Whether you grew up Catholic or found your faith later in life, you’ve undoubtedly seen someone praying with a rosary. If you don’t know anything about it, this seemingly simple little item might look like it’s just a way to keep a count of your prayers — but it is far more spiritually important than being what amounts to a prayer-counting abacus. And, if that’s how you’ve been using your rosary, well, we won’t say you’ve been doing it wrong, because prayer is important, but you are missing out on the spiritual richness that comes from praying the Rosary.
A Quick Review: What the Rosary Is
In order to understand why the Holy Rosary is so important, it’s important to understand a key distinction. The lowercase-r rosary refers to the physical item you would use to guide your prayer. When we capitalize it, the Rosary refers specifically to saying the predetermined set of prayers while meditating on the Mysteries of the Rosary. There is an important, deeply spiritual element that goes along with praying the Rosary; it shouldn’t be rote recitation just to get through the prayers.
The difference between praying with a rosary and praying the Rosary lies mostly in what happens in your mind. However, it’s more than just having your mind in a devotional mindset. The Mysteries offer a focal point for your reflections; they center on key moments in Christ’s life, as well as some moments centering on his mother, Mary. Each of the Mysteries comes with a specific spiritual “goal,” called a Fruit of the Mystery, for you to contemplate as you pray. The Mysteries provide touchstones of our faith, to guide and shape us spiritually and help grow our faith. To put it more simply, the Mysteries are, basically, quick little reminders of big moments that we can think on and grow from. It’s a bit like morality-based fairy tales for kids, but deeply rooted in the lessons we should be learning from Christ’s life and teachings.
Why We Pray
When we talk about why praying the Rosary is so important, we’re basically talking about why prayer matters. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God” (CCC 2590). But how we pray matters just as much as what we pray. You can pray out loud, or in the quiet of your mind; prayer can be spoken or sung, and mental prayer can be done through contemplation or meditation. Vocal prayer is hugely important, which is why we celebrate Mass and everyone participates vocally. But mental prayer can have a huge impact on your mindset and your ongoing spiritual well being. Basically, all prayer matters, and the Rosary is one way to guide your mental prayer and provide you with some focus.
Prayer and The Rosary
The Rosary specifically is a form of devotion, which is one of many ways we can participate in a pious exercise to demonstrate reverence for a particular aspect of God, Jesus, or a saint. The Rosary is most commonly a devotional connected to Jesus and Our Lady, but certain centerpieces and crucifix options included in custom rosaries can provide that secondary devotional element to a saint. In addition to being a devotional exercise that focuses on Jesus and Mary, the Mysteries help focus our meditative prayer further. Originally, there were three Mysteries:
- The Joyful Mysteries — The Annunciation, The Visitation, The Nativity, The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, and Finding Jesus in the Temple.
- The Sorrowful Mysteries — The Agony in the Garden, The Scourging at the Pillar, The Crowning with Thorns, The Carrying on the Cross, and The Crucifixion and Death of Our Lord.
- The Glorious Mysteries — The Resurrection, The Ascension, The Descent of the Holy Spirit, The Assumption of the Virgin Mary, and The Coronation of the Virgin.
In 2002, Pope John Paul II added a fourth set of Mysteries, called The Luminous Mysteries. These include:
- The Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, The Wedding at Cana, Jesus’ Proclamation of the Kingdom of God, The Transfiguration, and The Institution of the Eucharist.
When praying the Rosary, you can pray all 20 Mysteries, but that can be quite the undertaking — especially for those who are trying to make praying the Rosary a daily habit. Instead, there is a set of Mysteries associated with each day of the week, but you can also choose to focus on the set of Mysteries that makes the most sense for your spiritual needs when you settle in to pray.
Why the Rosary is Important
You’re probably starting to get an idea of why the Rosary is important, but let’s break it down just a bit more. Praying the Rosary starts with the Apostle’s Creed, which is a good reminder of all the things that we believe as Catholics. Then, you’ll go into a series of Our Fathers, Hail Marys, and Glory Bes. These are prayers we all know forwards and backwards, but that doesn’t minimize their importance. Then, add in the Mysteries, and we are not only praying, but also meditating on Jesus’ life — the sorrowful, the joyous, and so on. This is our chance to grow closer to Him, to listen to His teachings, and to think on how we can bring those lessons into our everyday lives. Basically, praying the Rosary is a way to continuously grow our faith and to protect ourselves against the spiritual battles we face living in a secular world.
Making the Rosary an Intentional Habit
If you’re looking to grow your spiritual self, one of the best things you can do is to make praying the Rosary an intentional, purposeful part of your everyday life. Part of that is finding a rosary you can easily bring with you, no matter where you go. Here at The Catholic Woodworker, we pour our love and care into making durable handmade rosary options that we hope will be your constant companion through everyday life. Our handmade rosaries are made with wooden beads and durable micro cord so it will be ready for you anywhere and everywhere you go. Explore our options online, or create a custom rosary with our “design your own rosary” tool.