The Seven Day Bible Rosary - A Short History of the Rosary

A Short History of the Rosary

The currently "traditional" method of praying the rosary has not always been traditional. In fact, The Seven Day Bible Rosary is closer to the way the rosary was prayed in former centuries than the current "traditional" rosary.

The earliest rosary was an outgrowth of the monastic practice of praying the 150 psalms weekly. Around the beginning of the ninth century, the laity began praying 150 Our Fathers as a substitute for the monks' psalter, and soon they were using strings with 150 or 50 knots or pieces of wood.

The practice of saying Hail Marys began to develop in the eleventh century. However, for perhaps two hundred years, only the Angelic salutation, the first part of the Hail Mary was said; it was not until about the middle of the thirteenth century that the present form of the Hail Mary came into common use. "It is certain that in the course of the twelfth century and before the birth of St. Dominic (1170-1221), the practice of reciting 50 or 150 Ave Marias had become generally familiar."

The current practice of dividing the Hail Marys into decades - groups of ten plus an Our Father and a Glory Be - was not yet developed when St. Dominic began promoting the rosary to defeat the Albigensian heresy in the thirteenth century. This was a heresy which taught that all material things including the human body were created by an evil spirit and were therefore evil. The Aibigensians denied that Christ took on our full human nature with a genuine body, and that was a denial of the Incarnation.

"Probably what St. Dominic did was this: at the command of the Blessed Virgin he urged the people to recite often and fervently the salutation which the Archangel Gabriel uttered to Mary." This amounted to a frequent and fervent act of faith in the reality of the Incarnation the second Person of the Blessed Trinity taking on our full human nature, and in the presence of the people's proclamation of faith, the Albigensian heresy withered away.

Perhaps because of the promotion of this prayer by St. Dominic, a variety of laymen's Psalters developed so that by the end of the thirteenth century there were, four different forms: "the 150 Our Fathers, the 150 Angelic Salutations, the 150 praises of Jesus, and the 150 praises of Mary."

During the fourteenth century chains of 5O,100 or 150 phrases were attached to the recitation of the Ayes, one phrase to each Ave. In the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, the division into decades and the combination of an Our Father and ten Hail Mary's occurred for the first time.

The consolidation to the present tradition began in the late fifteenth century. "In 1483, a Rosary book written by a Dominican, Our Dear Lady's Psal cut down the 150 points meditation]to 15 all of which, except for the last 2, corresponded to the present mysteries. The Coronation was combined with the Assumption, and the Last Judgment was the I5th mystery. " The Seven Day Bible Rosary follows this latter practice but focuses more on the Second Corning than on the Last Judgment scene of Matthew 25.

The first book to use the term "mysteries" to refer to the Rosary meditations was written by a Dominican in 1521 and retained the old series of 150 thoughts or meditations, "during the 16th century the Rosary of 15 mysteries gradually prevailed."

The decline of the "150 special thoughts" rosary was partially caused .by technology. About the beginning of the 16th century, the printing press made it possible to reproduce woodcuts with relative ease, but economics made it more attractive to reproduce just one picture for each decade rather than one for each bead fifteen instead of 150. That set the style for the contemporary tradition of the fifteen 'mysteries of the rosary. Thus it was not St. Dominic who set the now traditional mode of praying the rosary but a combination of technology and economics. The need for help in meditating on the traditional fifteen mysteries is evidenced by the various books written to assist such meditation and the common practice of reading a short meditation before each decade.

In the twentieth century there has been a revival of the medieval form of the rosary with several publications of special thoughts for each Hail Mary. In l96lthe Scripairal Rosary popularized the idea of reciting a verse of Sacred Scripture before each Hail Mary. In 1973, the National Council of Catholic Bishops issued a pastoral letter on Mary in which they noted the following:

"Besides the precise rosary pattern long known to Catholics, we can freely experiment. New sets of mysteries are possible. We have customarily gone from the childhood of Jesus to his Passion, bypassing the whole public life. There is rich matter here for rosary meditation, such as the wedding feast of Cana and incidents from the public life where Mary's presence and Mary's name serve as occasions for her Son to give us a lesson in discipleship: 'Still more blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it'.

The Seven Day Bible Rosary does not focus on the events in the public life where Mary is present or her name is mentioned as suggested by the above statement. First of all, such events are rather few; but the primary reason is that I developed the arrangement of The Seven Day Bible Rosary several years before the American bishops published the above statement, and found their text only in the final phases of preparing this text for publication. However, each mystery is some event or teaching of Jesus which gives us "a lesson in discipleship."

Thus The Seven Day Bible Rosary is not a radical and unprecedented form of praying the rosary. Rather, it combines elements from the medieval forms, from the traditional form of recent centuries, and from the recent practice of the scriptural rosary.

What's in The Seven Day Bible Rosary?
The first thing you will notice is that The Seven Day Bible Rosary has seven sets of mysteries instead of the traditional three. The idea is to have a different set for each day of the week.

Monday The Preparation
Tuesday The Public Life
Wednesday The Parables
Thursday The Last Supper
Friday The Passion and Death
Saturday The Church
Sunday The Glorious Mysteries

The next thing you will notice is that three sets of mysteries incorporate the three traditional sets of mysteries but with some slight changes. The Mysteries of the Preparation correspond to the Joyful Mysteries and the differences are these : 1) The name is changed to reflect the reality that these events were the preparation for the public life of Jesus 2) The Presentation and the Finding in the Temple have been combined since they both illustrate a similar lesson in discipleship, namely religious obedience 3) meditation on John the Baptist has been added to reflect this final step in the divine preparation for the public preaching and teaching of Jesus.

The Mysteries of the Passion and Death correspond to the Sorrowful Mysteries Two of the traditional mysteries the Scourging and the Crowning with Thorns - have been combined since they are so closely related, and attention is drawn to the trials and witness of Jesus by the addition of 'Jesus bears witness to the truth of his divinity and is condemned to die."

The Glorious Mysteries have retained the same name. The traditional mysteries of the Assumption and the Coronation have been combined into one meditation because they are so closely related, and attention is focused on the Second Coming by the addition of "Jesus will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead."

The other four sets are practically self-explanatory from their names. Five events or teaching themes from the public life of Jesus have been selected because they illustrate broad themes in the life and teaching of our Lord, and the same is true for the parables. Since the Mass is the high point in the weekly life of a good Catholic, I think it is fitting to have a weekly meditation on the realities of the Last Supper, realities which we celebrate at each Mass, including the Lord's special prayer for unity. And because the Church itself in its various manifestations is so important in the life of an active Catholic, it seems prudent to meditate weekly on some of the things Jesus has done for his Church and the vocations He has created.

The third thing you will notice is that each mystery is preceded by a short meditation and then has a verse from Sacred Scripture (with a few exceptions) before each Hail Mary.

The translation is mixed. I wanted a fairly literal translation but also one that would be good for oral reading in the Catholic home. I generally followed the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine version of 1941 which is in the public domain and familiar to many Catholics. However, where the translation of the Revised Standard Version of 1952 was, in my opinion, more clear, I used it. Moreover, in many cases, changes were made to get away from archaic words or usages or to express the thought more briefly or in language that better conveyed the thought to the reader of today. If you are concerned about which translation is used for any particular verse, you will have to check the sources, and you will find that the RSV and CCD translations are identical in some cases. Obviously, in many cases, it was necessary to abbreviate the scriptural accounts in order to convey the overall lesson or event within the space of ten verses. References are given at the end of each mystery so you can read the complete account in your own Bible. Words in brackets as this are words I inserted, usually to clarify certain transitions of place, time or speaker.

How to Use The Seven Day Bible Rosary
Rather obviously, you are free to use The Seven Day Bible Rosary as you see fit, but the following suggestions are made to facilitate praying the family rosary.

Not only children but also some adults experience a certain amount of restlessness with the rosary, so you may find it helpful to introduce a certain amount of variety into your family rosary. For example, one week you may want to say just the verses and omit the meditations. The next week you may want to read only the meditation and omit the verses. The third week you may want to read just the title and intention for each mystery and omit both the meditation and the verses. In fourth week you may want to spend a few minutes discussing one of the mysteries, read the verses for just that one mystery, and read only the title and intention for the others. If you follow this pattern, in eight months you would have discussed each of the mysteries once. However you choose to use The Seven Day Bible Rosary, I suggest that you retain the intentions because I think that having a specific intention for each decade helps to keep your mind engaged.

Common suggestion is to always start your rosary by specifically praying it in response to Mary's request For example.

"Dear Blessed Mother, we pray our rosary for world peace,and for the conversion of sinners throughout the world as at Fatima you asked us to pray.

" In the family rosary setting, that makes it clear to everyone why you are praying the rosary as a family: It's not your idea it's our Lady's.

You can also suggest making several other intentions which are of universal importance Such as: Stop to abortion, revival of chastity and authentic renewal within the Church. Then you might want to mention your own special family intentions and invite each family member to join in perhaps with at least one prayer of thanksgiving and on of petition.

We hope you find The Seven Day Bible Rosary helpful in your personal fulfillment of our Lady's request that we pray the rosary every day. And I hope that if you use The Seven Day Bible Rosaiy as your family rosary, you will find it helpful for aiding your children to walk more closely with the Lord, for that is the ultimate purpose of all Marian devotion to Jesus through Mary.

How to use rosary beads
The traditional rosary beads are a set of five groups often beads, called a decade, with a single, usually larger bead between each decade. Wherethe decades are joined, there is another chain of five beads and a crucifix.

At the crucifix, pray the Apostles' Creed.
At the first bead, pray the Our Father.
At the set of three beads, pray three Hail Marys.
At the last single bead, pray the Glory Be.

At the decades, pray the Our Father and the first Hail Mary on the first bead,
then a Hail Mary on each of the nine remaining beads, and conclude with the Glory Be on the single bead between the decades.

Many Catholics recite the Fatima prayer after the Glory Be.

The prayers of the rosary

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; the third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From thence He shall come to juge 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. Amen.

The Lord's Prayer
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 against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

The Hail Mary
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

The Glory Be
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.

The Fatima Prayer
O my Jesus, forgive us our sins; save us from the fires of hell; lead all souls to heaven, especially those most in need of thy mercy.