Has a priest ever told you anything about the rosary? If he has, you can count yourself among a tiny and fortunate minority of the faithful. More likely, your priest has rather preferred to entertain you about so-called anthropogenic global warming, social justice, the necessity of not kicking the cat, and such like. Let us correct this unfortunate situation with some short remarks.
There are some regional variations of the rosary and every faithful can adjust some parts as he likes. In short, a typical rosary would be recited this way:
1) Sign of the Cross. Creed of the Apostles; Pater Noster; three Hail Marys; Glory Be; Fatima prayer.
2) Five decades each composed of the following: Pater noster; ten Hail Marys; Glory Be; Fatima Prayer. At the beginning of each decade you can introduce a short pause to reflect on the mystery and/or to ask Our Lord or the Blessed Virgin for a particular grace.
3) “Hail, Holy Queen”. Sign of the Cross.
During the three Hail Marys of the introduction you can meditate on the three Theological Virtues (Hope, Faith and Charity). During each of the ten Hail Marys of every decade you can meditate on the traditional mysteries of the day or substitute them with some other meditation you prefer. The traditionally used mysteries are – in this context – 15 episodes of the life of Our Lord or of the Blessed Virgin. They are divided into groups of five, whereas every day you meditate on a different set of five mysteries, one mystery for every decade. The five mysteries added for some reason by John Paul II are not traditional and are therefore not considered here, but again there is no obligation as to what is the object of the meditation.
The way to pray (and the beauty of the rosary) is to allow your lips to regularly go through the Hail Marys whilst keeping your mind fixed on the relevant mystery. The mind being what it is, you’ll discover that you are easily distracted but the fact that you are vocally (much better than mentally) reciting the Hail Marys will help your mind to wander its thoughts on the meaning of the words of the Hail Mary and failing that, the vocal recitation will contribute to your fast recovery from your distraction.
Traditionally, a vocal recitation of the prayers will not require you to be sure that you never, ever lose concentration (and you will!). What will initially happen is a constant bouncing of your mind from the meditation to the words of the Hail Mary to what you want to eat for dinner and back to the words of the Hail Mary or to the meditation, in a constant play of wandering thoughts whilst still remaining more or less anchored in the meditation. In time, you will discover that you become more and more focused on the mysteries and your rosary becomes more spiritual, more relaxed (because you are not constantly “trying to stay focused”) and somewhat more rapid.
When a good practice has been attained, allow some twenty minutes for the rosary in its entirety (meaning here: the daily five decades). You can split the rosary into its components but if you interrupt a decade you’ll have to recite it again from the start. To remain attentive it is a tradition to imagine that every Hail Mary is a rose you are giving to Mary, with the rosary being a beautiful garland. You want your garland to be beautiful and your roses fresh, right?
The rosary is a beautiful way to transform boring times of your day into an uplifting experience: for instance whilst waiting for the train or as an alternative to reading junk newspapers during your commute. A complete decade will take you (with practice) not more than three or four minutes. You’ll see how refreshingly beautiful it is.
Many are the Internet sites dedicated to the Rosary. Therein you will find descriptions of the mysteries and visual helps to aid your meditation efforts. The spiritual meaning of the rosary will also be discussed more in-depth and you will often find interesting historical information about the history and evolution of this beautiful devotion. Two links are given here on the right, under “Devotions”. Please do not neglect to read the Promises of Mary to the Christians who recite the rosary!
Here ends this little introduction. I hope that you will find the Rosary uplifting and that you will one day start his recitation as a daily practice. I have found the practice extremely beneficial and cannot imagine a life without it anymore.
Best wishes to you.