The Rosary is a beautiful Scripture-based prayer. But the scripture basis is not apparent to someone without knowledge of the Rosary. Non-Catholics observing recitation of the Rosary hear repeated prayers said quickly. They listen to words praising Mary with little direct attention to Jesus or God the Father. They might notice a few words mentioning a "mystery" but get no apparent focus on what the Mystery is. I understand the lack of connection. What they are missing is the Gospel connection.
Scripture is core to Catholic life. The words of the Gospel are Good News that drive us to live as we do. The world is different because Jesus came and gave us a new covenant of love. This covenant takes more than one. Jesus gave us the Good News, but we must hear it and live it. With the Gospel in mind, the Rosary is a powerful way to keep the Good News before us. To guide us in praying the Rosary, the Church gives us twenty Mysteries that focus on the key events of Jesus' life. The Mysteries begin with the Angel bringing the news of Jesus’ coming culminating in his proclamation of the Kingdom and the Eucharist. When meditation on the Mysteries is a part of our Rosary prayer, Jesus is the focus. We gain an ever-deeper friendship with Jesus through meditation on the Gospel. This is something that excites all Christians.
The Rosary is a prayer for our time. Sometimes people see the Catholic Church as static and unchanging, with devotions frozen in time. Tradition holds that St. Dominic (d. 1221) devised the Rosary as we know it. The structure of the Rosary evolved between the 12th and 15th centuries. By the 16th century, the form of the five-decade Rosary was in place. Also entrenched in tradition were three sets of Mysteries: Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious. In 2002, Pope John Paul II wrote his apostolic letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, announcing the addition of the Luminous Mysteries. He referred to them as the Mysteries of Light.
In our modern era, Archbishop Fulton Sheen said, "The Rosary is the book of the blind, where souls see and there enact the greatest drama of love the world has ever known; it is the book of the simple, which initiates them into mysteries and knowledge more satisfying than the education of other men; it is the book of the aged, whose eyes close upon the shadow of this world, and open on the substance of the next. The power of the Rosary is beyond description." He was describing praying the Gospel through the Rosary. The connection happens through meditation on the Mysteries.
The prayers of the Rosary come directly from Scripture. As we pray the Rosary, we begin with the Apostles' Creed, which summarizes the great truths of the Gospel. The Lord's Prayer, directly from the Gospels, introduces each Mystery. The first part of the Hail Mary is the Angel's words announcing Christ's birth and Elizabeth's greeting to Mary from Luke's Gospel. The Glory Be is from the Trinitarian blessing at the end of Matthew's Gospel. We are praying the Gospel!
Beyond the prayers are the Mysteries. The twenty Mysteries are highlights from the Gospels. The familiarity and routine of the prayers give us the mental space to contemplate the Mysteries. Through prayers and meditation, our life in Christ will grow richer. That's why we have the Rosary.
As you use this book, don’t rush. Use the words about each Mystery to guide your meditation. At the end of each Mystery, there is room to jot down any special thoughts that emerge from your meditation. Let your love for Jesus grow through your Rosary prayer.