You don’t need an actual string of rosary beads to pray the rosary, but it is traditional; the beads add a tactile dimension to the prayer that reflects the sacramental, incarnational sensibility of Catholic faith.
The prayers listed in bold can be found under “Essential Catholic Prayers,” above.
- Holding the crucifix, make the Sign of the Cross.
2. Then say the Apostles’ Creed.
3. On the first large bead above the crucifix, say an Our Father.
4. On each of the next three smaller beads, pray a Hail Mary. (Traditionally, these are prayed for the intention of an increase of faith, an increase of hope, and an increase of charity.)
5. Then pray the Glory Be.
The main part of the rosary is divided up into five “decades,” or sets of ten small beads. A different mystery of the rosary is contemplated during each decade. A decade of the rosary is prayed as follows:
- Announce the mystery of the rosary to be contemplated, e.g., “The Agony in the Garden,” along with any special intentions (e.g., for a sick relative, or for an end to war, etc.).
7. On the first large bead before the decade, pray the Our Father.
8. Say the Hail Mary on each of the ten small beads that make up the decade.
9. At the end of the decade, pray the Glory Be.
10. Some Catholics will add optional prayers at the end of each decade, such as the Fatima Prayer, the Miraculous Medal Prayer, or the O Sacrament Most Holy Prayer.
11. Repeat steps 6-10 for each of the remaining decades of the rosary.
12. After completing the fifth decade, many Catholics pray the Hail, Holy Queen (below), the Canticle of Mary (above), or other additional prayers.
13. Conclude with the Sign of the Cross.
Usually, when the rosary is prayed in a group setting, one person leads by saying the first half of the Apostles’ Creed and each Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be, while the entire group says the second half of each prayer.
See Pray the Rosary for ways to modify the rosary for use with children.