Customs and Rituals

What is the Rosary and what Christians consider it an important ritual prayer?

The Rosary is a popular form of Roman Catholic prayer that combines meditation on the mysteries of faith with the recitation of vocal prayers. A “decade” of the Rosary corresponds to each of the fifteen mysteries commemorated in the Rosary. Ten Hail Marys are said for each decade; they are preceded by an Our Father and followed by a Glory Be to the Father. While reciting a decade of the Rosary, one is to meditate on the particular mystery for that decade and on its meaning for life. The entire Rosary was for many years divided into three chaplets: the joyful, the sorrowful, and the glorious mysteries. To “say a Rosary” commonly means to pray one such chaplet of five mysteries. Commonly a chaplet is preceded by the recitation of the Apostles’ Creed and of an Our Father and three Hail Marys. The Roman Catholic Church has long recommended this form of prayer as a convenient and effective way of meditating on the Christian mysteries of salvation.

  1. The Annunciation
  2. The Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth
  3. The Birth of Jesus Christ
  4. The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple in Jerusalem
  5. The Finding of the child Jesus in the Temple in Jerusalem
  1. The Agony of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane
  2. The Scourging of Jesus at the Pillar
  3. The Crowning with Thorns
  4. The Carrying of the Cross
  5. The Crucifixion
  1. The Resurrection of Jesus from the Dead
  2. The Ascension of Jesus into Heaven
  3. The Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles
  4. The Assumption of Mary into Heaven
  5. The Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven

More recently, the Luminous Mysteries were added, along with various other ways of praying the Rosary, called “chaplets.” The Luminous mysteries are:

  1. The Baptism in the Jordan
  2. The Wedding at Cana
  3. The Proclamation of the Kingdom
  4. The Transfiguration
  5. The Institution of the Eucharist

Prayer beads are often used as a way of keeping track of the number of repetitions of a Rosary prayer.


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