The term rosary comes from the Latin rosarium which means garland of roses. The rosary can best be described as participation in the life of Mary, whose focus was on Christ.
Originally the use of beads by monks was centered on the Liturgy of the Hours, where the beads were used to keep track of the Psalms, which the monks recited in their entirety over the course of the day. As many of the laity could not read they substituted the Our Father for the Psalms, using a knotted cord to keep count. Eventually the Hail Mary was substituted for the Our Father. The English church first grouped the beads into decades, each of which was begun with an Our Father. The practice of meditating on the mysteries, which were grouped into three sets of five; the Joyful, Glorious and Sorrowful Mysteries, originated in Germany. After the Fatima Apparitions happened in 1917 the addition of the Fatima prayer, also known as the Decade Prayer, to differentiate it from the other three prayers taught the children at Fatima, was added after the Glory Be(doxology).
In 2002 Pope John Paul II instituted the Luminous Mysteries.
The need to pray the rosary has been reported in Marian apparitions for centuries. At Lourdes Saint Bernadette stated that at the initial meeting...”The Lady took the rosary that she held in her hands and made the sign of the cross.” At Fatima the Lady identified herself as “the Lady of the Rosary.”
Names of Mary
There are over 6000 titles and names of Mary. Some are used in prayer and liturgy. Others are associated with specific ministries or locations. Here are but a few:
Fairest flower of our race
Consolation of all souls
Comfort of Christians
Hope of Christians
Hope of sinners
The New Eve
Lady, full of grace
Our Lady of Charity
Our Lady of Fatima
Our Lady of deliverance
Our Lady of Divine Providence
Our Lady of Good Hope
Our Lady of Guadalupe
Our Lady of New Orleans
Our Lady of MaryKnoll
Our Lady of the Cape
Our Lady, Star of the Sea
Mother and Queen
Mother and Virgin
Queen of Heaven
Queen of Angels
Queen of Apostles
Queen of sorrows
Ark of God
House of the Most High
Mary as the model of Christian life
Mary was the first disciple. From the first time we meet her in Scripture she points the way to her Son and shows us how we should respond to God. When the angel visits her with news of the Incarnation Mary's answer should be our answer, “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to God's will.”
Upon visiting Elizabeth, who greets her, “Full of Grace,” Mary's answer, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor and his lowly servent...the Mighty One has done great things for me...”
Later at Cana we hear her final recorded words in Scripture, “Do whatever he tells you.” What better guideline could she give us for reaching salvation?
Many formal Prayers to Mary have been used by Catholics. The most well known is probably the Hail Mary, which we have already discussed. The Angelus is a devotion in memory of the Incarnation. It is prayed three times a day, at 6 am, noon and 6 pm and is accompanied by the ringing of the Angelus bell. The Magnificat is said as part of Evening Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours, and Night Prayer ends with an Antiphon of the Blessed Virgin Mary, often the Hail Holy Queen (which also ends the rosary) or the Regina caeli (Queen of Heaven) or a simple Hail Mary.
Various litanies have been composed to Mary. Litanies are used in the Eastern Churches as part of the liturgy, but the practice has also become a practice of the Western (that is the Roman) Church. A litany is a series of short petitions and exhortations which are sung or recited. A well known litany used as part of the Mass during certain seasons and occasions is the Litany of the Saints. Dozens, if not hundreds of litanies have been composed to Mary.
The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a version of the Liturgy of the Hours which is said in Mary's honor. Certain congregations of religious and Third Orders use the Little Office and it is also prayed by some members of the laity.
We will end with the Memorare. Note: Most traditional formal prayers of the Church were originally written in Latin. In Latin it is the custom to designate a particular prayer based upon its beginning. Hence the Magnificat which begins “Magnificat anima” or the Hail Mary(Ave Maria). Memorare means “Remember.”
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary,
that never was it known
that anyone who fled to thy protection,
implored thy help,
or sought thy intercession,
was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence
I fly unto thee,
O Virgin of virgins, my Mother.
To thee do I come,
before thee I stand,
sinful and sorrowful.
O Mother of the Word Incarnate,
despise not my petitions,
but in thy mercy hear and answer me.