(We’re grateful to Dynamic Catholic for this wonderful explanation of the rosary.)
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:
- Introductory Prayers
- The Decades
- Closing Prayers
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 optional 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 (given below) 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 mysteries.
The Mysteries of the Rosary
Joyful Mysteries – Monday & Saturday
The Annunciation, The Visitation, The Birth of Our Lord, Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple, and The Finding of Jesus in the Temple
Sorrowful Mysteries – Tuesday & Friday
The Agony in the Garden, The Scourging at the Pillar, The Crowning with Thorns, The Carrying of the Cross, and The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus
Glorious Mysteries – Wednesday & Sunday
The Resurrection of Jesus from Hell, The Ascension of Jesus to Heaven, The Descent of the Holy Spirit, The Assumption of Mary into Heaven, and The Crowning of Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth
Luminous Mysteries – Thursday
Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan, Jesus at the wedding in Cana, Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom of God, Jesus’ transfiguration, and Jesus institutes the Church and Eucharist
I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day He rose again. He ascended into Heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again 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. Amen.
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. (For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are Yours, now and forever.) Amen.
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.
Doxology – 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.
O My Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell and lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who are in most need of Thy mercy.
Hail Holy Queen Prayer
Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy! our life, our sweetness, and our hope! To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve; to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley, of tears. Turn, then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us; and after this our exile show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus; O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.
O God, whose only begotten Son, by His life death and Resurrection, has purchased for us the reward of eternal salvation. Grant we beseech Thee, that while meditating upon these mysteries of the most holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.