I still have that elephant and, every now and then, I pull it out, and am amazed at how it can make me feel better.
That’s sort of how the rosary is for me. It’s something that has always been a source of great comfort.
Recently, the rosary has been getting a lot of attention, thanks to Pope John Paul II. In October, 2002, he released his apostolic letter The Rosary of the Virgin Mary (Rosarium Virginis Mariae), which added five new mysteries—the Luminous Mysteries—to the rosary. The new mysteries focus on Jesus’ public life.
In February of 2003, the pope once again turned to the rosary—this time as a symbol of hope—when he asked Catholics to pray the rosary in order to avoid war in Iraq and bring peace to the world.
A Long Tradition
Pope John Paul II is not the first pope to encourage Catholics to pray the rosary. In fact, the rosary, which literally means “a garden of roses,” enjoys a long history in the Church.
The facts surrounding its exact origin are unknown, as many of the Church’s traditions are, but St. Dominic most often gets credit for instituting the prayer. Apparently, St. Dominic implored the Virgin Mary for her help during the time when the Albigensian heresy was devastating the area around Toulouse, France. Her response to him was to teach the rosary as an antidote to heresy and sin.
Whatever the rosary’s origins, Pope Pius V officially approved the devotion in 1569, when he recommended that Catholics say “150 salutations…with the Lord’s Prayer at each decade…while meditating on the mysteries which recall the entire life of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Since that time, the rosary has continued to be a mainstay of the Catholic faith, usually broken into three sets of mysteries (Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious). It has been used to pray for peace, for personal intercessions and for many other reasons.
Prayer for the Family
In The Rosary of the Virgin Mary, the pope pointed out the significance of the rosary for families. “As a prayer for peace, the rosary is also, and always has been, a prayer of and for the family. At one time this prayer was particularly dear to Christian families, and it certainly brought them closer together. It is important not to lose this precious inheritance. We need to return to the practice of family prayer and prayer for families, continuing to use the rosary,” he wrote.
Here are ways your family can continue to use the rosary:
• Encourage use of the rosary by giving it as a gift for special religious occasions, such as First Confession, First Communion, etc. Include one of the laminated cards mentioned above.
• Say the rosary together as a family. Find a time when the family can be together and recite the rosary. Either pray for a special intention for the entire family, or each person can pray for his or her own individual intention.
• A lot of times the rosary gets a bad rap for not being very dynamic, but there are ways to make it more interesting. Pray the rosary while you go for a walk or take part in a rosary rally. (Many parishes sponsor these.)
• Remember the rosary in times of stress, such as when you’re worried about one of your children or keeping watch in the hospital with a family member.
For Teens: Make Your Own Rosary
If you can’t find a rosary that’s just right for you, how about making your own? Bead stores or your local craft store should have a wide variety of beads from which to choose. Or check to see if your local religious goods store has a rosary-making kit. You can make your rosary simple and plain—using items such as wooden beads and twine or yarn—or more elaborate—using decorative beads and decorative thread or nylon cord.
Once you have learned how to make rosaries, gather a group of friends or propose that your youth group make rosaries. Then either donate the rosaries to a particular group or distribute them after Masses at your parish.
For Kids: Visualizing the Mysteries
The Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious and now the Luminous Mysteries are all based on events in the Bible. Have someone help you find the Bible passages relating to the mysteries. Either read the stories yourself, or ask someone to read them to you. After reading each story, draw a picture illustrating what you have just read.
When your family gathers to say the rosary, display each picture as you are reciting that mystery.