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
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.
||The Public Life
||The Last Supper
||The Passion and Death
||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
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
"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
Many Catholics recite the Fatima prayer after the Glory
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
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 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
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.