The rosary is often referred to as a rose garden blooming with Hail Mary roses. Every Hail Mary we pray is like giving Mary a rose. Perhaps that is why many claim to smell a fragrant aroma of roses when they believed Mary was near to them.
Our Catholic rosary is rich in history evolving from the most basic devotions to one that is universally prayed daily around the world. In ancient times, the use of beads, stones, or dried berries were used to track the number of prayers being said. Prayer ropes later were used by Eastern religions including the Orthodox, Hindu, Buddhist, and Moslem faiths. Our string of beads developed in a similar way.
Around 1096 Irish monks prayed the 150 psalms of the Book of Psalms of David, also known as the Psalter. Many of the monks were illiterate and could not read. Others could read but could not afford to purchase the Psalter. And memorizing all of the psalms was nearly impossible. An alternative was to recite 150 Our Fathers, one Our Father for each psalm. Soon, Hail Marys replaced the Our Fathers.
The mysteries were added to the rosary in the fourteenth century. The Carthusian monks are thought to have included Bible reflections before each decade, which involved into what we now call mysteries.
Pope Leo X accepted the rosary on behalf of the Church in 1520. Saint Pope Pius V officially approved it as a means of devotion in 1569. Finally, Saint Pope John Paul II proposed a fourth set of mysteries, called the Luminous Mysteries, or Mysteries of Light, to give us a complete rosary with 20 Mysteries that focuses on Jesus’ birth, early years, ministry, Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension; the Holy Spirit’s descent; and Mary’s assumption and coronation.
(The Rosary Prayer by Prayer is available from Amazon.com, ACTA Publications, and my website.)