How to Pray the Rosary: A Complete Guide

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Welcome to your complete guide on how to pray the rosary! The Rosary is a prayer based on the Scriptures. The rosary is a set of beads including five sets of ten beads called decades, and a crucifix. Specific prayers are prayed on each bead.

graphic of a red rosary and the words "How to Pray the Rosary"

Each decade corresponds to one of the mysteries of the Rosary. The mysteries are events in the life of Jesus and Mary that we contemplate and meditate on as we pray. You can say the Rosary alone or in a group, and it’s a great way to spend time in quiet reflection and prayer.

The Rosary is a traditional Catholic devotion that has been practiced for centuries. It’s not just a string of beads, but a powerful tool for spiritual growth and connection with the divine. Praying the Rosary can bring peace, clarity and a deeper understanding of the Catholic faith.

I used to pray the rosary a few times a year, usually in times of great need or at a funeral. In the last several months, I’ve been praying the rosary daily and it’s really changed my perspective. I’ve noticed an increase in my overall peace and tranquility and it helps me to better focus on the present moment and to find solace during life’s struggles.

The Rosary is a beautiful way to connect with Jesus and Mary, and to deepen your faith. It’s a great way to spend time in quiet reflection and prayer, whether you say it alone or in a group. In this guide, I will share with you a step-by-step guide to help you understand and know all the ins and outs of praying the rosary.

How do Catholics Say the Rosary

The rosary begins with the Apostles’ Creed, which summarizes our Catholic faith. The main prayers of the rosary are the Our Father, The Hail Mary and the Glory Be Prayers.

On each decade we focus on events, called ‘mysteries’, in Christ’s life.  There are four sets of rosary mysteries: Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious, and the Luminous (which were added by Saint John Paul II in 2002).

Reciting the Rosary with its calming repetitions encourages one to experience a deeper level of peace and spiritual contemplation related to each Mystery. The soothing rhythm of the words helps us to better connect with the silence within, where Christ’s presence is felt.

hands holding rosary with bronze crucifix and cream color beads

There are many ways to pray the rosary. You can pray individually either silently or out loud.  You can pray with a group in person or online or on an app.  When praying in a group setting, a leader recites the first half of each prayer and then the participants recites the second half of each prayer.  Praying in a group can be a good way to learn how to pray the rosary and get comfortable with all the prayers.

The important thing to remember is that prayer is a practice that grows and evolves. You will find that at first it might feel awkward to pray the rosary, but as you learn the prayers, you can settle into focusing more deeply on the mysteries as your hands move from bead to bead and you say the corresponding prayers.

How to Pray the Rosary: Step by Step Guide

Before you start praying the rosary, make sure you know the prayers used in the rosary. Some you may already know these by heart, but others might be unfamiliar.  It is helpful to have the prayers nearby for reference until you become more comfortable saying the rosary.

Here are the steps for praying the rosary:

Diagram of the rosary with the prayers
  1. Make the Sign of the Cross
  2. Holding the Crucifix, pray the Apostles’ Creed
  3. On the first bead, say an Our Father Prayer
  4. Say one Hail Mary Prayer on each of the next three beads for the virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity
  5. On the next bead, pray the Glory Be prayer
  6. On the center medal, announce the first mystery, then say the Our Father prayer
  7. While meditating on the first mystery, say 10 Hail Mary’s on the 10 beads of the first decade
  8. On the next bead, say the Glory Be prayer and the Fatima Prayer
  9. While still on the same bead, announce the 2nd mystery, then say the Our Father prayer
  10. While meditating on the second mystery, say 10 Hail Mary’s on the 10 beads of the second decade
  11. On the next bead, say the Glory Be prayer and the Fatima Prayer
  12. While still on the same bead, announce the 3rd mystery, then say the Our Father prayer
  13. While meditating on the third mystery, say 10 Hail Mary’s on the 10 beads of the third decade
  14. On the next bead, say the Glory Be prayer and the Fatima Prayer
  15. While still on the same bead, announce the 4th mystery, then say the Our Father prayer
  16. While meditating on the fourth mystery, say 10 Hail Mary’s on the 10 beads of the fourth decade
  17. On the next bead, say the Glory Be prayer and the Fatima Prayer
  18. While still on the same bead, announce the 5th mystery, then say the Our Father prayer
  19. While meditating on the fifth mystery, say 10 Hail Mary’s on the 10 beads of the fifth decade
  20. On the center, say the Glory Be prayer and the Fatima Prayer
  21. Say the Hail Holy Queen Prayer
  22. Say the Prayer After Rosary (optional)
  23. Make the sign of the cross to conclude the rosary. Some people also kiss the crucifix as a sign of reverence.

Rosary Prayers

The Rosary is composed of three main prayers, the Hail Mary, the Our Father and the Glory Be.  The Apostle’s Creed is said at the beginning of the rosary and the Hail Holy Queen at the end.  The Fatima Prayer and Prayer After Rosary prayers are optional.

Apostles’ Creed

The Apostles’ Creed summarizes our Catholic Faith

I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended into hell; on the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God, the Father almighty; from there he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.

Our Father

The Our Father prayer is also known as the Lord’s Prayer.  It is the prayer Jesus taught his disciples in the New Testament.

Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.; thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Hail Mary

The Hail Mary is a prayer asking for the intercession of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus. The first half of the Hail Mary comes from the bible when the angel announce’s Christ’s birth to Mary and Elizabeth’s greeting to Mary.  The second half is our response to these scripture verses.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

slope of mountain range with pine trees and meadow at sunset

Glory Be

The Glory Be prayer offers glory and praise to the Trinity: God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Such glory has always been and always will be.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Fatima Prayer

The Fatima Prayer was revealed by Mary to three shepherd children on July 13, 1917 in Fatima Portugal. Tradition states the three children were asked to recite this prayer at the end of each decade of the rosary. While optional, many people include this additional prayer after the Glory Be Prayer.

O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of thy mercy. Amen.

Hail, Holy Queen

The Salve Regina, better known as the Hail Holy Queen prayer, dates back to the 11th century and is is traditionally said as the closing prayers of rosaries and night devotions.  It is also a hymn, sung in various musical forms, including a lovely chant.

Hail Holy Queen, Mother of mercy; our life, our sweetness, and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve; to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn, then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen.

Prayer After Rosary (Let Us Pray)

The Prayer After the Rosary, also known as “Let Us Pray,” is a traditional Catholic prayer that is said after the recitation of the Rosary. It is a petition to God to grant the us the graces and blessings associated with meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary, and to imitate and obtain the promises made in those mysteries.

O God, whose only begotten Son, by his life, death and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life, grant, we beseech thee, that meditating upon these mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Mysteries of the Rosary

The Rosary is divided into four sets of mysteries for meditative prayer: the Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful, and Glorious Mysteries. Each set of mysteries focuses on different events in the life of Jesus and Mary. It’s up to you which set of mysteries you want to focus on each day, but many people like to say the Joyful mysteries on Monday and Saturday, the Sorrowful mysteries on Tuesday and Friday, the Glorious mysteries on Wednesday and Sunday, and the Luminous mysteries on Thursday.

Joyful Mysteries

The Joyful Mysteries focus on the early life of Jesus, including the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Nativity, the Presentation in the Temple, and the Finding in the Temple. These mysteries remind us of the joy and wonder of Jesus’ birth and early life.

Sorrowful Mysteries 

The Sorrowful Mysteries focus on the passion and death of Jesus, including the Agony in the Garden, the Scourging at the Pillar, the Crowning with Thorns, the Carrying of the Cross, and the Crucifixion. These mysteries remind us of the sacrifice Jesus made for our sins and the immense love he had for us. 

Glorious Mysteries 

The Glorious Mysteries focus on the resurrection and ascension of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit, including the Resurrection, the Ascension, the Descent of the Holy Spirit, the Assumption of Mary into Heaven, and the Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth. These mysteries remind us of the triumph of Jesus over death and the promise of eternal life. 

Luminous Mysteries 

The Luminous Mysteries focus on the public life of Jesus, including the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, the Wedding at Cana, the Proclamation of the Kingdom of God, the Transfiguration, and the Institution of the Eucharist. These mysteries remind us of the light of Jesus’ teachings and the miracles he performed.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Rosary

How Many Mysteries In the Rosary?There are twenty mysteries in the Rosary: five Joyful Mysteries, five Luminous Mysteries, five Sorrowful Mysteries, and five Glorious Mysteries. The Rosary is traditionally prayed with one set of mysteries. So while there are a total of 20 mysteries, the focus is on 5 mysteries for one rosary said.

How Many Decades in a Rosary?The traditional rosary consists of five decades, each containing one Our Father prayer, ten Hail Mary prayers and one Glory Be prayer. Prior to Pope John Paul II instituting the Luminous mysteries, the full rosary consisted of 15 decades (five decades for each of the original 3 sets of mysteries).  With the addition of the Luminous mysteries, the full rosary now consists of 20 decades.

What is Mary’s Psalter? The rosary is sometimes known as Mary’s Psalter. This reflects the 150 Hail Mary’s said on the original full rosary (the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious mysteries).  Some say the rosary is based on a tradition of reciting all 150 psalms.  Therefore, the 150 Hail Mary’s are sometimes called Mary’s Psalter.

How to Pray a Decade of the Rosary? Praying a single decade of the rosary is a great way to pray when time is short or even when you just want to start the rosary habit without committing to the full five decades. Typically, the one decade rosary skips both the introductory prayers and the concluding prayers.

You can use rosary beads, use a one decade Tenner rosary or simply count on your fingers. Start by making the Sign of the Cross and saying an “Our Father” prayer. Then pray 10 Hail Mary prayers.  Finish with one Glory Be prayer.  Optionally, you can add the Fatima prayer at the end.

How To Pray a Rosary for the Dead. When praying a rosary for the Ddead, a family member usually leads the rosary focusing on the Glorious Mysteries at a funeral vigil the night before the funeral in order to pray for their deceased loved one’s soul.

Can you Wear the Rosary? It depends.  A rosary is a sacramental and should be treated with respect.  The Catholic Church does not forbid the wearing of the rosary.  In fact, one decade rosary bracelets are common and convenient for prayer on the go.  Some religious orders hang rosaries from belts.  And in some cultures, wearing a rosary around the neck is a way to keep the faith close and serves as a reminder to pray.

It is important to note that wearing a rosary necklace should not be seen as a fashion statement or a form of idolatry, the rosary is a powerful tool for spiritual growth and connection with the divine, and it should be used with respect and reverence.

What are the 3 main prayers? The three main prayers of the rosary are the Hail Mary, Our Father and Glory Be prayers.

Is a Rosary Catholic Only?Though the rosary is most associated with Roman Catholicism, non Catholics certainly pray the rosary. There are some Protestants who which accept, use or even prefer the rosary prayer as a part of their spiritual practice. Some even credit it with their conversion to the Catholic Faith.

How do you know which mystery to pray?The Rosary is divided into four sets of Mysteries: the Joyful, the Sorrowful, the Glorious and the Luminous. Each mystery represents an important event in Jesus’s life as recounted in the Gospels.

Many people follow this schedule: On Monday and Saturday meditate on the Joyful Mysteries.  On Tuesday and Friday meditate on the Sorrowful Mysteries.  On Wednesday and Sunday meditate on the Glorious Mysteries.  On Thursdays meditate on the Luminous mysteries. This way you won’t forget to pray all four sets of mysteries throughout the week. 

However there is no set “rule” that you must pray a specific set of mysteries on a particular day.No matter set of mysteries you choose, take comfort in knowing that prayers offered up with love and devotion will always be heard by God Our Father.

How did Catholics pray the rosary before Vatican II?The rosary itself did not change with Vatican II.  Prior to Pope John Paul II instituting the optional Luminous Mysteries, the rosary consisted of the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries.  It is worth noting that Vatican II took place from 1962-1965 and Pope John Paul II Instituted the Luminous Mysteries in 2002 in his apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae. 

Is it okay to pray a rosary while doing other things?The Rosary is a private devotion and there are no “rules” to follow as far as doing other things while praying.  For some people, doing something rhythmic, like walking can further deepen their prayerful meditation. I personally enjoy saying the rosary while driving on errands or long car trips or while making rosaries quietly at my dining room table.  

Are there any tips for memorizing the rosary? The prayers of the rosary I find easiest to remember if I “group” them into sections:  what I say before the decades start (the introductory prayers), what I say during a decade, and what I say after the decades (the concluding prayers).

As far as memorizing the prayers themselves, I learned many of the rosary prayers as a child, but more recent or unfamiliar prayers I learned (or am learning) as an adult. Saying the prayer out loud often is helpful as the repetition helps cement the words into the brain.  I also find that if I focus on one phrase at a time, repeating it over and over in my head and out loud, I can learn the prayer more quickly.

How To Pray the Rosary Everyday? One way to develop the habit of praying the rosary daily is to set aside a specific time each day to pray. For example, you could choose to pray the rosary every morning before starting your day, or every evening before going to bed. It can also be helpful to keep a rosary in a visible and easily accessible place, such as on a nightstand or in a pocket, as a reminder to pray.

Starting with small goal, such as praying one decade of the rosary per day and gradually working up to the full rosary, can make it easier to establish the habit. Praying the rosary with other people, such as those in your household, or in a group setting (either in person or online) can also help in maintaining the habit.

Woman holding rosary with crucifix.

Final Thoughts on Praying the Rosary

The Rosary is a beautiful and powerful tool for spiritual growth and connection with God. It’s a traditional Catholic devotion of contemplative prayer that has been practiced for centuries, and it’s a great way to spend time in quiet reflection and prayer.  Praying the rosary has brought peace, clarity and purpose to my life.  I hope it brings the same to your life and that this guide has helped you on your rosary journey.