The Rosary as meditative prayer

In my early years as a priest, I’ve heard this question: “Is praying the Rosary biblical?”

My dear friends, the Bible does “not” tell us to pray the Rosary because this form of prayer originated only during the Middle Ages. However, important elements of the Rosary are biblical and/or belong to common Christian beliefs.

The origin of the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin has been associated with Saint Dominic de Guzman, founder of the Order of Preachers, popularly known as the Dominicans.Between the 11th and 13th centuries, a heretical doctrine developed in Europe. This teaching, called Albigensianism, taught that only the spiritual is good and that everything material is bad. Therefore, the body in and of itself is evil and every person’s soul is imprisoned in that evil body. The only way in which a person could experience salvation was to be freed from the imprisonment of their flesh.

In 1208, Dominic de Guzman, a Spanish priest, traveled to France to preach against the Albigensian heresy, but his efforts gained few conversions and even fewer followers. Thinking about how he would succeed, he went into a forest near Toulouse, France to pray, asking God to provide what he needed in order to overcome the Albigensian heresy. There he spent time in prayer and fasting, and after three days, the Virgin Mary appeared to him, telling Saint Dominic that he must preach her Psalter (which is the Rosary) in order to succeed in his struggle to overcome the Albigensians.

That was the reason why the Dominicans preach and propagate the Rosary. So here we can see that the Rosary was instituted by the Blessed Virgin Mary herself. She is said to have appeared to Saint Dominic, given him a rosary, and asked that he teach the Christians to pray the Hail Mary in between an Our Father and Glory Be. The beads came to be used in personal devotional practice as they helped the user count a sequence of salutations to the Blessed Virgin Mary as an alternative to the 150 Psalms.

The word rosary itself comes from the Latin “rosarium,” meaning a garden or garland of roses. During the Middle Ages, agriculture metaphor was common. Writing often drew comparisons to plowing a field, and collecting prayers was seen as growing a garden or arranging a bouquet.

When we pray the Rosary with faith and devotion, for a specific intention, we trust that God will guide and help us to know what to do. God helps us to understand His will in our lives in more than one way: He guides us when we have a specific question, intention, or situation we are praying for.

In the 13th Century, the Dominicans taught the Christians that the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary composed of an Our Father and 150 Hail Marys divided into groups of 10 beads each. When praying, an Our Father is placed between each group or decade (10 beads); the prayer was then made up of 150 Hail Marys, repeatedly 15 times with an Our Father in between each set.

Although there are some disputes regarding the historical account of how the Blessed Virgin Mary presented the Rosary to Saint Dominic, many theologians and Popes have upheld this understanding.

History reveals that Saint Dominic was the first to preach and teach the Rosary as a form of meditative prayer and the first to see the benefits reaped from meditation on its mysteries.

And let me remind you my dear friends, especially those fanatics out there, Rosaries are not to be worn around the neck nor around the Crucifix nor any other image. The Rosary is meant to be held and prayed with. Each bead symbolizes a prayer. The Rosary serves as a prayer guide for Roman Catholics, Anglicans and Lutherans.

Allow me to greet, Fr. Filemon I. de la Cruz, Jr., OP, the Prior Provincial of the Dominican Province of the Philippines and all those belonging to the Dominican family as they started the commemoration of the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary last 30 September 2022 in simple Enthronement Rites of the miraculous image of La Naval de Manila at the main altar of Santo Domingo Church in Quezon City.

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