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WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Why do Catholics pray the rosary?
The history of the rosary traces to the 13th century. It is believed that Mary gave St. Dominic the rosary to rescue the church from the Albigensian heresy.
Initially, 150 Hail Marys were prayed as a part of the rosary.
"The prayer of the rosary, originally composed of 150 Hail Marys, is based on the 150 psalms of the Psalter prayed in monasteries since antiquity," said Gretchen Crowe, editor-in-chief of OSV Newsweekly in Huntington, Indiana, and author of the new book "Why the Rosary, Why Now?"
The string of beads used to recite Our Fathers and Hail Marys are called "paternosters," Latin for "Our Father."
The rosary evolved over the next three centuries to consist of 50 beads -- which form the five sections, or decades, of the rosary, separated by a large bead for the Our Father.
"In many ways, the rosary and its spiritual benefits became most well-known during the 19th and 20th centuries through the record 11 encyclicals Pope Leo XIII wrote on the topic," Crowe said.
In addition to Pope Leo XIII and his writing, the rosary increased its popularity when St. John Paul II added the luminous mysteries in 2002.
The luminous mysteries are one of four mysteries for the rosary and are known as the mysteries of light. The other three are the glorious, joyful and sorrowful mysteries. The mysteries recited different days of the week.