The Rosary, also known as “garland of roses”, is an admired and time-honoured devotion of Catholics. The word Rosary refers to both a set of prayer beads and the meditation of the Rosary prayers. Rosary has also been used to refer to similar beads in other religions.
Rosaries supply a material method of tracking the rosary prayers that have been meditated upon. You move your fingers along the beads as the prayers are recited. By not having to keep track of the prayers mentally, your mind is more able to meditate on the rosary mysteries.
Rosaries start with a crucifix followed by one large, three small, and another large bead prior to connecting to the rest of the rosary. Praying the rosary starts on the short strand, reciting the Apostle’s Creed at the crucifix, an Our Father at the first large bead, three Hail Mary’s on the next three beads (for faith, hope and charity), then a Glory be to the Father on the next large bead. The recitation of the decades is next. A five-decade rosary contains five groups of ten beads (called a decade), with supplementary large beads before each decade.
The beads are made with a wide variety of materials including wood, bone, glass, crushed flowers, semi-precious stones such as agate, jet, amber, or jasper, or prized materials such as coral, crystal, silver, and gold. Rosaries are sometimes made from the seeds of the “rosary pea” or “bead tree”.
It is especially common for beads to be made of material with special meaning, such as jet from the shrine of St. James at Santiago de Compostela, or olive seeds from the Garden of Gethsemane. Beads are also made to enclose sacred relics, or drops of holy water.
As our prayers are an avenue to purify our souls, the choosing of prayer beads is also an intimate choice. We want to make sure that our choice of rosaries will reflect us, or the person that gets them as a religious gift. Thus, following this prayer tradition provides a special place in our hearts and minds for rosaries.
Devotion to the rosary is one of the most significant features of popular Catholic spirituality. Pope John Paul II placed the rosary at the very center of Christian spirituality and called it “among the finest and most praiseworthy traditions of Christian meditation.”
In addition to a string of beads the rosary comes in many other forms for ease of use. A ring rosary is a finger ring with eleven knobs on it, ten round ones and one crucifix. A rosary bracelet is one with ten beads and often a cross or medal as well. The most modern form is the rosary card. A rosary card is either one with a “handle” that moves like a slide rule to count the decade, or it has a whole rosary with bumps similar to Braille. For those that want to carry a one decade rosary with them but want it to be somewhat more hidden, the choice of a rosary necklace, or pocket rosary is a perfect gift. You can use them when you want and just put them away when you have finished saying your prayers.
Hang It On a Wall!
Another great rosary selection is wall rosaries. Many people of faith will adorn their wall with a beautiful wall rosary. It is a tasteful piece of home decor that also makes a comment about the beliefs of the people that live there. One of the most popular is an Olivewood Wall Rosary. Each bead of Olivewood is hand carved for a unique item each and every time.
For Other Prayers!
Rosary beads are at times used to say Roman Catholic rosary based prayers, which do not primarily involve the Hail Mary and the mysteries of the rosary. Examples include the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, and the Rosary of the Holy Wounds.
No matter what the preference of your loved one, rosaries make an excellent gift idea for baptisms, first communion, confirmation and weddings. Many become a family heirloom that is passed down through generations. They become keepsakes that are loved and treasured for a lifetime. My mother has one that was blessed by Pope John Paul II, and of course that is her favourite.
So, whether you want a rosary for yourself or want it as a gift for someone dear, this choice will hold a special place in the hearts of those who receive it.