Happy feast day Blessed Mother of the Rosary!
It was called in England, Our Lady’s Psalter and also Our Lady’s Beads.
The early Christians repeated simple prayers, Paters and Aves, by moving their thumb along a beaded string. Bede, in Old English, means a “petition.” That is why the famous writer of the Ecclesiastical History of the English People chose the religious name, Bede, as a Benedictine monk. Within two generations of his death (+731) he was commonly referred to as “Venerable Bede”.
Every good Catholic knows that the Rosary was given to Saint Dominic (+1221) by Our Lady to sustain him in his fight against the horrid heresy of the Albigensians in France. One of the variable prayers of the Mass of Our Lady calls her “the Destroyer of Heresies”. Dominic’s disciple, Blessed Alan de la Roche, passed the devotion on as we now have it, with the fifteen mysteries.
The Rosary is both a vocal prayer and a meditation. Even if no one hears you saying the Rosary your lips are supposed to move. Many, like myself, find it hard to do the two things, i.e., think about the vocal prayers and think about the mystery at the same time.
I read a suggestion in a book on devotion to Mary — I do not remember which book — that may help some devotees. I confess that I am relaying advice that I do not use myself on account of my inability to focus on one thought for any length of time. The advice was to zero in on one part of the holy mystery, rather than run through the entire episode. Example: In the Mystery of the Visitation, it is hard to concentrate on the Hail Mary and the Magnificat at the same time. Better to save the praises of the Magnificat for a separate prayer and meditate on Mary’s unhesitating charity and Saint Elizabeth’s joyful Salve and her inspired profession of Faith. Then, too, we can imagine Jesus’ and John’s joy in utero as they met under a mother’s mantle. The mystery here alone is inexhaustible. One can do the same with the Carrying of the Cross. Rather than going through nine Stations, put your mind and heart on one, and try to stay there.
Most of all, be childlike. You are praying to the Father, to Jesus, to the Holy Ghost, and to your Mother, Mary. And “except you become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt: 18:3).
Jesus loved to call His Apostles “little children” or, more often, just “children.” Saint John the Beloved did likewise as we see in his epistles. And so did Saint Paul. Let our prayer be that of the centurion whose faith so moved Our Lord: “Lord I am not worthy that Thou shouldst come under my roof, but only say the word . . . [and here I paraphrase with justification from the Greek] and my little boy (pais mou) will be healed” (Matt. 8:8). As the diminutive Abbé of Ambricourt prays in Bernanos’ great novel Diary of a Country Priest “Restore, O Lord, my spiritual childhood!”