How to Pray the Rosary: Contemplating Christ With Mary

Learn how to pray the Rosary — it will change your life!

I admit: I used to think it was a quaint, old-fashioned, outdated devotion. Old ladies said the Rosary. But serious people didn't find it useful anymore. Right?


Once I learned how to pray the Rosary, I was hooked.

The Rosary is an incredible prayer. It's deceptively simple, and profoundly deep. A simple vocal prayer, and a school of silent contemplation. It's as small as a palm full of beads, and as wide as the Gospels.

The Rosary taught me about Mary. She used the Rosary to teach me about Christ.

Give a huge boost to your faith: learn how to pray the Rosary.

This article with teach you step by step.

With pictures!

What is the Rosary?

The term "The Rosary" refers to both a prayer and a physical object.

  • The physical object is a set of Rosary beads
  • The prayer involves using the Rosary beads to keep track of where you are. (It's a long prayer.)

I'll use the term "Rosary beads" to refer to the physical object, and "the Rosary" to refer to the prayer.

The Rosary is a simple prayer. It takes just a couple of minutes to learn how to pray the Rosary. Its basic structure is:

  1. An introduction (a few brief prayers)
  2. A series of five decades, each contemplating a mystery of the Christian faith
  3. A conclusion (another few brief prayers)

What's a "decade"?

Well, it'll be easier to show you in the picture, in just a second. (See the downloadable, one-page sheet on how to pray the Rosary.) But for now...

The main loop of a set of Rosary beads is divided into five decades. Each decade has a single bead, a space, and then ten beads.

You follow the beads with your fingers as you say each prayer.

When you start a decade, you name the mystery for it. (Don't worry — there's a list of them you'll follow!) Then you say an Our Father on the single bead, followed by ten Hail Marys, one for each of the ten beads. Then you end the decade with a Glory Be.


But what's the point?

Well, it's all about the mystery for that decade. These are the central mysteries of the Christian faith: the Nativity, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, etc.

When you learn how to pray the Rosary, you learn about prayer itself.

As you say the prayers, you think about the current decade's mystery. The Rosary is actually a combination of all three main forms of Christian prayer: vocal, meditation, and contemplation.

  • It's vocal prayer because you're constantly saying the words of some prayers.
  • It's meditative prayer because you're using Christian meditation to pray, using both the mystery and the words of the vocal prayers as source material.
  • It's contemplative prayer because sometimes you also just sit in a kind of inner silence with Mary, just watching Christ and being in love, contemplating his love for us in the mystery at hand.

The beauty of the Rosary is that it easily lets you move back and forth among these three types of prayer. When the vocal prayer becomes routine, you let your mind wander to the mystery. When your attention wanders in meditation, you can fix its focus on the words of the prayers. All the while, your fingers move in a slow rhythm over the beads, keeping track of where you are, leading you to the next vocal prayer.

It is a deeply peaceful prayer.

Learning how to pray the Rosary will bring a beautiful period of peace into your daily life.

So how do I learn
How to pray the Rosary?

Print out the one page visual guide to the Rosary, and follow it.

You'll be an expert in no time!

That one-page guide was written by a terrific Catholic website, I've made it available here, too, for your convenience (the instructions on the sheet say to freely copy & distribute it):

(Of course, you can also get it from their own home page — here's a link to for you, and look for their text about how to pray the Rosary.)

There's one more thing you need that's not in the New Advent guide to the Rosary...

The graces for each mystery

It's traditional to pray for a specific grace for each mystery. We ask God to grant us that grace — to help us grow in some virtue related to that mystery.

When I learned how to pray the Rosary, I needed a second sheet so I could keep track of the graces for each mystery.

So I've created another printable sheet for you:

Just try it!

I encourage you to give it a try.

If it takes too long at first, you can shorten it. Some ways to shorten it are to say just one full decade a day, or to say all five decades but with only one Hail Mary per decade.

The Rosary is one of the most beautiful Catholic prayers. With Mary, we watch the mysteries of Christ's life unfold. In the Rosary, Mary teaches us about Christ, leads us to Christ, and prays with us in Christ.

So give yourself an incredible gift: Learn how to pray the Rosary!

See the main article on How to Pray for more sound guidance for easily developing your prayer life. There's a separate section with lots of wonderful basic Catholic prayers.

See our home page for more articles for the beginning Catholic.