Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Bolton

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The Rosary



Perhaps the best known and most popular Catholic devotion is the Rosary. The name comes from a Latin word rosarium meaning a rose garland, and was used in very early times as the name for a collection of devotional phrases, usually quoting from bible passages.

During the 14th and 15th centuries the rosary as we know it today developed gradually, starting with the Gospel verses of the Hail Mary followed by a brief reflection on some aspect of Our Lord's life. Over a period of time these were grouped under three headings which became the traditional joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries of the rosary. When the rosary was first given formal approval in 1569, it was described as the "contemplation of the mysteries of Christ combined with the Angel's Greeting".

The prayer we say at the end of the Rosary indicates what is the true nature of this devotion:
"O God, whose only-begotten Son, by his life, death and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life, grant, we beseech Thee, that meditating on these mysteries in the most holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may both imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen."

First and foremost it is a prayer of meditation 

1. on the joyful events leading to the birth of Christ and of his early life:

    • the Annunciation - when the Angel Gabriel announced to Mary her role in God's plan
    • the Visitation - when Mary went to the assistance of her cousin Elisabeth
    • the Birth of Christ - the Son of God born in Bethlehem
    • the Presentation at the Temple - when Mary and Joseph presented the new-born child
    • the Finding in the Temple - after the 12 year-old Jesus had been lost for three days

2. on some of the main revealing events in the ministry of Jesus: 

    • the Baptism of Jesus in the river Jordan - by St. John the Baptist
    • the Miracle at the wedding feast of Cana - when he changed water into wine
    • the Proclamation of the Kingdom of God - the central message of Jesus' teaching
    • the Transfiguration of our Lord - in the presence of Peter, James and John
    • the Institution of the Eucharist - during the Last Supper on the night before he died

3. on the sad events of our Lord's sufferings leading directly to his death:

    • the Agony in the Garden - when Jesus prayed in tears and sweated blood
    • the Scourging at the pillar - when Pilate was thinking of releasing Jesus
    • the Crowning with thorns - when the soldiers mocked Jesus
    • the Carrying of the Cross -m the sad and painful journey to Calvary
    • the Crucifixion - when Jesus died on the Cross

4. on the glorious and life-giving conclusion to the life and death of Jesus:

    • the Resurrection - when on the third day Jesus was raised from the dead
    • the Ascension into heaven - seeing Jesus completely in the presence of God
    • the Descent of the Holy Spirit - breathing life into the newly born Church
    • the Assumption of Mary into heaven - a forecast of God's intention for us
    • the Crowning of Mary - acknowledging the unique role and dignity of Mary

Meditating on these mysteries in the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we ask the Mother of Christ to accompany us with her prayers that we may enter more and more fully into the mysteries we contemplate. The repetition of the three basic prayers: Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory be to the Father, provides a rhythmic background to our prayer of contemplation.

The Rosary is so popular a form of prayer that it is not surprising to find on the internet countless sites offering avariety of approaches, meditations, illustrations, extensions and related practices. It is a worth while exercise to explore some of these to find what may be of greatest help to yourself. Two sites only are offered below:


here is an online recitation of the Rosary inviting you to participate - a helpful introduction for those to whom the Rosary is completely new.


the second offers a simple yet engaging meditation and images for each of the 20 mysteries of the rosary


here is another site combining scriptures, art, and music to help nourish meditation