The Lord Himself commanded us to pray unceasingly (Luke 18:1), so right from the beginning various traditions in the Church have gotten started with this command in mind. Early monks threw pebbles in piles as they kept count of repetitive Our Fathers. Later, prayers were counted on knotted cords. And, by the 12th century, beads usually of wood or clay, and sometimes even of precious jewels replaced the knotted cords.
Over the centuries, many approved devotions have developed from these circlets of beads.
The Rosary as we know it today evolved from the custom of monks who, not having learned to read, and therefore having been unable to recite the one hundred and fifty psalms of the Daily Office, recited, in place of the Office, one hundred and fifty Our Fathers each day. In time, many Christian faithful began to recite one hundred and fifty Hail Marys each day as an expression of Marian devotion. By the beginning of the 15th century it was common to recite the Hail Marys in decades (groups of ten) punctuated with fifteen Our Fathers; and by the end of the 15th century an additional custom developed: meditating on the central Gospel Mysteries of the life of Christ and Mary while praying the Hail Marys.
"All generations will call me blessed": . . . The Church rightly honors "the Blessed Virgin with special devotion. From the most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been honored with the title of 'Mother of God,' to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs. . . . This very special devotion . . . differs essentially from the adoration which is given to the incarnate Word and equally to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and greatly fosters this adoration” [Lumen gentium 66]. The liturgical feasts dedicated to the Mother of God and Marian prayer, such as the rosary, an "epitome of the whole Gospel," express this devotion to the Virgin Mary (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 971, emphasis added).
The Franciscan historian Luke Wadding (1588-1657) dates the origin of the Franciscan Crown to the year 1422. He tells the story of a young novice in the Franciscan Order who, previously accustomed to express his devotion to the Blessed Virgin by adorning her statue with a wreath of fresh flowers, was prevented from continuing this practice in the novitiate. In distress, he considered leaving the Order. But the Blessed Virgin appeared to him and instructed him to recite a rosary of seven decades in honour of her seven joys; thus, he might weave a "crown" more pleasing to her than flowers on her statue.
From that time the practice of reciting the "crown of the seven joys" became general in the order. Thus it became known as the Franciscan Crown – or the Seraphic Rosary.
The Seven Joys of Mary
1. The Annunciation
In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, "Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you." But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."
But Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?" And the angel said to her in reply, "The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God." Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:26-38)
2. The Visitation
During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, "Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled." ... Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home. (Luke 1:39-45, 56)
3. The Nativity
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7)
4. The Adoration by the Magi
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, "Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage."
...And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother.
They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:1-2, 9b-11)
5. The Finding of Our Lord in the Temple
Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.
After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers.
When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, "Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety." And he said to them, "Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" But they did not understand what he said to them. He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. (Luke 2:41-51)
6. The Resurrection
But at daybreak on the first day of the week they took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb; but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.
While they were puzzling over this, behold, two men in dazzling garments appeared to them.
They were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground. They said to them, "Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised. Remember what he said to you while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners and be crucified, and rise on the third day." And they remembered his words. (Luke 24:1-8)
7. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin into Heaven
and Her Coronation as Queen of Heaven
Hence the revered Mother of God, from all eternity joined in a hidden way with Jesus Christ in one and the same decree of predestination, immaculate in her conception, a most perfect virgin in her divine motherhood, the noble associate of the divine Redeemer who has won a complete triumph over sin and its consequences, finally obtained, as the supreme culmination of her privileges, that she should be preserved free from the corruption of the tomb and that, like her own Son, having overcome death, she might be taken up body and soul to the glory of heaven where, as Queen, she sits in splendor at the right hand of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages.
And so we may hope that those who meditate upon the glorious example Mary offers us may be more and more convinced of the value of a human life entirely devoted to carrying out the heavenly Father's will and to bringing good to others. Thus, while the illusory teachings of materialism and the corruption of morals that follows from these teachings threaten to extinguish the light of virtue and to ruin the lives of men by exciting discord among them, in this magnificent way all may see clearly to what a lofty goal our bodies and souls are destined.
The Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus , 41. 42. Pope Pius XII
How to Pray The Franciscan Crown
1. Using beads for the Franciscan Crown (seven decades), announce the First Mystery and pray the Our Father on the single bead just before the medallion.
2. Pray one Hail Mary for each of the ten beads. (It seems most fitting to proceed around the beads in a clockwise direction.)
3. On the single bead between the decades, announce the next Mystery and then pray the Our Father. Continue as in Step 2 for the remaining Mysteries.
4. After the last Mystery, pray one Hail Mary each on the fourth and third beads from the Cross to complete 72 years of Mary's Joy.
5. Pray the Our Father and the Glory to the Father (Gloria Patri) for the intention of the Holy Father on the 2nd bead from the Cross.
6. Pray a Hail Mary on the single bead closest to the Cross.
The Traditional Rosary
The Blessed Virgin herself told the children at Fátima to pray the Rosary every day for peace in the world and for the conversion of sinners. How can we, then, in our troubled times, fail to pray as ardently today?
The traditional Rosary has fifteen mysteries. It is prayed on a set of beads having five groups of ten beads separated by single beads, all attached to a crucifix by three additional beads and a medallion. (Each group of ten beads is called a decade.) To pray all the mysteries, one would make multiple circuits around the entire set of main beads.
In the document Rosarium Virginis Mariae (October 2002), Blessed Pope John Paul II suggested (but did not "decree") five new mysteries, the Luminous Mysteries.
The Joyful Mysteries
1. The Annunciation
2. The Visitation
3. The Nativity
4. The Presentation in the Temple
5. The Finding of Our Lord in the Temple
The Luminous Mysteries (new)
6. The Baptism in the Jordan
7. The Self-manifestation at the Wedding of Cana
8. The Proclamation of the Kingdom of God
9. The Transfiguration
10. The Institution of the Eucharist
The Sorrowful Mysteries
11. The Agony in the Garden
12. The Scourging
13. The Crowning with Thorns
14. The Carrying of the Cross
15. The Crucifixion
The Glorious Mysteries
16. The Resurrection
17. The Ascension
18. The Coming of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost)
19. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin into Heaven
20. The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin as Queen of Heaven
How to Pray the Traditional Rosary
Although some persons pray all the Mysteries every day, many persons have traditionally prayed five Mysteries (making one circuit around the five decades of beads) each day according to the following schedule: the Joyful Mysteries on Mondays and Thursdays, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesdays and Fridays, and the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
Where might the "mysteries of light" be inserted? If we consider that the "glorious mysteries" are said on both Saturday and Sunday, and that Saturday has always had a special Marian flavour, the second weekly meditation on the "joyful mysteries," mysteries in which Mary's presence is especially pronounced, could be moved to Saturday. Thursday would then be free for meditating on the "mysteries of light." (Rosarium Virginis Mariae).
1. Using beads for the traditional Rosary, hold the Cross in your right hand, make the Sign of the Cross, and pray the Apostles' Creed.
2. Pray the Our Father on the first single bead next to the Cross.
3. Pray a Hail Mary on each of the next three beads.
4. Pray the Glory to the Father (Gloria Patri) on the last single bead.
5. Announce the first Mystery and pray the Our Father on the medallion.
6. Pray one Hail Mary for each of the ten beads. (It seems most fitting to proceed around the beads in a clockwise direction.)
7. On the space between the last bead of the decade and the single bead between the decades, pray the Glory to the Father (Gloria Patri).
8. On the single bead between the decades, announce the next Mystery and then pray the Our Father. Continue as in Step 6 for the remaining Mysteries.
9. Pray the Hail, Holy Queen (Salve Regina) and make the Sign of the Cross to conclude.
The Sign of the Cross
In the Name of the Father
In Nomine Patris
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 to the dead; on 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 thence he will 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.
Credo in Deum, Patrem omnipotentum, creatorem coeli et terrae; et in Jesum Christum, filium ejus unicum, Dominum nostrum, qui conceptus est de Spiritu sancto, natus ex Maria Virgine, passus sub Pontio Pilato, crucifixus, mortuus, et sepultus. Descendit ad infernos; tertia die resurrexit a mortuis. Ascendit ad coelos, sedet ad dexteram Dei Patris omnipotentis. Inde venturus est judicare vivos et mortuos. Credo in Spiritum sanctum, sanctam Ecclesiam catholicam, sanctorum communionem, remissionem peccatorum, carnis resurrectionem, vitam æternam. Amen.
The Our Father
(Note the seven petitions. Pray them with due attention.)
Our Father, who art in Heaven,
Pater noster, qui es in coelis,
The Hail Mary
Hail, Mary, full of grace! The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst 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
Ave, Maria, gratia plena! Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus! Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.
The Gloria Patri
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now and will be for ever. Amen
Gloria Patri,et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto, sicut erat in principio, et nunc et semper, et in sæcula sæculorum. Amen.
The Salve Regina
Hail, holy Queen, mother of mercy; hail, our life, our sweetness, and 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 vale of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this exile, show us the blessed fruit of thy womb Jesus.
O clement! O loving! O sweet Virgin Mary!
Salve, Regina, mater misericordiae; vita dulcedo, et spes nostra, salve, Ad te clamamus, exsules filii Evae. Ad te surpiramus, gementes et flentes in hac lacrimarum valle. Eia ergo, advocata nostra, illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte; Et Jesum, benedictum fructum ventris tui, nobis post hoc exsilium ostende. O clemens! O pia!
O dulcis Virgo Maria!
The Prayer to Saint Joseph
In 1889, Pope Leo XIII wrote in Quamquam pluries, "We prescribe that during the whole month of October, at the recitation of the Rosary, for which We have already legislated, a prayer to St. Joseph be added, the formula of which will be sent with this letter, and that this custom should be repeated every year."
Unto you, O blessed Joseph, do we fly in our tribulation, and having implored the help of your most holy Spouse, we confidently invoke your patronage also. By that affection that unites you to the immaculate Virgin Mother of God and by your fatherly love with which you embraced the Child Jesus, we humbly beg you to graciously regard the inheritance which Jesus Christ has purchased by his Blood, and with your power and labor to aid us in our necessities.
O most watchful Guardian of the Holy Family, defend the chosen children of Jesus Christ; O most loving father, ward off from us every contagion of error and corrupting influence; O our most mighty protector, be propitious to us and from heaven assist us in our struggle with the power of darkness; and, as once you rescued the Child Jesus from deadly peril, so now protect God’s Holy Church from the snares of the enemy and from all adversity; shield, too, each one of us by your constant protection, so that, supported by your example and your aid, we may be able to live in holiness, to die piously, and to obtain everlasting joy in heaven. Amen.
Ad te beate Ioseph, in tribulatione nostra confugimus, atque, implorato Sponsae tuae sanctissimae auxilio, patrocinium quoque tuum fidenter exposcimus. Per eam, quaesumus quae te cum immaculata Virgine Dei Genetrice coniunxit, caritatem, perque paternum, quo Puerum Iesum amplexus es, amorem, supplices deprecamur, ut ad hereditatem, quam Iesus Christus acquisivit Sanguine suo, benignus respicias, ac necessitatibus nostris tua virtute et ope succurras.
Tuere, o Custos providentissime divinae Familiae, Iesu Christi sobolem electam; prohibe a nobis, amantissime Pater, omnem errorum ac corruptelarum luem; propitius nobis, sospitator noster fortissime, in hoc cum potestate tenebrarum certamine e caelo adesto; et sicut olim Puerum Iesum e summo eripuisti vitae discrimine, ita nunc Ecclesiam sanctam Dei ab hostilibus insidiis atque ab omni adversitate defende: nosque singulos perpetuo tege patrocinio, ut ad tui exemplar et ope tua suffulti, sancte vivere, pie emori, sempiternamque in caelis beatitudinem assequi possimus. Amen.
The Fátima Prayer
In 1917, the children of Fátima reported that Our Lady told them to add this prayer to the Rosary, after each decade, following the Gloria Patri. (The original is in Portuguese.)
O my Jesus, forgive us our sins; save us from the fires of Hell; lead all souls to heaven, especially those who have most need of Thy mercy.
O meu Jesus, perdoai-nos e livrai nos do fogo do inferno; levai as alminhas todas para o Céu, principalmente aquelas que mais precisarem.