"One day through the Rosary and the Scapular I will save the world" These were the words spoken to Saint Dominic by the Blessed Virgin Mary in the year 1208 when she appeared to him. The Rosary as we know it today was in a different form in it's beginnings. Now let us look at the times before St. Dominic, at the earlier history of prayer that gave birth to the Rosary.
At an early date among the monastic orders the practice of counting prayers established itself not only of offering Masses, but of saying vocal prayers as a suffrage for their deceased brethren. For this purpose the private recitation of the 150 psalms, or of 50 psalms, the third part, was constantly enjoined. Already in A.D. 800 we learn from the compact between St. Gall and Reichenau ("Mon. Germ. Hist.: Confrat." Piper, 140) that for each deceased brother all the priests should say one Mass and also fifty psalms.
"Ancient Customs of Cluny", collected by Udalrio in 1096, that when the death of any brother at a distance was announced, every priest was to offer Mass, and every non-priest was either to say fifty psalms or to repeat fifty times the Paternoster (The Lord's Prayer).
To count these accurately there is every reason to believe that already in the eleventh and twelfth centuries a practice had come in of using pebbles, berries, or discs of bone threaded on a string. It is in any case certain that the Countess Godiva of Coventry (c 1075) left by will to the statue of Our Lady in a certain monastery "the circlet of precious stones which she had threaded on a cord in order that by fingering them one after another she might count her prayers exactly" (Malmesbury, "Gesta Pont.", Rolls Series 311). Another example seems to occur in the case of St. Rosalia (A. D. 1160), in whose tomb similar strings of beads were discovered. Even more important is the fact that such strings of beads were known throughout the Middle Ages - and in some Continental tongues are known to his day - as "Paternosters" which are Our Fathers. The evidence for this is overwhelming and comes from every part of Europe.
In the times before St. Dominic we can see that the, Paternosters, (The Lord's Prayer) was prayed, and we know from history that during St. Dominic's time The Lord's Prayer and Our Lady's Psalter, (The Hail Mary) were prayed on pebbles, or a string of beads.
St. Dominic, seeing that the gravity of people's sins was hindering the conversion of the Albigensians, withdrew into a forest near Toulouse where he prayed unceasingly for three days and three nights. During this time he did nothing but weep and do harsh penance's in order to appease the anger of Almighty God.
Tradition tells that our Lady appeared to him while he prayed. The story is told that she spoke to him gently that day in the forest.
"My son," the Queen of Heaven said, "prayer and penance are the only way to win souls. Pray my Psalter and teach it to your people. That prayer, will never fail."
"Our Lady's Psalter? The Hail Mary one hundred and fifty times? That is not a new prayer," Brother Dominic said to himself.
He frequently prayed the Psalter as he walked along the road. Many people did. Those who could not read Holy Scripture and those who could not understand it often said a Hail Mary for each of the Psalms. Their simple prayer took the place of the one hundred and fifty Psalms of David that the learned ones could read.
Counting prayers was not new either before the birth of Jesus, the people who belonged to ancient religions had counted on knotted cords the prayers they said to their gods. After the coming of our Lord, the hermits who lived in the desert in the early centuries counted their prayers to God by means of pebbles.
Even in his own time, the thirteenth century, Brother Dominic knew that people were using a string of beads called "paternosters." On these they counted the number of times they repeated the Lord's Prayer. What did our Lady mean?
The Blessed Mother knew that Brother Dominic was puzzled. Tradition tells that it was then that she taught him the way she wanted the Psalter said, the prayer that was to become her Rosary.
"Make clear to them the mysteries of their religion, the divine truths that God has revealed but that they cannot understand. Teach them to picture in their minds the events of my Sons life. Teach them to see as I saw the joys that came into the world with the Annunciation. Recall to them the words of the Angel Gabriel when he announced to me, a Virgin, that I was to be the Mother of the Savior.
"'Hail, full of grace. The Lord is with thee.'
"Let them journey with me to my cousin Elizabeth and hear, as I heard, her words of welcome,
"'Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.'"
The Holy Spirit had let her know that her Child was the One who would redeem men from their sins.
"Teach them to picture the stable in Bethlehem where Christ the Lord was born."
The Blessed Mother smiled as though she were seeing again the little Lord Jesus in His first cradle.
"Let them walk with Joseph and me when we take the Baby to the great Temple in Jerusalem to receive the blessing of Almighty God. Make them rejoice with us when we find the Holy Child who was lost for three long days."
Then a sadness came over the Blessed Mother as she recalled the sorrows she had shared with her Son. Brother Dominic thought of the Garden of Gethsemane. He wept as he pictured the drops of blood and the sweat on the Savior's face when He beheld the sins of the world.
Brother Dominic had often meditated on the Scourging at the Pillar, for he had chosen the lash of the whip as his own frequent penance. He thought of the crown of thorns which the mocking soldiers had placed upon the head of Christ the King, the heavy Cross which He carried wearily up the long hill to Calvary. Brother Dominic saw them all as Mary had.
He raised his tear-filled eyes to the Blessed Mother. How had she stood so bravely beneath the Cross of her crucified Son? She had shared with Him all of His joys, sorrows, and pain, and the glory of His triumph over death. How well had God prepared her to be the understanding Mother of all mankind!
No one knows the words she spoke to Brother Dominic when he saw her in his vision. It is not exactly known how long it took to arrange our Lady's Psalter into the Hail Mary's separated by the Our Fathers that make up each decade of the Rosary. It is not known how long it took to gather together the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries into the fifteen decades of the entire Rosary. But it is known that Brother Dominic began at once to preach and teach the Incarnation and the Redemption as he had been directed to by the Blessed Mother.
Filled with new zeal, Brother Dominic began to teach his listeners to picture the life, death and resurrection of Jesus as they prayed the Rosary. They recited our Lord's own prayer, the Our Father. Then they repeated over and over again the Angel Gabriel's words to the Virgin when he announced that she was to be the Mother of God's Son. As they said the Our Fathers and Hail Mary's, they learned to see in their own minds the mystery they named as they began each decade.
The simple words of the prayer kept their thoughts on heavenly matters for as long as their beads slipped through their fingers. The Rosary then became a prayer that everyone could understand. Those with little learning or scholars with profound knowledge could now picture the divine life, each in his own way.
The Petition "Holy Mary, Mother of God, Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death" had been included by the common man as "Holy Mary, Mother of God pray for us sinners, and forms similar to this long before it was made official by the Church. The prayer book for the dying, by St. Anselm of Canterbury, a native Italian (died 1109),contains a Latin prayer in verse in which the last line is a petition to Mary for assistance at the hour of death. Very much like the "Holy Mary," it runs as follows: "Mary, Mother of Grace, Mother of Mercy, protect us against the Evil Sprit and take us to heaven at the hour of our death."
In 1568 the Hail Mary was added to the Our Father to become the prescribed form exactly as we pray it today. The Glory-Be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost and the O my Jesus portion of the Rosary have been added and approved by the Church through the years to arrive at it's present form as it is prayed today. Each prayer having it's own history of Praise, Glory, and Worship of God.
The History of the Rosary could go on and on, volume after volume. Here we attempt to present a short and condensed version of its' history. There is as yet much more for one to explore and discover about the Rosary, this most pleasing prayer to God.
A scapular is a sleeveless outer garment falling from the shoulders. Use of the scapular originated in the monastic orders of priests and monks, forming part of the habit or clothing of the members. Essentially the scapular is a special garment worn as a sign of love and devotion to Mary the Immaculate Queen. With the passage of time lay people were permitted to wear the scapular as symbolic members of a monastic order, with the attendant spiritual benefits attached to such membership. Over the years the scapular, at least for lay people, became much reduced in size to but small pieces of wool cloth suspended front and back.
According to tradition the Blessed Virgin appeared to St. Simon Stock in the year 1251, and, holding a scapular of the Order of Mount Carmel said, "Receive My beloved son, the Scapular of thy Order, as a distinctive sign of My Confraternity. Whoever dies invested with this Scapular shall be preserved from the eternal flames. It is a sign of salvation, a sure safeguard in danger, a pledge of peace and of My special protection until the end of the ages."
By the end of the 16th century the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was most widely known and used. It is commonly called the Brown Scapular, and is probably the oldest scapular in use.
In the year 1322 Pope John XX11 issued a document known as the Sabbatine Privilege. This was the result of a vision he had of Our Blessed Mother holding the Scapular of Mount Carmel, in which she said, "Those who have been invested with this Holy Habit will be delivered from Purgatory the first Saturday after their death." In it indulgences are granted to the members of the Carmelite Order and to its secular members.