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Many religions have a tradition of using patterns or counting devices to absorb the body while the spirit freewheels. A solitaire board was found in the grave of an early nun in Egypt, and people have used an abacus; but the traditional Rosary is a knotted cord or a string of beads. If you have one, you may like to try using it. The idea is to move your fingers over the beads as you say prayers you know by heart while in your mind you hold one of the ‘mysteries’, as some of the traditional themes for meditation are called.

On a traditional rosary there are five groups of ten beads, each separated by a single bead, or one of a different colour. From the bottom hangs a tail, with one then three then one bead, and finally a crucifix. Holding the crucifix, you say the Apostles’ Creed; on the first bead you say the Our Father, then the Hail Mary on the next three as you think about the work of Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and the Glory be on the last. As you move round the five groups of ten, you say the Our Father on the bead that separates each one, and the Hail Mary on each of the ten.

The traditional themes for meditation are:

The Five Joyful Mysteries
The Annunciation of the Angel to Mary Luke 1:26-38
The Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth Luke 1:39-56
The Nativity of our Lord Luke 2:1-10
The Presentation in the Temple Luke 2:22-38
Finding Jesus among the Doctors in the Temple Luke 2:41-52
The Five Sorrowful Mysteries
The Agony in the Garden Luke 22:39-46
The Scourging at the Pillar Matthew 27:11-26
The Crowning with Thorns Matthew 27:26-31
The Carrying of the Cross Luke 23:26-32
The Crucifixion and Death of our Lord Luke 23:32-47
The Five Glorious Mysteries
The Resurrection Luke 24:13-35
The Ascension Acts 1:1-11
The Coming of the Holy Spirit on the Church Acts 2:1-13
The Assumption of our Lady cf Luke 1:42-50
The Coronation of our Lady Revelation 12:1-6

If you are helped by this pattern of praying, you may like to vary it, either by substituting the Jesus Prayer for the Hail Mary, or by composing other Mysteries from the life and teachings of our Lord, or the saints. Pope John Paul II added another, asking that it be prayed especially on Sundays.

The Five Mysteries of Light
Christ’s Baptism in the Jordan Mark 1:1-10
Christ’s self-revelation at the first miracle in Cana John 2:1-11
Christ’s announcement of the Kingdom of God,
with the invitation to conversion Matthew 4:12-22
Christ’s Transfiguration,
when he revealed his glory to the Apostles Mark 9:2-8
The institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper Mark 14:12-26

Our Lady of the Way
Pray for us
Our Lady of Walsingham
Pray for us


1. Sing we of the blessèd Mother
Who received the angel’s word,
And obedient to his summons
Bore in love the infant Lord;
Sing we of the joys of Mary
At whose breast that child was fed
Who is Son of God eternal
And the everlasting Bread.

2. Sing we, too, of Mary’s sorrows,
Of the sword that pierced her through,
When beneath the cross of Jesus
She his weight of suffering knew,
Looked upon her Son and Saviour
Reigning high on Calvary’s tree,
Saw the price of man’s redemption
Paid to set the sinner free.

3. Sing again the joys of Mary
When she saw the risen Lord,
And in prayer with Christ’s apostles,
Waited on his promised word:
From on high the blazing glory
Of the Spirit’s presence came,
Heavenly breath of God’s own being,
Manifest through wind and flame.

4. Sing the chiefest joy of Mary
When on earth her work was done,
And the Lord of all creation
Brought her to his heavenly home:
Virgin mother, Mary blessèd,
Raised on high and crowned with grace,
May your Son, the world’s redeemer,
Grant us all to see his face.

G.B. Timms b.1910
(Methodist Minister)

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