A friend died and I went to the Rosary. What was that all about?

A friend of mine died Tuesday and the Rosary was held today. I have spent very little time attending Catholic services, so I didn’t really know what to expect. Can any of you take a moment to explain what all that was?

A woman spoke and they were obviously prayers. This went on over and over. Each time, she began with a one line introduction (as near as I could tell, a phase of Jesus’ life). This introduction was followed by her saying the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer and the mourners chorally saying the last half. Then a whole bunch of stuff, ending with a prayer in Spanish. Then, this whole process began again. I saw many of the women clutching beads in their hands. I did not see any men with beads. Some of the mourners were clutching cards with Jesus’ image on one side and some text on the other.

After all of this, the woman speaking consoled the mother, husband, and daughters of the deceased. She then approached the body, prayed for a moment, and exited. Two new women went to a kneeling rail in front of the casket and the whole process began again, this time entirely in Spanish. The Spanish speaking mourners, both men and women, repeated various prayers that the women began.

After this, some songs were sung and some stories were read, all in Spanish. As this was going on, mourners went to visit the family of the deceased.

Now, I consider myself to be Christian. I know the Lord’s Prayer and have been in various Protestant churches. I haven’t done much in Catholic churches. Who teaches all of these prayers? I can’t imagine funerals happen so often that everyone, even the children, have memorized all these things. I know that the beads are Rosary beads, but what are they for? What were these cards about?

I am not intending to make light of any of this or argue whether it is right or wrong, or anything like that. It’s clearly not my sort of thing, but it’s okay if others find meaning in it. I’m just curious what it all meant.

If it matters, the deceased was a thirty-four year-old Hispanic married mother of three girls. Her name is Belinda and she died of a heart attack.

The Rosary is a prayer to Mary, the Mother of Jesus. (AKA the Virgin Mary, or the Blessed Mother). The beads are to keep track of the prayers as they are said. I can’t remember how many decades are in a Rosary, but each decade starts with an Our Father, then 10 Hail Marys. And then, there’s a Glory Be said in between, or before each, I can’t remember that either.

The Hail Mary:

*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

I think the Nicene Creed is said at the beginning. Damn, it’s been a while since I’ve done a Rosary. Longer than I care to remember.

Typically, the person leading the Rosary says the first part, the “Hail Mary, full of grace” stanza, and then the congregation joins in on the “Holy Mary, Mother of God” part.

(Dopers if I’m wrong, I appologize, like I said, it’s been a looooong time!)

More than you really want to know about the Rosary.

The first stanza of the Hail Mary commemorates the angel Gabriel telling Mary that she had been chosen to bear the Saviour. The second stanza is the actual prayer to the Mother of God. (Note that contrary to the belief among some that Catholics “worship” the Virgin, it’s a request for her intercession before the Throne.)

ODF, surprised that he remembered so much of the subject. Except that the “Luminous Mysteries” are a new one on me.

There are five decades in the rosary. A rosary can be said while contemplating the sorrowful, joyful or glorious mysteries. What it really is is a Catholic method of meditation. Once you have the form down, the repetition of the prayers sort of decenters your mind, so that you’re open to insights into the nature of God.

That, and I’d like to add condolences for your loss.

As for the children knowing the prayer by heart, doesn’t surprise me. The Hail Mary is probably the first prayer a Catholic child learns, very early on. By the time I was six, I probably could have recited it in my sleep.

As for the cards – we called them ‘holy cards’ back when I was in Catholic school. We got them all the time. They’re fairly inexpensive, a bit cheaper than a postcard in most cases unless they’re very elaborate, and I guess are something like a physical prayer. Lots of them have various Jesuses on them – Jesus with the Sacred Heart, Jesus on the Cross, Jesus just being Jesus. Lots, lots more have various saints. My mother collects these in particular; you’d be amazed how many of them end up as bookmarks in books that finally get sold at used bookstores. :smiley:

I remember hearing a priest tell the story of ministering to the appallingly poor in some rather unfortunate area of Mexico. He gave a woman several hundred dollars so that she could build a more permanent home for herself and her family – cinder blocks, I think, instead of dried and rotting wood.

Instead of buying the blocks, she bought dozens and dozens of holy cards and papered her entire little house with them. :frowning:

“Yeah,” he said, “after that we just started building their houses. Easier all around.”

You tend to get a lot of prayer cards from funerals-my dad has a whole mess of them.

I also used to get a lot of them in school.

For what it is worth, I feel for the family of your friend. I hope that peace will be with them and comfort them.

They were added to the traditional sorrowful, glorious and joyful mysteries in 2002 by the late Pope John Paul II.

There are also the Luminous Mysteries (added in 2002).

The links and discussion do a decent job of describing the form and content of the rosary. I would add a little more on the use of the rosary.

The rosary is a meditative prayer. Each recitation of a Hail Mary is not intended to be prayed in the manner of an individual appeal to God. Rather the repetition of the same verses over and over (verses that have long been memorized so that one does not have to read them or even consciously attend to them during the recitation), provides a state in which one can concentrate the mind on contemplating the Mysteries. Buddhists have a similar prayer techniquie in which they also “count” prayers on beads while they meditate on some belief of deeper meaning than the indiviual prayer.

I suspect that the earliest rosaries were composed of far fewer individual prayers and that the addition of extra prayers were simply accretions that someone thought was a “good idea” at one time or another that got added to the ritual.

Since it is based on a set of prayers that all Catholics know and provides a ritual that does not require that a priest lead it, I suspect that it came to be a popular prayer at gatherings where a contemplative prayer would be more appropriate than a full religious service. (In other words, when the family and friends of the deceased would gather in the evening, they could all recite this prayer together, even if they could not get a priest out to the house before the actual funeral.) Since it is meditative in nature, they could concentrate on their wishes for the deceased, individually, but the antiphonal nature of the individual prayers (a leader beginning each prayer and the rest of the group reciting the ending), lends itself to a community service. No one has to prepare a sermon. No one has to select specific biblical readings (provided anyone could read). No one has to be trained and ordained to perform specific rituals.

Over the years, the rosary has fallen out of common use in some Catholic cultures, (particularly in the U.S.), so what used to be a very common experience in the U.S. tends to be limited to a few (generally ethnic immigrant) groups.

As to the difference between the actions of the men and women, for some reason a number of cultures came to view the rosary as a “woman’s” prayer and a lot of men in those cultures do not keep actual rosaries on their person. Since the prayers are recited antiphonally, no one other than the leader actually has to have a physical rosary in their hands. So the women (who already have a rosary in their purse) will haul their beads out during the prayer while the men simply respond to what has been spoken.

And in case you’re interested, here’s the whole Rosary in English and Spanish.

You can see how the repetition in it easily leads to a meditative state.

A lot of Catholic men tend to have the plain, ordinary black beaded rosaries-I think my dad’s are like that, and my grandfather’s too.

Among Catholics, too, you tend to get tons of those things-the cheap, plastic ones, and the nicer sets. I still have my mother-of-pearl beads from my First Communion.

That explains it. The last time I “jiggled the beads” was at my mother’s Rosary in 1979. Thanks.

May I add (and I hope it’s not too inappropriate to say so in GQ) that it’s very nice to see a question on the SDMB about religion – Catholicism, even – that is answered respectfully without any snide comments from the militant athiest set?

A pleasant change.

How does one decide if they’d like to do a Rosary for the dead? All but one funeral I’ve been to has been Catholic (I’m not, ftr) but I’ve never seen a Rosary done.

My regrets and sympathy Drum God and for your friend’'s family.

As mentioned by tom~, the system of repetitive ritual prayer is used by many religions as a way of creating a state-of-mind for contemplation of the sacred; plus, ritual prayer that does not require ordained clergy is useful when you may not always have access to a Priest.

And Drum God the ritualistic prayers are learned early on and will stay with you if you get the chance of hearing them often enough. Think of the Pledge of Allegiance or the first verse of the Star Spangled Banner. Remember, the full practicew of Catholicism involves full attendance at Masses and Rosaries and other celebrations where you will participate in many call/response prayers. We’re not just taling Lord’s Prayer/Hail Mary/Gloria/Salve, Regina but also major parts of the Mass, the Creeds, the Act of Contrition, a number of Litanies, and so forth.

It is up to the family. There are a series of standard setups (e.g. the wake, or the novenas and other such based upon a specific number of days, months, etc. from death) but basically any group of Catholics can decide to have a Rosary.

If you get the US-based or Satellite TV channel EWTN (“Eternal Word Tlevision Network”), you will find Rosaries being broadcast mornings and evenings.

The family and friends of the deceased just decide to meet in the church and say the Rosary. It doesn’t require much organisation. I’ve been at several funerals in the last couple of months where people have got together in the church the night before, said the Rosary and then sung the Office of the Dead.

I’ve never seen the Rosary said at a funeral but I often see it said at wakes. Possibly more often than the average Catholic, since I am a member of my parish’s Rosary Altar Society, and we attend the wake of a deceased member as a group and say the Rosary.

As I understand it, it’s Apostles Creed, Lord’s Prayer, three Hail Marys, The Glory Be, the O my Jesus Fatima prayer, and then five decades, each beginning with the Our Father and closing with the Glory Be and the Fatima prayer. At the end you pray a prayer that I can only remember half of, which starts “Hail, Holy Queen”.

Is it really the Nicene creed?

The Eastern Orthodox churches uses knotted prayer cords in a similar way. Each knot is a Jesus Prayer (some variation on “Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner”). As tom mentioned, it’s a meditative form of prayer. I find it a lot easier to concentrate while doing something that reminds me physically of where my attention should be than when I’m doing free prayer.
Ritual prayers really do stick. I can still recite the whole Anglican Morning Prayer service. The Rosary was a cinch, except for the weird mental block on remembering the Hail Holy Queen part.

Is the Fatima prayer generally added, or only used by some?