The Rosary is a popular Catholic devotion to the Virgin Mary. It involves meditating on the life of Christ and his mother, while reciting a series of prayers. The prayers include the Our Father (based on Matthew 6:9-13), the Hail Mary (based on Luke 1:28-42) and the Glory Be (based on Matthew 28:19).
These prayers are accompanied by meditations on biblical events known as ‘mysteries’. There are twenty of these, divided into the Joyful, the Luminous, the Sorrowful and the Glorious Mysteries. Catholics usually use rosary beads to keep count as they pray the devotion, reciting a ‘decade’ of ten Hail Marys for each mystery, as well as one Our Father and one Glory Be.
The Joyful Mysteries include five events relating to the birth and childhood of Christ – the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Nativity, the Presentation in the Temple and the Finding in the Temple. They are known as the Joyful Mysteries because as St Luke describes, Christ’s birth was a cause of “great joy”. (Luke 2:10).
The Luminous Mysteries focus on five events in the public ministry of Christ. These include the Baptism of Christ, the Wedding at Cana, the Proclamation of the Kingdom, the Transfiguration and the Institution of the Eucharist. They are called the Luminous Mysteries because Christ said: “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9:5)
The Sorrowful Mysteries include five events from Christ’s last days on earth, when he suffered and died. These five are the Agony in the Garden, the Crowning with Thorns, the Scourging of Christ, the Carrying of the Cross and the Crucifixion. They are known as the Sorrowful Mysteries because the night before he died, Christ said: “My soul is sorrowful, even to the point of death.” (Matthew 26:38)
The Glorious Mysteries focus on what happened after Christ had died and ‘entered into his glory’ (Luke 24:26). They include the Resurrection, the Ascension, the Descent of the Holy Spirit, the Assumption of the Virgin Mary into heaven and then her Coronation. These mysteries celebrate Christ’s triumph over death, the birth of the Church and the glorification of the Virgin.
The word ‘Rosary’ means a garland or collection of roses. The devotion evolved gradually in the Middle Ages and was associated with St. Dominic. Throughout the ages, many other saints have been devoted to the Rosary and have considered it a powerful prayer. In 2002, Pope St John Paul II introduced the Luminous Mysteries, which added five new biblical mysteries to the traditional fifteen.
The Church teaches that the Rosary is both a prayer of contemplation and a summary of the entire Gospel message. Pope St Paul VI explained that “the recitation of the Rosary calls for a quiet rhythm and a lingering pace, helping the individual to meditate on the mysteries of the Lord’s life as seen through the eyes of her who was closest to the Lord. In this way the unfathomable riches of these mysteries are unfolded.” (Marialis Cultus, 47)
Since the 7th of October is the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, traditionally the month of October has been specially dedicated to the devotion. Each mystery is also linked with different days of the week. The Joyful Mysteries are often prayed on Monday and Saturday, the Luminous Mysteries on Thursday, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday and Friday and the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday and Sunday.
In this online version of the Holy Rosary, you can find an image of each mystery accompanied by a relevant gospel passage or a medley of biblical texts, divided into ten meditations. All of the images are taken from Catholic churches from across Great Britain. For further instructions on how to pray the Rosary, visit the Vatican website.
All quotations are from the New Catholic Bible.
Start with the Opening Prayers
The Joyful Mysteries
|4.||The Presentation of Christ|
|5.||The Finding in the Temple|
The Luminous Mysteries
|1.||The Baptism of Christ|
|2.||The Wedding at Cana|
|3.||The Proclamation of the Kingdom|
|4.||The Transfiguration of Christ|
|5.||The Institution of the Eucharist|
The Sorrowful Mysteries
|1.||The Agony in the Garden|
|2.||The Scourging at the Pillar|
|3.||The Crowning with Thorns|
|4.||The Carrying of the Cross|
The Glorious Mysteries