It was only in the year 1214
that the Church received the Rosary in its present form
and according to the method we use today.
It was given to the Church by St. Dominic,
who had received it from the Blessed Virgin
as a means of converting the Albigensians and other sinners.
Saint Dominic, seeing that the gravity of people’s sins
was hindering the conversion of the Albigensians,
withdrew into a forest near Toulouse,
where he prayed continuously for three days and three nights.
During this time he did nothing but weep and do harsh penances
in order to appease the anger of God.
He used his discipline so much that his body was lacerated,
and finally he fell into a coma.
At this point our Lady appeared to him,
accompanied by three angels, and she said,
“Dear Dominic, do you know which weapon the Blessed Trinity wants to use to reform the world?”
“Oh, my Lady,” answered Saint Dominic, “you know far better than I do, because next to your Son Jesus Christ you have always been the chief instrument of our salvation.”
Then our Lady replied,
“I want you to know that, in this kind of warfare, the principal weapon has always been the Angelic Psalter, which is the foundation-stone of the New Testament. Therefore, if you want to reach these hardened souls and win them over to God, preach my Psalter.”
So he arose, comforted, and burning with zeal
for the conversion of the people in that district,
he made straight for the cathedral.
At once unseen angels rang the bells to gather the people together,
and Saint Dominic began to preach.
“STORMS OF LIFE”:
At the very beginning of his sermon, an appalling storm broke out,
the earth shook, the sun was darkened, and there was so much thunder and lightning that all were very much afraid.
Even greater was their fear when, looking at a picture of our Lady
exposed in a prominent place, they saw her raise her arms to heaven three times to call down God’s vengeance upon them if they failed to be converted, to amend their lives, and seek the protection of the holy Mother of God.
God wished, by means of these supernatural phenomena,
to spread the new devotion of the holy Rosary
and to make it more widely known.
At last, at the prayer of Saint Dominic,
the storm came to an end, and he went on preaching.
So fervently and compellingly did he explain
the importance and value of the Rosary
that almost all the people of Toulouse embraced it
and renounced their false beliefs.
In a very short time a great improvement was seen in the town;
people began leading Christian lives and gave up
their former bad habits.
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, instructed by the Blessed Virgin
as well as by his own experience,
Saint Dominic preached the Rosary for the rest of his life.
He preached it by his example as well as by his sermons,
in cities and in country places, to people of high station and low,
before scholars and the uneducated, to Catholics and to heretics.
The Rosary, which he said every day, was his preparation
for every sermon and his little union with our Lady
immediately after preaching.
“THE HISTORY OF THE HOLY ROSARY”:
The Rosary has been a major influence in Roman Catholic thought for over 500 years while paving the way for a greater understanding of the mystery of Christ celebrated within family prayer.
The Rosary is the tradition-distilled essence of Christian devotion
in which vocal and mental prayer unite the whole person
in effective and purposeful meditation
on the central mysteries of Christian belief.
The Rosary thus joins the human race to God through Mary
whom God chose from all time for the specific purposes
of mother and intercessor.
The historical development of the Rosary begins with
the desert fathers and their need to find a system
to ease their laborious and repetitive prayer life.
It is generally agreed by scholars that a system
for counting repetitive prayers began with the Hindus some nine centuries before Christ.
Prayer counters such as rocks, sticks or notches in wood
were employed to ensure that the proper number of prayers
were recited. Over time, counters and psalms were united
into a “three groups of fifty” format (Na tri coicat) so that “fifties” could be used for personal and/or penitential prayer.
By the twelfth century it was common for all people
to carry a “Paternoster cord” on their person
for purposes of keeping straight the prayers
recited on any group of fifty.
As the need for lay participation in the prayer life of the Church increased, the need for a Psalter of popular prayers
(most people of the period were not sufficiently educated
to pray the psalms in Latin) became urgent.
Thus the Na tri coicat format was imposed first on recitations
of Paternosters and later on Aves. Spurred by the association of Mary with roses and rose gardens, from both scriptural and traditional bases, the Marian Psalter of Aves became by the fourteenth century a standard form of repetitive prayer for the whole Church, laity and religious alike.
The fifteenth century provided the development period
for the many facets of today’s Rosary.
During this period the Dominican influence with the Rosary grew
and was fostered through both fact and legend.
Although many apocryphal accounts exist to explain
how St. Dominic and his followers became the originators
of Rosary devotion, it is evident that these accounts cannot stand up to the scrutiny of historical research.
Although the Dominicans were not the sole originators of the Rosary, their influence in the growth, devotion and spread of this prayer cannot be denied. It would not be inaccurate to call them the principal promoters and defenders of the Rosary through history. Certainly the fifteenth century was a period for much
Dominican influence in this meditation, bringing a series of prayers and mysteries into a coherent form of prayer.
The fifteenth century saw the Rosary begin its development into the familiar prayer form we know today. The Our Father came intact from the Gospel of Matthew. The Hail Mary developed from the scriptural greetings of Gabriel and Elizabeth to Mary in Luke’s Gospel, plus a popular exhortation in use by the laity of that period. The Glory Be was used as a common doxology from the earliest of Christian times when praying the psalms. The Salve Regina, a later addition to the Rosary, states all relevant medieval themes about the Blessed Virgin Mary. Its affiliation with the Rosary came about through popular practice although its precise origin within the devotion is not known. The Apostles’ Creed along with the Rosary pendant were also later developments, being added to the Rosary only in the early seventeenth century.
During this period the definition of the individual prayers,
plus the development of a series of mysteries
which united this loosely connected series of prayers, took place. The mysteries, the true essence of the Rosary, have their origin
from Henry of Kalbar who added clausulae or “statements of faith”
to each of the fifty Aves of the Marian Psalter.
The development of the mysteries included the fixing of 150 statements of faith which were followed by the introduction
of fifteen true mysteries, one for each Paternoster.
Eventually the clausulae faded away and the fifteen mysteries remained. By the mid-sixteenth century, the mysteries we know today, Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious, were in place
and used as the norm for recitation of the Holy Rosary.
– Compiled from an article in Catholic Encyclopedia