History of the Rosary
Since the Rosary is composed, principally and in substance,
of the prayer of Christ and the Angelic Salutation, that
is, the Our Father and the Hail Mary, it was without doubt
the first prayer and the principal devotion of the faithful
and has been in use all through the centuries, from the
time of the apostles and disciples down to the present.
It was only in the year 1214, however, that the Church received
the Rosary in its present form and according to the method
we use today. It was given to the Church by St. Dominic,
who had received it from the Blessed Virgin as a means of
converting the Albigensians and other sinners.
I will tell you the story of how he received it, which is
found in the very well-known book De Dignitate Psalterii,
by Blessed Alan de la Roche. Saint Dominic, seeing that
the gravity of people's sins was hindering the conversion
of the Albigensians, withdrew into a forest near Toulouse,
where he prayed continuously for three days and three nights.
During this time he did nothing but weep and do harsh penances
in order to appease the anger of God. He used his discipline
so much that his body was lacerated, and finally he fell
into a coma.
At this point our Lady appeared to him, accompanied by three
angels, and she said, "Dear Dominic, do you know which
weapon the Blessed Trinity wants to use to reform the world?"
"Oh, my Lady," answered Saint Dominic, "you
know far better than I do, because next to your Son Jesus
Christ you have always been the chief instrument of our
Then our Lady replied, "I want you to know that, in
this kind of warfare, the principal weapon has always been
the Angelic Psalter, which is the foundation-stone of the
New Testament. Therefore, if you want to reach these hardened
souls and win them over to God, preach my Psalter."
So he arose, comforted, and burning with zeal for the conversion
of the people in that district, he made straight for the
cathedral. At once unseen angels rang the bells to gather
the people together, and Saint Dominic began to preach.
At the very beginning of his sermon, an appalling storm
broke out, the earth shook, the sun was darkened, and there
was so much thunder and lightning that all were very much
afraid. Even greater was their fear when, looking at a picture
of our Lady exposed in a prominent place, they saw her raise
her arms to heaven three times to call down God's vengeance
upon them if they failed to be converted, to amend their
lives, and seek the protection of the holy Mother of God.
God wished, by means of these supernatural phenomena, to
spread the new devotion of the holy Rosary and to make it
more widely known.
At last, at the prayer of Saint Dominic, the storm came
to an end, and he went on preaching. So fervently and compellingly
did he explain the importance and value of the Rosary that
almost all the people of Toulouse embraced it and renounced
their false beliefs. In a very short time a great improvement
was seen in the town; people began leading Christian lives
and gave up their former bad habits.
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, instructed by the Blessed Virgin
as well as by his own experience, Saint Dominic preached
the Rosary for the rest of his life. He preached it by his
example as well as by his sermons, in cities and in country
places, to people of high station and low, before scholars
and the uneducated, to Catholics and to heretics.
The Rosary, which he said every day, was his preparation
for every sermon and his little tryst with our Lady immediately
One day he had to preach at Notre Dame in Paris, and it
happened to be the feast of St. John the Evangelist. He
was in a little chapel behind the high altar prayerfully
preparing his sermon by saying the Rosary, as he always
did, when our Lady appeared to him and said: "Dominic,
even though what you have planned to say may be very good,
I am bringing you a much better sermon."
Saint Dominic took in his hands the book our Lady proffered,
read the sermon carefully and, when he had understood it
and meditated on it, he gave thanks to her.
When the time came, he went up into the pulpit and, in spite
of the feast day, made no mention of Saint John other than
to say that he had been found worthy to be the guardian
of the Queen of Heaven. The congregation was made up of
theologians and other eminent people, who were used to hearing
unusual and polished discourses; but Saint Dominic told
them that it was not his desire to give them a learned discourse,
wise in the eyes of the world, but that he would speak in
the simplicity of the Holy Spirit and with his forcefulness.
So he began preaching the Rosary and explained the Hail
Mary word by word as he would to a group of children, and
used the very simple illustrations which were in the book
given him by our Lady.
Blessed Alan, according to Carthagena, mentioned several
other occasions when our Lord and our Lady appeared to Saint
Dominic to urge him and inspire him to preach the Rosary
more and more in order to wipe out sin and convert sinners
and heretics. In another passage Carthagena says, "Blessed
Alan said our Lady revealed to him that, after she had appeared
to Saint Dominic, her blessed Son appeared to him and said,
'Dominic, I rejoice to see that you are not relying on your
own wisdom and that, rather than seek the empty praise of
men, you are working with great humility for the salvation
"'But many priests want to preach thunderously against
the worst kinds of sin at the very outset, failing to realize
that before a sick person is given bitter medicine, he needs
to be prepared by being put into the right frame of mind
to really benefit by it.
"'That is why, before doing anything else, priests
should try to kindle a love of prayer in people's hearts
and especially a love of my Angelic Psalter. If only they
would all start saying it and would really persevere, God
in his mercy could hardly refuse to give them his grace.
So I want you to preach my Rosary."'
All things, even the holiest, are subject to change, especially
when they are dependent on man's free will. It is hardly
to be wondered at, then, that the Confraternity of the Holy
Rosary only retained its first fervour for a century after
it was instituted by Saint Dominic. After this it was like
a thing buried and forgotten.
Doubtless, too, the wicked scheming and jealousy of the
devil were largely responsible for getting people to neglect
the Rosary, and thus block the flow of God's grace which
it had drawn upon the world.
Thus, in 1349 God punished the whole of Europe with the
most terrible plague that had ever been known. Starting
in the east, it spread throughout Italy, Germany, France,
Poland and Hungary, bringing desolation wherever it went,
for out of a hundred men hardly one lived to tell the tale.
Big cities, towns, villages and monasteries were almost
completely deserted during the three years that the epidemic
This scourge of God was quickly followed by two others,
the heresy of the Flagellants and a tragic schism in 1376.
Later on, when these trials were over, thanks to the mercy
of God, our Lady told Blessed Alan to revive the former
Confraternity of the Holy Rosary. Blessed Alan was one of
the Dominican Fathers at the monastery at Dinan, in Brittany.
He was an eminent theologian and a famous preacher. Our
Lady chose him because, since the Confraternity had originally
been started in that province, it was fitting that a Dominican
from the same province should have the honour of re-establishing
Blessed Alan began this great work in 1460, after a special
warning from our Lord. This is how he received that urgent
message, as he himself tells it:
One day when he was offering Mass, our Lord, who wished
to spur him on to preach the holy Rosary, spoke to him in
the Sacred Host. "How can you crucify me again so soon?"
Jesus said. "What did you say, Lord?" asked Blessed
Alan, horrified. "You crucified me once before by your
sins," answered Jesus, "and I would willingly
be crucified again rather than have my Father offended by
the sins you used to commit. You are crucifying me again
now because you have all the learning and understanding
that you need to preach my Mother's Rosary, and you are
not doing it. If you only did that, you could teach many
souls the right path and lead them away from sin. But you
are not doing it, and so you yourself are guilty of the
sins that they commit."
This terrible reproach made Blessed Alan solemnly resolve
to preach the Rosary unceasingly.
Our Lady also said to him one day to inspire him to preach
the Rosary more and more, "You were a great sinner
in your youth, but I obtained the grace of your conversion
from my Son. Had such a thing been possible, I would have
liked to have gone through all kinds of suffering to save
you, because converted sinners are a glory to me. And I
would have done that also to make you worthy of preaching
my Rosary far and wide."
Saint Dominic appeared to Blessed Alan as well and told
him of the great results of his ministry: he had preached
the Rosary unceasingly, his sermons had borne great fruit
and many people had been converted during his missions.
He said to Blessed Alan, "See what wonderful results
I have had through preaching the Rosary. You and all who
love our Lady ought to do the same so that, by means of
this holy practice of the Rosary, you may draw all people
to the real science of the virtues."
Briefly, then, this is the history of how Saint Dominic
established the holy Rosary and of how Blessed Alan de la
Roche restored it.
From the time Saint Dominic established the devotion to
the holy Rosary up to the time when Blessed Alan de la Roche
reestablished it in 1460, it has always been called the
Psalter of Jesus and Mary. This is because it has the same
number of Hail Marys as there are psalms in the Book of
the Psalms of David. Since simple and uneducated people
are not able to say the Psalms of David, the Rosary is held
to be just as fruitful for them as David's Psalter is for
Ever since Blessed Alan de la Roche re-established this
devotion, the voice of the people, which is the voice of
God, gave it the name of the Rosary, which means "crown
of roses." That is to say that every time people say
the Rosary devoutly they place on the heads of Jesus and
Mary 153 white roses and sixteen red roses. Being heavenly
flowers, these roses will never fade or lose their beauty.
Our Lady has approved and confirmed this name of the Rosary;
she has revealed to several people that each time they say
a Hail Mary they are giving her a beautiful rose, and that
each complete Rosary makes her a crown of roses.
So the complete Rosary is a large crown of roses and each
chaplet of five decades is a little wreath of flowers or
a little crown of heavenly roses which we place on the heads
of Jesus and Mary. The rose is the queen of flowers, and
so the Rosary is the rose of devotions and the most important
How to Recite the