QUAERITUR: Variations in reciting the Rosary

From a reader:

On Wednesday before Mass a friend of mine leads the public recitation of the Rosary. She inserts after the Fatima Prayer in each decade this pray; Jesus, protect and save the unborn and the sanctity of life. I wasn’t sure if it was appropriate to put that prayer there. And then she has added another prayer about protecting our religious freedom after the one for sanctify of life. So now I’m really wondering if this is appropriate or not; and if they should be inserted along with your own intentions before or after the rosary but not inside the rosary itself. Thanks

There is no one way to recite the Holy Rosary. You will find variations from country to country, ethnic group to ethnic group, community to community. As a matter of fact, the Fatima Prayer is not used universally.

My preference is to add as few interpolations as possible, so as not to lengthen excessively the amount of time it takes to recited it. People have lives to live as well.

Thus, variations are acceptable, so long as the community in question goes along and the variations are not contrary to the faith. Always be sure to check with parish priest if this is in the parish. People should not just impose their way of saying the Rosary on everyone else.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Supertradmum says:

    I stopped saying the rosary with a group here in England, which sings some variation of Ave Ave after each decade. When I asked them where they got it, they said Medjugorje. Those visions are not even approved. I could not get the leader to pare down to just the Fatima prayer. This is common in some parts of southern England.

    I use on online version from California, which suits my time schedule, unless I say it by myself. I recognize that I may be missing out on some indulgences, but I do not want to be part of another person’s spirituality, and have that enforced upon me in such devotions. http://www.comepraytherosary.org/

  2. Darren says:

    I pray the rosary with the Fatima prayer, since Our Lady requested that be done. I don’t add anything else. When I pray with groups, and they add certain things I will typically remain silent during those parts (often because I do not know the words, but also I want to keep it as simple as possible). Our Lady requested the Fatima prayer be prayed after the Glory Be after each decade, but most people also pray if after the Glory Be after the three initial Hail Mary’s. I leave that one out when I pray alone as it was not requested to be prayed at that point.

    I also will pray the Luminous Mysteries, despite that many traditional friends do not. I trust the wisdom of our Holy Father Bl. John Paul II in offering them to us, even if just for occasional meditation. However, when we get to the “vague” mystery of the the Proclamation of the Kingdom, I focus on the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew.

  3. dominicop says:

    There have long been variations in recitation of the rosary, though I know that some of these additions can be somewhat jarring in the moment. We Dominicans, who are obviously intimately bound up with the origins of the rosary, have our own customs. In our version the rosary begins and ends like the Divine Office, which also helps to make sense of the “call and response” or antiphonal recitation which is so common. You certainly do get used to the way that you recite the rosary, however, whether in common or in private. I was at a wake the other day for a man who had three aunts who were Dominican sisters. One of the sisters, who was nearly ninety, was asked to lead the rosary. The trouble was that she had been in the convent for so long she simply couldn’t remember the standard way to begin. What a thing to hear a religious admit “I’m sorry, I just can’t remember how you people start this thing!” It broke the tension marvelously and in the end helped us to pray better. Maybe that’s the attitude which we should take towards the variations we find, so long as they’re not actually problematic, of course.

  4. LisaP. says:

    “My preference is to add as few interpolations as possible, so as not to lengthen excessively the amount of time it takes to recited it. People have lives to live as well.”

    Thank you so, so much for this.

  5. Philangelus says:

    The rosary started as a peasant prayer, so I figure it’s customizable. A Presbyterian friend won’t say the Hail Mary, so I believe she says the Fatima prayer on the Hail Mary beads and replaced the final two mysteries with the Establishment of the Church and the Second Coming of Christ. A friend of mine was so impressed by the rosary that, even though she’s Jewish, she made her own Jewish rosary with a chai in place of the miraculous medal, a Star of David in place of the cross, and replaced all the prayers with Jewish prayers (the Shema on the Our Father beads, for example.)

    I told her, “You realize Mary’s now going to consider you in her ‘camp.'”

    She said, “That’s cool. I like Mary.”

    I can’t see Mary walking away in disgust because someone lovingly added an extra prayer to the rosary, or even modified the whole thing for private devotion. At its heart, the rosary is a series of guided meditations and a prayer system that involves every level of our praying ability (physical, vocal, contemplative, meditative) and it’s a Good Thing.

    In public, though, I do agree that adding extra prayers or swapping out mysteries may constitute an undue burden on others, so it should be done sparingly, if at all.

  6. LadyMarchmain says:

    What was that poem about the rosary “with all the trimmings”? I believe Fr. Z posted it here some time back.

  7. Legisperitus says:

    I like the traditional German custom of inserting a dependent clause after “Jesus” in each Ave Maria which focuses on the mystery being meditated on. Makes it much easier to keep the mystery in mind, and this method has been recommended by Popes Paul VI and John Paul II (Marialis Cultus, n. 46; Rosarium Virginis Mariae, n. 33).

  8. Bryan Boyle says:

    Wow…I like that website…have it running on a spare PC here in the office. Kind of like the ability to mentally join to a perpetual recitation at any time. Yes, you should concentrate…but, sometimes, even being able to share in a decade during the day is a blessing.

    The rosary group I belong to (a local group of the Oblates of Holy Wisdom, the lay expression formed from the Roman Theological Forum…) was using, after the Fatima prayer, the Jerry Coniker prayer for the sanctification of priests after each decade. We recently changed it to the short ejaculation from the Miraculous Medal: “Oh Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee..”, which seems apropos in these current times. I don’t think Our Lady is insulted by this…guess we’ll find out someday…

  9. AnnAsher says:

    Nice response. I prefer as few interpolations as well. I’m working on not being annoyed when the man who leads our Sunday before Mass rosary offers a commentary before each mystery. Usually there is nothing wrong with the content. I know it helps some people focus. It is not my preference. Often I simply kneel and pray my own prayers before Mass. That way I’m not annoyed and no one else is concerned with what I’m doing.

  10. tealady24 says:

    I also always use the Fatima prayer. But nothing else.
    If you have specific intentions, then offer them to Our Lady at the close of your Rosary.
    She is still listening.

  11. wolfeken says:

    State the mystery, and maybe the corresponding virtue before each decade. Anything more makes the leader a showman, which is a distraction. The whole point of the rosary is a simple Marian Psalter — not an avenue for someone to show off his personality.

    Because the rosary is so simple, it means it is something that can be said relatively easily. What a pity that John Paul II screwed this up with a re-design of Saint Dominic’s perfection. Now, yet again, there is calendar division, with Thursdays and Saturdays being a question mark on which mysteries are to be used. Unnecessary.

    If the rosary is going to be said more often and by more people, it needs to remain simple and constant. That’s the whole point of the rosary.

  12. acardnal says:

    Philangelus, I hope you evangelized the Presbyterian who refused to say the Hail Mary by pointing out to him to the appropriate New Testament verses from where they came? I mean if an angel of God can say those verses to Mary, we should be able to as well.

  13. dominic1955 says:

    I too think that a public recitation should be pretty basic. Adding the Fatima prayer and the prayers for the intentions of the Holy Father to get the indulgences are as much as one need add. It should also be said as if it were being timed w/ a quick ticking metronome. I do not think there is anything as agravating (church wise) as a slow and plodding public rosary with all sorts of devotions tacked on to it.

    Please go to your own room and show God how pious you are by dragging out His Mother’s Rosary ad infinitum in the most affected sentimental voice you can muster on your own time while no one is watching/listening, do not hold the rest of us captive.

  14. Suburbanbanshee says:

    The Rosary is infinitely customizable, there are huge numbers of chaplet and Rosary variations, a great many of them are indulgenced, and so there really is no wrong way to say it.* There is absolutely no cure for stressing out like studying church history or reading old devotional prayerbooks. You’ll learn stuff that’s pretty amazing, like that the Jesuit missionaries to the Iroquois taught converts a chaplet to the Holy Spirit that was decades of Glory Bes.

    In general, if somebody takes the initiative to lead a Rosary or is picked to lead one, it’s not surprising if they choose to say the Rosary their way. Sometimes people want variation. But if you do normally add a lot of stuff, it’s probably more polite to cut it down to a normal happy medium for the benefit of others.

    (*Unless you’re saying some kind of “Hail Satan” prayer or Wiccan/pagan Rosary. That would be a wrong way to say it.)

  15. APX says:

    It should also be said as if it were being timed w/ a quick ticking metronome. I do not think there is anything as agravating (church wise) as a slow and plodding public rosary with all sorts of devotions tacked on to it.

    I agree with the slow dragged out rosary. The other aggravating thing I find is it being led by someone with a mousy voice that you can’t even hear in a church with 5 people in it. I naturally recite prayers at 115 bpm (yes, I got out my trusty metronome app to confirm the speed). It is not uncommon for one of the people who leads the rosary to recite it extra slow, with long drawn out pauses There seems to be an etiquette at my parish that only certain people lead the rosary before Mass, so I don’t interfere, but I do find it difficult to speak at such a slow speed.

  16. Gregg the Obscure says:

    There’s a parish where I sometimes go to confession where one of the leaders of the group Rosary inexplicably inserts a long (three-count or so) pause between the words “thy” and “womb”.

    I very much like the interlinear descriptions of the mysteries a/k/a Bavarian Rosary.

  17. THREEHEARTS says:

    The Fatima Prayer used by many after each decade of the Rosary is wrongly prayed and could be if considered carefully, it might just be be schismatic. In Lucias’ own words it is not lead but drawn as Christ says in the scriptures “I will draw all souls to heaven”
    To us lead is like the modern use of re incarnation. It says Christ got it wrong the first time and must come back and do it again. A little against both His perfection and His great “I am”. Do you not think this is so? Of course we are always open to correction even scriptures today

  18. APX says:

    The Fatima Prayer used by many after each decade of the Rosary is wrongly prayed and could be if considered […] schismatic. In Lucias’ own words it is not lead but drawn as […]“I will draw all souls to heaven”
    To us lead is like the modern use of re incarnation. It says Christ got it wrong the first time and must come back and do it again.

    I have no idea how you came up with this. Even as a little kid as young as 5 years old I didn’t see the use of “lead” as the modern use of reincarnation. Even now, as educated as I am, do not see how you come up with what you’re proposing. I think you’re over-thinking this and way off in left-field some place, and even that’s being generous. I think you might actually be past the foul line into the stands.

  19. jasoncpetty says:

    My preference is to add as few interpolations as possible, so as not to lengthen excessively the amount of time it takes to recited it. People have lives to live as well.

    Amen. In public, keep your layers off our prayers. Let’s keep the public recitations of the Rosary lowest-common-denominator, please.

  20. Philangelus says:

    Acardinal, I thought it a victory that I got the Presbyterian to say a version of the rosary at all! :-) At some point she’ll get more interested and God will do the leading.

  21. Philangelus says:

    Suburbanbanshee, in a parking lot about four years ago, I found a wooden rosary in a snowbank, plowed up, with pictures of Our Lady and the Infant Jesus of Prague on the Our Father beads, but the crucifix broken off. I took it home and repaired it, and when I tried to use it, I found it was a little weird. 13 beads per decade instead of 10.

    It doesn’t “feel” evil and it looks just like a rosary you could make with a kit. It doesn’t look like Wiccan “witch beads.” I’ve been able to google dozens of rosaries that have those same pictures on the Our Father beads and the same beads etc, but all with the traditional ten. I want to hammer off the extra beads and burn them (in case the rosary was blessed) but I’m more than a little confused.

    Picture is here: http://philangelus.wordpress.com/2011/04/04/what-kind-of-rosary-is-this/

  22. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Sounds Eastern European….

    There have been 13-bead chaplets in the past. (In Christian symbolism, 13 stands for the Apostles plus Jesus, and the 12 Tribes plus God.) The chaplet of St. Anthony sometimes features 13 decades of 13 beads….

  23. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Er, make that 13 “decades” (triades, really, I guess) of 3 beads. And there’s the Little Rosary of Our Lady of Consolation, which is 13 “duades” of two beads.

    The Chaplet of St. Philomena has 3 white beads and 13 red beads.

    I’ll keep looking! Probably it’s something for the Infant of Prague.

  24. Suburbanbanshee says:
  25. Supertradmum says:

    My Czech family had chaplets for the Infant of Prague in the 1950s. Red ten beads, no cross, but the medal of the Infant.

  26. Suburbanbanshee says:

    The Infant of Prague Chaplet is said with 3 Our Fathers and 12 Hail Marys. If you went with one bead only for the 3 Our Fathers, that would give you thirteen beads per decade instead of the usual fifteen beads.

    I bet that’s what it is. It’s somebody’s Infant of Prague Chaplet variation.

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  28. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Supertradmum — That’s interesting, because online sources keep saying fifteen beads! See what I mean about variation?

    I’ll keep looking, but it may always remain a mystery. With all the different confraternities and saints and visions and bright ideas that people get — and anybody can put together rosary beads and medals for their own creative uses — there’s probably thousands and tens of thousands of chaplets and Rosaries that have existed and been dear to somebody somewhere.

  29. Michelle F says:


    I looked at the photo of the rosary on your website. I have made some hand-knotted rosaries, and the one you have looks to me like it is handmade because the spacing of the knots and beads between the centerpiece and the Crucifix seem uneven.

    I also did a quick search online, and I couldn’t find any information about rosaries or chaplets with 5 sets of 13 beads.

    I thought more about the numbers 5 and 13, and something occurred to me. The Feast of Our Lady of Fatima is on May 13th, which is 5/13 , the day of her first appearance to the children. Our Lady then appeared to the children on the 13th day of each month for (I think) 6 months afterward.

    I may be overthinking this, but my guess at this point is someone could have made this rosary as a special, personal devotion to Our Lady of Fatima.

    I wouldn’t destroy the rosary or remove the extra beads. I would simply take to a good priest, tell him how you found it, and then have him bless it. He might give it a conditional blessing instead of a regular one, but either way the priest should know what to do with it.

  30. Michelle F says:

    Our Lady of Fatima appeared 5 more times after her initial appearance to the children (May-October, 1917), for a grand total of 6 appearances. So perhaps one could interpret the number of beads as symbolizing May 13th (5/13) AND 5 more appearances on the 13th of the month.

    But, as I said, I could be overthinking this thing.

  31. Philangelus says:

    Thank you, Michelle. That explanation makes the most sense of all. I’d figured (in the next post on the blog, but I didn’t bother linking) that it was from a kit with enough beads for a rosary and a rosary bracelet; figured the owner knew the “tail” needed five beads, then divided up the rest into five groups and strung them.

    I’ll bring the poor orphaned rosary to my parish priest and have him bless it. I’ve had my St. Michael chaplet blessed, so I know they’ll bless other chaplets.

    Suburbanbanshee, thank you for that site — I had no idea there were that many chaplets! I’m going to have to go looking for all my favorite saints now. :-)

  32. mattwcu says:

    I normally pray the Franciscan Crown rather than the traditional 5 decade beads. In the Crown you don’t even say the Gloria Patri, and I like the fact that it is so simple.

  33. While it’s not wrong, per se, I think it’s kinda rude to pray a personalized prayer of the Rosary in a public recitation, if the others around you haven’t all agreed to it beforehand. Having said that, in private, I suppose it doesn’t matter what you’d like to add to it, barring of course time constraints as Father Z mentioned.

    Personally, I pray the shorter version of the Prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel after every Fatima Prayer in my personal Rosaries because of its power and because of its necessity in our day, with the hordes of Hell attacking the Church so viciously. Still working on memorizing it in Latin ;)

  34. Garth says:

    My mind is so constructed that I simply cannot seem to focus on the Mystery while saying the prayers aloud. I’ve tried repeatedly; I just can’t do it. So on my own I pray a scriptural Rosary, with verses of Scripture between each Ave. I started out using booklets for it, but by now I’ve got things down to a point where I can just open my Bible and do my own, or even reproduce things from memory.

    Public recitation of the Rosary is a great trial for me, to be honest. I try to give my attention to the Mystery at the beginning of the decade, and then hang on for dear life!

    Darren, I also use the Luminous Mysteries, and I’ve sometimes used the Sermon on the Mount too. But most frequently I pick the Sending of the Seventy-Two Disciples. It reminds me rather vividly that *I* am supposed to be proclaiming the Gospel too! (Plus, it’s a little difficult to condense the Sermon on the Mount to 10 passages of appropriate length! Not impossible… just difficult.)

  35. SPWang says:


    Ah, the memories that find me now my hair is turning gray,
    Drifting in like painted butterflies from paddocks far away;
    Dripping dainty wings in fancy -and the pictures, fading fast,
    Stand again in rose and purple in the album of the past.
    There’s the old slab dwelling dreaming by the wistful, watchful trees,
    Where the coolabahs are listening to the stories of the breeze;
    There’s a homely welcome beaming from its big, bright friendly eyes,
    With The Sugarloaf behind it blackened in against the skies;
    There’s the same dear happy circle round the boree’s cheery blaze
    With a little Irish mother telling tales of other days.
    She had one sweet, holy custom which I never can forget,
    And a gentle benediction crowns her memory for it yet;
    I can see that little mother still and hear her as she pleads,
    “Now it’s getting on to bed-time; all you childer get your beads.”
    There were no steel-bound conventions in that old slab dwelling free;
    Only this – each night she lined us up to say the Rosary;
    E’en the stranger there, who stayed the night upon his journey, knew
    He must join the little circle, ay, and take his decade too.
    I believe she darkly plotted, when a sinner hove in sight
    Who was known to say no prayer at all, to make him stay the night.
    Then we’d softly gather round her, and we’d speak in accents low,
    And pray like Sainted Dominic so many years ago;
    And the little Irish mother’s face was radiant, for she knew
    That “where two or three are gathered” He is gathered with them too.
    O’er the paters and the aves how her reverent head would bend!
    How she’d kiss the cross devoutly when she counted to the end!
    And the visitor would rise at once, and brush his knees – and then
    He’d look very, very foolish as he took the boards again.
    She had other prayers to keep him. They were long, long prayers in truth;
    And we used to call them “Trimmin’s” in my disrespectful youth.
    She would pray for kith and kin, and all the friends she’d ever known,
    Yes, and everyone of us could boast a “trimmin”‘ all his own.
    She would pray for all our little needs, and every shade of care
    That might darken o’er The Sugarloaf, she’d meet it with a prayer.
    She would pray for this one’s “sore complaint,” or that one’s “hurted hand,”
    Or that someone else might make a deal and get “that bit of land”;
    Or that Dad might sell the cattle well, and seasons good might rule,
    So that little John, the weakly one, might go away to school.
    There were trimmin’s, too, that came and went; but ne’er she closed without
    Adding one for something special “none of you must speak about.”
    Gentle was that little mother, and her wit would sparkle free,
    But she’d murder him who looked around while at the Rosary:
    And if perchance you lost your beads, disaster waited you,
    For the only one she’d pardon was “himself” – because she knew
    He was hopeless, and ’twas sinful what excuses he’d invent,
    So she let him have his fingers, and he cracked them as he went,
    And, bedad, he wasn’t certain if he’d counted five or ten,
    Yet he’d face the crisis bravely, and would start around again;
    But she tallied all the decades, and she’d block him on the spot,
    With a “Glory, Daddah, Glory!” and he’d “Glory” like a shot.
    She would portion out the decades to the company at large;
    But when she reached the trimmin’s she would put herself in charge;
    And it oft was cause for wonder how she never once forgot,
    But could keep them in their order till she went right through the lot.
    For that little Irish mother’s prayers embraced the country wide;
    If a neighbour met with trouble, or was taken ill, or died,
    We could count upon a trimmin’ – till, in fact, it got that way
    That the Rosary was but trimmin’s to the trimmin’s we would say.
    Then “himself” would start keownrawning – for the public good, we thought –
    “Sure you’ll have us here till mornin’. Yerra, cut them trimmin’s short!”
    But she’d take him very gently, till he softened by degrees –
    “Well, then, let us get it over. Come now, all hands to their knees.”
    So the little Irish mother kept her trimmin’s to the last,
    Every growing as the shadows o’er the old selection passed;
    And she lit our drab existence with her simple faith and love,
    And I know the angels lingered near to bear her prayers above,
    For her children trod the path she trod, nor did they later spurn
    To impress her wholesome maxims on their children in their turn.
    Ay, and every “sore complaint” came right, and every “hurted hand”;
    And we made a deal from time to time, and got “that bit of land”;
    And Dad did sell the cattle well; and little John, her pride,
    Was he who said the Mass in black the morning that she died;
    So her gentle spirit triumphed – for ’twas this, without a doubt,
    Was the very special trimmin’ that she kept so dark about.

    . . . . .

    But the years have crowded past us, and the fledglings all have flown,
    And the nest beneath The Sugarloaf no longer is their own;
    For a hand has written “finis” and the book is closed for good –
    Here’s a stately red-tiled mansion where the old slab dwelling stood;
    There the stranger has her “evenings,” and the formal supper’s spread,
    But I wonder has she “trimmin’s” now, or is the Rosary said?
    Ah, those little Irish mothers passing from us one by one!
    Who will write the noble story of the good that they have done?
    All their children may be scattered, and their fortunes windwards hurled,
    But the Trimmin’s on the Rosary will bless them round the world.

  36. irishgirl says:

    When I pray the Rosary by myself (which is about 99 % of the time), I use the Fatima prayer at the end of each decade-done that ever since the mid-sixties when I first learned about the apparitions-and three extra Hail Marys at the end. Those are for the intentions of the Holy Father (as well as his health, safety, and protection), in imitation of Blessed Jacinta Marto, one of the three seers.
    I then add two more Hail Marys for priests and seminarians (I mention you by name, Father Z, among others who are ‘close to my heart’), and for several deceased people and the souls in purgatory (especially for relatives and friends, and priests). I end with the St. Michael Prayer.
    When I find myself in a public Rosary, I go with whatever everyone else is doing.
    But it annoys me like heck when the prayers are said too fast! That happened to me last year at the October ‘Public Square Rosary’ sponsored by ‘America Needs Fatima’. The person leading at the event I attended (a permanent deacon, no less) messed up the prayers-he particularly forgot to say, ‘Blessed art thou amongst women’! I was ready to cry out, ‘Hold it! Hold it! What are you saying? SLOW DOWN!’

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