The Rosary is a Scripture-based Prayer. It begins with the Blessing and marking of the Sign of the Cross and then the Apostles’ Creed (which summarizes the twenty (20) Great Mysteries of our Christian Faith and is our affirmation as Apostles of Christ). The Lord’s Prayer, which immediately follows the Creed and then introduces each Mystery per decade, is from the Gospels when Jesus taught us how to Pray to God (Matthew 6:9; Luke 11:2). The Hail Mary, which is repeated three times at the start of the Rosary and then ten times during each decade of the Rosary, is our petition to the Virgin Mary for her intercession on our behalf with her Son, Jesus. The first part of the Hail Mary are the words of the Archangel Gabriel (Luke 1:28). The second part of the Hail Mary are the words of St. Elizabeth, the Mother of St. John the Baptist (Luke 1:42). The Gloria Patri (or Glory Be), which follows each string of Hail Mary’s, is a doxology from an early adaptation of the Jewish Blessings addressed to God (Romans 16:27; Philippians 4:20; Revelation 5:23) and the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as found in Baptism (Matthew 28:19). The Fatima Prayer, which then follows each Gloria Patri, is then Prayed to concludes each decade. It is the most well-known of the seven Fatima Prayers (revealed to the three Children that the Virgin Mary appeared to in Fatima, Portugal in 1917). After completing the last of the five decades, the Rosary moves to the Hail Holy Queen followed by the Final Prayer of the Rosary and ends with a final Blessing and marking of the Sign of the Cross.
The Mysteries of the Rosary center on the events of Christ’s life. There are four sets of Mysteries with five Mysteries in each set (for a total of twenty): Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious, and Luminous. Each set of Mysteries is meant to focus one on the life and Ministry of Jesus Christ and His Mother, Mary. The repetition of the Prayers in the Rosary is meant to lead one into restful and contemplative Prayer related to each Mystery. The gentle repetition of the words helps one to enter into the silence of their hearts, where Christ’s Spirit dwells. The Rosary can be said privately or with a group.
So, where did it come from? While the origins of the Rosary are not 100% clear, according to tradition, the Rosary’s defining moment came during an Apparition of the Virgin Mary to Saint Dominic in 1221. At the time, St. Dominic was combating a popular heresy in France called Albigensianism. Mary gave him the Rosary, told him to teach people this Devotion, and promised that his Apostolic efforts would be Blessed with much success if he did. We know the religious order that St. Dominic founded (the Dominicans) clearly played a major role in promoting the Rosary throughout the world in the early years of this devotion.
The Rosary gained greater popularity in the 1500s, when Moslem Turks were ravaging Eastern Europe. In 1453, Constantinople had fallen to the Moslems, leaving the Balkans and Hungary open to conquest. With Moslems raiding even the coast of Italy, the control of the Mediterranean was now at stake. In 1571, Pope Pius V organized a fleet under the command of Don Juan of Austria (the half-brother of King Philip II of Spain). While preparations were underway, the Holy Father asked all of the Faithful to say the Rosary and implore the Blessed Mother’s Prayers (under the title of Our Lady of Victory) on their behalf to Jesus Christ in order for Him to save the Christians and grant them victory. Although the Moslem fleet outnumbered that of the Christians in both vessels and sailors, the Christians courageously battled with the Moslem invaders. The Christian flagship flew a blue banner depicting Christ crucified. On October 7, 1571, the Moslems were defeated at the Battle of Lepanto. The following year, Pope St. Pius V established the Feast of the Holy Rosary on October 7th, where the Faithful would not only remember this victory, but also give thanks to the Lord for all of His benefits and remember the powerful intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
There are many other such Miracles, stories, etc. associated with the intercession of the Virgin Mary with Her Son, Jesus, on behalf of countless others via the Holy Rosary. There are too many to list here, but all are strongly-encouraged to research the Rosary and the Marian Apparitions (which are still happening today) separately for themselves. Praying the Rosary will literally change your life – just ask anyone who regularly-employs this Prayer. God bless and Godspeed!!!