Where Does the Rosary Come From? [Parishioner Reflection]


This year, St Dominic’s feast day is Thursday, August 8. Tradition tells us that he received the Rosary prayer from Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary. He found success combating the Albigensian heresy through the spreading of the Holy Rosary. The Albigensian heresy was a dualistic belief system that saw the body and material world as evil and the soul as good. An evil principle or god was behind the creation of the physical world and is the source of all evil. An opposing good principle or god created the spiritual world. The only hell is life on earth where the soul is trapped in the body. Death, which frees the soul from the body, is salvation.
As you can guess, Albigensianism rejects all Catholic dogmas that support the goodness of the body or of the created material world. For example, they denied that Christ really took on flesh; he only appeared to have a body. Let’s consider how the Rosary could combat some of these harmful errors.
But first, in case anyone is a new Catholic or unfamiliar with the Rosary, let me give a brief description. The Rosary is a prayer that includes both words and meditation. The main words are the Lord’s Prayer and the Hail Mary. After an introduction that includes the sign of the cross, recitation of the Apostles Creed, and the Glory Be, the Rosary proceeds with one Our Father followed by ten Hail Marys. That is called a decade. During each decade one meditates on one mystery from the life of Christ or the Blessed Virgin Mary. Each set of mysteries includes five mysteries, thus the common practice of a five-decade Rosary. A friend or a quick Internet search can provide a more detailed explanation of how to pray the Rosary.  Here’s one helpful overview.
Now let us consider why the Rosary might have succeeded in turning people from the error of Albigensianism. First of all, the Apostles Creed strengthens Catholics in the true faith:
  • I believe in God, the Father Almighty. From the beginning the idea of a good god versus an evil god is put aside since the Catholic faith teaches that there is one God who is all powerful.
  • Creator of heaven and earth. The one true God is also the maker of both the spiritual and material worlds, of all things.
  • Born of the Virgin Mary. We see Christ’s true incarnation affirmed. He really had a human body.
  • Suffered under Pontius Pilate. The Albigenses didn’t believe in Christ’s real suffering but only that he appeared to suffer. He therefore also did not really die nor rise from the dead.
  • But our creed affirms that he was crucified, died and was buried…on the third day He rose again from the dead. Just as they denied Christ’s resurrection, they also denied the resurrection of people at the end of time. The body was evil so they could not conceive that the soul would ever reunite with the body in the way Catholicism affirms.
  • But the Creed reminds us that there is the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.

We’ve hardly begun the Rosary and yet so much of the Albigensian error has been dismissed!

Moving on to the mysteries of each decade we can see many more ways to refute Albigensianism:

  • The first Joyful Mystery is the Annunciation. Here the angel tells Mary that she will conceive and bear a son who is Jesus, again affirming that Jesus will take on flesh.
  • The first Sorrowful Mystery is the Agony in the Garden, where Jesus is preparing to truly suffer on the Cross, but the Albigenses would say it was only the appearance of suffering.
  • The first Glorious Mystery is the Resurrection, reminding us that Jesus had the power to lay down his life and take it up again, and helping us envision our own future Resurrection.
  • The first Luminous mystery, from the set of five mysteries added by Pope St. John Paul II, is the Baptism of the Lord. Here we can think of the importance of the seven Sacraments of the Church that make use of visible signs to communicate invisible grace. Our bodies and souls receive baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist, not merely our souls.

These are perhaps some of the reasons the practice of the Rosary was effective against the Albigensian heresy. Regular praying of the Rosary could expose the errors of the heresy for what they were. I focused on how praying the Rosary enlightens one with the truths of our Catholic faith, but many other benefits could be enumerated related to the other two theological virtues: hope and charity. I believe St. John Paul II highlighted two specific benefits of praying the Rosary: the strengthening of the family and world peace, intentions especially important in our day. The Albigensian heresy may seem remote or strange, but there are modern day errors and dangers of other types against which regular praying of the Rosary can help protect us.

St. Dominic, pray for us!


~ Nathan Skinner


  • KarriePosted on 8/09/19

    This is very helpful- thank you for breaking down how the Rosary disputes the particular heresy mentioned. I agree that the Rosary is very powerful in bringing out the truths of our Faith. I briefly saw a article headline about Pew Research study that said many Catholics do not believe the Eucharist is the body and blood of Jesus. Let us pray the rosary as a means to bring people out of such error.

  • William F GibneyPosted on 8/09/19

    Thanks for the helpful overview. It has encouraged me to re-read Champions of the Rosary by Donald H. Calloway, MIC, “...probably the most comprehensive book ever written on the rosary.” A true treasure!

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