Catholic Online

CWN provides reliable world news and commentary from a Catholic perspective, availble exclusively at

Login Form

Like GNCN on Facebook

Know Your Faith


History of The Rosary

It is usually suggested that the rosary began as a practice by the laity to imitate the monastic Office (Breviary or Liturgy of the Hours), by which monks prayed the 150 Psalms. The laity, many of whom could not read, substituted 50 or 150 Ave Marias for the Psalms. Sometimes a cord with counters on it was used to keep an accurate count.

The first clear historical reference to the rosary, however, is from the life of St. Dominic (+1221), the founder of the Order of Preachers or Dominicans. He preached a form of the rosary in France at the time that the Albigensian heresy was devastating the faith there. Tradition has it that the Blessed Mother herself asked for the practice as an antidote for heresy and sin.

One of Dominic's future disciples, Alain de Roche, began to establish Rosary Confraternities to promote the praying of the rosary. The form of the rosary we have today is believed to date from his time. Over the centuries the saints and popes have highly recommended the rosary, the greatest prayer in the Church after the Mass and Liturgy of the Hours. Not surprisingly, it's most active promoters have been Dominicans.

Rosary means a crown of roses, a spiritual bouquet given to the Blessed Mother. It is sometimes called the Dominican Rosary, to distinguish it from other rosary-like prayers (e.g. Franciscan Rosary of the Seven Joys, Servite Rosary of the Seven Sorrows). It is also, in a general sense, a form of chaplet or corona (also referring to a crown), of which there are many varieties in the Church. Finally, in English it has been called "Our Lady's Psalter" or "the beads." This last derives from an Old English word for prayers (bede) and to request (biddan or bid).

Answered by Colin B. Donovan, STL




This traditional Catholic practice makes many ‘Protestants’ hair stand on end.  They believe that Catholics, who call priests “father,” blatantly violate Christ’s prohibition in Scripture, “Call no man ‘father’” (cf. Matthew 23:9).  In my book Where Is that in the Bible? I provide you with many biblical citations Catholics can use to demonstrate that this Catholic practice is not a violation of the Lord’s command; rather, we can summarize those biblical evidences this way: Christ’s intention was to steer us away from looking to any human being as if he was our father in the way only God is our Father.  His intention was not to prohibit us from literally referring to priests as “father” and we can prove that by the fact that, while under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, St. Stephen publically addressed the Jewish leaders as “my brothers and fathers” (cf. Acts 7:2). St. Paul also added that “though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers.  For I became you father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.  I urge you, then, be imitators of me” (1 Corinthians 4:15-16, SCV).


The understanding of that Gospel passage was clear in the early Church.  The custom of calling bishops and priests “father” arose very early.  Even the custom of calling the bishop of Rome “pope” derives from the affectionate Latin work of “father”: papa.


Source: Madrid, Patrick. Why Is That in Tradition? (T10). Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor, 2002. Print.