How to Pray the Rosary
"The Most Holy Virgin in these last times in which we live has given a new efficacy to the recitation of the Rosary to such an extent that there is no problem, no matter how difficult it is, whether temporal or above all spiritual, in the personal life of each one of us, of our families...that cannot be solved by the Rosary. There is no problem, I tell you, no matter how difficult it is, that we cannot resolve by the prayer of the Holy Rosary."
Sister Lucia dos Santos
The Structure of the Rosary
The rosary has 59 beads, a crucifix, and a medal, with certain prayers for each of these different pieces. The prayers of the rosary can be divided into three categories:
With the prayers of the rosary, we ask Mary to pray for us and to guide us by the example of her son, Jesus.
The introductory prayers set the stage for the rosary. They prepare you for deeper reflection when you pray the decades.
Either before or after the introductory prayers, think of any needs or struggles in your life and bring them to Mary. She cares for you like a loving mother, and wants to take your needs to Jesus. If you are praying with a group, you can say your intentions out loud so the rest of the group can pray for them as well.
Step 1: While holding the crucifix, make the Sign of the Cross and pray the Apostles’ Creed (a brief summary of the core beliefs of our faith).
Step 2: On the first large bead, pray the Our Father (the prayer Jesus taught us), typically for the intentions of the pope.
Step 3: On the next three small beads, pray the Hail Mary (a prayer to Mary, based on words from the Bible). These Hail Marys are often prayed for an increase in faith, hope, and love.
Step 4: In the space after the third Hail Mary, pray the Glory Be (a simple expression of praise and belief in the Trinity).
One you’ve prayed these introductory prayers, you are ready to begin the first decade.
There are five decades, or groups of 10 small beads, that make up the main portion of the rosary. Between each decade is one large bead set off by itself.
You’ll find that the prayers for each decade are repeated many times. This gives you an opportunity to reflect on the words, which are deeply rooted in the Bible and Christian tradition. They are powerful and filled with meaning.
Step 5: On the next large bead, pray the Our Father.
Step 6: On each small bead in the decade, pray the Hail Mary.
Step 7: In the space after the 10th bead, pray the Glory Be and the Fatima Prayer (a prayer Mary revealed to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal, in 1917).
Repeat steps 5–7 for the remaining four decades. Pray an Our Father on the large bead and a Hail Mary on each of the 10 small beads, followed by the Glory Be and the Fatima Prayer.
As you pray the decades, you can also meditate on the mysteries of the rosary and learn valuable lessons from the lives of Jesus and Mary.
The closing prayers are prayed on the medal, and they end the rosary. With these prayers we ask God and Mary to watch over us, guide us, and help us become a-better-version-of-ourselves.
Step 8: Pray the Hail, Holy Queen (a prayer asking for Mary’s help) and the Rosary Prayer (a prayer of hope that our lives will be changed by the rosary).
Step 9: While holding the crucifix, make the Sign of the Cross.
As you practice praying the rosary, these prayers will become second nature to you. There’s a rhythm to the rosary. As you enter into that rhythm, you’ll begin to think less about the words and more about the meaning of the words.
That’s when you begin to unlock the power of the rosary.
If you are new to the rosary, take some time to familiarize yourself with the beads themselves. Practice holding the rosary in your hand and feeding the beads between your fingers. See if you can remember which prayers are prayed at each point in the rosary.
If you don’t know some of the prayers, you can find them listed below.
The Apostles' Creed
I believe in God,
the Father almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried;
he descended into hell;
on the third day he rose again from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty;
from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting.
The Our Father
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
The Hail Mary
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you;
blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners
now and at the hour of our death.
The Glory Be (The Doxology)
Glory be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.
The Fatima Prayer
O my Jesus, forgive us our sins. Save us from the fires of hell and bring all souls to heaven especially those who most need of thy mercy.
The Hail Holy Queen (The Salve Regina)
Hail, holy Queen, mother of mercy,
our life, our sweetness, and our hope.
To you we cry, poor banished children of Eve;
to you we send up our sighs,
mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.
Turn, then, most gracious advocate,
your eyes of mercy toward us;
and after this, our exile,
show unto us the blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.
Mysteries of the Holy Rosary
The mysteries of the Rosary are the Joyful Mysteries, the Luminous Mysteries, the Sorrowful Mysteries, and the Glorious Mysteries.
The Twenty Mysteries
Here is a brief listing and description of all twenty Mysteries.
The Joyful Mysteries are prayed on Monday and Saturday.
The Annunciation: The Archangel Gabriel "announces" to Mary that she shall conceive the Son of God.
The Visitation: Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth, who is pregnant with John the Baptist.
The Nativity: Jesus is born.
The Presentation: Mary and Joseph "present" Jesus in the Temple where they meet Simeon.
The Finding in the Temple: After losing Him, Mary and Joseph find young Jesus teaching the Rabbis in the Temple.
The Luminous Mysteries are prayed on Thursday. They focus on the public ministry of Jesus Christ. They are:
The Baptism in the Jordan: The voice of the Father declares Jesus the beloved Son.
The Wedding at Cana: Christ changes water into wine, his first public miracle.
The Proclamation of the Kingdom: Jesus calls to conversion (cf. Mk 1:15) and forgives the sins of all who draw near to him.
The Transfiguration: The glory of the Godhead shines forth from the face of Christ.
The Institution of the Eucharist: Jesus offers the first Mass at the Last Supper with his apostles, establishing the sacramental foundation for all Christian living.
The Sorrowful Mysteries are prayed on Tuesday and Friday. These are:
The Agony in the Garden: Jesus sweats water and blood while praying the night before his passion.
The Scourging at the Pillar: Pilate has Jesus whipped.
The Crowning with Thorns: Roman soldiers crown Jesus' head with thorns.
The Carrying of the Cross: Jesus meets His mother and falls three times on the way up Calvary.
The Crucifixion: Jesus is nailed to the cross and dies before His mother and His apostle John.
The Glorious Mysteries are prayed on Wednesday and Sunday. These are:
The Resurrection: Jesus rises from the dead.
The Ascension: Jesus leaves the Apostles and bodily "ascends" to heaven.
The Descent of the Holy Spirit: The Apostles receive the Holy Spirit in tongues of fire in the upper room with Mary.
The Assumption: Mary is taken bodily--assumed--into heaven by God at the end of her life here on earth.
The Coronation: Mary is crowned Queen of Heaven and Earth.
Try to place yourself "into" the scene of the particular mystery as you pray, imagining the sights, smells, sounds, and emotions that Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and other participants experienced during the actual events.
It is also okay to meditate on the meaning of the words of the prayers as you pray them, or even to meditate on the person for whom you are offering the Rosary.
Practically everyone who prays the Rosary "offers" the Rosary to God and Our Lady for an intention. Some people offer particular intentions before each decade. You can ask God to grant you a favor, heal a sick person, or convert a sinner. Some people offer the same intention every day--sometimes for years on end--especially when asking the Father for the conversion of a particular person. Intentions are as varied as the people who pray.
Ask for big and small gifts. Be bold! In this sense, the Rosary is an exchange of gifts between friends.
It is widely known that Our Lady answers seemingly impossible intentions to those who are first beginning to pray the Rosary. This is her way of drawing you closer to Her and to Jesus. If you are praying your first Rosary, or returning to the Rosary after years of not talking to Our Lady, ask for something big, spectacular, "impossible." She'll often surprise you.
Meriting a Plenary Indulgence
The Catholic Church, exercising its authority to "bind and loose on heaven and earth," and in perfect accord with God's Mercy, has set the following conditions for the granting of a plenary indulgence for those who pray the Rosary:
Be in a state of grace--that is your soul is free from mortal sin.
Be free from attachment to--that is, not in the habit of--venial sin.
Go to confession several days before or after praying the Rosary.
Receive Holy Communion on the day you pray the Rosary.
Say a prayer for the Pope.
By fulfilling these simple (but often difficult) conditions, you merit the grace to release one soul from Purgatory. While we are free to ask God to apply this grace to a particular soul, God can do as he pleases, according to His Will and Mercy. You can also ask God to apply this special grace to your own soul. A plenary indulgence will relieve the temporal punishment due to sin (it will not absolve the sin or cause the sin to be forgiven).
The Full Rosary
A "full Rosary" consists of saying all twenty decades, that is, all four sets of five Mysteries. A "Rosary" consists of praying five decades of one set of Mysteries. Many people pray a full Rosary every day; either by praying four separate Rosaries in the morning, midday, afternoon, and evening; or all twenty Mysteries at one time (it is not necessary to repeat the preamble--the Apostles Creed, etc.--between the four sets of Mysteries if one is praying a full Rosary. Conclude with Hail Holy Queen after the last of the Glorious mysteries).
The Family Rosary
The Family Rosary is usually prayed out loud after dinner or before going to bed. Family members can take turns "leading" the decades with one person praying the beginning of the prayers, and all others praying the endings. Some families announce intentions before they begin the Rosary; others take turns announcing special intentions before they begin the Rosary; others take turns announcing special intentions before the beginning of each decade. Many families add favorite prayers at the end of the Rosary, or ask favorite saints and angels to pray for them.