The St. Henry Morse Rosary Group meets at 9:40am on Saturday morning and prays the rosary before Mass. All are welcome.
ABOUT THE ROSARY
The 150 Davidic Psalms (the Psalter of David) have always been prayed by Old Testament Israel, post-Temple Jews, and by Christians for personal prayer, communal prayer, lamentations, praise, thanksgiving, and, in the case of Christians, to demonstrate the fulfilment of prophecy.
They came to form a large part of the Divine Office sung at the various canonical hours by religious. Lay people who didn't have copies of Scripture or the Breviary and lay people and religious who were illiterate would substitute 150 Pater Nosters (Our Fathers) or Aves (Hail Marys) in place of the 150 Psalms they could not read.
The prayers were originally counted by transferring pebbles from one bag to another, but soon enough Christians began to tie a rope with knots on which to count. This evolved further into using beads or pieces of wood in place of the knots, and this soon came to be called the "Psalter of the Laity." Around the end of the first millennium, Rosaries contained the present five decades (sets of ten beads), with the Ave beads shaped like white lilies for the purity of the Virgin, and the Pater beads shaped like red roses for the wounds and Passion of Christ.
St. Dominic de Guzman popularized the Marian Psalter in the form we have it today (150 Aves with a Pater after each 10) when Our Lady encouraged him to pray it that way in response to the Albigensian heresy. So associated with the Rosary is St. Dominic that the Rosary is often called the "Dominican Rosary."
Our Lady also appeared to the children at Fatima and asked that the Rosary be prayed daily, including the "Fatima Prayer," as part of what must be done in order to prevent Russia from spreading its errors throughout the world (the other things being the faithful wearing of the Brown Scapular, the First Five Saturdays Devotion, acts of reparation and sacrifice, and the Consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart by the Pope and all the Bishops in union with him. This last has not been done).
The Rosary, thus, has always been a weapon against heresy and trouble; in fact, the 7 October 1571 victory of Christendom over Islamic warriors at the Battle of Lepanto - the first naval victory against the infidels - was attributed directly to the Rosaries prayed by the faithful.
While non-Catholics see the Rosary as a mindless chant, what they don't understand is that the Rosary is a meditation on the lives of Mary and Jesus. Each decade (each set of 10 Ave beads in the circular part of the Rosary beads) represents a single Mystery in their lives, and as the prayers are prayed, we contemplate that particular Mystery. There are 3 sets of 5 Mysteries - the Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious Mysteries.
One set of Mysteries is traditionally prayed on different days of the week, and one who prays a single set (i.e., 50 Aves) can be said to have "prayed the Rosary," but, literally, a complete Psalter consists of all 15 Mysteries (150 Aves, going around the beads three times + the 3 Aves that introduce the Rosary). The typical way of Rosary-praying - i.e., praying a third of a Rosary - is more accurately, but uncommonly, called praying a "chaplet." (Note that there are many, many different kinds of chaplets - some to Jesus, some to the Holy Ghost, some to Mary and the other Saints, etc. - each with different arrangements of prayers and many having their own style of beads). Like the Mass, what you take emotionally from the Rosary is what you bring to it, but in any case, emotional highs aren't the point of prayer. Prayer is for the glory of God.
The Rosary beads themselves can be made of stone, wood, crystal - even Bakelite or plastic, and they can be of any colour (sometimes the Ave beads will be of one colour and the Pater beads of another). They are often bought according to one's birthstone, but as a general rule, men prefer black or wood rosaries, and women prefer white or coloured ones. Where the two halves of the Rosary come together is a centrepiece, usually a medal with a depiction of the Sacred Heart, Our Lady, and/or a Saint. Most Rosaries are bought pre-made from Catholic gift shops, but there are also many Rosary makers who can put together a customized Rosary for you with your choice of beads and centrepiece.
There are also small 1-decade Rosaries that are meant to be highly portable. They're called "Pocket Rosaries" (some are sold to be used in car travel and are sometimes called "Auto Rosaries" or "Car Rosaries"). There are also 1-decade Rosaries that are worn on the wrist, and 1-decade "Rosary Rings" (see picture at right) worn on the index finger during prayer time (i.e., they're not worn as jewellery). All of these types of Rosaries would be used the same way as ordinary Rosaries, but one would count the same beads 5 times after the introductory prayers. There are also very long 15-decade Rosaries so that one can pray all of the Mysteries, going around the beads only once; these are mostly for the use of religious.
INDULGENCES ATTACHED TO THE ROSARY
A partial indulgence is gained, under the usual conditions, when praying a third of the Rosary (5 decades) continuously (i.e., one can't say a decade, go wash the dishes, and return to say the other decades).
A plenary indulgence is gained, under the usual conditions, when it is prayed by a family group or publicly in a church or oratory. The decades' Mysteries must be announced, and the Mysteries meditated on.
ODDS AND ENDS
Before we get started, the answer to the commonly asked question, "how long does it take to pray the Rosary?": around 20 minutes. Of course, one could feasibly spend much longer if one is in deep meditation, pausing between the Aves, etc. And to the question, "Does one have to have beads to pray the Rosary?" the answer is no! You can count the prayers any way you choose, but the use of the beads is traditional.
On a cultural note, there is a song, written by Robert Cameron Rogers and Ethelbert Nevin, called "The Rosary." It has been recorded many times by many different artists, but most famously by Perry Como.
One final thing before the instructions: a traditional way to keep your Rosary when not in use is to hang it from two pegs such that the middle section swoops down, forming a heart shape reminiscent of Mary's Immaculate Heart.