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Rosary beads consist of a small cross, a series of beads in a circular arrangement of five strands of ten beads each separated by a single bead. On each bead in the string of ten beads a Hail Mary is prayed; the single beads are the for the Lord's Prayer.

The purpose of the rosary, however, is not to recite rote prayers but to repeat prayers you know by heart as you contemplate, actively meditate on, a mystery of Christianity. A mystery in this context is an important event whose whole meaning you won't fully understand in this world.

For 900 years there have been three series of mysteries: the Joyous Mysteries (Christ's Incarnation) the Sorrowful Mysteries (Christ's suffering and death) and the Glorious Mysteries (Christ's resurrection). Pope John Paul II has added a new set of areas of contemplation -- the Luminous Mysteries, which encompass Christ's ministry on earth. This isn't so much an addition to a tradition as the filling of a gap. The Joyful Mysteries end with Christ being found, at age 12, teaching in the temple. The Sorrowful Mysteries start with Christ suffering in Gethsemane the night before his death. It was odd to contemplate the Joyful Mysteries one day and jump to the Sorrowful Mysteries the next; something was missing -- what Jesus said and did as an adult.

The rosary had been as it was for almost a millennium. Why did Pope John Paul change it? "He is making a statement at the end of his life about what's important to him," says Father C.J. McCloskey of Washington's Catholic Information Center. "By adding these mysteries he is saying, 'This is another invitation to look closely at the life of Christ--to contemplate and meditate.'" While meditating, the person reciting the prayers is brought closer to Jesus and his Mother Mary.

"Step-By-Step" Instructions for Praying The Rosary

Beginning with the Rosary's Cross: Begin as with all prayers In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. (making the sign of the Cross while doing that)

On the single bead just above the cross, pray the Apostles Creed. This and all prayers of the rosary are meditative prayers

The next cluster of beads are 3 bead, the "Hail Mary" prayer is said on these three beads. You pray the 3 Hail Marys while meditating on the three divine virtues of faith, hope, and love/charity.

On the next bead, which is a single bead, you announce the first divine mystery of contemplation. For example, if it were a Monday, you would say the first Joyful Mystery is "The Annunciation", at this point you pray the "Our Father" prayer.

Now this will bring you to the first decade, or set of 10 beads of the Rosary. You will then pray 10 Hail Marys while contemplating the first mystery, example: The Annunciation.

After the 10th Hail Mary you will have completed the first of 5 decades which make up a Chaplet of the Rosary. You now come to another single bead, at this point, you pray the... Glory be to the Father... then (on the same bead) pray the O My Jesus... then (on the same bead) announce the next or second mystery. For example: if its Monday and your praying the Joyful Mysteries, the second Joyful Mystery is The Visitation. At this point you pray the Our Father....

You will now come to the second decade or group of 10 beads, you will now pray the 10 Hail Marys while contemplating the appropriate mystery.

You continue to pray the rosary the same way throughout. If your intention is to pray a Chaplet (a single set of mysteries) at the end of the fifth mystery you will come back to the joiner, this is where the decades all join with the lower part of the rosary which contains the cross. When you come to the joiner, you decide whether or not you wish to say another Chaplet or end. If you decide to say another Chaplet you simply announce the next mystery and continue. If you wish to end, you simply say the Glory Be To The Father, the O My Jesus, The Our Father and end the rosary with the Hail Holy Queen and the sign of the Cross


The Rosary is divided into three parts, each having five mysteries. While reciting each mystery, begin by praying one "Our Father", three "Hail Mary's" and the "Glory Be" (which makes up one decade): 

(Recite Mondays and Saturdays, and Sundays during Advent)

1. The annunciation that Mary is to be Mother of the Savior (Lk 1:26-38). 
2. The visitation of Mary to Elizabeth (Lk 1:39 47).
3. The nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ (Lk 2:1-7).
4. The presentation of the Infant Jesus in the Temple (Lk 2:22- 32).
5. The finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple (Lk 2:41-52)

(Recite Tuesdays and Fridays, also Sundays during Lent):
1. The agony of Christ in the garden (Mk 14:32-36).
2. The scourging of Jesus (Jn 18:28-38;19:1).
3. The crowning with thorns (Mk 15:16-20).
4. The carrying of the cross (Jn 19:l2-16).
5. The crucifixion of Jesus (Lk 23:33-34; 39-46).

(Recite Sundays and Wednesdays, also Sundays from Easter until Advent)
1. The resurrection of Jesus (Lk 24:1-6).
2. The ascension of Jesus into Heaven (Lk 24:50-53).
3. The descent of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4).
4. The assumption of Mary into heaven (Songs 2:8-14).
5. The coronation of our Lady in heaven (Rev 12:1-6)

(Mysteries of Light)
In addition to the joyful, sorrowful, and glorious mysteries, Pope John Paul II recommended that the Luminous Mysteries be recited on Thursdays. The "Mysteries of Light" are drawn from the life of Christ, and his public revelation of his divine nature and mission. They are: 

1) The Baptism of Christ in the Jordan (Mt 3:113-17)
2) The wedding feast at Cana (Jn 2:1-11)
3) The announcement of the Kingdom (Lk 4:14-21)
4) The Transfiguration (Mk 9:2-8)
5) The Institution of the Eucharist (Lk 22:14-20)

GLORY BE to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

After each decade pray the FATIMA PRAYER
O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fire of hell, lead all souls to heaven, especially those who are in most need of Thy mercy.

Pray "HAIL HOLY QUEEN" after the five decades: 
Hail, holy Queen, mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile show us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary. Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray.
O God, Whose Only-Begotten Son, by His life, death and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life: grant, we beseech Thee, that by meditating upon these mysteries of the most holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain, and obtain what they promise, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Most Holy Trinity - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - I adore thee profoundly. I offer Thee the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifferences whereby He is offended. And through the infinite merits of His Most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of Thee the conversion of poor sinners.

Mary, Queen of the Holy Rosary, pray for us. Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us. Mary, Our Loving Mother, pray for us.

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary that never was it known that anyone who fled to Your protection, implored Your help, or sought Your intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, we fly to you, O Virgin of virgins, our Mother. To You we come; before You we stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not our petitions, but in Your mercy, hear and answer us. Amen.

V/ Lord, have mercy. 
R/ Lord, have mercy.

V/ Christ, have mercy. 
R/ Christ, have mercy.

V/ Lord, have mercy. 
R/ Lord, have mercy.

V/ Jesus, hear us. 
R/ Jesus, graciously hear us.

V/ God, the Father of Heaven, 
R/ have mercy on us.

V/ God, the Son, Redeemer of the world, 
R/ have mercy on us.

V/ God, the Holy Spirit, 
R/ have mercy on us.

V/ Holy Trinity, One God, 
R/ have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, *Pray for us. (repeat at end of each phrase.)
Holy Mother of God, 
Holy Virgin of virgins, 
Mother of Christ, 
Mother of divine grace, 
Mother most pure, 
Mother most chaste, 
Mother inviolate, 
Mother undefiled, 
Mother most amiable, 
Mother most admirable, 
Mother of good counsel, 
Mother of our Creator, 
Mother of our Savior, 
Virgin most prudent, 
Virgin most venerable, 
Virgin most renowned, 
Virgin most powerful, 
Virgin most powerful, 
Virgin most merciful, 
Virgin most faithful, 
Mirror of justice, 
Seat of wisdom, 
Cause of our joy, 
Spiritual vessel, 
Vessel of honor, 
Singular vessel of devotion, 
Mystical rose, 
Tower of David, 
Tower of ivory, 
House of gold, 
Ark of the covenant, 
Gate of heaven, 
Morning star, 
Heath of the Sick, 
Refuge of sinners, 
Comforter of the afflicted, 
Help of Christians, 
Queen of Angels, 
Queen of Patriarchs, 
Queen of Prophets, 
Queen of Apostles, 
Queen of Martyrs, 
Queen Confessors, 
Queen of Virgins, 
Queen of all Saints, 
Queen conceived without original sin, 
Queen assumed into heaven, 
Queen of the most holy Rosary, 
Queen of Peace,

Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, 
R/ spare us, O Lord,

Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, 
R/ graciously hear us, O Lord.

Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world. 
R/ have mercy on us.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God. 
R/ That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray. Grant, we beg you, O Lord God, that we your servants, may enjoy lasting health of mind and body, and by the glorious intercession of the Blessed Mary, ever Virgin, be delivered from present sorrow and enter into the joy of eternal happiness. Through Christ our Lord. R/ Amen.