The Meaning of the Rosary

from Venerable Fulton J. Sheen

You have sometimes heard a radio program in which a voice spoke, while at the same time music was playing in the background. When we say the Rosary, something like that occurs. Our lips say the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be to the Father, but our mind, thinking about the life of our Lord, creates a soundless background symphony of thoughts.

The Rosary is psychologically one of the greatest of prayers, because it draws all our scattered human energies, mind, lips, and fingertips, into a single, unifying purpose.

To those who find prayer difficult, the rhythmic movement of the fingers induces spiritual thoughts. To those who are used to mental prayer, the spiritual gains a new dimension when it spills over into the body and comes out of the tips of the fingers.

Ours is not an age in which the heavenly therapy of prayer-by-beads is generally used. One of the reasons why people today are so frequently worried and fearful is that they keep their minds too busy and their fingers too idle, or else tap a jerking syncopation to the noises of a nervous world. The Rosary, by contrast, gathers together our dispersed forces and fixes our minds on holy, simple thoughts, while the fingers, too, are drawn into the magnetic field of worship. Because it focuses the whole man toward a single, uplifting purpose, the Rosary can be the greatest of all therapies for troubled modern men.

A faint suspicion of this fact has begun to penetrate into some hospitals. Nervous and combat-fatigued patients are taught to knit or weave, to relax their nervous tension. The disadvantage of this treatment is that it is only partial; the patient’s mind is not involved.

But in the Rosary, all faculties, mind, will, imagination, memory, desires, hopes and muscles, are directed to the Divine.

There is seemingly much repetition in the Rosary; but actually this is no more wearying or monotonous than a man’s telling a woman “I love you” for the 20th time. Since there is a new moment in time to be redeemed by love, his words may be the same, but the meaning of each avowal is slightly different.

So, in the Rosary, we say over and over to God, “I love You. I love You. I love You.”

The beads carry the burden of the prayers, while the decades record the 15 scenes played out in the great drama of our Redemption. Beady by bead, decade by decade, the soul climbs from one Mystery to the next, to that “Love we fall short of in all love, that Beauty that leaves all other beauty pain.”

We need these Mysteries to engage our thoughts. We are not sufficiently spiritual to apprehend God as He is Himself. Our natures are too weak to stand the shock of such sublimity.

The sun is so rich in varied brightness that it must be shot through a prism before our weak eyes can see the glory of its seven colors.

So, too, the life of our divine Savior abounds in beauties that our frail human hearts cannot see unless filtered first through the prism of a prayer such as the Rosary, which breaks them up into the 15 separate Mysteries.

The Mysteries fall naturally into three groups, which are also the three divisions of every ideal Christian life: joy, suffering and glory.

How to pray the holy Rosary