Saturday, October 22, 2005

From Where Did the Rosary Come?

Q: Can you tell me something about the history of the rosary and how this prayer came to be?

A: The following very short history of the rosary, written by the editor of St. Anthony Messenger, appeared in the preface of Joanne Turpin's book, The Healing Mysteries of the Rosary:

"Pious tradition has it that the mother of Jesus, Mary herself, gave the rosary to St. Dominic Guzman and told him to preach this prayer. More likely, the rosary developed out of the 12th-century chaplets of Pater's or Ave's recited by the Catholics of that time.

"These chaplets were a kind of poor person's Breviary made up of 150 Our Fathers (Pater Noster's) or Hail Marys (Ave's) corresponding to the 150 psalms of the Psalter. Like the Psalter, they were sometimes divided into sets of three 50's and counted on strings of beads called 'paternosters.' Each of the prayers was associated with a mystery in the lives of Jesus and Mary pronounced and meditated on at each bead or prayer of the chaplet.

"In time the 'psalters' of Our Fathers and Hail Marys came to be joined and merged. The Our Fathers and Hail Marys were prayed alternately, each Our Father followed by a Hail Mary. The 50 mysteries came to be reduced to five--one for each decade. Finally the rosary took its present form."

The Enchiridion of Indulgences tells us, "The rosary is a certain formula of prayer, which is made up of 15 decades of Hail Marys with an Our Father before each decade, and in which the recitation of each decade is accompanied by pious meditation on a particular mystery of our redemption." Commonly these are the traditional joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries listed in the appendix of the Enchiridion and our prayer books. The Enchiridion does not say, however, that we must meditate on these particular mysteries in Jesus' and Mary's lives.

Another short history can be found in reprints of The Rosary: A Gospel Prayer by Thomas A. Thomas, S.M., and Jack Wintz, O.F.M., available from Catholic Update (St. Anthony Messenger Press, 1615 Republic St., Cincinnati, OH 45210). Besides a very short history of the rosary, this Update contains an explanation of how to pray the rosary and its mysteries.

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