If you are a "Cradle Catholic" like I am, chances are you've spent many years owning a rosary (or 3) without really knowing how to pray the Rosary. Most Catholics remember that the ten beads are "Hail Mary"s, and the one bead is the "Our Father". But wait, isn't there a "Glory Be" in there somewhere?
It took me almost 53 years before I actually looked up how to pray a proper Rosary. I've always wanted to know - I just never quite got to it. So I'd like to save you some time, and give you some basic instructions on praying the Rosary.
Let's start with these things called "the Mysteries". There are four groups of five mysteries. There used to be three groups of five, but Pope St. John Paul II added a fourth group during his papacy. The four groups are known as:
A. The Joyful Mysteries
B. The Sorrowful Mysteries
C. The Glorious Mysteries
D. The Luminous Mysteries
These mysteries break down the life of Jesus into four basic parts: His childhood, His Passion, His Resurrection, and His years of ministry. In chronological order, his life would be represented by the Joyful, then Luminous, then Sorrowful, and then the Glorious Mysteries. Praying the Rosary is a means of meditating on the life of Jesus, and these mysteries are our guide.
Each day has a particular group of mysteries associated with it, to help make it easier to meditate on the fullness of the life of The Christ. So if you were to pray the Rosary once every day, then each week you will have meditated twice on the childhood years, once on the years of ministry, twice on the Passion, and twice on the Resurrection.
Below this narrative, I've included a brief description of each of the Mysteries, and when they are prayed.
So, let's begin the actual step-by-step instructions. To start, the Rosary is generally prayed on a traditional Dominican five-decade rosary. This is the same kind of rosary you received when you came into the Church. This rosary consists of a circle of beads (54 total), with a tail of a few more beads (5) and a crucifix.
To start the prayer, take the crucifix in your right hand, and make the sign of the cross with it. ("In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" - you know the drill!) Many people kiss the crucifix or cross at this time.
Next, while still holding the cross, or the segment of chain just above it, pray the Apostle's Creed. This is the shorter version of the Creed. If you attend Mass, you recite the Nicene Creed, which is a bit longer. The Apostle's Creed is prayed as follows:
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, was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into Hell. 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 there He will 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.
Next, on the first solo bead, pray the Our Father. I find this to be a good time to list my intentions, or petitions (e.g., praying for the end of abortion, praying for America, praying for Mom's illness, etc.)
Next is a grouping of three beads. On these beads we pray for the gifts of Faith, Hope, and Charity. On each bead, pray a Hail Mary.
On the chain above the third Hail Mary bead we pray a Glory Be.
Now the fun begins.
On the next solo bead, just prior to the centerpiece that connects the rosary, we begin our meditation on the life of Jesus. Each decade of ten beads, plus this leading bead, will be dedicated to meditating on one aspect of Jesus's life. There are five mysteries within each of the four groups I listed above. These five mysteries correspond to the five decades of the main rosary. I'll use the Joyful Mysteries for the purpose of this guide.
So, back to the beads. On this solo bead that you're now holding, you announce the first mystery. The first Joyful Mystery is the annunciation of the Angel Gabriel to Mary, that she would bear God's Son. Sometimes people like to read Scripture here, or perhaps focus on a picture / painting depicting the Annunciation. This can help you to stay focused on this mystery for the duration of the decade. Recite the Our Father.
Holding the rosary so the centerpiece is facing you, move to the first bead above the centerpiece to the right. On each of the next ten beads, pray the Hail Mary. We use the repetitive and rhythmic cadence of the ten recitations to help us meditate more deeply. Honestly, this doesn't come easily. Over time, with diligent prayer, the nature of the decade of Hail Mary's will help you to open your mind and concentrate more fully on the life of Jesus, via the mystery assigned to the current decade.
When you have prayed the tenth Hail Mary, and your fingers hit the chain above, pray a Glory Be, immediately followed by the Fatima Prayer:
Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins; save us from the fires of Hell.
Lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need of Thy mercy.
So you already know about 90% of the rosary now.
After the Fatima Prayer, you progress to the next Our Father bead. Announce the second mystery ("The second Joyful Mystery is the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth"); pray the Our Father; ten Hail Mary's while meditating on the the words and actions of Mary, Elizabeth, and John the Baptist; Glory Be; and the Fatima Prayer. This routine progresses through the five decades of the main rosary.
When you get back to the centerpiece, pray the Hail Holy Queen, or Salve Regina:
Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, 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 valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.
Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
There is a closing prayer as well, right after the Salve Regina:
Let us pray: O God, whose only begotten Son, by His life, death, and resurrection, has purchased for us the reward of eternal life; grant, we beseech Thee, that meditating on these mysteries of the most holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise. Through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.
With crucifix in hand, sign yourself again, and kiss the cross.
There are other prayers that can be added as well, if you desire.
This is the basic Rosary. I pray that this helps you to begin a deeply spiritual and enriching prayer life, so that you may grow ever closer to our Lord! Amen!!
The Mysteries used in the Rosary
A. The Joyful Mysteries - Monday and Saturday
1. The Anunciation
2. The Visitation
3. The Nativity
4. The Presentation in the Temple
5. Finding the boy Jesus in the Temple
B. The Sorrowful Mysteries - Tuesday and Friday
1. Praying at Gethsemane
2. The Scourging at the Pillar
3. Crowning with the Crown of Thorns
4. Carrying the Cross to Calvary
5. The Crucifixion
C. The Glorious Mysteries - Sunday and Wednesday
1. The Resurrection
2. The Ascension of Jesus
3. The Downpouring of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost!)