Mysteries of the Holy Rosary

"The family that prays together, stays together"

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.

  1. The Annunciation: The Archangel Gabriel "announces" to Mary that she shall conceive the Son of God.

  2. The Visitation: Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth, who is pregnant with John the Baptist.

  3. The Nativity: Jesus is born.

  4. The Presentation: Mary and Joseph "present" Jesus in the Temple where they meet Simeon.

  5. 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:

  1. The Baptism in the Jordan: The voice of the Father declares Jesus the beloved Son.

  2. The Wedding at Cana: Christ changes water into wine, his first public miracle.

  3. The Proclamation of the Kingdom: Jesus calls to conversion (cf. Mk 1:15) and forgives the sins of all who draw near to him.

  4. The Transfiguration: The glory of the Godhead shines forth from the face of Christ.

  5. 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:

  1. The Agony in the Garden: Jesus sweats water and blood while praying the night before his passion.

  2. The Scourging at the Pillar: Pilate has Jesus whipped.

  3. The Crowning with Thorns: Roman soldiers crown Jesus' head with thorns.

  4. The Carrying of the Cross: Jesus meets His mother and falls three times on the way up Calvary.

  5. 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:

  1. The Resurrection: Jesus rises from the dead.

  2. The Ascension: Jesus leaves the Apostles and bodily "ascends" to heaven.

  3. The Descent of the Holy Spirit: The Apostles receive the Holy Spirit in tongues of fire in the upper room with Mary.

  4. The Assumption: Mary is taken bodily--assumed--into heaven by God at the end of her life here on earth.

  5. 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.

Offering Intentions

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.