How Mary Gave the Rosary to St Dominic

In the year 1214 Saint Dominic, the founder of the Order of Preachers, was in anguish because he was failing in his attempt to convert the Albigensian Cathar heretics. St. Dominic attributed this to the deepness and gravity of sinfulness of the heretics and the poor example of Catholics. He went alone in to the forest and wept and prayed continuously for three days to appease the anger of Almighty God. He flogged his body and scourged his flesh. From the fasting, pain, and exhaustion, he passed in to a coma.

Dominic experienced an apparition of Blessed Mother Mary while in the coma, which forever links Saint Dominic and the Rosary. The Immaculate Mary with three angels appeared and asked St. Dominic, “Dear Dominic, do you know which weapon the Blessed Trinity wants to use to reform the world?” Dominic’s response was Blessed Mary knew better than he because she is a part of our salvation.

Mary responded, “I want you to know that, in this kind of warfare, the battering ram has always been the Angelic Psalter* which is the foundation stone of the New Testament. Therefore if you want to reach these hardened souls and win them over to God, preach my Psalter.”

Shortly after this apparition he preached the Holy Rosary to the unconverted Albigenisan heretics. To modify the Paternoster (150 Our Father’s) and in compliance with the instruction in the apparition, the design of the Saint Dominic Rosary came in to being. He set apart fifteen mysteries of the rosary, grouped them in to three sets of five decades each.

The groupings were designated as Joyous Mysteries, Sorrowful Mysteries and Glorious Mysteries. This design helped the Albigensian heretics to better understand and to imitate the virtuous life of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Immaculate and Blessed Mary.

* The “Angelic Salutation” is the “Hail Mary” prayer and the Psalter is the 150 Psalms. Thus, she wanted 150 Hail Mary’s – which is what the Holy Rosary is – 15 decades of Hail Mary’s with 15 corresponding mysteries to contemplate.

Two recommended books on the sweet and Immaculate Mary: one by Saint Louis de Montfort, the other by Saint Alphonsus Liguori. You can’t go wrong with either…or both!

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  • Ron Zimmer

    I was reading a blog one day and it asked what we thought was the most important event regarding Mary. The blogger’s opinion was that it was the Assumption. Thinking myself wise I wrote that I thought the greatest event was the Coronation. The blogger wrote in reply that these were one and the same event. I wrote back that I was confused by this since the Glorious Mysteries presented them as two mysteries for our meditation. The responses from him and the crowd were clouded and with an angry tone. I was surprised at this. I thought they would remedy my ignorance and teach me how the Church thinks about this matter. I take it that their response was based on some insecurity as to the origin of the rosary and thought perhaps I was an agitator or something. Can you clarify this for me, the Church’s thinking on these events, or aspects or emphases of one event? Thank you.

    • Catholic Ric

      I do not think it would be too relevant to pick just ONE event as the most important one in the Blessed Mother’s life. All the celebrated events of her life flow one to the other, beginning from her Immaculate Conception, which pre-ordained her to become the mother of God, through to the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Assumption, and her Coronation as Queen of the Universe, are inextricably interlinked and must be viewed as a whole.

    • This is a complicated subject. Which is the most important even in Mary’s life.

      The typical answers are:

      Immaculate Conception of Mary
      Annunciation (when she became the Mother of God)
      Crucifixion of Christ (with her standing beside mediating)

      The assumption refers to her resurrection and ascension.

      The coronation refers to her arrival in Heaven and her status as Queen and Mediatrix of all graces.

      My opinion is that the Annunciation and/or the Crucifixion were the greatest “moments” in her life.


  • Spinmamma

    Praying the Rosary is what brought me to baptism in the RCC. I have no doubts about its power and ability to transform spiritually. For me, personally, it does not matter how St. Dominic received it from The Blessed Mother. As usual, though, I thank you for this thoughtful and informative information.

  • Phillip Flores

    The most important event in the Blessed Virgin Mary’s life is her acceptance to be the mother of God. Her Assumption and Coronation flow on from her dignity as the mother of Jesus Christ, spouse of the Holy Spirit and daughter of God the Father.

  • HV Observer

    Does the introduction of the Luminous Mysteries by Pope John Paul II upset the plan of 150 Hail Marys = 150 Psalms? In other words, are the Luminous Mysteries an illegitimate innovation to the Rosary?

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  • Lisa

    Hi Dr Marshall,
    Reading about St Dominic today with my son, a St Luke Bull, who was pretty excited to see something by Dr Marshall come up in our search!

  • nonso

    That was informative. God bless you.

  • Keona Rae r Chiong

    I am a ten year old girl, who is too young to be in this channel, but I will always give penance to our dear mother Mary, it was her birthday yesterday September 18. I learn in the university of San Carlos south campus in the Philipines ,Cebu

  • Keona Rae r Chiong

    Do you know about the SVD? It means sociatas virby divini that’s in Latin, butEnglish it means Divine word missionaries

  • bob

    What is the significance of three angels when mother mary appeared in apparition to saint dominic.

  • Sr. Patricia

    I love our Mother Mary. she is the most patient and reliable lady I ever know of.