What is the Rosary?
The Rosary is a traditional way of praying while meditating on certain key events that define the Christian faith, called “mysteries”. Because of this, the vast majority of the Rosary is based on the recitation of verses from the Scriptures. For example, the Our Father, which is said before the recitation of each decade, is the prayer Jesus himself taught to us – the Lord’s own Prayer indeed; whilst the first part of the Hail Mary is an amalgamation of the Angel's words announcing Christ's birth and Elizabeth's greeting to Mary found in the first chapter Luke’s gospel.
The word Rosary derives from the Latin word for a “crown of roses”. And in this sense, the Rosary is an offering we make to God and Our Lady, as if by crafting beautiful and fragrant flower-chains with our prayers. The Mysteries of the Rosary then are the “gems” in our crowns; the events though which God redeemed us in Jesus Christ, and demonstrated his unmeasured love for us. There are four sets of Mysteries: Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious, and the Luminous.The beads which many people hold whilst praying the Rosary are also sometimes called “Rosary crowns” for this reason. The repetition in the Rosary is meant to lead us into restful and contemplative prayer related to each Mystery; it also helps us to enter into the silence of our hearts, where Christ's spirit dwells.
You do not have to be a Roman Catholic – in fact, one of the best books the Rosary was written by a Methodist minister, Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy: Meditations on the Rosary (J.N.Ward).
Where do I start?
Praying the Rosary is one of those practical things that take more time to explain how they’re done, than actually doing them. But to put it simply, anyone who knows few easy prayers can pray a Rosary; you will also need to follow the Mysteries to meditate as you pray. If you do not have Rosary beads, it is perfectly okay to count with your fingers. Counting beads frees your mind to help you meditate. Let the beads do the counting, and immerse yourself in the scene described by each mystery, whilst quietly saying the prayers.