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What to think about when praying the rosary? If one thinks about the mystery (e.g. sorrowful mystery) while praying, then one can not pay attention to the words of Hail Mary but if one concentrates on Hail Mary then one can not meditate the mystery. How to pray the rosary properly, ie. in a way that one concentrates both on the Hail Mary and on the mystery?

I would prefer examples from the lives of saints and an explicit answer to my question from saintly authority (because it is impossible that no one asked this question before). Thanks.

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    I am not sure that this is opinion based. There would appear to be ample "saintly" authority over the years regarding "best practices" – KorvinStarmast Aug 25 at 13:19
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    This is not an opinion based question. It asks for Catholic sources, notably from Catholic saints. – Ken Graham Aug 25 at 13:54
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How to pray and meditate while saying the rosary?

It is such an easy question to answer, but to really find a Catholic source that actually answers it seems next to impossible.

There are lots of books out there about the rosary. But most deal with the glories of the Most Holy Rosary, it’s history, it’s promises accorded to those who pray it daily, etc. As for Catholic sources about actually how to pray and meditate on the rosary, these sources for some reason are not openly available. Whether that is due to the fact that Catholics are not interested in it or that many of us just like to say the rosary as is, I do not know.

Some years ago my former seminary rector, Fr. Augustine Kalberer, OSB, PhD of Westminster Abbey celebrated mass in my home parish on the Feast of the Most Holy Rosary. The topic of his homily was how to meditate on the Most Holy Rosary.

In his homily he basically shared the idea that there were three general ways to meditate while praying the Rosary.

The first one is somewhat alluded to in Peter Turner’s answer. It consists on pondering the actual meaning of the words one is pronouncing as one prays the rosary. This is generally good for novices that are just getting into the habit of praying the Rosary everyday.

The second manner of praying the Rosary is to meditate in one certain biblical passages associated with the particular mystery one is reciting. This is called a scriptural rosary.

As one recites a Hail Mary one meditates on the word of God revealed in Sacred Scripture.

As a title of example here are the scriptural references for the first decade of the Joyful Mysteries, the Annunciation:

The Joyful Mysteries

  1. Through the disobedience of Adam sin enters the world. Rom. 5:12

  2. The Father sends His Son to save the world. Jn. 3:17

  3. The Angel Gabriel is sent to a virgin named Mary. Lk. 1:26,27

  4. The Angel tells Mary: “You are to have a Son and will name Him Jesus.” Lk. 1:31

  5. He is the Son of God. Lk. 1:32

  6. Mary consents: “Let it be done to me.” Lk. 1:38

  7. God the Son becomes Man, in obedience to His Father. Lk. 1:35

  8. By His obedience many shall be saved. Rom. 5:19

  9. Mary becomes Mother of God. Lk. 1:35

  10. Nothing is impossible with God. Lk. 1:37

The third way to meditate the Mysteries is definitely the the most profound and in-depth manner to do. The soul that is accustomed to pray and meditation delves into the rosary mysteries by placing himself into the mystery contemplated and getting totally absorbed into the sacred realities being pondered. Some (very few) find this way of meditation as being a sort of second nature!

Some Jesuits like to put this in the sense that we try to place ourself at the very scene that we are contemplating and in a sense become a participant in the mystery we are meditating.

I like to think of this as making myself a fly on the wall and watching the the Mysteries of the rosary unfold before me.

Sorry for the lack of genuine Catholic references, but if I find anything of value I will edit it in.

As a side note, one can obtain CDs of praying the rosary with the pope. They are great for praying the rosary in a car when it is good to have your hands free for driving and not worrying about counting.

Some other Catholic sources that may prove helpful are as follows:

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The Handbook of Prayers contains a number of meditations written by St. Jose Maria Escriva which put you and him in the place where Jesus and Mary are in that particular mystery. It is a lot like the Stations of the Cross in that regard, where in the short meditation, to be read before each decade, St. Jose Maria explains the feelings and thoughts a person might have when experiencing the things that Scripture and Tradition say happened during the events in the mysteries.

If you want to go even deeper, there is a meditation published on CatholicTradition.org which goes bead by bead which is adapted from Ven. Mary of Agreda's work "City of God" (a work detailing visions she received).

However, neither of these have the Luminous Mysteries.


As for the Saint's who have given their input into the matter of the Rosary, there's no better work than St. Louis De Montfort's The Secret of the Rosary which you can also find on CatholicTradition.org (or at TAN books). It's got writings from Bl. Alan De La Roche who revived what St. Dominic was handed from Our Lady herself. He also received visions and messages from The Virgin Mary on how and why to meditate on the mysteries of the Rosary:

She also taught it to Blessed Alan de la Roche and said to him in a vision: "When people say one hundred and fifty Angelic Salutations this prayer is very helpful to them and is a very pleasing tribute to me. But they will do better still and will please me even more if they say these salutations while meditating on the life, death and passion of Jesus Christ----for this meditation is the soul of this prayer."

But you're right, it is difficult to discern when you're meditating on the words and when you're meditating on the mysteries. Because St. Louis also wrote this, concerning the Our Father:

People who say Our Lord's Prayer carefully, weighing every word and meditating upon it, may indeed call themselves blessed for they find therein everything that they need or can wish for.

Nevertheless, it would seem that mediating on the Lord Prayer inbetween the mysteries is more important and that Bl. Alan also says that you can't possibly fathom the meaning of "Hail Mary" so it's a mystery within a mystery. The best advice I can glean from The Secret of the Rosary is that the meditation on the Hail Mary beads is mystery-related and the meditation between is on the meaning of the words of the Lord Prayer and other prayers.


Having attempted to put some of the word of St. Louis De Montfort into practice in praying the Rosary lately has greatly improved my understanding of what it means to pray the mysteries. There are several sections in the Secret of the Rosary which break down the parts of the Hail Mary and the Our Father. I believe the key to your question is in there. It's not the individual words themselves, but the parts of the prayer in reference to the mystery. The Hail Mary consists of two parts, the praise part and the petition part. So in reference to the mysteries of the Rosary, one can praise Our Lady with the frame of reference being the backdrop of the mystery you are mediating on, then ask her intercession with that same backdrop.

In any event, here is one more resource that could come in handy, St. Louis apparently taught many ways of praying the Rosary, so you might be be able to have your cake and eat it too, just not at the same time.

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