Why is the rosary important to Catholics

The rosary and its meaning

The rosary is certainly one of the most famous forms of prayer in the Catholic Church. But how did it come about, what meaning does it have and how is it actually prayed correctly? We want to get to the bottom of these questions here. Traditionally, the rosary is prayed in community, especially in the month of October.

What is the rosary?

The rosary is a ritual prayer that is performed with the help of a prayer chain on which 59 pearls are strung. The life of Jesus is viewed through the eyes of Mary. The origin of the word lies in the Latin term »rosarium«, which is translated as »rose garden«. The word "rosarium" was later transferred to the prayer cord and appears for the first time in the 15th century with its German name "Rosenkranz".

In the tradition of the church, the rose plants have symbolized Mary, the mother of God, from ancient times. The name Rosary is ultimately derived from the view that prayers and invocations are a wreath in honor of Mary, the Mother of God.

How did the rosary come about?


According to old tradition, St. Dominic (founder of the Dominican order of preachers) is said to have received the present form of the rosary in 1208 when Mary appeared in 1208 and then introduced it into his order. Maria gave the rosary to Dominic as a weapon in the fight against the Albigensians (an anti-church heretic movement).

Scientific explanation

However, research rather assumes that the rosary has gradually developed from early medieval prayers to its present form. The present form of the rosary was probably created in Advent 1409 by the Carthusian monk Dominic of Prussia from Trier, who summarized the events of the life of Jesus in 50 final sentences that followed the first part of the Ave Maria. These final sentences were shortened a little later by the Carthusian Adolf von Essen to 15 and in 1508 the final sentence "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us ..." was added to the Ave Maria. The final text of the Ave Maria was determined by Pope Pius V on September 17, 1569 and the form of the rosary prayer was officially regulated.

How do you pray the rosary?

The rosary is a prayer chain with a cross and 59 pearls. The latter are divided into five groups of ten small and one large pearl. Finally, there is a cross on the free part of the rosary. This arrangement, as well as the number of pearls, are designed to help believers pray in the correct order.

Order of the individual prayers

The rosary prayer begins with the chain attached to the wreath, which is decorated with a cross and three small pearls (framed by two large pearls) (Creed, Glory to the Father, Our Father, three Ave Maria and Glory to the Father) The order of introduction as an overview:

  • Big pearl:
    Glory be to the father
    Our Father
  • 3 small pearls:
    each an "Ave Maria" with the following insert: "Jesus, ..."
    ... who increase the faith in us
    ... who strengthens hope in us
    ... who ignites love in us
  • Big pearl:
    Glory be to the father
    Our Father
  • Then five times ten smaller pearls follow on the chain (for the Ave Maria) and one large (for the Lord's Prayer and honor be to the Father). A law consists of one "Our Father", ten "Ave Maria" and one "Glory to the Father".
  • 10 small pearls:
    10 Ave Maria (with the insertion of the 1st secret)
  • Big pearl:
    Glory be to the father
    Our Father
  • 10 small pearls:
    10 Ave Maria (with the insertion of the 2nd secret)
  • Big pearl:
    Glory be to the father
    Our Father
  • 10 small pearls:
    10 Ave Maria (with the insertion of the 3rd secret)
  • Big pearl:
    Glory be to the father
    Our Father
  • 10 small pearls:
    10 Ave Maria (with the insertion of the 4th secret)
  • Big pearl:
    Glory be to the father
    Our Father
  • 10 small pearls:
    10 Ave Maria (with the insertion of the 5th secret)
  • At the end of the rosary, a “Glory to the Father” is prayed.

In some places it is the custom to perform the so-called Fatima prayer ("O my Jesus, forgive ...") at the end of each sentence, which is not an official part of the rosary.

The various secrets of the rosary

Officially there are a total of four different secrets, each with five formulations, that can be considered: the joyful, painful, glorious and the light-rich secrets. A complete rosary prayer (five laws) includes the prayer of one of these mysteries, each with five phrases. Here is an overview of the secrets:

  • Joyful secrets:
    (about birth and childhood)
  1. Jesus whom you, virgin, received from the Holy Spirit.
  2. Jesus whom you, O virgin, carried to Elisabeth.
  3. Jesus whom you, virgin, gave birth.
  4. Jesus whom you, o virgin, offered up in the temple.
  5. Jesus whom you, virgin, found again in the temple.
  • Luminous secrets:
    (about the public ministry of Jesus)
  1. Jesus baptized by John.
  2. Jesus who revealed himself at the wedding in Cana.
  3. Jesus who announced the kingdom of God to us.
  4. Jesus who was transfigured on the mountain.
  5. Jesus who gave us the Eucharist.
  • Painful Secrets:
    (about suffering and dying)
  1. Jesus who sweated blood for us.
  2. Jesus who was scourged for us.
  3. Jesus crowned with thorns for us.
  4. Jesus who carried the heavy cross for us.
  5. Jesus who was crucified for us.
  • Glorious Secrets:
    (about the resurrection)
  1. Jesus who rose from the dead.
  2. Jesus ascended to heaven.
  3. Jesus who sent us the Holy Spirit.
  4. Jesus who took you, virgin, into heaven.
  5. Jesus who crowned you, virgin, in heaven.

Praying all 20 secrets in one go is called a psalter. If the entire Psalter is prayed, the introductory prayers are omitted and, when one rosary is finished, the “Our Father” and the next five mysteries begin directly.

You can find further useful information about the rosary prayer at www.rosenkranzgebete.de and at www.rosenkranz-beten.de.

You will also find valuable information and tips on how to pray the rosary correctly (PDF | ePub).