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Most Amazing Things About the Rosary You Didn't Know: The History, Origins, and Pope of the Rosary, John Paul II; Plus, Full How to Pray the Rosary Guide

"Love the Madonna and pray the Rosary, for her Rosary 
is the weapon against the evils of the world today.
St. Padre Pio

The Rosary is a treasury of riches. It is truly amazing that 59 or so beads can hold so many mysteries, but the riches of the Rosary are truly inexhaustible. 

Many of us probably know that the Blessed Virgin Mary first gave the Rosary to St. Dominic, but that's not the beginning of the story, nor the end of it - not by a long shot! 

Amazing Rosary Table of Contents

St. Pope John Paul II & The Rosary 

St. Pope John Paul II could rightly be called the "Rosary Pope". Through his papal writings and homilies, he explored so many mysteries of the Rosary. St. John Paul II even visited most of the physical locations of the Rosary's mysteries, delivering homilies at the Churches of the Visitation, Nativity, Holy Sepulchre, and on and on. 

St. John Paul II's writings were just waiting to be collected as a book, so I did just that. Here is the book I put together on Saint John Paul II and the Rosary. I hope it brings you closer to the Rosary, the Blessed Mother, and Jesus, Himself:


Most Amazing Things You Didn't Know About the Rosary

I recently interviewed some top Catholic writers on the subject of the Rosary. I asked them one question: What is the most amazing thing about the Rosary that nobody knows about? But first, I'll begin with what I think is the most amazing and least known Biblical treasures about the Rosary:

Biblical Origins & History of the Rosary: The Golden Lampstand

I first learned about this special connection from one of my Scripture professors, and I have yet to see anybody write about it or even mention it since.

Inside the tent of the Tabernacle of Moses, there were three artifacts. There was the (1) Ark of the Covenant, which took the primary position, but there was also the (2) Golden Table of twelve loaves of bread and a flagon of wine and the (3) Golden Lampstand. The Golden Lampstand was the basis for the menorah. 

These three artifacts have been considered Trinitarian in nature with the Ark of the Covenant bearing the Mercy Seat, the throne for God, the Father; the Golden Table with its bread and wine Eucharistically representing God, the Son; and the Golden Lampstand as the third member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. 

But how does the Golden Lampstand represent the Holy Spirit, much less the Rosary? The lampstand is described in detail at Exodus 25: 31-40 RSV-CE. It has several branches, which are covered with "cups made like almonds, each with capital and flower."

The lampstand looks both forward and backward, inasmuch as it represents what Moses saw on Mount Sinai during his banquet with the eternal God. Looking back, the Golden Lampstand is a stylized representation of the Burning Bush that Moses saw earlier in his life. It is also thought to be a representation of the Tree of Life. 

The lampstand also looks forward to Pentecost! Why Pentecost? When the lampstand was burning, all the "cups made like almonds" would be filled with burning oil. The lampstand, therefore, would be covered in "tongues of flame" just like at Acts 2:3, when the Holy Spirit came to the upper room like "the rush of a mighty wind" and "there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them." The Apostles and disciples grouped around the Blessed Mother became a living lampstand! 

In this way, the Church, too, is represented by the Golden Lampstand and the Burning Bush, as it burns but is never consumed, inasmuch as the "Gates of Hell" will never prevail against the Church. The "pure gold" of the lampstand is likely also a parallel typological basis for both the immaculate nature of the Church, as bathed in the blood of the Lamb, and the Immaculate Conception. 

But where is the Rosary in all this? The Golden Lampstand is a depiction of an almond tree, as it is covered in almond blossoms. There is something special about the number of flowers on the golden almond tree. Though it's somewhat difficult to gather from the text of Exodus 25, most ancient depictions of the lampstand included fifty flowers. Where else do we find fifty flowers, in particular roses, linked together in branches? The Rosary! The decades of the Rosary, each containing ten beads, together account for fifty rose blossoms. 

Amazing, right? Here are some more amazing things about the Rosary as told to us by authors and historians of the Rosary. Be sure to check out their books following the links below! 

History of the Rosary: The Bowl of Rocks

Patricia Kasten responded with the following amazing story about the origin of the Rosary. Kasten is the author of Linking Your Beads: The Rosary's History, Mysteries, Prayers:

While the Blessed Virgin Mary gave Saint Dominic the connected beads which we know today as the Rosary, the Rosary is actually much, much more ancient. Kasten explains, "People may not know that the Rosary is descended from a bowl of rocks in the desert."

"The Desert Fathers (and Desert Mothers), who lived as hermits in the third and fourth centuries, made a practice of praying all 150 psalms each day. To keep count, they used small stones, often kept in their begging bowls or a small bag. Saints Anthony of Egypt and Pachomius, both of whom lived in the fourth century, are credited with developing knotted prayer ropes to replace the rocks. These became the direct ancestors of the 150-decade rosary. Later still, the 150 psalms were replaced by 150 Pater Nosters, and even later, by the Aves." 

Many of us might complain - at least during our weaker moments - about the length of the Rosary. From Kasten's account, however, you can see that the Rosary, as we know it, is a far abbreviated version. It used to be much longer. 

So when did a "complete rosary" shift from 150-decades to 15 decades to a 5 decades? 

"If I had to guess," Kasten explains, "The three sets of mysteries – sets of mysteries also developed in other rosaries (6 – or 18 total - for the Brigittines and 7 joyful mysteries for the Franciscan Crown – developed in the way that other devotions did over the Middle Ages in Europe." 

So this brings up another historical "mystery": where did the mysteries of the Rosary, the Glorious, the Sorrowful, and the Joyful, come from? Most people probably know that Saint Pope John Paul II contributed the Luminous Mysteries to the faith. The other sets of mysteries, however, are much older. 

Mosaics of the Sorrowful Mysteries, Basilica of the National Shrine to the Immaculate Conception

The Sorrowful Mysteries were likely the first to develop. "Since devotion to the Passion seems to have spread over Europe first," Kasten explains. "It was the time of wars, the Crusades and plagues, and interest in the humanity of Jesus – especially his sufferings – ran high." 

This is also how we got the Stations of the Cross, Kasten adds. The Stations of the Cross were started by returning Crusaders. The First Crusade was fought between AD 1096 and 1099. 

"Interest in the Sorrowful Mother followed this interest," Kasten explains. "Then the joys of Mary, as seen in the Franciscan Crown of the 15th century, followed. And, of course, we can thank St. Francis in the 13th century for the focus on the Nativity." 

Kasten believes the Glorious mysteries would have developed last, since the Church's full understanding of these, in particular the Assumption and Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, developed later. 

The Last Mysteries of the Rosary: Assumption and Coronation

Mitch Finley, author of The Rosary Handbook: A Guide for Newcomers, Old-Timers, and Those In Between, provides more insight into the last mysteries to develop. 

"One of the surprises for me in doing the research to write The Rosary Handbook (The Word Among Us Press, revised/updated second edition, August 2017)," Finley recounts, "was the discovery that while the Rosary is clearly Christ-centered and scriptural, there are two mysteries that make the Rosary even more theologically balanced from a Catholic point of view, namely:  the fourth and fifth Glorious Mysteries, the Assumption and Coronation of Mary, respectively." 

These mysteries are not directly scriptural, Finley explains, though they do come from Sacred Tradition. "Thus, the Rosary reminds us of the ancient Catholic conviction that revelation comes from both Scripture and Tradition."

If you're interested in reading about the Scriptural foundations for the Assumption and Coronation of Mary, here are a number of articles I've written on the subject, as well as my new book and course:

>> Proving the Assumption of Mary: Parts One, Two, Three, & Four;

>> On the Queenship and Coronation of Mary: 

Origin & History of the Rosary:

Here is another article I have written on the Origins of the Rosary.

Here is a great quote about the Rosary from the Venerable Fulton Sheen:

The rosary is the book of the blind, where souls see and there enact the greatest drama of love the world has ever known; it is the book for the simple, which initiates them into mysteries and knowledge more satisfying than the education of other men; it is the book for the aged, whose eyes close upon the shadow of this world, and open on the substance of the next. The power of the rosary is beyond description.

- Venerable Fulton J. Sheen

The Rosary, or the “Crown of Roses” as it has been called, is largely attributed to St. Dominic, the founder of the Dominican Order. St. Dominic was battling against the Albigensian heresy in the south of France, a region called Languedoc. 

The Albigensian heresy was a form of dualism in which the material world was evil, while the spiritual world was good. Further, the body was evil, while the soul was good. They believed that adultery, fornication, and even suicide (as a means of freeing the soul from the body) were all praiseworthy. This is not unlike our current “Culture of Death.”  

St. Dominic preached the truths of the Faith, and was jeered, insulted, and pelted with stones as he traveled. We have the following account from P. Cornelius de Snecka, a disciple of the French Dominican Alan de la Roche:

We read that at the time when he was preaching to the Albigenses, St. Dominic at first obtained but scanty success: and that one day, complaining of this in pious prayer to our Blessed Lady, she deigned to reply to him, saying: 'Wonder not that you have obtained so little fruit by your labors, you have spent them on barren soil, not yet watered with the dew of Divine grace. When God willed to renew the face of the earth, He began by sending down on it the fertilizing rain of the Angelic Salutation. Therefore preach my Psalter composed of 150 Angelic Salutations and 15 Our Fathers, and you will obtain an abundant harvest.

The Dominican Order holds that the Blessed Mother revealed the Rosary to St. Dominic in the church of Prouille in 1208. This was affirmed by Pope Leo XIII and subsequent popes.

Armed now with the Rosary, St. Dominic went into the villages of the heretics and preached the Mysteries of salvation, as the Virgin had instructed. He soon proved an unstoppable evangelizer and the whole south of France was purged of heresy. 

The late Dominican Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, a teacher of Pope Saint John Paul II when he was a student at the Angelicum in Rome, stated: “Our Blessed Lady made known to St. Dominic a kind of preaching till then unknown; which she said would be one of the most powerful weapons against future errors and in future difficulties.”

Pope Pius V established the Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious Mysteries. Pope Saint John Paul the Great later established the Luminous Mysteries in 2002. Each of these “illuminating” mysteries, echo the words of the Blessed Mother at the Wedding at Cana: “Do whatever He tells you.” 

The History of the Rosary: The Battle of Lepanto

After Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453, the Muslims invaded Hungary and the Balkans and began raiding the coast of Italy.  With the control of the Mediterranean at stake, Pope Pius V organized a fleet under Don Juan of Austria, half-brother of Spain’s King Philip II.  

All Christians were implored to pray the Rosary, asking Christ to deliver victory to the outnumbered Christian fleet.  The scales of power were clearly in favor of the Muslim fleet, with its 251 ships and 82,000 sailors, oarsmen, and soldiers, compared to the Christian fleet of 212 ships and 50,000 sailors, oarsmen, and soldiers.

Before departing Genoa to rally the Holy League fleet at Messina, Don Juan adorned his fleet with the blue Holy League banner, depicting Christ Crucified.  Also, the Archbishop of Mexico had given an exact replica of Our Lady of Guadalupe to King Philip II, who passed it on to Andrea Doria, one of the fleet’s three principal admirals. Just before The Holy League Navy made contact with the Ottoman forces in the Ionian Sea, the winds shifted dramatically to favor the Holy League, forcing the Turks to rely on oar power while the Holy League was able to maneuver freely.

As the battle raged, the two flagships were both in the front of their center formations.  The sailors of Don Juan’s flagship Real held weapons in one hand and a rosary in the other as they prepared to grapple alongside the Ottoman flagship Sultana.  The Turks prepared for collision with all the yelling, screaming, and banging they could muster, being met by prayerful silence from the Real.  As the Sultana troops tried to board the Real unopposed, they were caught in netting and made to absorb withering gunfire of the Spanish infantry.  

As both sides flooded the tangled ships with reinforcements, nearly 800 men fought shoulder to shoulder on the bloody decks.  Don Juan was wounded by a Muslim arrow, while the Ottoman Commander, Ali Pasha, was killed by a musket ball to the head.  Seeing their commander dead on the quarterdeck, the Muslims’ morale was destroyed and the banner of their prophet was removed from the masthead of the Sultana, replaced with a papal banner.  

Soon after the capture of their flagship, all the Ottoman ships in the center formation were sunk.  In all, 50 Ottoman ships were sunk and 137 more captured with over 30,000 dead, compared to 20 Christian ships sunk and another 30 scuttled due to damage and 7,500 dead.  Fifteen thousand Christian prisoners were freed from Turkish ships, having been earlier victims of Muslim raids.

The victory prompted Pope St Pius V to establish the feast of Our Lady of Victory, to give thanks to the Lord for all of his blessings, but also to remember the victory and the powerful intercession of our Blessed Mother.

EXTRA: To Capitalize "Rosary" or Not?

Mitch Finley also added a punctuation note on the Rosary. Is it capitalized or not? You can probably tell on which side of the line I fall, as I've been capitalizing "Rosary" throughout. 

Here's what Finley had to say on the issue, though: 

The CNS style guide lower cases all uses of the word "rosary."  Oddly, it upper cases "Angelus."  I think this is nuts.  In my book I upper case "Rosary" the devotional prayer, and lower case "rosary" the beads, which I think makes more sense.

Sounds like the CNS style guide might have had some subversives within their ranks, trying to downgrade the Rosary with a lower case 'r'! 

I hope you've enjoyed this article on the Rosary (capital 'R')! Please don't forget to share this article with your friends on Facebook and also to comment below. Thanks for reading!

Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us!

"How to Pray the Rosary Guide" with Rosary Infographic, Prayers, and Mysteries  

Here is a handy infographic and diagram for how to pray the Rosary. You will find below all the prayers and sets of mysteries of the Rosary, as well:

Want a How to Pray the Rosary Printable Booklet or How to Pray the Rosary PDF, instead? 

Click HERE for the "Rosary for Dummies" How to Pray the Rosary PDF. Here is a printable version of the Pray the Rosary Guide.  

Prayers Recited with 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 arose 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 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.

Announce the Mystery before beginning the “Our Father (see next section):

The “Our Father”

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 womb, Jesus. 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.

O, My Jesus Prayer (Our Lady of Fatima Prayer)

The Prayer Requested by the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima: Pray after each Decade (following the “Glory Be”):

O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who have most need of your mercy.

Prayer Recited After the Rosary:

The “Hail, Holy Queen” (or Salve Regina)

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 vale 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!

V. Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray. O GOD, whose only begotten Son, by His life, death, and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life, grant, we beseech Thee, that 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.

Rosary Prayer to St. Joseph (optional)


This prayer to Saint Joseph—spouse of the Virgin Mary, foster father of Jesus, and patron saint of the universal Church—was composed by Pope Leo XIII in his 1889 encyclical, Quamquam Pluries.

He asked that it be added to the end of the Rosary, especially during the month of October, which is dedicated to the Rosary. The prayer is enriched with a partial indulgence (Handbook of Indulgences, conc. 19), and may be said after the customary Salve Regina (“Hail, Holy Queen”) and concluding prayer. It may also be used to conclude other Marian devotions.

St. Joseph Prayer for Rosary

To you, O blessed Joseph,
do we come in our tribulation,
and having implored the help of your most holy Spouse,
we confidently invoke your patronage also.

Through that charity which bound you
to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God
and through the paternal love
with which you embraced the Child Jesus,
we humbly beg you graciously to regard the inheritance
which Jesus Christ has purchased by his Blood,
and with your power and strength to aid us in our necessities.
O most watchful guardian of the Holy Family,
defend the chosen children of Jesus Christ; 
O most loving father, ward off from us
every contagion of error and corrupting influence; 
O our most mighty protector, be kind to us
and from heaven assist us in our struggle
with the power of darkness.

As once you rescued the Child Jesus from deadly peril,
so now protect God's Holy Church
from the snares of the enemy and from all adversity;
shield, too, each one of us by your constant protection,
so that, supported by your example and your aid,
we may be able to live piously, to die in holiness,
and to obtain eternal happiness in heaven.

Mysteries of the Rosary

As suggested by the Pope St. John Paul the Great, the Joyful mysteries are said on Monday and Saturday, the Luminous on Thursday, the Sorrowful on Tuesday and Friday, and the Glorious on Wednesday and Sunday (with this exception: Sundays of Christmas season - The Joyful; Sundays of Lent - Sorrowful). 

See below for the full listing of the different sets of mysteries.

Joyful Mysteries - Monday & Saturday
Sorrowful Mysteries - Tuesday & Friday
Glorious Mysteries - Wednesday & Sunday
Luminous Mysteries - Thursday

The Five Joyful Mysteries are traditionally prayed on the Mondays, Saturdays, and Sundays of Advent:

1. The Annunciation
2. The Visitation
3. The Nativity
4. The Presentation in the Temple
5. The Finding in the Temple

Bible Verses for the Joyful Mysteries:

The Joyful Mysteries remind the faithful of Christ’s birth: The Annunciation (Luke 1:26–38); The Visitation (Luke 1:39–56); The Nativity (Luke 2:1–21); The Presentation (Luke 2:22–38); The Finding
of the Child Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:41–52)

The Five Sorrowful Mysteries are traditionally prayed on the Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays of Lent:

1. The Agony in the Garden
2. The Scourging at the Pillar
3. The Crowning with Thorns
4. The Carrying of the Cross
5. The Crucifixion and Death

Bible Verses for the Sorrowful Mysteries:

The Sorrowful Mysteries recall Jesus’ passion and death: The Agony of Jesus in the Garden (Matthew 26:36–56); The Scourging at the Pillar (Matthew 27:26); The Crowning with Thorns (Matthew 27:27–31); The Carrying of the Cross (Matthew 27:32); The Crucifixion (Matthew 27:33–56).

The Five Glorious Mysteries are traditionally prayed on the Wednesday and Sundays outside of Lent and Advent:

1. The Resurrection
2. The Ascension
3. The Descent of the Holy Spirit
4. The Assumption
5. The Coronation of Mary

Bible Verses for the Glorious Mysteries:

The Glorious Mysteries focus on the resurrection of Jesus and the glories of heaven: The Resurrection (John 20:1–29); The Ascension (Luke 24:36–53); The Descent of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1–41); The Assumption of Mary, the Mother of God, into heaven; The Coronation of Mary in heaven.

The Five Luminous Mysteries are traditionally prayed on Thursdays:

1. The Baptism of Christ in the Jordan
2. The Wedding Feast at Cana
3. Jesus' Proclamation of the Coming of the Kingdom of God
4. The Transfiguration
5. The Institution of the Eucharist

Bible Verses for the Luminous Mysteries:

Pope John Paul II added The Mysteries of Light, also known as the Luminous Mysteries, in 2002: The Baptism in the River Jordan (Matthew 3:13–16); The Wedding Feast at Cana (John 2:1–11); The
Preaching of the coming of the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:14–15); The Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1–8); The Institution of the Holy Eucharist (Matthew 26).

Rosary Prayers in Spanish

Sign of the Cross

En el nombre del Padre, y del Hijo, y del Espíritu Santo. Amen.

Apostles Creed

Creo en Dios, Padre todopoderoso, creador del Cielo y de la Tierra. Creo en Jesucristo su único Hijo, Nuestro Señor, que fue concebido por obra y gracia del Espíritu Santo; nació de Santa María Virgen; padeció bajo el poder de Poncio Pilato; fue crucificado, muerto y sepultado; descendió a los infiernos; al tercer día resucitó de entre los muertos; subió a los cielos y está a la diestra de Dios Padre; desde allí ha de venir a juzgar a los vivos y a los muertos. Creo en el Espíritu Santo, en la Santa Iglesia Católica, la comumión de los Santos en el perdon de los pecados la resurrección de los muertos y la vida eterna. Amen.

Our Father

Padre nuestro, que estás en el cielo. Santificado sea tu nombre. Venga tu reino. Hágase tu voluntad en la tierra como en el cielo. Danos hoy nuestro pan de cada día. Perdona nuestras ofensas, como también nosotros perdonamos a los que nos ofenden. No nos dejes caer en tentación y líbranos del mal. Amen.

Hail Mary

Dios te salve, María. Llena eres de gracia: El Señor es contigo. Bendita tú eres entre todas las mujeres. Y bendito es el fruto de tu vientre: Jesús. Santa María, Madre de Dios, ruega por nosotros pecadores, ahora y en la hora de nuestra muerte. Amen.

Glory Be

Gloria al Padre, al Hijo y al Espíritu Santo. Como era en el principio, ahora y siempre, por los siglos de los siglos. Amen.

Oh My Jesus (The Our Lady of Fatima Prayer)

Oh mi Jesús, perdónanos nuestros pecados, líbranos del fuego del infierno, lleva todas las almas al cielo, especialmente las mas necesitadas de tu misericordia. Amen.

Hail Holy Queen

Dios te salve, Reina y Madre de misericordia, vida, dulzura y esperanza nuestra, Dios te salve. A ti clamamos los desterrados hijos de Eva. A ti suspiramos gimiendo y llorando en este valle de lágrimas. Ea, pues, Señora, abogada nuestra: vuelve a nosotros esos tus ojos misericordiosos. Y después de este destierro, muéstranos a Jesús, fruto bendito de tu vientre. Oh clemente, oh piadosa, oh dulce Virgen María. Ruega por nosotros, Santa Madre de Dios, para que seamos dignos de las promesas de Cristo. Amen.

Final Prayer of the Rosary

Oh Dios de quién Único Hijo nos ha otorgado los beneficios de la vida eterna, concédenos la gracia que te pedimos mientras meditamos los Misterios del Mas Santo Rosario de la Bienaventurada Virgen María, debemos imitar lo que contienen y obtener lo que prometen, a través del mismo Cristo Nuestro Señor. Amen.

Again, St. John Paul II & The Rosary Book  

St. John Paul II's writings were just waiting to be collected as a book, so I did just that. Here is the book I put together on Saint John Paul II and the Rosary. I hope it brings you closer to the Rosary, the Blessed Mother, and Jesus, Himself: 


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  1. Thank you for this excellent article on the Holy Rosary! Did you know about the possible connection to the Eastern Rite "Prayer Rule of the Theotokos" by St. Seraphim of Sarov? A short introduction here:

    This blogger has written five post series:

    Ave Maria!

    1. Thanks for your comment! No! I hadn't heard about that connection. Awesome! Thank you for sharing!