How to Pray the Rosary

More and more people are turning to the rosary to discover a time-tested way of prayer. It is indeed a prayer of the heart! Pope John Paul II, a strong advocate of the rosary, pronounced the rosary as the prayer of the heart in his homily of October 29, 1978, given at a Carmelite convent in Portugal.

“The rosary is my favorite prayer. Such a wonderful prayer! Wonderful in its simplicity and in its depth. In this prayer we repeat again and again the words that the Virgin Mary heard from the Archangel and from her cousin Elizabeth. The church in its entirety associates itself with these words. On the background of the words, “Ave Maria” the soul visualizes the main events in the life of Jesus Christ. The rosary is the prayer of the heart. At the same time our heart is able to include, in the rosary’s mysteries, all the facts composing the life of the individual, of the family, of the nations, of the Church, and of humanity–personal happenings, and those concerning others, especially those nearest to us and that we care for most. In this way, the rosary’s simple prayer echoes the rhythm of human life. A prayer so simple and so rich! From my deepest heart, I exhort all to recite it!”

In ancient times beads were a tool for memorizing prayer. People remembered whole psalms and used beads to keep track of them. The rosary involves memorization on a much more limited fashion. Just as there are 150 psalms in the Old Testament, there are only 53 Hail Mary’s in the rosary. These prayers together with others, are prayed from the heart, while reflecting on the Scriptural mysteries of Jesus and Mary.

Jesus taught us not to rattle on like pagans. He did this just before he taught his disciples the Lord’s Prayer. How important it is for us to be attentive to our prayers. We can rediscover the meaning of traditional prayers and make them prayers of the heart.

The Rosary is a Scripture-based prayer. It begins with the Apostles’ Creed, which summarizes the great mysteries of the Catholic faith. The Our Father, which introduces each mystery, is from the Gospels. The first part of the Hail Mary is the angel’s words announcing Christ’s birth and Elizabeth’s greeting to Mary. St. Pius V officially added the second part of the Hail Mary. The Mysteries of the Rosary center on the events of Christ’s life and Passion. There are four sets of Mysteries: Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious and––added by Saint John Paul II in 2002––the Luminous.

The Five Joyful Mysteries are traditionally prayed on Mondays, Saturdays, and, during the season of Advent, on Sundays. The Five Sorrowful Mysteries are traditionally prayed on Tuesdays and Fridays, and, during the season of Lent, on Sundays. The Five Glorious Mysteries are traditionally prayed on Wednesdays, and outside the seasons of Advent and Lent, on Sundays. The Five Luminous Mysteries are traditionally prayed on Thursdays.

The repetition in the Rosary is meant to lead one into restful and contemplative prayer related to each Mystery.

The gentle repetition of the words helps us to enter into the silence of our hearts, where Christ’s spirit dwells. The Rosary can be said privately or with a group. If you would like to see or print a copy of all The Prayers of the Rosary on one page, click on the link.

We Pray: Queen of the Holy Rosary, you have deigned to come to Fatima to reveal to the three shepherd children the treasure of graces which are hidden in the recitation of the Rosary. Inspire in our hearts, a sincere love of this devotion, in order that by meditating on the mysteries of our redemption, which are recalled in it, we may be enriched by its fruits and obtain peace for the world, the conversion of sinners and the favor, for which I ask in this Rosary (name the favor you are praying for). I ask this for the greater glory of God, for your own honor, and for the good of souls, especially my own. Amen


  1. Make the Sign of the Cross.
  2. Holding the Crucifix, say the Apostles’ Creed.
  3. On the first bead, say an Our Father.
  4. Say one Hail Mary (for Faith, Hope and Charity) on each of the next three beads.
  5. Say the Glory Be
  6. For each of the five decades, announce the Mystery – Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious, or luminous, (perhaps followed by a brief reading from Scripture) then say the Our Father.
  7. While fingering each of the ten beads of the decade, next say ten Hail Marys while meditating on the Mystery. Then say a Glory Be.
    (After finishing each decade, many (myself included) say the following prayer requested by the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima: 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.)
  8. After saying the five decades, say the Hail, Holy Queen, followed by this dialogue and prayer:
  9. 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 while meditating on 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.
  10. Conclude the Rosary with the Sign of the Cross.

Joyful Mysteries

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

The Annunciation

“In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary.” – Luke 1:26-27

Fruit of the mystery: Humility


The Visitation

“During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, ‘Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.’” – Luke 1:39-42

Fruit of the mystery: Love of Neighbor


The Nativity

“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.

While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” – Luke 2:1-7

Fruit of the mystery: Poverty

The Presentation in the Temple

“When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

“When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,’ and to offer the sacrifice of ‘a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,’ in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.” – Luke 2:21-24

Fruit of the mystery: Purity of Heart and Body


The Finding in the Temple

“Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover,  and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.

After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers.” – Luke 2:41-47  

Fruit of the mystery: Devotion to Jesus


Sorrowful Mysteries

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

The Agony in the Garden

“Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ He took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to feel sorrow and distress. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with me.’ He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.’” – Matthew 26:36-39

Fruit of the mystery: Obedience to God’s Will


The Scourging at the Pillar


“Then he released Barabbas to them, but after he had Jesus scourged, he handed him over to be crucified.” – Matthew 27:26

Fruit of the mystery: Mortification


The Crowning with Thorns

“Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus inside the praetorium and gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped off his clothes and threw a scarlet military cloak about him. Weaving a crown out of thorns, they placed it on his head, and a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’” – Matthew 27:27-29

Fruit of the mystery: Courage


The Carrying of the Cross

“They pressed into service a passer-by, Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. They brought him to the place of Golgotha (which is translated Place of the Skull).” – Mark 15:21-22  

Fruit of the mystery: Patience

The Crucifixion and Death

“When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him and the criminals there, one on his right, the other on his left. [Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.’] They divided his garments by casting lots. The people stood by and watched; the rulers, meanwhile, sneered at him and said, ‘He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Messiah of God.’ Even the soldiers jeered at him. As they approached to offer him wine they called out, ‘If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.’ Above him there was an inscription that read, ‘This is the King of the Jews.’ Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.’ The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, ‘Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He replied to him, ‘Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’

“It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon because of an eclipse of the sun. Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle. Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit’; and when he had said this he breathed his last.” – Luke 23:33-46  

Fruit of the mystery: Sorrow for our Sins


Glorious Mysteries

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

The Resurrection

“But at daybreak on the first day of the week they took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb; but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were puzzling over this, behold, two men in dazzling garments appeared to them. They were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground. They said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised.’” – Luke 24:1-5

Fruit of the mystery: Faith


The Ascension

“So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God.” – Mark 16:19  

Fruit of the mystery: Hope


The Descent of the Holy Spirit

“When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.” – Acts 2:1-4

Fruit of the mystery: Wisdom

The Assumption

“Behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” – Luke 1:48-49

Fruit of the mystery: Devotion to Mary

The Coronation of Mary


“A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” – Revelation 12:1

Fruit of the mystery: Grace of a happy death





Luminous Mysteries

The Five Luminous Mysteries are traditionally prayed on Thursdays:

The Baptism of Christ in the Jordan

“After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened [for him], and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove [and] coming upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’” – Matthew 3:16-17

Fruit of the mystery: Openness to the Holy Spirit



The Wedding Feast at Cana

“On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ [And] Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servers, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’” – John 2:1-5



Fruit of the mystery: To Jesus through Mary


Jesus’ Proclamation of the Coming of the Kingdom of God

“’This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.’” – Mark 1:15  

Fruit of the mystery: Conversion


The Transfiguration

“After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.” – Matthew 17:1-2

Fruit of the mystery: Desire for holiness

The Institution of the Eucharist

“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’” – Matthew 26:26

Fruit of the mystery: Adoration

A Lenten Prayer
Hail Holy Queen