The Rosary became a mantra for me. A mantra is a word or phrase which aids in concentration or meditation. Constantly repeated, it supports contemplation and opens the mind so that we are not pondering words but meaning. We get the word and the practice from Eastern traditions, but the Rosary is our Catholic Mantra which enables us to reflect deeply on the fundamental mysteries of our faith.
The origins of the Rosary are ancient. Saint Dominic is credited with the promotion of the Rosary after having experienced a vision of the Virgin Mary in 1214, but the Rosary was known in its various forms from at least the 9th century! Originally consisting of 15 decades, the 150 Hail Marys were said to be psalter of the laity (who did not have bibles and who often could not read), representing the 150 psalms prayed by the more educated religious and clergy.
The traditional mysteries of the Rosary are three: The Joyful Mysteries (the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Nativity, the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, and the Finding of Jesus in the Temple); The Sorrowful Mysteries (the Agony in the Garden, the Scourging at the Pillar, the Crowning with Thorns, the Carrying of the Cross, and the Crucifixion and Death of the Lord): and The Glorious Mysteries (the Resurrection, the Ascension, the Descent of the Holy Spirit, the Assumption of Mary, and the Coronation of the Virgin).
The Rosary is still evolving. In October of 2002, Pope St. John Paul II added an additional set of mysteries which he called the Luminous Mysteries or the Mysteries of Light. These focus more on the public life of Jesus (the Baptism of Jesus, the Wedding Feast at Cana, the Proclamation of the Kingdom, the Transfiguration and the Institution of the Eucharist).
Taken together, the four groups of Mysteries set forth the entire life and ministry of Jesus.
So why do we pray a Marian prayer to focus on Jesus’ life and ministry? When we pray the Rosary, we are praying in communion with Mary who was the first and most perfect disciple. Like the beloved disciple we welcome her into our homes and into our hearts. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that she is “the mother of all the living. We can pray with her and to her. The prayer of the Church is sustained by the prayer of Mary and united with it in hope (#2679).”
October is the Month of the Rosary. The memorial of the Holy Rosary, which we celebrate on October 7, was established by Pope Pius V in 1571. Our very own Cathedral in this Diocese of San Bernardino is named for and dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary. If you have never prayed the Rosary this may be the month for you to begin, discovering its richness and beauty. If you haven’t prayed it in a long while, you might want to try it again - for the first time.
Sr. Jeremy Gallet is a Sister of Providence and serves as the Director of the Office of Worship for the Diocese.