Where Does the Rosary Come From?
The angel Gabriel's greeting to Mary, when he came to announce the conception of Jesus, is familiar to most Catholics. It is echoed in one of the most popular Catholic prayers, the Hail Mary (in Latin, Ave Maria): "Hail, [Mary,] favored one [or 'full of grace']! The Lord is with you" (Lk 1:28).
The words that follow in that prayer also come from Scripture, from Elizabeth's greeting to our Lady soon afterward: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb" (Lk 1:42). Then the "fruit" of her womb is identified as Jesus. Next, "holy [Saint] Mary, Mother of God" refers to her status as the woman who bore the divine Son of God (see Gal 4:4;). Finally, the prayer asks for Mary's intercession: "Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death".
The Hail Mary is one of the chief prayers of the Catholic devotion known as the Rosary. This series of repetitive prayers is usually prayed in conjunction with a string of beads that help the person praying to keep track of his or her progress.
Two other prayers are also central to the Rosary. One is the Our Father (or the Lord's Prayer), which comes to us from Christ as recorded in Scripture (see Mt 6:94 3). The other is the Glory Be, an ancient expression of praise to the Most Holy Trinity: "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." These words echo portions of various prayers and statements in Scripture (see Mt 28:19; Rom 16:27; Jude 25).
The Rosary also includes a recitation of the Apostles' Creed, one of the earliest professions of faith produced by the Church. Finally, Catholics may add a variety of additional personal petitions when praying the Rosary.
The historical sources of the prayers in this devotion are relatively straight- forward. How the Rosary came to us in its present form, however, is less clear. According to pious tradition, Mary gave the Rosary to St. Dominic, with instructions to popularize its use, though it had earlier historical precedents. The name "Rosary" (from the Latin word rosarium, "rose garden") comes from the notion of offering a bouquet of prayers to our Lady.