Hey there Rosary Lovers! In this post I will try to answer the question: What is the Rosary prayer?

I’ve already done lots of posts on the Rosary, so please check them out here.

That said, there is always something more that can be said about the Rosary, even if much is repetition. This may be the only post you read on this site, so here we go!

The Rosary Beads

We’ve all heard of the Rosary and we’re all at least a little familiar with Rosary beads. Rosary beads and the Rosary prayer belong together. They shouldn’t generally be separated.

Yes, the Rosary beads should be blessed, and yes they will bless you just by keeping them in your pocket. Yes also they will protect your car if you’ve hung them up on your central car mirror inside.

Rosary beads will even bless you just holding them, and especially holding them when you pray using any words to talk to God.

All of these are great uses for the Rosary beads.

In fact, Rosary beads are used to pray other official prayers in the Church, such as the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. This is prayed using a standard set of Rosary beads.

So even the Church acknowledges that Rosary beads are not just for the Rosary prayers.

However, Rosary beads are mainly supposed to be used with the Rosary prayer. At least, that was why Rosary beads were invented.

If you don’t own any Rosary beads, but would like some, perhaps this post can help you out!

The Meditations

Now the Rosary prayer is a series of meditations on the entire life of the incarnate and risen Christ. The Rosary is one massive meditation on Christ.

There are 20 meditations in total in the entire Rosary. We call these meditations mysteries.

So there are 20 mysteries in the entire Rosary.

These are split up into 4 sets of mysteries, as follows:

  1. The Joyful Mysteries
  2. The Luminous Mysteries
  3. The Sorrowful Mysteries
  4. The Glorious Mysteries

Each of these sets of mysteries contains 5 individual mysteries or meditations on Christ. To pray one set of these 5 is equivalent to praying one Rosary.

If you pray them all, you’ve prayed 4 Rosaries. Some of us do this every single day (about an hour and 10-20 minutes of praying).

Here is the breakdown of the mysteries of the most holy Rosary.

  1. The Joyful Mysteries – The Annunciation; the Visitation; the Nativity; the Presentation; the Finding of Jesus
  2. The Luminous Mysteries – The Baptism; the Miracle at Cana; the Proclamation of the Kingdom; the Transfiguration; the Institution of the Holy Eucharist
  3. The Sorrowful Mysteries – The Agony in the Garden; the Scourging at the Pillar; the Crowning with Thorns; the Carrying of the Cross; the Crucifixion
  4. The Glorious Mysteries – The Resurrection; the Ascension of Jesus; the Descent of the Holy Spirit; the Assumption of Mary; the Coronation of Mary

Let us look at these in detail, just to explain briefly what they all are.

The Joyful Mysteries

The Annunciation

When the Angel Gabriel came to Mary and told her she would conceive Christ.

The Visitation

When Mary, pregnant with the incarnate Christ, visited St Elizabeth and unborn St John Baptist.

The Nativity

Christ’s birth, we remember this at Christmas.

The Presentation

When Mary and St Joseph presented Jesus to God in the Temple at Jerusalem, handing him to St Simeon.

The Finding of Jesus

Mary and St Joseph lost Jesus for 3 days, but found him in the Temple conversing with the doctors of the Jewish Law.

The Luminous Mysteries

The Baptism

Christ was baptised in the River Jordan by St John Baptist.

The Miracle at Cana

Christ attended a wedding in Galilee, where he performed his first miracle at the request of his Mother Mary, turning water into wine.

The Proclamation of the Kingdom

Christ’s ministry of healing, deliverance from the devil, and teaching, especially the Sermon on the Mount.

The Transfiguration

Christ is transfigured and glows whiter than the sun in the presence of his disciples on the holy mountain of Tabor; Moses and Elijah show up.

The Institution of the Holy Eucharist

Christ institutes the Eucharist, the central act of Christian worship, in which bread and wine are transformed mystically into his holy body and blood for our salvation. This is what Mass is all about.

The Sorrowful Mysteries

The Agony in the Garden

Christ is in agony in the Garden of Olives the night he is to be taken away from his disciples to stand trial for his life; his soul is sorrowful unto death because of the fearful weight of suffering that awaits him.

The Scourging at the Pillar

Christ is ordered to be scourged brutally by Pilate, the Roman Governor. A very gory event.

The Crowning with Thorns

Christ is mocked by the Roman soldiers and they place a crown of thorns on his head.

The Carrying of the Cross

Christ carries his cross to his death; he embraces it willingly as an example for us.

The Crucifixion

Jesus is crucified on the cross between two thieves, and dies in agony for our sins and the sins of the whole world.

The Glorious Mysteries

The Resurrection

Jesus is raised from the dead for our salvation!

The Ascension of Jesus

Jesus ascends back to his Father in heaven, there to be our eternal Advocate between God and mankind.

The Descent of the Holy Spirit

Jesus sends the Holy Spirit from God the Father onto the disciples at Pentecost, who empowers them to preach the gospel of salvation.

The Assumption of Mary

At the end of her earthly life, the blessed Virgin Mary is assumed body and soul into heaven, there to be with Christ her Son forever; from there she intercedes for all Christians before her Son.

The Coronation of Mary

Upon entering heaven, the Holy Trinity crowns Mary the permanent Queen of heaven and earth.

The Prayers

Now that you know the mysteries of the most holy Rosary, you should know the prayers too. The prayers of the Rosary are designed to help you meditate on the mysteries of the Rosary.

The prayers of the Rosary + the meditations/mysteries are the Rosary prayer. Neither can be forsaken, or else it is not the Rosary you are praying.

The prayers of the Rosary are as follows.

Introductory prayers

In this picture, you can see a crucifix and 5 beads. This section of the Rosary is for your introductory prayers.

Most Catholics tend to do the sign of the cross with the crucifix, then recite the Apostles Creed holding the crucifix.

Then on the first bead, you pray one Our Father (for the intentions of the Pope).

On the next three beads, you pray 3 Hail Marys (one for faith, one for hope, and one for charity).

You then recite a Glory Be inbetween the 4th and 5th bead.

On the 5th bead, the Rosary prayers properly start.

There is another way to pray the introductory prayers. It is much quicker, but you don’t really follow the beads in this case. Not many Catholics do this. You can find it here.

It doesn’t matter which of these two introductory prayers you use.

The First Mystery

You now begin praying the Rosary. The introductory prayers aren’t really the Rosary and are designed just to prepare your mind and heart for reciting the Rosary.

On the 5th bead in the picture above, you announce the first mystery.

Now, the first mystery will be the first mystery of any of the 4 sets of mysteries discussed above.

For example, let’s say you have chosen to pray the Sorrowful Mysteries today. The first mystery will be the Agony in the Garden. You simply say this: ‘The Agony in the Garden’.

You can select any set of mysteries to pray on any day. Traditionally Catholics around the world pray them as follows:

  • Joyful Mysteries – Monday, Saturday, Sundays during Advent.
  • Luminous Mysteries – Thursday
  • Sorrowful Mysteries – Tuesday, Fridays, Sundays during Lent.
  • Glorious Mysteries – Wednesdays, Sundays

You are free to pray whichever set you please on any day you please. It doesn’t matter.

After announcing the 1st mystery, you then say on the 5th bead (as depicted above) one Our Father.

You then enter the circle of the Rosary, as pictured. It doesn’t matter which direction you go, but whichever you choose you will follow round until you come to the last bead on the circle (or heart, as depicted in the picture).

On the first bead of the circle/heart, you pray one Hail Mary. You then pray another 9 Hail Marys, each on one bead. One bead after the other.

When you’ve finished the 10th Hail Mary, you will be on the 10th bead, and you will move on to a gap between the 10th bead and the 11th bead.

Can you see the gap in the other picture to the right? That gap is for reciting a Glory Be.

The Second Mystery

You then come to the 11th bead of the circle. Can you see it in the picture? It is the bead that has two very obvious white bits of cord either side of it. It is in the middle.

This 11th bead is where you start the 2nd mystery.

Let’s suppose you chose the Sorrowful mysteries to pray. The second mystery would be the Scourging at the Pillar.

On this bead you announce the mystery. As before, you simply say: ‘The Scourging at the Pillar’. Then you recite one Our Father, followed by 10 Hail Marys, one Hail Mary for each bead.

After the last Hail Mary, you’ll come again to a gap in the Rosary. This is for reciting a Glory Be.

The Rest of the Rosary

You repeat this process for the 3rd, 4th and 5th mysteries, working your way slowly round the Rosary beads.

You’ll finish up with doing a full circle round to where you began the Rosary.

Anything else?

If you have done this, then congratulations! You have just prayed one whole Rosary!! You should be very proud of yourself. Mary is very proud of you, and she has been praying with you and for you and those you love.

Although you have technically finished the Rosary at this point, you can choose to do a few things.

You could pray another Rosary! You don’t need to do any introductory prayers. Just launch straight into another set of mysteries, starting with the first mystery.

Or you could pray a concluding prayer, such as the Hail Holy Queen.

Finish with the sign of the cross, using the crucifix of the Rosary.

The Benefits of the Rosary

The Rosary is one of the most precious things in the Catholic Church. It is incredibly popular, and has brought countless blessings to billions of people for centuries.

It is richly indulgenced, which means that the Catholic Church grants indulgences to Catholics who recite the Rosary. These indulgences can be used to reduce or even eliminate our time in purgatory, or the time in purgatory of the departed.

Countless men and women throughout the ages have been devoted to the most holy Rosary. It has been one of the main causes of turning many Catholics into saints who we now venerate and appeal to.

Examples are: St Bernadette, St Padre Pio, St John Paul II, St Mother Theresa, Sts Francisco and Jacinta Marto, St Dominic, St Bridget of Sweden, St Maximilian Kolbe, St Louis de Montfort, and so on.

It is not so easy to name a Catholic saint who wasn’t devoted to the Rosary. This tells us its power to convert hearts and turn people into the holiness of God.

Mary gave 15 promises to St Dominic concerning those who pray the Rosary often. They can be found here.

Here are some highlights:

2. I promise my special protection and the greatest graces to all those who shall recite the Rosary.
5. The soul which recommends itself to me by the recitation of the Rosary, shall not perish.
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 plenititude of His graces; at the moment of death they shall participate in the merits of the saints in paradise.

10. The faithful children of the Rosary shall merit a high degree of glory in Heaven.
15. Devotion of my Rosary is a great sign of predestination.

To paraphrase or sum up these promises, we could say that those who are devoted to the most holy Rosary will:

  1. Be greatly helped, protected and guided in life by divine power
  2. Grow greatly in holiness
  3. Be saved
  4. Receive a high position in heavenly glory

I hope you also find wonderful blessing in giving yourself to the Rosary.

Pray it often and commend this practice to others, and see what wonderful miracles God will work in your life.

God bless you, through Mary, Queen of the most holy Rosary.

4 Replies to “What is the Rosary Prayer?”

  1. Hi Matthew, it was great to read your article about the Rosary prayer and be reminded of all the saints devoted to the rosary as well as the promises to St Dominic and benefits.
    Good also to read through each mystery as a refresher. I had forgotten about the Proclamation of the Kingdom that this is more than just Jesus doing the sermon on the mount to his Disciples, it is for prayer and reflection on Jesus’s deliverance from the devil and his ministry of healing.

    In this increasingly secular world, the Rosary can become forgotten in all the things that compete for our attention.  Any Catholic reading your article should be inspired to pick up those Rosary beads, even a decade as a start and devotion to the Rosary and the Graces that come from it. 

    1. Hi John

      Thank you so very much for your helpful and encouraging comment. I now know that at least one person in the world has read this post haha!

      Yes, just saying one decade of the Rosary a day is much better than not doing anything. This practice can grow to one Rosary a day. I guess the Rosary is so powerful that just saying one decade a day will have beautiful consequences.

      God bless in Christ

  2. If I’m Christian, am I still able to use rosary beads?

    Are rosary prayers work for different religions or is it all the same?

    I’ve learned a lot coming across your website because I do not know what a rosary prayer was as well as the rosary beads and the purpose for it. It’s cool that when you have rosary beads they protect you and can even put them in your car.

    I never knew that you can use rosary beads to strengthen your prayer with god. The 20 mystery meditation is a lot to pray for. You have to go through a series of prayers and sessions which can take up to an hour, also depending on what prayer your doing and meditation. 

    It makes sense to announce these meditations and do them because they all aligned with what God did and as well as our principles to follow. 

    What a great introduction on how to pray and do the meditation right. This article has a great guide on the rosary prayer and will help those who participate in these activities. I am definitely going to bookmark this site because it has taught me some things about religion and the rosary prayer.

    1. Hey there! Thank you for your comment.

      Whether you are Christian or not, yes, I heartily recommend using Rosary beads that have been blessed by a catholic priest. You can take your rosary beads to any catholic priest and he will happily bless them and you don’t have to be catholic for this.

      You ask: “Are rosary prayers work for different religions or is it all the same?” I didn’t really understand this question sorry.

      I’m very glad to hear you’ve learned a lot from my site! Thank you so much.

      Yes, be assured that the Rosary beads are VERY accessible and you can use them to say any prayers to God through our Lord Jesus Christ and his Mother Mary.

      In fact, just wearing or holding rosary beads that have been blessed, or having them in your pocket, will bless you a lot, regardless of your religious background.

      St Padre Pio said: ‘To hold the Rosary is to hold Mary’s hand.’ It’s to touch the divine.

      I look forward to hearing from you again! 

      Any other questions, just let me know.

      God bless!

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