life of Christ to meditate on, outlined below:
The Joyful Mysteries
- The Annunciation (Luke 1:28)
- The Visitation (Luke 1:41-42)
- The Birth of Jesus (Luke 2:7)
- The Presentation (Luke 2:22-23)
- Finding the Child Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:46)
The Luminous Mysteries
- Baptism of Jesus (Mat. 3:16-17)
- Wedding at Cana (John 2:5-7)
- Proclaiming the Kingdom (Mat. 10:7-8)
- Transfiguration (Luke 9:29, 35)
- Institution of the Eucharist (Luke 22:19-20)
The Sorrowful Mysteries
- The Agony in the Garden (Luke 22:44-45)
- The Scourging at the Pillar (John 19:1)
- Crowning with Thorns (Mat 27:28-29)
- Carrying the Cross (John 19:17)
- The Crucifixion (Luke 23:46)
The Glorious Mysteries
- The Resurrection (Mark 16:6)
- The Ascension (Mark 16:19)
- Descent of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4)
- The Assumption (Judith 15:9-10)
- The Coronation (Revelation 12:1)
As I’m praying, I’m thinking about one of these mysteries, meditating on how this aspect of Christ relates to me, or how this inspires me in what I have to do today, or how I need to trust Jesus more, desire for holiness more, adore Jesus more, have more sorrow of sin, more humility, courage, patience, love for my neighbor, hope, faith, purity, perseverance, and the list goes on and on. But this is not all, as I’m praying the prayers, and thinking about Jesus’ life, I can also be thinking about an intention, or prayer request. I can lift up to the throne of Grace a family member, a friend, a situation I’m worried about, all without actually verbalizing the words. My heart is praying to God as I’m meditating on Jesus. Usually, my heart continues to lift up this intention to God throughout the remainder of my day.
The prayers in the Rosary include the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Glory Be, the Apostles Creed, and a few more prayers of petition. Most of these prayers come straight from… wait for it… Scripture! When praying the Rosary, you are praying Scripture back to God, repeating Bible verses over and over. How can that be vain?
The Our Father is purely Scriptural, Matthew 6:9-13. No Protestant could disagree with this prayer.
The Glory Be – Glory be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end, amen. I can’t imagine a Protestant disagreeing with this prayer.
A prayer of petition – Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy. Considering this is basically the “sinners” prayer, I don’t see how a Protestant could have a problem with this beautiful little prayer.
The Apostles Creed is something that most Protestant denominations agree with as well:
I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day He rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again 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 the life everlasting. Amen.
The Hail Mary prayer is the one that bothers most Protestants. If you think that Catholics worship Mary or the Saints, or wonder why Catholics “pray” to Mary and the Saints, read this blog post of mine Do Catholics Worship Saints? Then come back here.
In the Hail Mary, we are asking Mary to pray for us, in the same way that I ask my own mother or other family member or close friend to pray for me. Mary is not dead. She is alive in heaven.
The first part of the Hail Mary, is taken right from the Scriptures and goes like this:
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you;
In the Hail Mary prayer, we meditate on the very words of the angel Gabriel. (Luke 1:28).
blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
Mary’s cousin Elizabeth calls Mary blessed amoung women in Luke 1:42. Then, we meditate on the reason why she is so blessed: the fruit of her womb. Jesus. We bless Jesus. By calling Mary blessed, we fulfill Mary’s own prophetic remarks when she says, in Luke 1:48, that “henceforth, all generations will call me blessed.”
In its prayer form, the rosary petitions the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, to pray for us as well,
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.
The Cordial Catholic explains the Hail Mary in a beautiful way:
Acknowledging Mary’s special role as Mother of God, as the mother that Jesus in turn gave to all of us, we ask her to pray for us. We ask her in our understanding of the Communion of Saints—in our understanding that those in Heaven can pray for us here on earth. And with a special understanding of the role that Mary plays as first among all the saints—pictured in the ancient Christian understanding of the Book of Revelation.
Dear Protestant, now do you see how beautiful the Rosary is? It has turned my prayer life into one full of color and intense beauty. Many Protestants are beginning to pick up the Rosary, and use it in their daily devotions. You don’t have to be a Catholic. I began incorporating it in my prayer life before I became Catholic. I encourage you, as your sister in Christ, use this Bible study on a necklace. I need to warn you though.
It will change your life.
Read more about the Rosary, this wonderful Bible study on a necklace:
Why do Catholics Pray the Rosary? | Video from Catholic Answers podcast. A non-Catholic Christian calls and asks why pray to Mary, and not just straight to Jesus. Catholic convert, Jimmy Akin, answers this question.
Do Catholics Worship Saints? | TeawithAbbey.com/Grace