"Everyone who belongs to the Truth hears my voice…" (John 18:37)

The Rosary: A Journey into the Heart of Christian Meditation

The month of October is set aside for devotion to the Holy Rosary, a prayer whose origins date back to the second century.  Revived in the 13th century by St. Dominic (founder of the order of the Dominicans), the practice of praying the Rosary began to spread in the 15th century and was officially approved by St. Pius V in 1569.  In Medieval times, praying the Rosary was a way to imitate the monastic practice of praying the 150 Psalms in the Liturgy of the Hours each day.  Because many lay people were unable to read, they substituted Ave Marias (“Hail Marys”) for the words of the Psalms.

If you have never prayed the Rosary before, you may be wondering whether repeating so many Hail Marys, one after the other, could possibly be anything more than a dry and boring exercise.  Far from it!  The Rosary is a simple, meditative prayer in which we reflect on the life, suffering, and Resurrection of Jesus, contemplating the face of Christ through the heart of Mary. Pope Paul VI explained,

“Without [contemplation] the Rosary is a body without a soul, and its recitation is in danger of becoming a mechanical repetition of formulas and of going counter to the warning of Christ: ‘And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words’ (Mt 6:7). By its nature 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.”1

In an increasingly busy and noise filled world, more and more people are turning to non-Christian methods of meditation as a way to calm their hearts and minds.  However, in seeking out something “new” to satisfy the longings of their hearts, many are unaware of the authentic and lasting peace that can be experienced by all who pray the Rosary; it is a treasure of incalculable worth!  When we pray the Rosary, abundant graces and blessings flow to us from God through the hands of our Blessed Mother (as well as to those for whom we pray).

How does Christian meditation differ from other forms of meditation?  Where non-Christian meditation practices aim at emptying the mind of thoughts and images in order to calm the mind and relax the body, the Rosary (as well as other forms of Christian meditation such as Lectio Divina) engages our thoughts, our imaginations, our emotions, and our desires.  It is always a lifting up of our hearts and minds to God in order to find that place of peace, a means to go beyond ourselves in order to discover God.

The ultimate goal of all Christian meditation is to help us to know Jesus better and to bring us to union with Him.  What sets the Rosary apart from other types of Christian meditation is that through this devotion, we seek to imitate Christ who entrusted His human person to Mary.  When we pray the Rosary and ask for Mary’s intercession, like Jesus, we entrust ourselves to her care and place ourselves in the shelter of her loving, protective mantle. 

Christian spirituality is distinguished by our commitment to become more like Jesus each day, to meditate on His life and teachings so that we can be transformed and strengthened through the inspirations of the Holy Spirit.  This flight from self in order to become more like Christ ensures that our meditation does not degenerate into a form of self-absorption.  Instead, meditations such as the Rosary fill our minds and hearts with thoughts of the divine and take us up into something greater than ourselves.  Pope John Paul II wrote, “The Rosary is simply a method of contemplation.  As a method, it serves as a means to an end and cannot become an end in itself.”2 The end that we seek is communion with God, the source of all authentic and lasting peace and the author of our Salvation.

For more information on how to pray the Rosary, please click on the link: How To Pray the Rosary. 

Did you know?

The word “Rosary” comes from the Latin word, rosarium, which means ‘rose garden’ or ‘garland of roses’, and we use it to refer both to the words of this Marian prayer as well as to the prayer beads that we often use when we recite it.  The rose is one of the flowers used to symbolize the Virgin Mary, and as we pray the Rosary, it is as though we offer our Blessed Mother a spiritual bouquet of roses.  Although Marian in character, at heart, the Rosary is a prayer centered on Christ. Its purpose is to help lead us to “contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love.”3

The “Hail Mary” is a prayer based in Scripture.  It begins with the greeting spoken to Mary by the angel Gabriel at the time of the Annunciation: “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you” (Lk 1:28), and continues with the greeting spoken to her by her relative, St. Elizabeth: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus” (Lk 1:42).  The Hail Mary finishes with the words, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.”  With these words, we affirm our belief that Mary is holy because she is the vessel who carried Christ in her womb.  Because Jesus is God, it logically follows that Mary, as Mother of Jesus, is the Mother of God.  Why do we ask Mary to pray for us?  In the same way that we might ask someone who is living to pray for us, we also ask those who are with Christ in Heaven to pray for us, and who better to ask to intercede on our behalf than His Mother!

–  Sharon van der Sloot

Pope Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus (For the Right Ordering and Development of Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary), 2 February 1974, 47; accessed 16 October 2012; available from Marialis Cultus.

Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae (On the Most Holy Rosary), 3, October, 2002, 28.  Accessed 16 October 2012; available from Rosarium Virginis Mariae.

Ibid., 1.


The Fifteen Promises of Mary to Christians Who Recite the Rosary

  1. Whoever shall faithfully serve me by the recitation of the Rosary, shall receive signal graces.
  2. I promise my special protection and the greatest graces to all those who shall recite the Rosary.
  3. The Rosary shall be a powerful armor against hell, it will destroy vice, decrease sin, and defeat heresies.
  4. It will cause virtue and good works to flourish; it will obtain for souls the abundant mercy of God; it will withdraw the hearts of men from the love of the world and its vanities, and will lift them to the desire of eternal things. Oh, that souls would sanctify themselves by this means.
  5. The soul which recommends itself to me by the recitation of the Rosary, shall not perish.
  6. Whoever shall recite the Rosary devoutly, applying himself to the consideration of its sacred mysteries shall never be conquered by misfortune. God will not chastise him in His justice, he shall not perish by an unprovided death; if he be just he shall remain in the grace of God, and become worthy of eternal life.
  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 plentitude of His graces; at the moment of death they shall participate in the merits of the saints in paradise.
  9. I shall deliver from purgatory those who have been devoted to the Rosary.
  10. The faithful children of the Rosary shall merit a high degree of glory in heaven.
  11. You shall obtain all you ask of me by the recitation of the Rosary.
  12. All those who propagate the holy Rosary shall be aided by me in their necessities.
  13. I have obtained from my Divine Son that all the advocates of the Rosary shall have for intercessors the entire celestial court during their life and at the hour of death.
  14. All who recite the Rosary are my sons, and brothers of my only Son Jesus Christ.
  15. Devotion of my Rosary is a great sign of predestination.

(Given to St. Dominic and Blessed Alan)

Imprimatur: Patrick J. Hayes, D.D. Archbishop of New York

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