Did the Apostles Pray the Rosary?

It sounds like a ridiculous question for me to pose. It’s common knowledge that the Rosary didn’t take shape for at least another thousand years! Something stood out to me the other night however, which makes me think that the “soul” of the Rosary was always present in the Apostles’ prayer.

Jesus’ instruction at the time of His ascension was, “not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father…before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” And the Apostles did just that: “All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus , and with his brethren” (Acts 1:4-5, 14). That was how they spent the nine days between Jesus’ ascension and the descent of the Spirit on Pentecost.

Of what did their prayer consist? Petition, combined with a great deal of meditation (the “soul” of the Rosary) – thinking and rethinking the things Jesus had said to them, the actions and miracles they witnessed, the meaning of His death, resurrection, and ascension. It consisted of reflecting upon Scripture; when Jesus appeared to them on the night of His resurrection, He had “opened their minds to understand the scriptures…the law of Moses, the prophets and the psalms” and how they had been fulfilled in Him (Luke 24:44-45). And this meditation was being done in the presence of Mary. She was engaged in it with them. As John Paul II pointed out so beautifully:

Mary lived with her eyes fixed on Christ, treasuring his every word: “She kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk 2:19; cf. 2:51). The memories of Jesus, impressed upon her heart, were always with her, leading her to reflect on the various moments of her life at her Son’s side. In a way those memories were to be the “rosary” which she recited uninterruptedly throughout her earthly life (Rosarium Virginis Mariae , 11).

The Apostles spent nine days engaged in this with her, making the Church’s first novena. We can see the fruits that emerged – Peter’s move to replace the office left vacant by Judas’ defection emerged from his reflection upon the Psalms (Acts 1:20) and then the explosion of Scriptural insights he unleashed up the crowd at Pentecost! (Acts 2:16-41) Isn’t it likely that the Holy Spirit had been bringing key points of that first sermon to Peter’s consciousness throughout the nine days of prayer?

When we today pray the Rosary, when we recite the Hail Mary while meditating upon the events recounted in the gospels and Acts (the fifteen Mysteries), we enter into the Apostles’ experience. “With the Rosary, the Christian people sits at the school of Mary and is led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love” (Rosarium Virginis Mariae , 1). And by doing this regularly, daily, our souls grow and become progressively docile to the movement of the Holy Spirit. We receive not one, but several Pentecosts as our eyes open up onto new spiritual vistas and we find ourselves acting with a freedom and strength we imagined ourselves unable to attain. And rightly so – these things can only take root in souls that have been broken up and seeded, over time, through prayer. These souls are made ready for that moment when the Living Water rains down and causes the new life to burst forth out into the open.

We won’t see Pentecost without it. Jesus knows how we are made, and He knows how to “remake” us in His image; that was why He sent the Apostles back to the upper room. They needed to spend that time in prayer, in meditation…in the company of His Mother. My friends, almost two thousand years may have passed, but the prescription remains the same.

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  • dnanj333

    Wonderful article and great thoughts by Mr. Kapler! Personally, I struggle with praying the rosary on a regular basis. However, I have said it almost every day for the last two weeks, and it’s amazing the difference it has made in my life, my wife’s life, and our marriage.

    READER CHALLENGE: To those who are reading this comment, PRAY THE ROSARY every day for 2 WEEKS and see how it CHANGES YOUR LIFE… and please include me in the prayers that I am given the Grace to continue the roll I am on.

  • theshahids

    Thank you for the wonderful insight. Sometimes the Rosary seems monotonous (due to my own faults and shortcomings). This article has helped me to reflect on the early apostles and their meditation with Our Lady.

    Thank You!

  • Mea culpa – I wrote “fifteen mysteries” in place of “twenty.” Completely unintentional; I love meditating on the Luminous Mysteries. With a slip like that I guess I’m showing my age; “fifteen” still just pops out!

    A thought along these lines: I really enjoy using the Rosary to stretch out my Scriptural meditation. On Easter for instance, I might meditate on 5 episodes from the Resurrection: 1) Women at the Tomb, 2) Peter and John running to the Tomb, 3) Jesus revelation of Himself to Mary Magdalene, 4) the Road to Emmaus, 5) Jesus appearance to the Eleven later that night.

    Our Blessed Mother surely meditated on every aspect of her Son’s life. I don’t think she would be anything but overjoyed to have us join her in doing so. The Twenty Mysteries are the key points that we need to return to over and over; but lets allow the Holy Spirit the freedom to focus our eyes on other mysteries, episodes from our Lord’s life, when He so desires.

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  • Vmazzarella33

    Mary always points to her Son. My wife had a great devotion to St Mary, making Mass and confession on the first Saturday of the month for many years. She suffered from dementia for ten years and passed away at 4:30 AM on January 1. The feast day of Mary the mother of God.Her reward I’m certain is great in Heaven.

  • Smith

    Did the Apostles venerate Mary during the Pentecost? Did they said the Mary of Mary many times when the Holy Spirit descend upon them? Did Mary gave advice in the first Church at Jerusalem? Please can you help to answer my questions?