General Rosary Information
The Rosary is an arranged set of beads which helps us to organize a large number of prayers by touch, freeing the mind to contemplate our Lord and venerate the Blessed Virgin without the diversion of counting. The most common form of the rosary in modern use is the Dominican Rosary, with a crucifix and center medal, six Our Father beads, 3 introductory Hail Marys, and five sets of ten Hail Mary beads (the decades).
The prayers of the Rosary are offered to bring us close to the Lord by exploring the experiences of Holy Mary and Jesus in His youth and mission, all of which are taken from the Gospels. These experiences are called the mysteries. There are twenty mysteries, or tableaux, in all, divided into four groups of five each: the Joyful Mysteries, the Luminous Mysteries, the Sorrowful Mysteries, and the Glorious Mysteries. By convention, one set of Mysteries is assigned for each day of the week, so that our prayers may be seamlessly united with others throughout the world on any given day. Alternatively, all four sets of Mysteries may be prayed in a single day. Both the Mysteries and the calendar are explored further in the following page of this section.
The Rosary is a powerful devotion. The cadence of the prayers soothes emotion, quieting us to welcome the Holy Spirit. The length of the prayers allows us to spend time with the Lord, which is an act of love and respect. Through the announcement of each mystery, we learn to associate readings from the Gospels to the fruits of belief and humble obedience, and to conform our lives with the sweetness and suffering of our Immaculate Mother. By Her example, we may gather strength to walk a straight path, and persevere in faith for God the Father, God the Son, our neighbors and ourselves. There's a beautiful quote from Bishop Hugh Doyle, who said, "No one can live continually in sin and continue to say the Rosary: either they will give up sin or they will give up the Rosary."
Structure of the Rosary
The first step in learning to pray the Rosary is to become familiar with the basic structure of the rosary itself. In the graphic below, The crucifix (or a cross, which has no corpus of Jesus), introductory prayer beads, and the first Our Father bead of the mysteries are arranged on the drop portion, which falls below the center medal. Above the center medal is a closed circle of five sets of ten small beads (the five decades) and four more single beads separated from the decades by segments of chain. These are the Our Father beads used to announce the mysteries of decades two through five.
In strung rosaries, the chain segments are replaced either by a small length of plain cord or a set of very small beads. These separating segments are important, as prayers are said upon them as well as the Hail Mary and Our Father beads.