A do-it-yourself rosary

Over at Ivy’s Vine, she’s got a video teaching how to make a rosary, and if you leave a comment, you are entered into a drawing for the rosary she made in the video.

Ivy’s the same person who does “Knitting Step By Step” so you know it will be good.

The rosary isn’t just a Catholic prayer. In recent years, several Protestant denominations have devised their own rosary devotions. The Orthodox Church has its own rosary. Ivy has created (and beaded) her own Jewish rosary. And prayer-beads themselves have existed for about as long as there have been prayers.

The rosary started out as a peasant devotion, after all. Just as there are hundreds of ways of making cheese, and how the baking of bread evolves to suit the needs of the bread-makers, the rosary has also evolved since its beginning as “the poor man’s psalter.”

Initially it was a strand of 150 beads (or a rope with 150 knots), one for each psalm. Those who couldn’t read or didn’t have a psalter would instead recite a formula prayer on each of the beads. Over time, it shortened to a strand of 50 beads, but then it got separated at every 10 beads with a different prayer. And again over time, the formula prayer for the small beads became the Hail Mary, while the dividing prayer became the Our Father. (Protestant formulae can use the Jesus Prayer or the Our Father on the small beads.) Then each group of ten (or decade) became prayers in honor of a specific mystery, and later on morphed into a meditation on that mystery.

In effect, what you have with a well-said rosary is a guided meditation that involves all the human form. At the most prosaic level, you’re involving touch: you’re holding a bead. (Counting on fingers also works okay, since you probably have ten of them.) At the next level is your sense of sound: the verbal recitation, even if only in your head. Plus it involves a soothing repetition which aids in reaching the next level: the meditation.

The meditation prayer is the most important part of the rosary, and that’s the part that really can’t be taught. You can learn the words to a formula prayer, but it’s only with practice that you can shut out the world and enter into the mysteries surrounding the Kingdom of God. 

If you’re meditating on the Sorrowful Mysteries, for example, you dwell on the events surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus. In the first mystery you immerse yourself in his agony in the garden as he anticipated what was to come; his prayer that the Father remove the pain and his simultaneous submission; his abandonment by his closest friends, the ones whom he had just told he would give his body for. Consider the fact that everyone there — the ones who hit him, the one who kissed and betrayed him, the ones who deserted him — were people he loved enough that he would die to save them. 

In the meditation, you try to feel what Jesus felt. You apply it to your own life. You see yourself in Jesus. You see yourself in the ones who fled, the ones who insulted him, the one who betrayed him. You grasp that his pain here is entirely internal, and then you know Jesus is with you in your depression, in your anxiety, in your grief. You might even intersperse the ten prayers with ten verses of scripture, dwelling on each line as you move through the mystery.

Every mystery is like this, a richness of human understanding and divine love. 

The rosary, however it’s prayed, is an entry into a heart’s comprehension of the kingdom of God.

If I’ve piqued your interest, head over to Ivy’s Vine and learn to make your own. Then learn to pray it. I would suggest every day for a month so you get used to coordinating the body-movements, the verbal prayer and the mental prayer all at the same time. Everyone is called to different ways of prayer, of course, but you may find this one life-changing.


  1. Misty

    Thanks for posting this. I’m a Protestant so I hadn’t ever really heard any facts on the rosary.

    -Misty (mpoush on NFP board)

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