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If you’ve never prayed the Rosary before, this article will give you the basics; and, if you’re returning to the Rosary after a long time away, you can use this article as a "refresher course." Keep in mind, though, that there are no "Rosary police" checking up on you to make sure that you’re doing it "the right way."
In the long run, you may pray the Rosary however you prefer to pray it. The main objective of the Rosary is the same as any method of prayer—to nourish your intimacy with the triune God and with the communion of saints in this world and the next. So whatever serves that purpose is good.
If you want to pray the Rosary in the customary manner, however, there is a traditional way to go about it. The prayers of the Rosary will be provided here, in case you don’t already know them.
Because praying the Rosary involves repetitive prayer, it’s a good idea to have a rosary. If you don’t have a religious goods store in your area, you can find several sources on the Internet—some of which even offer free rosaries.
There are two basic ways to pray the Rosary—alone or with one or more people. If you are praying the Rosary with others, the custom is for one person to lead the group, primarily by saying the first half of each prayer and announcing each of the mysteries. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll assume here that you are praying the Rosary by yourself. If you join a group, most likely many of those present will understand how to pray the Rosary as a group, so all you’ll need to do is follow along. When praying the Rosary alone, you may either recite the prayers aloud or say them silently—it’s up to you.
The rosary consists of six Our Father beads and five decades (sets of ten) Hail Mary Beads plus one set of three Hail Mary beads. The Apostles’ Creed is said on the crucifix, and the Glory Be is said on the chain or knot after each set of Hail Marys. The Hail, Holy Queen is said at the end of the Rosary. Here’s how to go about it. You may be surprised when you see how easy it really is:
Make the Sign of the Cross
You begin the Rosary by making the sign of the cross using the small crucifix on the rosary. Simply hold the crucifix on your rosary with your fingers and trace the sign of the cross on your forehead, your chest, and then your left and right shoulders while saying,
In the name of the Father [forehead], and of the Son [chest], and of the Holy [left shoulder] Spirit [right shoulder]. Amen.
Say the Apostles’ Creed
Still holding the crucifix, pray the Apostles’ Creed:
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, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. From thence he shall come to 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. Amen.
Say the Our Father
Holding the first bead of your rosary (the bead closest to the crucifix), pray the Our Father:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Amen.
(If you came, or are coming, to Catholicism from a Protestant tradition, remember that Catholics say a doxology—"For the kingdom, and the power, and the glory are yours now and forever"—only in the context of the Mass, and then it is separated from the Our Father by a prayer said by the priest.)
Say Three Hail Marys
Next, hold each of the three beads in the next series one at a time, and pray a Hail Mary for each bead:
Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee (you). Blessed art thou (are you) among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy (your) womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Say the Glory Be/Doxology
Holding the chain or knot that comes after the series of three Hail Mary beads, pray the Glory Be:
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, it is now and ever shall be, world without end. (now and forever.) Amen.
If you like, you can say the following lines at the end of each Glory Be:
O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, and lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of thy (your) mercy. Amen.
It’s up to you whether you use this prayer, or not. If it appeals to you, go ahead and say it. If not, skip it.
Say the Five Decades
The next set of prayers—consisting of an Our Father, ten Hail Marys, and a Glory Be—is repeated five times, once for each mystery of the Rosary. While holding the next, single bead, announce the first mystery of the kind you are praying today—joyful, sorrowful, glorious, or luminous. For example, "The first joyful mystery, the annunciation." Theoretically, the idea is to meditate or reflect upon this mystery while praying an Our Father, ten Hail Marys, and a Glory Be. If you can do that, great. If not, don’t worry about it. Personally, I suspect that the repetitive nature of the Rosary actually short-circuits conscious reflection on anything—let alone a mystery of faith—and acts something like a mantra does in the meditation methods of Zen Buddhism. The Rosary gives the fingers and tongue something to do, so that your mind and heart can "go deep," as it were, in wordless prayer.
After announcing the first mystery, and still holding the single bead, pray the Our Father. For each of the ten beads in the first decade of the Rosary, say one Hail Mary. When you reach the chain or knot after the tenth Hail Mary bead, say one Glory Be. Then hold the next single bead, announce the next mystery, say an Our Father, say the next set of ten Hail Marys, and say another Glory Be. Do this until you finish all five decades.
Say the Hail, Holy Queen/Salve Regina
When you have completed the fifth decade of the Rosary and said the final Glory Be, say the Hail, Holy Queen:
Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope! To thee (you) do we cry, poor banished children of Eve; (the children of Eve;) to thee (you) do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale (valley) of tears. (in this land of exile.) Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine (your) eyes of mercy toward us; and after this our exile, (lead us home at last and) show unto us the blessed fruit of thy (your) womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.
If you wish, you may also add this final verse-and-response prayer:
V: Pray for us, O holy mother of God,
R: That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
And that’s it. That’s all there is to praying the Rosary. After you have prayed the Rosary a few times, you’ll know how easy it is. The more you pray the Rosary, however, the deeper you’ll get into it and the more you’ll discover its spiritual riches.
An excerpt from The Rosary Handbook by Mitch Finley.Click here to purchase this book.