History of the Rosary

Our Lady, St Dominic receiving the Rosary, St Catherine

What is the History of the Rosary? Some will try to tell you that saying the rosary is derived from pagan rituals, that it was originated by pagans, so, therefore, we shouldn't follow this practice.

Well I beg to differ! Consistently throughout history, the Catholic Church has instituted feasts and holy days as well as rituals to replace pagan celebrations and rituals. The use of prayer beads in other religions is a logical use of something tangible to keep track of prayers.

The simple form of a rosary and its accompanying prayers allows one to be free to meditate on the life of Christ and His Blessed Mother.

Earliest recorded use of prayer beads for Catholic use appears in the early centuries of the Church.

The 150 Psalms is regularly prayed by religious as part of their Divine Office.

In the old days, those who were priests and bishops could of course read, but there were many who were religious such as brothers, nuns and devout lay people who couldn't. Also, there were those who could not afford to buy a Psalter or a bible, so the Church allowed 150 Pater Nosters(Our Fathers) to be said. This took the place of praying the Psalter and was known as 'reciting the Paters' on Paternoster beads.

Early use of pebbles or seeds transferred from one bowl/bag to another was replaced by seeds or beads of clay being strung on a cord which made it more convenient to pray while traveling.

As devotion to Our Lady grew, Our Lady's Psalter became popular. This consisted of saying 150 Aves(Hail Marys). In the 12th Century, Our Lady appeared to St Dominic who was invoking her to show him what to do because of his apparent lack of success in conquering the Albigensian heresy.

Thus she presented him with the rosary as we know it today, 150 Aves, each set of 10 separated by one Pater. She also instructed him in the way of meditating on major events in Our Lord's life. This is the start of the history of rosary meditation.

More on the history of the rosary and St Dominic

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