The Origin and Development of the Holy Rosary




The Holy Rosary is a Reflective vocal prayer and devotion in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

It is reflective because through the prayers of the Rosary, we meditate and reflect on important events in the life of Christ and His Mother, Mary.

As a vocal prayer, it consists of specific prayers that fully expresses key aspects of our Christian faith, and Catholic tradition, and this includes: The Trinitarian invocation (sign of the Cross), the Apostles Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Hail Mary and the Doxology (Glory Be…), among others.

The word “rosary” comes from the Latin “rosarium” which means “rose garden” or “garland/bouquet of roses.”

The Origin of the Rosary is unknown!

However, the use of beads in prayers, and parts of the prayers of the rosary existed centuries before St. Dominic, and were used by Monks in their prayers.

But, history attributes the origin the Rosary, as we have it today, to St. Dominic, the founder of the Order of Preachers (the Dominicans), after Mary appeared to him in the year 1214 AD, encouraging him to Spread the devotion.

She promised him victory in the conversion of the Albigensians and growth in the Religious order that he founded.

The Rosary had gone through stages of development, before and after the Death of St. Dominic.

In the 3rd and 4th Century, the Desert Fathers used knotted prayer ropes as counting devices while praying the Jesus Prayer:  “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

In the 9th century, some Irish Monks created beads/rosaries for the lay brothers to keep count as they recite the Lord’s Prayer; the rosaries were known then as Paternosters (“Our Fathers”). This was due to their inability to memorize the 150 Psalms like the Monks, as they were illiterate.

As at the time of St. Dominic, the Rosary had only the prayers of “Our Father” and “Hail Mary” (the first part), in 3 mysteries, consisting of 5 decades each.

Hundred years after St. Dominic’s death, Blessed Alan de la Roche divided the rosary into 10 “Hail Mary” decades preceded by the “Our Father.”

In the 15th century, the mysteries of the rosary were assigned to each of the decades, and this gave opportunity for Scriptural reflection and meditative prayer while saying the rosary.

In 1569, Pope Pius V issued the papal bull Consueverunt Romani Pontifices, and this established the devotion to the rosary in the Catholic Church.

In 1917, Our Lady appeared to three young shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal, and She declared herself to be “Our Lady of the Rosary” and repeatedly urged the children to recite the rosary daily.

In the 20th Century, Pope John XXIII taught that the Rosary must have a threefold purpose: “mystical contemplation, intimate reflection, and pious intention.”

On October 16, 2002, Pope John Paul II added a new set of five mysteries to the rosary; they are called, the “Luminous Mysteries” or “The Mysteries of Light,” and these mysteries focus on Jesus’ public ministry on earth.

The rosary is not a mere mechanical action or act of obligation, but a meditative and reflective prayer, and it which offers divine graces to everyone willing to give it a chance.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen said, “The rosary is the book of the blind, where souls see and there enact the greatest drama of love the world has ever known; it is the book of the simple, which initiates them into mysteries and knowledge more satisfying than the education of other men; it is the book of the aged, whose eyes close upon the shadow of this world, and open on the substance of the next. The power of the rosary is beyond description.”


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