From the Hindus before Christianity, to Buddhists, Muslims, and Hebrews, people around world for centuries have prayed using beads. In fact the etymology of the word “bead” is derived from Old English, German, and Dutch words meaning “a prayer”. In the Catholic tradition, an arranged set of prayer beads are referred to as a chaplet and a rosary is just one type of chaplet. The rosary is certainly the most recognized type of chaplet, however there are plenty of others. For example, a chaplet may be either associated with a saint (St. Anthony for lost items or St. Christopher for travel), faith building (Our Lady of Lourdes or Our Lady of Fatima), or certain devotions within the church (the Holy Ghost or Stations of the Cross) and those are all just to name a few! A rosary is used to count prayers one recited in honor of Mary while meditation of the lives of Jesus and his mother. A chaplet is also for counting prayers but the prayers are slightly different depending on the type of chaplet being used.
Origins of the Rosary
The word rosary, or rosarium, comes from the Latin meaning, “a rose garden.” Since the Middle Ages, the rose was considered the queen of flowers, and the Virgin Mary was symbolized by a rose. Originally, it was believed that the rosary was given by Mary, mother of God, to St. Dominic in a dream to help the conversion of non-believers. The year was 1214 in southern France, and Dominic’s conversion techniques must have been a bit off because things weren’t going too well. Feeling defeated, he retreated to a cave to fast and pray, and generally mull things about. On the third day, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him, with quite an entourage. Mary’s party consisted of three queens and fifty maidens (tight fit if they were all in the cave), and she told him if he wanted to improve his numbers he need to teach her psalter. The light bulb went on, so to speak, and with a rosary in hand Dominic succeed in his mission of reformation.
However, although the story sounds impressive, apparently there are a few holes in it’s validity. It is now understood that there is not just one point of origin of the rosary, but it’s evolution came from numerous sources over the course of many years.