Welcome to the Ultimate Teacher’s Guide on how to teach the Holy Rosary. Keep in mind this guide aims its content at students who can grasp larger aspects of faith and the Catholic Church life. It’s probably best suited for students who are at least in junior high and can be used all the way up to adult learners.
This guide is a combination of intentionally gathered content from trusted sources and our own writing. It is by no means exhaustive but should provide you a general outline to get started.
Please see the bottom of the article for a free downloadable PDF version of this Rosary Teacher’s Guide.
We are the Everyday Prayer Co, and we started this small company, because we love and believe in the power of the Rosary. We even created a Rosary Card that fits in your wallet, please check it out here.
Introducing the Rosary
- Provide Personal Testimony
- Overview - What is the Rosary?
- Overview - The Power of the Rosary
- Common Questions and Misconceptions of the Rosary
When introducing the Rosary and how to pray it, keep in mind this is a pretty advanced prayer in the life of faith. Take your time to introduce where it came from and why it’s loved by so many Catholics. Take special care to illustrate the power of the Rosary Prayer, and several resources below will help you to do this.
A great way to start teaching the Rosary is to share your personal experience using the prayer. Students often connect to a challenging church tradition more efficaciously when there is a personal connection to the practice.
Think about how the Rosary personally affects your life. It might sound something like this:
“The Rosary works. It’s a very powerful way to pray. There is just something about it that settles our hearts and minds. It puts everything in perspective and allows us to see things as they really are. It reaches deep down into our souls and puts us at ease, creating a peace that is rare and beautiful.”
“When I pray the Rosary, I am a better person. It makes me a better son, brother, husband, father, employer, neighbor, citizen, and member of the human family. It teaches me to slow down, calm down, let go, surrender, and listen. The Rosary teaches me how to simply be, and that is not a small or insignificant lesson. It is the perfect prayer for busy people in a busy, noisy, confused world.” (From Dynamic Catholic)
It can also help to frame the Rosary in the sense of the way the prayer is ‘ordered.’ Many people can relate to the frenzied feeling of daily life. Introducing the power of the Rosary in a manner that showcases the value of order can be helpful to your students. It might sound something like this:
“We live hectic lives in a chaotic world. All this can lead to confusion that fogs the mind, unsettles the soul, and leads to poor decisions. Amidst such chaos and confusion, we long to hear God’s voice with greater clarity.”
“God wants to put things in order. He wants to rearrange our priorities. If we let him, we will be happier than we ever thought possible in this lifetime, and finally, then we will come to know the peace for which we all yearn, but so few of us ever find. Our Catholic spirituality is constantly inviting us to establish the deep roots of order in our lives, and one of the best ways I know to do that is by praying the Rosary.” (From Dynamic Catholic)
Overview - What is the Rosary
- What is the Rosary?
- The History of the Rosary
- The Story of Saint Dominic
- Meditation is the Key
Next, we move into an overview of what the Rosary is. In this section, it’s suggested to provide a simple overview of the prayer, and briefly discuss where this prayer came from in Church history. This section has the potential to re-route down many rabbit holes, and we’ve provided some resources to common questions and challenges in the following section. Each section is written in a way that you can teach or read this information to your students.
What is the Rosary?
The Rosary is a method of prayer, which involves contemplating the mysteries, or scenes, of the life of Jesus, through the eyes of his mother, Mary.
This contemplation is the heart of the Rosary. Contemplation is a form of praying in which we think about, mull over, and meditate on the specific scene. We put ourselves in the scene and make it present to us. It's a way of praying to immerse ourselves in the life of Jesus and listen to what he wants to teach us.
In many ways, the Rosary is praying alongside Mary, and seeing Jesus through her eyes. Scripture tells us that ‘Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart.’ (Luke 2:19) That is why Saint John Paul the Great wrote that the Rosary ‘though clearly Marian in character, is at heart a Christocentric prayer.’ Meaning, it is a prayer that is focused on Jesus and his life.
The word rosary comes from Latin and means a garland of roses, the rose being one of the flowers used to symbolize the Virgin Mary.
It is a simple, beautiful, prayer-focused meditation of Jesus.
The History of the Rosary
The Rosary’s roots can be traced to several early Christian prayer traditions, and its purpose and power have been directly handed to the Saints of the Catholic Church.
Third-century Christian hermits and monks in Egypt (known as Desert Fathers) used pebbles, stones, and prayer ropes to keep track when praying their daily prayer of all 150 Psalms.
Additionally, “The Jesus Prayer” (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.”) became popular. The short prayer was said over and over again in a type of mantra while counting beads.
Early Monks prayed “The Our Father” 150 times daily, using a string of beads with five decades referred to as a Paternoster (Latin for “Our Father”)
The earliest form of the rosary developed when Pope Gregory the Great (590-604) popularized an earlier version of the Hail Mary prayer by asking it to be prayed on the fourth Sunday of Advent. Many individuals began praying the Hail Mary in a repetitive fashion using a string of beads to keep track of the prayers.
After the Hail Mary prayer was fully developed into what we know today, the term “rosary” was finally given in 1597. For 320 years, from 1597 until 1917, the form of both the Hail Mary and the rosary remained the same. During those 320 years, there was much written and spoken about the rosary. Most notably, Pope Paul VI said when we pray the rosary we can experience the key moments of the Gospel. Since Vatican II, the church has experienced a new interest in the Rosary and many Catholics have used it as a daily prayer practice.
The Story of St. Dominic
It is widely believed that in 1214, Saint Dominic was given a vision of Mary where she presented him with the rosary and the prayers to be prayed.
Dominic had a great devotion to Mary and the rosary, which he promoted wherever he traveled to preach. He encouraged Catholics to gather in small groups to pray together what was an early form of the rosary together. These were quite possibly the first expressions of the prayer groups and small group Rosary communities that are still having a powerful impact today.
Meditation is the Key
When Catholics recite the twelve prayers that form a decade of the rosary, they meditate on the mystery or scene associated with that decade. If they merely recite the prayers, whether vocally or silently, they’re missing the essence of the rosary. Critics, not knowing about the meditation part, imagine the rosary must be boring, uselessly repetitious, and meaningless.
The Rosary is not meant to be a ‘vain repetition,’ but when we simply recite the words of the Rosary, shutting off our mind, the prayer can become very hallow. It’s meant to be so much more than a series of words! The Rosary is a prayer, and to that end, meant to bring us into a deeper relationship with our Lord.
“In the Rosary, we not only say prayers, we think them.” -Venerable Fulton Sheen
To enable the Rosary to be a prayer, we have to turn it into meditative prayer. As we announce each mystery, the following Our Fathers and Hail Mary's are meant to invite us into reflecting on that mystery in a deeper way.
Father Peyton explains in his book, The Family That Prays Together Stays Together, that the Rosary is more than a series of prayers to be recited. Rather, it is “a series of thoughts to be dwelt on, to be turned over in the mind, to be applied in daily life.”
This can be a concept understand, but it’s the key to unleashing the power of the Rosary. When praying the Rosary, try to let the words flow past you, almost like a chant - allowing your mind to enter into prayer.
Saint Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, explains this practice. “For a Christian, vocal prayer must spring from the heart, so that while the Rosary is said, the mind can enter into contemplation of each one of the mysteries.”
St. Josemaria Escriva also provides another simple but often overlooked suggestion. He encourages us to pronounce each Our Father and Hail Mary clearly and without rushing. In doing so, we will better express our love for Mary and Jesus. When praying the Rosary, it’s easy to fall into the trap of mumbling and rushing through the prayers. We were given these special prayers. Remembering that the Our Father was handed down to us from Jesus and that the Hail Mary is taken directly from Scripture should help us to understand the power and holiness of these words, and enter into a prayerful state.
Bonus: How to Really Pray the Rosary, Video by Ascension Presents
Overview - The Power of the Rosary
The Rosary is a prayer of power. Many leaders of the Church have spoken about the power of the Rosary and the importance of this traditional prayer. Below are several resources that speak to it's power.
Father Don Calloway to Franciscan University
The Rosary is not to be taken lightly, it’s a powerful prayer! When I first was learning about the Rosary, one of my friends told me that I needed to watch this video. He was right. I haven't found a video that illustrates the power of the Rosary Prayer, as well as Father Calloway, does in this address at the Franciscan University. He combines the history of the Rosary, real revelations from saints, and practical uses today. Father Don uses very vivid stories to explain that the Rosary is not simply a set of beads, but a Christian sword. It’s a long video, but can be watched in smaller chunks over several periods.
The Power of Praying the Rosary. Video from Father John Anthony and Father Mark-Mary with Ascension Presents
50 Powerful Quotes on the Rosary. Article from Everyday Prayer Company
The Best Rosary Youtube Videos. Article from Everyday Prayer Company
Common Questions or Misconceptions
Below is a list of common questions or challenges that you might receive from students. While not comprehensive, it should help with some of the most common ones.
What do Catholics believe about Mary? Great resource from Dynamic Catholic
Where did the beads come from? Article from Everyday Prayer Company
Why do we call it a Rosary? Video from The Religion Teacher
Why is October the month of the Rosary? Article from the Napa Institute
What are the promises of the Rosary? Article from ChurchPop
The Rosary in two minutes (Great overview) Video from Busted Halo
- The Structure of the Rosary
- The Prayers of the Rosary
- The Mysteries of the Rosary
- Making Rosaries Together
Today, Roman Catholics use a rosary made up of 59 beads. The 6 large beads are used for praying the Our Father prayer, and the 53 smaller beads are used for praying the Hail Mary prayer. Other prayers of the rosary include the Apostles’ Creed, the Glory Be, and the Hail, Holy Queen.
There are 5 decades, or groups of 10 small beads, that make up the main portion of the Rosary.
Here’s a great print-friendly PDF How to Pray the Rosary Guide to follow along in this section.
The Structure of the Rosary
- The Introductory Prayers
- The Decades
- The Conclusion Prayers
The Introductory Prayers:
The introductory prayers set the stage for the Rosary. They prepare you for deeper reflection when you pray the decades. Either before or after the introductory prayers, a great practice can be thinking of personal needs and bringing them to Mary in the Rosary. She cares for you just like a loving mother and wants to take your needs to Jesus. Take a moment to dedicate the Rosary to your needs.
- Start with the Sign of the Cross. "In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
- While holding the crucifix, say the "Apostles Creed."
- On the next single bead, pray the "Our Father." This is commonly said for the Holy Father's intentions.
- On the next three beads, pray the "Hail Mary." These beads are for meditating on the virtues of faith, hope, and love.
- On the next single bead, pray the "Glory Be."
There are five decades, or groups of 10 small beads, that make up the main portion of the rosary. You’ll find that the prayers for each decade are repeated many times. This gives you an opportunity to reflect on the words, which are deeply rooted in the Bible and Christian tradition. They are powerful and filled with meaning.
- On the bead or symbol before the first 10 bead section, first, announce the first mystery.
- Immediately following, pray the "Our Father."
- On the next 10 beads, on each bead pray the "Hail Mary."
- Immediately following, pray the "Glory Be."
- Immediately following, pray the "O My Jesus."
- On the next single bead, announce the next mystery.
- Immediately following, pray the "Our Father."
- Continue with the 10 "Hail Mary's", "Glory Be," and "O My Jesus," for each of the next four Mysteries until you are all the way around the Rosary.
The Conclusion Prayers:
- Step 1 - After saying your last "O My Jesus," immediately follow with the "Hail Holy Queen."
- Immediately follow with the "Let Us Pray."
- End with the Sign of the Cross.
Here’s a great print-friendly PDF Prayers of the Rosary Guide.
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried, He descended into hell; the third day He arose again from the dead; He ascended into Heaven, seated at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty, from there He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.
Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
Glory be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. As it was, in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
O My Jesus (The Fatima Prayer)
O my Jesus, forgive us our sins. Save us from the fires of hell. Take all souls into heaven, especially, those most in need of thy mercy. Amen.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Hail Holy Queen
Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve; To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us and after this our exile show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!
Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let Us Pray (The Rosary Prayer)
Let us Pray. O God, whose only begotten Son, by His life, death, and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal salvation. Grant, we beseech Thee, that while meditating on these mysteries of the most holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise, through Christ our Lord. Amen. Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us. Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.
The Mysteries of the Rosary
Here’s a great print-friendly PDF Mysteries of the Rosary Guide.
The Mysteries of the Rosary are specific scenes from the life of Mary and Jesus. We announce these scenes before we begin each decade and then meditate on that scene as we pray through our Hail Mary's. There are 20 mysteries in total, and they are grouped into four themes - the Glorious Mysteries, the Joyful Mysteries, the Sorrowful Mysteries, and the Luminous Mysteries. The Catholic tradition is to pray the Rosary Mysteries on certain days of the week and at certain times of the year.
The Glorious Mysteries
The Five Glorious Mysteries are traditionally prayed on Wednesdays and Sundays outside of Lent and Advent.
- The First Mystery: The Resurrection
- The Second Mystery: The Ascension
- The Third Mystery: The Nativity
- The Fourth Mystery: The Assumption
- The Fifth Mystery: The Coronation of Mary
The Joyful Mysteries
The Five Joyful Mysteries are traditionally prayed on the Mondays, Saturdays, and Sundays of Advent
- The First Mystery: The Annunciation
- The Second Mystery: The Visitation
- The Third Mystery: The Nativity
- The Fourth Mystery: The Presentation in the Temple
- The Fifth Mystery: The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple
The Sorrowful Mysteries
The Five Sorrowful Mysteries are traditionally prayed on the Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays of Lent.
- The First Mystery: The Agony in the Garden
- The Second Mystery: The Scourging at the Pillar
- The Third Mystery: The Crowning with Thorns
- The Fourth Mystery: The Carrying of the Cross
- The Fifth Mystery: The Crucifixion and Death
The Luminous Mysteries
The Five Luminous Mysteries, instituted by Pope John Paul II in 2002, are traditionally prayed on Thursdays.
- The First Mystery: The Baptism of Christ in the Jordan
- The Second Mystery: The Wedding Feast at Cana
- The Third Mystery: Proclamation of the Kingdom
- The Fourth Mystery: The Transfiguration
- The Fifth Mystery: The Institution of the Eucharist
When you announce the Mystery, take a moment to reflect on the scene, and then begin the decade with the scene in mind.
Corresponding scripture can also be read before during each mystery announcement to help picture the corresponding scene. A sample list of scripture for each Rosary can be found here.
Bonus: How to memorize what day each set of Mysteries falls on.
Make a Rosary Together
A great way to teach the mechanics of the Rosary is to have your students make Rosaries as you teach them. In-expensive Rosaries can be made from cord/string and plastic beads. As you explain each part, students can make the Rosaries.
How to Make a Cord Rosary from Our Lady’s Rosary Makers.
Putting the Rosary into Practice
After learning about the Rosary, the most important part is putting it into practice with your students. Below are a number of ideas and tips to help your students rehearse the Holy Rosary during class and develop their own personal practice.
Tip 1: Pray Along With a Video
When first starting to learn the Rosary, the easiest way to start was to learn from someone else. Praying along with a video is an easy way to watch someone model the Rosary, learn to follow along in the prayers, and learn how the Rosary is prayed in community with others.
Father Mark-Mary and Brother Malachy, Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, model how to pray the Rosary and take turns leading the decades. Both of the men are young, which helps relate to younger students especially. It’s a great video to pray together in class, and then they have a video to follow along within their own time.
Learn more about the video, including how Father Mark-Mary and Brother Malachy are great examples of ‘Rosary role-models,’ here.
Tip 2: Open Class or End Class With a Decade
An easy ritual to add to your classroom can be opening or closing class by praying a decade of the Rosary. If you don’t have time to pray an entire Rosary, a decade can help set the atmosphere of your religious education class or put a great wrap on it, without losing the student’s attention span. You can even start by asking for intentions from the students or announcing a specific Mystery and helping students to learn the meditative part of the prayer.
Asking students what came to their minds or what they imagined during the decade is another great way to emphasize the contemplative focus of the Rosary.
Tip 3: Ask a Student to Lead
When you are praying a decade as a class, or even a full Rosary, ask one of the students to lead the prayers. You can rotate students after each decade. Providing student responsibility as part of learning the Rosary is a useful practice that engages students. If the students are nervous, be sure to model how to lead the Rosary (which parts of the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Fatima Prayer the Leaders says) and provide the written prayers to them. Our PDF Guide to the Prayers of the Rosary can help as well.
Tip 4: Ask the Students to Pray With Someone Else
After the students are proficient in the mechanics of the Rosary, a great assignment is to ask the students to pray it with someone else. This could be done during class time, or it could be an assignment to do outside of class. This helps add responsibility to students, but also ownership as they will have to lead the conversation to ask someone to pray it with them. The task also provides an opportunity for the student to either learn from the example of another experienced Rosary devotee or that opportunity to teach another person.
You can follow up by asking students to report back how the experience went and how it made them felt.
Tip 5: Ask students to Pray the Rosary Every Day for a Week and Journal About It
After students have learned the Rosary well in class, a great out-of-class task is to have students pray it each day for a week and keep a journal during the process. This empowers the students to start thinking about how to make the Rosary part of their faith life and personalities the practice of the prayer. Here are some tips to pray it each day.
The addition of the journal allows students to reflect and think about how the Rosary Prayer is affecting their daily life. It’s great feedback for you as a teacher but really enables the learner to think deeper about their prayer life.
Do your students need a reminder to pray the Rosary? Here are some free phone wallpapers that can help remind them to pray the Rosary each day.
The Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen illustrates the depth of the Rosary as he 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."
The Rosary is such a special prayer, and we encourage you as a religious educator to take up the task of teaching others to make the Rosary part of their faith life. We are praying for you, and please feel free to reach out if we can be of help!
PDF - The Ultimate Guide to Teaching the Rosary
The Rosary Card - Built For Convenience
See more options here.
And don't forget about our free Rosary Guide Download. Keep Praying!