A portrait of St. Dominic, who received an early version of the Rosary from Mary in 1214. “Perugia Altarpiece, Side Panel Depicting St. Dominic”  1437.

As one PA parent commented, “The Rosary gives you a format to begin a dialogue with God. It can put you in a mindset of meditative prayer and then can take on a unique meaning for each person that prays it”.  Many Catholics may know October is the Month Of the Rosary, but how did this sanctifying practice and one of the world’s most popular prayers find its place in Catholic tradition?  

The most widely accepted origin of the Rosary comes from a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Dominic in 1214. But even before St. Dominic received this vision, people used beaded string to pray the Hail Mary repetitively for specific intentions. St. Dominic promoted the Rosary and preached its effective use for sinners. He called upon those who wandered from the faith to have a conversation with God and ask for the intercession of Mary through this tool. As Grace Wikenheiser ‘22 sharedthe Rosary, “is a simple, structured way to connect with the Lord through Mary, and ask her powerful intercession for particular intentions”.

One PA parent prays his rosary, pictured above, on the the way to work each day. 

Over the centuries, the Church has promulgated St. Dominic’s vision and echoed his charge to pray the Rosary. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the Rosary adapted from its more simple form to the beautiful and intricate prayer it is today. With Papal approval the Rosary was given its five decades, three mysteries, the “Glory Be”, and the concluding half of the “Hail Mary” (the first half being from Luke’s Gospel). In 1597, the prayer finally received its name as we know it today:  “The Rosary” meaning “Rose Garden”.  NET team member Clare Cruz reflected on its components, “The Rosary is uniquely structured; usually meditations don’t use words, but the Rosary unites meditation, internal, and vocal prayer”. 

In the 1800s, Pope Leo XIII established October as the month of the Holy Rosary in order to encourage a devotion to Mary and the Rosary. With the exception of the Prayer of Fatima (added in 1917), and the Luminous mysteries (added in 2002), the Rosary has remained the same throughout the centuries. For a modern and educational take on the Catholic Rosary try the iRosary app (available in iTunes) this October.

“There is no problem, I tell you, no matter how difficult it is, that we cannot solve by the prayer of the Holy Rosary” -Sister Lucia of Fatima

For more information:

“Ever Ancient, Ever New: A Brief History On The Rosary.” Dynamic Catholic. 2019. https://dynamiccatholic.com/5-million-rosaries/history-of-the-rosary

“October Month Of The Rosary.” University of Dayton. https://udayton.edu/imri/mary/o/october-month-of-the-rosary.php

“What is the Rosary and how did it originate” Catholic Straight Answers. 2019.