I was blessed to come across a beautiful magazine from the Little Sisters of the Poor called 'Safe Home' ... this article is really very beautiful and I thought I would share it with you ....as we approach October the month of the Holy Rosary:
Praying the Rosary Remains a Trusted Route to the Intercession of Our Blessed Mother
May and October have traditionally been set aside for months of devotion to Our Blessed Lady, most especially through the praying of the Rosary. So it seemed a good time to look into some of the background for the use of beads for praying.
The word Rosary comes from Rosarius, which means a garland or bouquet of roses. The old English name found in Chaucer was a "pair of beads", in which the word bead originally meant prayers.
When prayers had to be repeated a number of times people thought up different ways of keeping count of the prayers other than just using their fingers - which provided only a limited number! and in nearly all countries of the world prayer counters have been discovered with differing numbers of beads.
The bead string used by Mohammedans, for example consisting of 33, 66 or 99 was used for centuries for counting devotionally the names of Allah. In the 13th Century, Marco Polo discovered that the King of Malabar used a Rosary of 104 precious stones to count his prayers; amd St Francis of Assisi noted that Buddhists of Japan universally used Rosaries. In the Greek Church, a cord with a hundred knots was used to count genuflections and signs of the cross. And as far back as the fourth century, Paul the Hermit set himself the task repeating 300 particular prayers every day. In order to keep track, he gathered up 300 pebbles and threw one away each time he finished a prayer.
Down the centuries evidence has found that devoted people devised different ways of keeping count of prayers. In the 11th and 12th centuries it became the practice to thread items onto cord, pebbles, berries or bone discs. Around 1075 the Countess Godeva of Coventary willed to a statue of Our Lady in a certain monastery, "the circlet of precious stones which she threaded on a cord in order that by fingering them one after another she might count her prayers exactly."
In the Middle ages these strings of beads were often known as 'Paternosters' suggesting that they were originally used to count Our Fathers. The 'Hail Mary' only came into general use as a prayer in the middle of the 12th Century. Initially, the first part of the prayer was used as a salutation rather than a prayer. The Second part of the Hail Mary, the intercessory prayer to Mary, seems to date from about the 11th Century and was gradually adopted by the church in general, with the whole prayer being finally fixed in its present form during the 16th Century. It was during the latter half of the 12th century that the practise of reciting 50 or 150 Ave Marias became widely familiar.
The Rosary is often described as the 'prayer of the people', as it can appeal to both the learned and the simple. It was St Jean Jugan's simple faith which led her to say, "The Hail Mary will take us to Heaven". Its use has been endorsed by many of the Popes, who commend it to their flock as a simple and effective method of meditation on the mysteries of our faith.
Pope Francis (as Cardinal Bergoglio in 2005) wrote about why he himself prays the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary every day. In 1985 he had been present during a time when Pope John Paul II was praying the Rosary:
'I felt that this man, chosen to lead the Church, was following a path up to his Mother in the sky, a path set out on from his childhood. I understood the presence of Mary in the life of the Pope.'
The Rosary rightly holds a special place in the hearts of many Catholics, simply because - when all other methods of prayer fail to engage the concentration - praying the Rosary remains a trusted route to the intercession of Our Lady, whose love for us and her Son will always compensate for our poor efforts at prayer.