My first rosary beads came from Walsingham. I wasn’t a pilgrim myself then but my mother had joined the parish pilgrimage with my older brother whilst the rest of us stayed at home. On her return she was armed with gifts which included a rosary of light blue beads for each of us along with a wood-mounted print of the Sacred Heart. It was the following year, probably towards the end of my time in primary school, that I made my first pilgrimage there.
I still have that first set of beads from my childhood days, although I’ve also owned several others since, many of which are broken now. Perhaps in prayer I’m heavy handed.
At the time, it was, for me, an unfamiliar form of prayer but there was now something new to discover!
There are many ways in which we can pray, of course. Silence and stillness is important but so too are physical forms of prayer and devotion. In a way, the rosary is both – words and imagination, stillness and gentle movement.
Threading the beads through our fingers, our bodies, hearts and minds are turned to Mary’s son and Saviour as we meditate on the mysteries of our faith, drawn deeper into Holy Scripture, drawn closer to Christ.
The rosary has a rhythm of its own, the repetitive litany of prayer provides a means of stilling our minds. There is a momentum through which we meditate on the mysteries of our faith, those moments in the life of Jesus and Mary – from the angels’ greeting to Christ’s glorious resurrection, and onto Mary’s Assumption as she shares in the first fruits of Christ’s redemptive work.
Through the rosary, we meditate upon mysteries that are joyful and sorrowful, illuminating and glorious. The concluding prayer sums up the rosary’s meaning – that ‘we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise.’
I began to discover this forty years ago, on that day I received my first rosary beads.
At the beginning of the rosary is a short string of five beads beginning with a cross or crucifix. These represent our preparatory prayers.
Beginning with the Sign of the Cross we make a physical gesture, placing our trust in Christ who through his saving death and resurrection has given us life and a new future with God.
The Rosary continues with 5 groups of 10 beads arranged in a circle. Each group is divided by a larger bead. Each group of beads is called a ‘decade.’
Each particular decade represents a Mystery which inclines us to an incident in the life of Jesus.
Accompanied by Mary’s prayers, we are drawn closer to Christ, for Mary is the one through whom he comes into the world. She points us to the one who comes that we may have life in all its fullness.
At St Mary’s, we pray the rosary each Saturday morning, between Morning Prayer and Mass. We usually begin a little before 11.10am.