According to the tradition spread by the Order of Preachers, devotion to the Rosary started in the 13th century by Saint Dominic, at the times of the battles against the Albigensians during the 12th and the 13th centuries. The founder was so disheartened at his failure in eradicating this heresy and other sins that he implored Mary for assistance.The legend said that following three days and nights of agonised prayers and fierce penance, Our Lady appeared to him.Holding the Rosary, she urged him to preach the Angelic Psalter, the foundation of the New Testament; and promised that whoever called upon this prayer would receive plentiful blessings and graces from God.
Nevertheless, some historians speculate the origins of the Rosary go back prior to the Middle Ages, to help illiterate lay brothers in monasteries and laity in the fields to pray. Learned monks could seek inspiration in the psalms and Gospels, but those who could not read recited the Lord’s Prayer. Since there are 150 Psalms in the Bible, they prayed a series of 150 Our Fathers, which they called the Psalter of Christ. To count the Our Fathers, the monks used knotted ropes or collars of grains.In the eleventh century, some hermits and laymen began to recite Our Lady’s Psalter – 150 salutations Hail Mary. They divided them into three series of 50, which they named “rosaries” or “crowns” on account of the custom of crowning Our Lady’s statues with flowers.Experts ponder that the Hail Mary, in its current form, was not known before approximately the twelfth century. What is certain is that by the 16th century the Rosary took its ultimate shape with only the Fatima prayer being added in 1917. Since the 12th century, the Rosary has been attributed with helping to prevail over heresies, awarding victory to hassled Christian people and, in the 20th century, playing a crucial role in destroying oppressive regimes such as communism.
Decreed as the greatest prayer of all time, the Rosary has been sustained by saints and popes. In the early 18th century, Saint Louis de Montfort wrote a magnificently inspiring book, The Secret of the Rosary, almost certainly the finest publication ever printed on the theme. In fifty-three concise chapters that he calls “roses”, Saint Louis covers virtually every aspect of this amazing present from heaven. Pope Paul VI in his encyclical letter on the Blessed Mother calls the rosary, “a compendium of the entire Gospel.” He recalls how his predecessors “have recommended its frequent recitation, encouraged its diffusion, explained its nature and recalled its intrinsic effectiveness for promoting Christian life and apostolic commitment.”“To recite the Rosary is to contemplate with Mary, the face of Christ” wrote John-Paul II in the Letter of the Rosary, on October 16, 2002.
I don’t recall exactly when I started to pray the Rosary, but I am certain it coincides with my return to the Church. For several years, during the month of May, a parish in my previous neighbourhood held a beautiful daily service including the recitation of the Rosary.It prompted a practice which has never ceased.
Here are some of the promises Mary made to those who pray it.
·I promise my special protection and the greatest graces to all those who shall recite the Rosary.
·The soul which recommends itself to me by the recitation of the Rosary shall not perish.
·Those who are faithful to recite the Rosary shall have, during their life and at their death, the light of God and the plenitude of His graces. At the moment of death, they shall participate in the merits of the saints in paradise.
·I shall deliver from purgatory those who have been devoted to the Rosary.
·You shall obtain all you ask of me by the recitation of the Rosary.