from St. Louis de Montfort
Origin and Name
The Rosary is made up of two things: mental prayer and vocal prayer. In the Holy Rosary, mental prayer is none other than meditation of the chief mysteries of the life, death, and glory of Jesus Christ and of His Blessed Mother. Vocal prayer consists in saying fifteen decades of the Hail Mary, each decade headed by an Our Father, while at the same time meditating on and contemplating the fifteen principal virtues that Jesus and Mary practiced in the fifteen mysteries of the Holy Rosary.
In the first five decades, we must honor the five Joyous Mysteries and meditate on them; in the second five decades, the Sorrowful Mysteries; and in the third group of five, the Glorious Mysteries. So the Rosary is a blessed blending of mental and vocal prayer by which we honor and learn to imitate the mysteries and the virtues of the life, death, Passion, and glory of Jesus and Mary.
Since the Holy Rosary is composed, principally and in substance, of the Prayer of Christ and the Angelic Salutation – that is, the Our Father and the Hail Mary – it was without doubt the first prayer and the first devotion of the faithful and has been in use all through the centuries, from the time of the Apostles and disciples down to the present. But it was only in the year 1214, however, that Holy Mother Church received the Rosary in its present form and according to the method we use today.
It was given to the Church by Saint Dominic, who had received it from the Blessed Virgin as a powerful means of converting the Albigensians and other sinners.
For more detail on the history and importance of the Holy Rosary, the following books are recommended:
- De Dignitate Psalterii (The Importance and Beauty of the Holy Rosary) by Blessed Alan de la Roche, O.P.
- The Secret of the Rosary by Saint Louis Mary De Montfort
Psalter of Jesus and Mary
Ever since Saint Dominic established the devotion to the Holy Rosary, up until the time when Blessed Alan de la Roche reestablished it in 1460, it has always been called the Psalter of Jesus and Mary. This is because it has the same number of Angelic Salutations as there are psalms in the Book of the Psalms of David. Since simple and uneducated people are not able to say the Psalms of David, the Rosary is held to be just as fruitful for them as David’s Psalter is for others.
But the Rosary can be considered to be even more valuable than the latter for three reasons:
- First, because the Angelic Psalter bears nobler fruit, that of the Word Incarnate, whereas David’s Psalter only prophesies His coming;
- Second, just as the real thing is more important than its prefiguration and as the body is more than its shadow, in the same way, the Psalter of Our Lady is greater than David’s Psalter, which did no more than prefigure it;
- And third, because Our Lady’s Psalter (or the Rosary made up of the Our Father and Hail Mary) is the direct work of the Most Blessed Trinity and was not made through a human instrument.
Our Lady’s Psalter or Rosary is divided up into three parts of five decades each for the following special reasons:
- To honor the three Persons of the Most Blessed Trinity;
- To honor the life, death, and glory of Jesus Christ;
- To imitate the Church Triumphant, to help the members of the Church Militant, and to lessen the pains of the Church Suffering;
- To imitate the three groups in which the Psalms are divided: (a) the first being for the purgative life, (b) the second for the illuminative life, and (c) and the third for the unitive life;
- And finally, to give us graces in abundance during our lifetime, peace at death, and glory in eternity.