Guid Essay

Guid Essay

Catholic Rosary Practical And Pious Religion Essay


Throughout history numerous devices have been created and used for the purpose of counting. Within the field of mathematics the abacus and its beads was of great importance because of its ability to maintain a numerical tally. Religions have since adapted this method to items more applicable to the faith due to the repetition of prayers. For example within Islam, beads are used to count the ninety nine names of Allah, and Buddhists also use beads to recite 1,000s of mantras.  However, beads are a merely a compliment to the ritual it is used in. A religious sect within Christianity have not only used beads to count but termed the object the same name as the ritual practice it is used in.

General Description

Within the Christian faith, Catholics use a rosary as a means of devotion to Mary, who is known as the Mother of Jesus.  The word rosary can be used within two contexts: a physical set of beads and the ritual of devotion. The beads are used as a method to track the prayers completed during the practice. The rosary when referring to the material object is a string composed of five sets of ten beads, each separated by one large bead respectively.  The string is held together with a circular image, which is similar to that of a necklace. The image has two large and three smaller beads along with a pendant attached  (Appendix A). Rosaries come in all shapes and sizes, in various colours and can be made from anything from wood to plastic. The term rosary, when referred to in the context of the ritual, consists of the repetition of three main prayers along with the statement of beliefs in the beginning.  This practice can be completed by anyone, at any time, regardless of whether in a group or praying by one’s self. The rosary can be viewed as a non-discriminatory practice wherein people from all faith’s can partake in it. It can also be said in any location, but preferably in a Catholic place of worship, the church.

Technical Description

The descriptions mentioned above are but an outline for what the physical rosary is, as well as the Catholic practice of the rosary. Further details will now be given in order to develop a better understanding of the rosary as exemplified within both of its contexts. In terms of the physical object, the pendant attached to the beads is better known as a crucifix, a term Catholics use symbolizing an article in the form of a cross depicting Jesus’ death  . In addition the circular image is one of Mary, it joins the five sets of ten beads to the separated five other beads and crucifix. This image embodies the fact that the rosary as devotion, was first offered to Mary. The traditional material used to manufacture rosaries is olive wood, which is said to have been the wood of the cross that Jesus was hung on.  However, due to modern adaptations rosaries are now are made from various materials.

The Catholic practice of the rosary begins with the sign of the cross. This symbolic custom is one that commences every ritual within the Catholic faith.  The action occurring is simply using one’s hands to touch the forehead, then the heart, and each shoulder, left to right respectively in order to make a cross. After completing this action, practitioners complete a set of preliminary prayers starting with the Catholic prayer titled the Apostle’s Creed (Appendix B). The words contained within this prayer express the faith of the practitioner and the main system of beliefs for Catholics.  This would then lead to the praying of the Our Father (Appendix B), followed by three Hail Mary’s (Appendix B) and ending with a Glory Be to the Father (Appendix B). This would mark the ending of the preliminary portion and lead to a meditation which changed depending on the day the rosary was said. After this begins another Our Father, but this time with ten Hail Mary’s, followed by yet another Glory Be to the Father. This sequence of prayers starting with the meditation and ending with the Glory Be to the Father is referred to as one decade.  There are a total of five decades within one rosary, but four different versions of the rosary.

As previously mentioned, the meditations of the rosary change depending on the day of the week it is said. There are four different versions referred to by Catholics as mysteries, including: Joyful (Monday and Saturday), Sorrowful (Tuesday and Friday), Glorious (Wednesday and Sunday) and Luminous (Thursday)  (Appendix B). Each mystery has five meditations on specific events pertaining to the theme. Each of these five meditations is reflected on while praying the rosary.

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Location within the Religion

Within Catholicism, the rosary is considered to be a symbolic item as well as an informal practice. The first appearance of the physical set of beads is early within the religion and can be seen in various images depicting early practitioners. The ritual itself is viewed as secondary means of devotion (primary being sacraments and liturgy) that can be completed at one’s own will.  Though the act of praying the rosary is not formal in the sense that it is not a requirement, it serves as a meditative method of prayer for those seeking a deeper spiritual faith.

Historical Information and ties to Doctrines

The praying of the rosary traces its origins to the Book of Psalms contained within the Bible. Catholics refer to Psalms as songs of praise to God.  During the early days of the Catholicism, many lay people wanted to partake in the praying of the Psalms but could not commit all 150 to memory, thus a substitute was created. There is evidence in the early sixteenth century of a book titled the Chiropsalterium, which instructed practitioners to use their hands as a mnemonic device when praying.  This also incorporated 150 repetitions of the Our Fathers as substitutions for the psalms. The Our Father is said to be “the most perfect of all prayers, since it was composed for our needs by our Lord himself” as stated by John S. Johnson.  He goes on further to state that within the Gospel of Matthew in the Catholic Bible, Jesus declares that this is the method in which one should pray to God.  Catholics today take these words with a few alterations and consider it the Lord’s Prayer.

These 150 repetitions were later divided into three sets of 50, a fact attesting to the rosary’s adaptability.  During this time, the popularity of the famous prayer, the Hail Mary grew, and was added as an alternative to some of the many Our Father’s owing to its simplicity. The initial wording of the Hail Mary comes from the Gospel of Luke when Mary is first greeted by the angel Gabriel along with the greeting Elizabeth gives to her cousin Mary.  The rest of the text was contributed to various other leaders within the faith to create the prayer that is commonly used today. With the majority of the rosary as repetitions of the Hail Mary, it was then associated with devotion to Mary. This is where the term rosary comes from. The Latin word rosarium, meaning rose garden was evident in early images of Mary.  The word rosary simply stemmed from there. The addition of the Glory Be to the Father occurred over time by various leaders as the ritual grew in acceptance throughout the faith. This prayer is shorter than the other two but is filled with praise and worship type phrases. Deep roots are found pertaining to the theme of the Holy Trinity, denoting the expression of how three persons exist in one God.  

As Catholicism grew in numbers, so did the need for meditations pertaining to Jesus’ life. It was out of convenience that each of the three sets of 50 was then further cut down to groups of 10, with each mystery having five important events relating to a respective theme.  It is St. Dominic, who during the fifteenth century, is attributed to the founding of what is now referred to as the Rosary. According to tradition, Mary is said to have appeared to him and told him to spread the word contained within the Psalter.  This then formalized to the three mysteries with five decades in each. In 2002, the fourth mystery was added by the Pope completing what is now known as the Catholic Rosary.  


Praying by hand distinguished the Catholic rosary from other forms of popular devotion. Even with the absence of the string of beads, one’s ten fingers could easily serve as a counter and reminder that when meditating the whole body and mind should be focused on the mysteries. The essence behind repetition is to ingrain the message behind the words into one’s mind in order to make application easier.

Though the practice of the rosary appears repetitive by nature, it is important to look at the big picture. The ritual is said to be a method of prayer offered to Mary. Why then are the mysteries pertaining to the life of Jesus? One might answer that the Christianity is rooted in Jesus, thus all element must relate to him. Mary is viewed as a means to Jesus and her importance within the rosary has decreased significantly since its initial development.  

Another issue to be raised is the fact that the Catholic Church prides itself on its traditions. The roots of the Rosary relate to The 150 Psalms contained within the Bible, yet the modern rosary appears to have no relation to that whatsoever. The answer to this can simply be attributed to the fact that the rosary is an informal practice and has adapted through time.  The mysteries of the rosary play a larger role when compared to the Psalms.


Though the history of beads serves as a useful method of counting, Catholicism has adapted its utility into a practice and object that provide far greater service to practitioners within the faith. The rosary as discussed earlier plays a vital role in methods of devotion to both Jesus and Mary. The physical beads of the rosary serve as a practical counter during prayers. The actual custom of praying the rosary is completed in order to build a stronger relationship with God or to be pious.

Appendix A

Source: Microsoft ClipArt

Appendix B

Apostle’s Creed

I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth:

And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord:

Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary:

Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell:

The third day he rose again from the dead:

He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty:

From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead:

I believe in the Holy Spirit:

I believe in the holy Catholic Church: the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins:

The resurrection of the body:

And the life everlasting. Amen.

Our Father

Our Father, Who art in heaven

Hallowed be 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.

Hail Mary

Hail Mary, full of grace.

Our 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.


Glory Be to the Father

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.


Mysteries of the Rosary

The Five Joyful Mysteries

The Annunciation

The Visitation

The Birth of Our Lord

The Presentation of Our Lord

The Finding of Our Lord in the Temple

The Five Sorrowful Mysteries

The Agony in the Garden

The Scourging at the Pillar

The Crowning with Thorns

The Carrying of the Cross

The Crucifixion

The Five Glorious Mysteries

The Resurrection

The Ascension

The Coming of the Holy Spirit

The Assumption of our Blessed Mother into Heaven

The Coronation of our Blessed Mother

The Five Luminous Mysteries 

The Baptism in the Jordan

The Wedding at Cana

The Proclamation of the Kingdom

The Transfiguration

The Institution of the Eucharist


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