The Dominican Rosary is the most popular rosary amongst the Roman Catholics of the western world. It consists of 5 sets of 10 beads known as decades. A larger bead separates each of the decades. These beads are known as the “Pater” beads because the “Our Father” is prayed on each of these beads (see Latin translation above.) The “Pater” beads represent the mysteries of the rosary. The mysteries are centered on the life of Christ through the eyes of his mother, Mary.
There are four different sets of mysteries that can be prayed with the Dominican rosary:
• The joyful mysteries which focus on Christ’s birth
• The sorrowful mysteries which focus on the suffering and death of Jesus
• The glorious mysteries which focus on the resurrection and our eternal life
• The luminous mysteries which focus on the teachings of Jesus
On each of the decades of the Dominican Rosary, the “Hail Mary” is prayed. This prayer is taken from the story of Mary’s visit with Elizabeth in Luke 1:39-56. The decade beads are also known as the “ave” beads.
When I read Beads & Prayers; The Rosary in History and Devotion by John D. Miller, I learned that the word “hail” is translated from the Greek word “chaire,” which is a secular greeting much like “hello” in English. The word “chaire” translated into Latin is “ave.” In the verb tense, the word “chairein” can be translated as “rejoice.” With this in mind, it becomes obvious why the Orthodox Church uses “Rejoice, Virgin Mother of God” in place of the “Hail Mary.”
Contrary to some beliefs, Catholics do not pray to Mary; they ask Mary to pray for them. Just as we may ask family, friends, etc. to pray for us, we ask Mary to pray for us in the rosary. If we believe the words of the Apostles Creed, we believe in the communion of saints, which includes Christians living today as well as those who have died.