The Catholic Rosary
The word "Rosary" comes from the Latin word rosarium, meaning "rose garden" or "garland of roses". Rosary prayer beads are used to count the series of prayers that make up the rosary, so the word rosary now refers to both the strand of beads themselves as well as the concept of using the rosary beads to pray a set of prayers, often refered to as 'praying the rosary'. They can be made from any material that lends itself to being strung in a sequence, from simple knots in a cord to mark the prayers to seeds and pods or shells and stones. Rosaries are often made with man-made beads made from just about every material imaginable, from simple wooden beads to ornate and lavishly decorated strands of precious gemstones.
The Catholic rosary consists of groups of ten beads called decades, separated with a single bead set slightly apart. The series of decades are often joined together into a loop, with a front extension or pendant chain that contains a smaller number of beads to provide an entry into the prayer session.
The prayers consist of repeated sequences of the Lord's Prayer followed by ten prayings of the Hail Mary and a single praying of "Glory Be to the Father" and is sometimes accompanied by the Fatima Prayer. The completion of each sequence is sometimes called 'praying a decade". The praying of each decade is accompanied by meditation on one of the Mysteries of the Rosary, which recall the life of Jesus Christ.
The traditional 15 Mysteries of the Rosary were standardized, based on the long-standing custom, by Pope St. Pius V in the 16th century. The mysteries are grouped into three sets of five mysteries: the joyful mysteries, the sorrowful mysteries, and the glorious mysteries. In 2002, Pope John Paul II announced five new optional mysteries, the luminous mysteries, bringing the total number of mysteries to 20.
A full rosary can have anything from five to 20 decades, with the most common form being the 5-decade Marian rosary. Smaller rosaries with less beads are a convenient way to carry a rosary, usually having one, two or three decades. These can be used to pray the full rosary by simply going round the beads several times, and are useful for shorter or specific prayer sessions. A rosary with one decade of Hail Mary beads is sometimes called a "decima" rosary.
There are many types of smaller rosary, often designed for specific purposes or for use with particular prayers, or to honour saints during prayer. Some of the names of these smaller sets of rosary beads are chaplets, pocket rosaries, tenners and niners.
Rosary beads frequently contain medals relevant to an aspect of the Catholic faith, small religious icons strung as part of the rosary pattern or attached separately, and a cross or crucifix. Many rosaries are made individually meaningful by the addition of personal mementos, name/date beads, family keepsakes such as a special piece of jewellery or special beads.
Throughout history rosary beads have been worn as jewellery and used to decorate the home as wall hangings. At various times wearing the rosary has denoted the social status of the wearer as revealed by the materials used to make it. The 15 decade rosary was traditionally worn at the waist, the 5 decade rosary around the neck, and the single decade rosary around the wrist.
The rosary is a sacramental of the church meant for counting prayers and when worn as adornment it can be a tangible expression of faith, honouring God with beautiful beads of praise.