The Rosary: A Ladder to Heaven

This is Our Faith

By María G. Covarrubias

 Prayer is very important in developing our relationship with Jesus, who is the center of our faith. Prayer is a gift from God and it is the way we communicate with him. Through prayer, we find our identity and God’s plan for our lives. 


 In our Catholic tradition, we have an ancient prayer that is well known: the Rosary. The word rosary means: “crown of roses.” Some people consider praying the Rosary to be a spiritual bouquet or a crown of roses offered to Mary. Many of us remember our grandmother, mother or father holding a rosary in their hands as they gathered the family to recite this prayer. 

 The practice seems to have originated in the early church, from lay people imitating the monks in their praying of the Psalms in song. Since the laity could not read, they replaced the psalms with the Our Father. Over time the order of the prayers evolved into the pattern we are familiar with today: an Our Father, ten Hail Marys and the doxology (the Glory) in imitation of the way the monks finished every psalm with the Trinitarian formula. 

 This ancient prayer is both a simple and a profound prayer, totally based on scripture; it is the compendium of the entire Gospel. The Rosary helps us understand the mystery of Christ’s life through the intercession of Mary. The Church has traditionally used three sets of mysteries - the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries. In 2002 Pope John Paul II added the fourth set of mysteries, called the Mysteries of Light. These mysteries focus on the public life and ministry of Jesus. By reflecting on the mysteries in the life of Christ, we learn to appreciate more deeply His love for us and respond to that love by becoming His disciples. 

 When we pray the Rosary, we meet Jesus who invites us to follow him and experience peace, joy, love and assurance. The gospels say that Mary saw all that was happening in her life and her son’s life and that she pondered these things in her heart (Lk. 2:51). As we pray the Rosary, we also ponder “these things” in our heart with Mary. We pray the Rosary for healing, intercession, and thanksgiving believing that Jesus can heal and transform our lives. Praying the Rosary is encouraged as a daily prayer practice and especially encouraged during the month of October. We celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary on October 7. Through Church history, the popes and Mary, herself, have recommended that we pray the Rosary. 

 How do I teach the Rosary to my children? Or how do I learn to love this prayer? First, ask Jesus and Mary to give you the gift of love for this prayer, then talk to your child about the Rosary sharing your own experiences. Provide your child with his or her own Rosary to hold as you point out the parts and talk about the prayers. Have an altar at home and gather the family around it to pray the Rosary. If young children are involved you might want to pray only a mystery a day; possibly reading about the mystery from a children’s Bible or storybook. Older Children might be encouraged to take turns leading the family Rosary or pray a decade of the Rosary. Be creative and remember “the family that prays together stays together.”

María G. Covarrubias is the director of the Diocesan Office of Catechetical Ministry.

Resources for reading:

Praying the Rosary for Intersession by Catherine M. Odell, Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division; Living the Rosary: Finding your life in the Mysteries by John Phalen, C.S.C., Ave Maria Press; Praying the Rosary for Inner Healing by Fr. Dwight Longenecker, Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division.