Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Dominicans Fostered Prayer Devotion Of The Rosary

By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published October 11, 2012

Helen Martin and a dozen others can be found kneeling in St. Matthew Church, Tyrone, almost every Thursday, praying for others, rosary beads slowly moving through their fingers.

“Every week, we always add intentions (of prayer),” said Martin, who is 70.

For Catholics, October is dedicated to the rosary. October 7 is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

The feast was established in the 16th century when Pope St. Pius V commemorated the victory of the Christian forces in the Battle of Lepanto on Oct. 7, 1571. The pope believed the victory was won by the “arms” of the rosary.

According to Family Rosary’s website, the history of the prayer beads began when monastic hermits, living in solitude, counted their prayer using stones and sticks. It developed over the centuries so 150 Hail Marys mirrored the 150 Psalms of the Old Testament.

These prayers were later divided into decades by Dominican friars with a meditation on Jesus or Mary for each of 15 decades. Today, in honor of that heritage, members of the Dominican religious order wear a rosary as part of their black habit. Pope John Paul II added five new decades, bringing the number of meditations, or mysteries, of the rosary to 20. The mysteries are grouped to reflect one particular aspect in the life of Jesus or Mary; the four groups of meditations, drawn from Scripture, are the joyful, sorrowful, luminous and glorious.

Dominican Father Jeffrey Ott, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Atlanta, said he prays the rosary as a way to prepare for his role as pastor and preacher.

“As a preacher, I use the rosary for my prayer life to calm my mind and my heart and hear God’s voice. I believe it is an enormous help to healing, too,” he said in an email.

His habit of praying the rosary started at a young age. One of the earliest memories he has was when he was 8 years old and went with his “paw-paw” (grandfather) to St. Dominic Church in New Orleans.

“There was a radio broadcast of the rosary that night and so we prayed and it was fun to think that this was all on the radio and different people were hearing us and the other people in church,” he said.

As a member of the Dominican order, Father Ott said the prayer helps him find God in his day.

“The beads are a help in the repetition of Hail Marys and lead to a meditative state—a state of receptivity which is at the heart of contemplation. Our Dominican motto is: to contemplate and to share the fruits of contemplation. So for me, the rosary is a beautiful vehicle to open me up to God’s presence in the moment,” he said.

And even with its ancient roots, the rosary continues to have meaning for people today.

Father Ott said its “genius” is that it’s accessible and can be prayed in lots of different ways.

“It’s a prayer for everyday people and a wonderful way to get in touch with the humility in our humanity,” he said. “Praying the rosary helps each of us as pilgrims travel along the road of life.  It’s also a tool for healing both in the life of the one praying it and the ones for whom it is being prayed.”

There are scores of groups and organizations in the Atlanta Archdiocese with a mission to use the rosary for prayer and evangelization. People can be found praying before the Mass and afterwards. Some people use rosary rings or bracelets to pray while driving or doing chores.

At St. Mary Magdalene Church, Newnan, on Oct. 27, the community is hosting what it is calling a “Mary-thon.” People will be praying all 20 mysteries of the rosary as part of its Year of Faith activities. Prayers begin at 10 a.m. and are scheduled to end at noon. Anyone is welcome to come.

For her part, Martin’s devotion to the rosary started as a youngster. The daughter of an Illinois farmer, the family gathered almost every night “in the living room, on our knees, on the floor.”

It was a custom started by her parents that has continued.

Martin said her father said the rosary up until he died of cancer. “On his deathbed, he was saying the rosary. And I’ll never forget that.”

She’s been a leader of the parish rosary group for the past six years. The prayer group includes about a dozen people, mostly women. The group collects prayer needs by word of mouth, and by email or phone call, everything from an ill baby to thanksgiving for cancer recovery.

“Those are special, really special,” she said.

Our Lady Of The Rosary

  • October is dedicated to the Most Holy Rosary. The liturgical feast of Our Lady of the Rosary is Oct. 7. It honors the Virgin Mary in gratitude for the protection that she gives the Church in answer to the praying of the rosary by the faithful.
  • Pope St. Pius V (1504-1572) introduced the feast to commemorate the victory of the Christian forces in the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. The pope attributed the success on the battlefield more to the “arms” of the rosary than the power of cannons and the valor of the forces who fought there.
  • According to legend, the rosary was given to St. Dominic (1170- 1221) by the Virgin Mary. It became one of the most popular devotions in Christendom.
  • When lay monks and devout lay people in the Middle Ages did not know how to read, they had the 150 Psalms replaced with 150 “Our Fathers.” With the popularity of Marian devotion in the 12th century, the “Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary” developed and placed the 150 “Hail Marys” in place of the “Our Fathers.”
  • The Dominicans continued to shape the rosary, introducing the joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries. Dominican Alanus de Rupe (1428-1478) also attributed the origin of the rosary, then known as the “Psalter of the Blessed Virgin” to St. Dominic and thus spurred the Dominican Order to make the rosary their special concern.
  • The practice of dedicating October to the Holy Rosary developed toward the end of the last century. Many other popes have helped increase devotion to the rosary by their writings. Blessed John Paul II called it his favorite prayer. He added the five mysteries known as the luminous mysteries.

Taken from the web page maintained by The Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute, Dayton, Ohio, including material that appeared originally in the Fairfield County Catholic.