What are rosary beads

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Rosary beads bring order to prayerful meditation

There are many types of prayers and methods of praying. For Roman Catholics, one of the most beloved and enduring prayer is the Rosary. In fact, religious images often depict the devout holding a string of these prayer beads. So what exactly are rosary beads?

Rosary beads are a string of beads and a crucifix used to keep track of prayers. The fingers work their way around the string of beads during the course of the prayer recitation. The word rosary comes from the Latin rosarium, meaning "Crown of Roses” or "garland of roses.” 

Roses have long been associated with the Virgin Mary, and the prayer that occurs most frequently in the rosary is the prayer known as the “Hail Mary.” 

History of the Rosary

According to some Catholic traditions, the Rosary was given to Saint Dominic in a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the past, rosaries used to be made from real rose petals, and the scent of roses was emitted as the fingers traveled across the beads in prayer. However, modern rosaries are often constructed from wood, glass, gems, or acrylic. 

Praying the Rosary

The praying of the rosary is started on the short strand of beads that hangs from the circle of beads. The individual praying recites a prayer known as the Apostle's Creed at the crucifix. At the first large bead of the short strand, the individual praying recites the Lord's Prayer, followed by three Hail Marys on the next three beads. These beads represent faith, hope, and charity. On the next large bead, the individual praying recites the Glory Be to the Father prayer. 

The praying of the decades then follows. A five decade rosary consists of five groups of ten beads (a decade), and has a large bead before each decade. The Hail Mary prayer is recited once for each of the ten beads within each decade. The Lord’s Prayer is recited each time the individual praying the rosary arrives on the large bead before each decade. Each of the large beads represents a new mystery in the life of Jesus, and as the prayers are recited the individual praying contemplates these mysteries. 

Besides as a method of personal or familial prayer, praying the rosary may also be prescribed by Catholic priests as a form of penance after confession in order to encourage individuals to reflection upon their sins and to learn from them.

Other Forms of Rosary

There are smaller versions of rosary beads available, often consisting of a single decade that is repeated in order to complete the prayer. The single decade rosaries may consist of ten beads, or may be in the form of a bracelet or a ring. These smaller rosaries are convenient for travelers or those in perilous conditions, such as in combat. 

Wearing the rosary

A set of blessed rosary beads is considered to be a sacramental. Beads may be made to hold sacred relics or drops of holy water. Many religious orders wear the rosary as part of their habit, or normal religious attire. However, a layperson may wear a rosary as a statement of faith or to keep it handy for praying throughout the day.

Besides serving as a way to keep track of prayers, for many the rosary also provides a sense of community with others who observe the Catholic faith, and instills a sense of protection. It is no wonder that the practice of using rosary beads as a method to keep track of prayers and to provide a tangible object on which to focus meditation has endured through the ages. 


Catholic.com:  The Rosary

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