As legend has it, St. Dominic entered a forest near Toulouse, France, in 1208 to pray to God about the challenges he faced with heretical sects. It’s said that after three days of praying and fasting, St. Dominic had a vision of angels in the sky along side a ball of fire! After the glow of the angels and heavenly fire subsided, St. Dominic heard the Blessed Virgin Mary speak in his ear and tell him to preach "her psalter" in order to overcome his struggles.
While it has been part of Dominican tradition for centuries that Mary gave the rosary to St. Dominic, the word rosary was not used at the time and Mary's "psalter" was not prayed as we pray it today because the Hail Mary did not exist in its current form and no Our Fathers and Glory Bes were prayed with it.
The psalter was the collection of 150 psalms, prayed for hundreds of years by Jews and then Christians—presuming literacy. Mary's psalter—the forerunner of the rosary—was a prayer to encourage meditation on the mysteries of the life of Jesus by people who could not read.
By praying all fifteen traditional mysteries of the rosary—ten Hail Mary's for each mystery—you will have prayed 150 Hail Marys, representative of the 150 psalms of the psalter.
The 19th Century pope, Leo XII, said, “Thanks to this new method of prayer…piety, faith, and union have begun to return [to France]; and the project and devices of heretics to fall to pieces.”
The value of the rosary is the assistance it offers to help us meditate on the saving mysteries of our Lord. Like the mantras used in Buddhist tradition or the prayer wheels of Tibet, the repetitiveness of the rosary has a centering effect. Using the beads, praying a well-known prayer aloud and thinking silently about the life of Jesus engages the whole person—body, mind, and spirit—in a manner that is fruitful for many Catholics and other Christians.
It focuses our thoughts on Jesus—his birth, life, death, and resurrection. It is a quiet reminder of soulful contemplation and the sense that Jesus and Mary are with us as we live through life’s joys and sorrows. Download this PDF to read a little more about the mysteries of the rosary and the Dominican way of praying it.
You can also tune in to Episode Eight of F.L.O.W.cast Listen, a podcast for the life of the world.
On the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, we hear from Sister Jean Patrick Ehrhardt about her rosary-making career, talk about the role of Dominicans in popularizing the rosary, and discuss the multi-faceted history of praying with beads.
Sister Jean Patrick Ehrhardt, OP and Sister Beth Murphy, OP have a great conversation about the Feast of the Holy Rosary. Sister Jean Patrick shares how you can get one of her handmade rosaries.
Interested in making your own rosary? Download the instructions here. If you're interested in receiving a rosary from Sister Jean Patrick, please email us through our Contact Page with your mailing address and rosary request.
Photo: "Our Lady of the Rosary & St Dominic" by Lawrence OP is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
2 thoughts on “The Legend of the Holy Rosary”
Rita and I certainly know where our rosaries are located. We keep them in the living room and though we don’t say the rosary every day, we do it every week. We have our own intentions and I try to include Sr. Joan’s prayer requests. It is a very good way to pray and we often spend a little time meditating afterwords. The Dominican Associates and Dominicans are always in our prayers. Rita and I send you our love, prayers and blessings.
That’s a nice ritual for the two of you, Geoff. Thanks for telling us about it.