One of the "holes" in my Catholic education was understanding the Marian devotions -- to this day, I can't remember all the mysteries of the rosary without some prompting, nor do I have a clear understanding of why folks for centuries have been praying these beads.
Linking Your Beads: The Rosary's History, Mysteries, and Prayers. Reading a bit like a doctoral thesis (but with a light-hearted touch as to make it very readable), this book has explained so much to me. Kasten starts with the background devotion of using beads or other markers when reciting prayers. She links the rosary to the Desert Fathers who would recite each of the 150 psalms while they went through their work-day. To keep track of which psalm they were on, the good men would used beads on a string. These beads eventually shifted to people using them to recite the Our Father or other prayers -- beads on a string help us to keep track (something that is quite important in our hectic modern world!).
The entry of the rosary -- with it's now-four sets of mysteries (Venerable John Paul the Great added the 5 Luminous Mysteries to the traditional Glorious, Joyful and Sorrowful mysteries in his apostolic letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae in October 2002), has been prayed with slight modifications for 500-600 years. Although traditionally attributed to St. Dominic (1170-1221), Kasten explains that the popular use of the rosary only dates to about the 15th century -- but the spread of its usage throughout Europe is definitely from the Domincan preachers who traveled Europe, catechizing the peoples.
Kasten than walks the reader through every piece of the rosary -- from the sign of the cross at the beginning of the devotion, through the Apostle's Creed, the Our Fathers, the Hail Marys, the Glory Bes (also known as the "doxology"), the Salve Regina, and the final AMEN. She explains the background behind each of these prayers and why they are included in the rosary. She also quickly points out that the rosary, as with all prayer, leads us to a devotion to Jesus and God's love; the rosary does this through meditation on the life of Jesus:
- in the Joyful Mysteries: the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Birth, the Presentation and the finding of the Child Jesus in the temple
- in the Luminous Mysteries: baptism of our Lord, wedding feast at Cana, proclamation of the kingdom, transfiguration and the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper
- in the Sorrowful Mysteries: the agony in the garden, the scourging at the pillar, the crowning with thorns, the carrying of the cross and the crucifixion
- in the Glorious Mysteries: the Resurrection, the Ascension, Pentecost, Assumption of Mary and the coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth.
This is an amazing book -- filled with the author's deep love of the rosary, a deep love she wants to share with her readers. I highly recommend this book -- especially for those of us who have this "hole" in our Catholic understanding. This book will fill that hole!
This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Linking Your Beads:The Rosary's History, Mysteries and Prayers. They are also a great source for serenity prayer and baptism gifts.