A beginner’s guide to praying the Rosary
For those unsure about how to pray this staple of Catholic prayer
Pope Pius XI is famous for saying, “If you desire peace in your hearts, in your homes, and in your country, assemble each evening to recite the Rosary. Let not even one day pass without saying it, no matter how burdened you may be with many cares and labors.”The Rosary is a powerful prayer, but a surprising number of Catholics are not familiar with it. Older generations are often seen praying it in church or at home, but young people are not always taught how to use the holy beads.
The good news is that it is a simple prayer, one that is easy to pick up on after praying a few decades.
Below is a short beginner’s guide for those interested in the Rosary, but who were never taught how to pray it by their parents, grandparents or religious educators.
Each rosary (the string of beads) has a crucifix at the end of a short extension below the loop. Begin by holding the crucifix and making the sign of the cross.
The very first prayer of the Rosary is the Apostles’ Creed. It is a short profession of faith, affirming your beliefs in the Catholic Church. Recite this prayer while holding the crucifix.
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;
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 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.
A large bead follows after the crucifix. On this bead recite 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.
Pray three Hail Marys on the following three beads. There is at least one tradition that suggests a person should pray for the theological gifts of Faith, Hope and Charity on these beads.
Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Before the next bead, holding onto the chain of the Rosary, pray the Glory Be.
Glory be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
At the next large bead, meditate on the first mystery of the Rosary and pray the Our Father.
The Rosary is divided up into five sections known as “decades,” called so because each decade contains ten small beads. During these decades it is customary to mediate on a “mystery” from the life of Christ. Tradition assigns different mysteries of the Rosary to each day of the week, but individual piety is not bound to it.
Mondays and Saturdays
The Joyful Mysteries surrounding Christ’s birth: The Annunciation (Luke 1:26–38); The Visitation (Luke 1:39–56); The Birth of Jesus (Luke 2:1–21); The Presentation of Jesus (Luke 2:22–38); The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:41–52)
Tuesdays and Fridays
The Sorrowful Mysteries center on Jesus’ passion and death: The Agony of Jesus in the Garden (Matthew 26:36–56); The Scourging at the Pillar (Matthew 27:26); The Crowning with Thorns (Matthew 27:27–31); The Carrying of the Cross (Matthew 27:32); The Crucifixion (Matthew 27:33–56).
Wednesdays and Sundays
The Glorious Mysteries reflect on the Resurrection and other heavenly episodes: The Resurrection (John 20:1–29); The Ascension (Luke 24:36–53); The Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles (Acts 2:1–41); The Assumption of Mary into Heaven; The Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth.
St. John Paul II made the most recent addition to the Rosary with the Mysteries of Light, also called the Luminous Mysteries. They fill a gap in the life of Jesus that wasn’t covered by the traditional mysteries of the Rosary: The Baptism in the River Jordan (Matthew 3:13–16); The Wedding Feast at Cana (John 2:1–11); The Preaching of the coming of the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:14–15); The Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1–8); The Institution of the Holy Eucharist (Matthew 26).
After meditating on the first mystery, pray a Hail Mary on the ten beads that follow. At the end of each decade pray the Glory Be. Some Catholics add the Fatima Prayer at the end of each decade, reciting the words taught by Our Lady of Fatima.
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 mercy.
Repeat the above instructions for each mystery until reaching the end of the five decades.
At the end of the Rosary the next prayer is the Hail, Holy Queen. You may pray this prayer while holding the medal that joins the crucifix extension to the loop of the rosary.
Hail, holy Queen, mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope. To you we cry, poor banished children of Eve; to you we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn, then, most gracious advocate, your 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.
To conclude the Rosary some pray the St. Michael Prayer, and then end with the following invocation.
O God, whose only-begotten Son, by His life, death, and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal salvation; grant we beseech Thee, that meditating upon 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.
End by making the Sign of the Cross.