This week Pope Francis urged Catholics to pray the rosary every day, so this seems an appropriate point in this Year of Faith series on the common prayers to learn how to say it in Latin!
For many years after Vatican II, the rosary was neglected or outright rejected by many as a diversion from the liturgy, and/or an example of vain repetitious prayer of the type that should be avoided (unless of course given the cloak of an import from the East!). Fortunately, recent Popes have pointed to it as a means of meditating on Scripture, and a way of approaching Christ through Our Lady, leading the ultramontanists of the neo-conservative establishment to 'rediscover' its importance.
The rosary has long been regarded as one of the most efficacious prayers known, so its recitation is particularly urged, in the code of Canon Law, for seminarians. But in order to encourage the rest of us to adopt also the practice, there is a plenary indulgence attached to it (for a third ie five decades) when said in a church, in a family, or other similar situations; and a partial indulgence at other times.
The tradition of praying a mix of Hail Mary's and Our Father's using beads is ancient indeed, and seems to have originally been a way for lay brothers and the laity to participate in the monastic office, with the number of Aves matching the number of psalms in the psalter.
The traditional set of mysteries as we know it, though, is the result of a vision granted to St Dominic (1170-1221).
The mysteries of the rosary were further modified in 2002 by Pope John Paul II, who added the 'Luminous Mysteries' as an option to be said on Thursdays. Traditionalists (particularly those attached to the Dominican tradition) tend to be rather dismissive of this addition, as an inorganic development so typical of our times that breaks the link with the psalter (ie 3*50 Aves = 150 psalms).
However, these days the rosary is rarely said while listening to the Office or thought of as a substitute for it. And in fact, most forms of the traditional Office involve the saying of considerably more than 150 psalms each week due to repetitions. Accordingly, I do think the Pope's stated reasons for the addition, namely to highlight the mission of the proclamation of the Gospel, are worth at least considering:
"Moving on from the infancy and the hidden life in Nazareth to the public life of Jesus, our contemplation brings us to those mysteries which may be called in a special way “mysteries of light”. Certainly the whole mystery of Christ is a mystery of light. He is the “light of the world” (Jn 8:12). Yet this truth emerges in a special way during the years of his public life, when he proclaims the Gospel of the Kingdom....
Each of these mysteries is a revelation of the Kingdom now present in the very person of Jesus. The Baptism in the Jordan is first of all a mystery of light. Here, as Christ descends into the waters, the innocent one who became “sin” for our sake (cf. 2Cor 5:21), the heavens open wide and the voice of the Father declares him the beloved Son (cf. Mt 3:17 and parallels), while the Spirit descends on him to invest him with the mission which he is to carry out. Another mystery of light is the first of the signs, given at Cana (cf. Jn 2:1- 12), when Christ changes water into wine and opens the hearts of the disciples to faith, thanks to the intervention of Mary, the first among believers. Another mystery of light is the preaching by which Jesus proclaims the coming of the Kingdom of God, calls to conversion (cf. Mk 1:15) and forgives the sins of all who draw near to him in humble trust (cf. Mk 2:3-13; Lk 7:47- 48): the inauguration of that ministry of mercy which he continues to exercise until the end of the world, particularly through the Sacrament of Reconciliation which he has entrusted to his Church (cf. Jn 20:22-23). The mystery of light par excellence is the Transfiguration, traditionally believed to have taken place on Mount Tabor. The glory of the Godhead shines forth from the face of Christ as the Father commands the astonished Apostles to “listen to him” (cf. Lk 9:35 and parallels) and to prepare to experience with him the agony of the Passion, so as to come with him to the joy of the Resurrection and a life transfigured by the Holy Spirit. A final mystery of light is the institution of the Eucharist, in which Christ offers his body and blood as food under the signs of bread and wine, and testifies “to the end” his love for humanity (Jn 13:1), for whose salvation he will offer himself in sacrifice...."
Accordingly, the mysteries of the rosary as set out in the Compendium to the Catechism are as follows:
Mystéria gaudiósa (Joyful mysteries)
(in feria secunda et sabbato; Monday and Saturday)
Invéntio in Templo (The Finding in the Temple).
Mystéria dolorósa (Sorrowful mysteries)
(in feria tertia et feria sexta; Tuesday and Friday)
Agonía in Hortu (Agony in the Garden).
Flagellátio (Scourging at the pillar).
Coronátio Spinis (Crowning with thorns).
Baiulátio Crucis (Carrying of the Cross).
Crucifíxio et Mors (Crucifixion and death).
(in feria quarta et Dominica; Wednesday and Sunday)
Descénsus Spíritus Sancti (Descent of the Holy Spirit/Pentecost).
Assúmptio (Assumption [of the BVM]).
Coronátio in Cælo (Coronation in heaven [of the BVM]).
Mystéria luminósa (Luminous Mysteries/Mysteries of Light)
(in feria quinta; Thursday)
Baptísma apud Iordánem (Baptism in the Jordan).
Autorevelátio apud Cananénse matrimónium (Self-revelation at the wedding at Cana).
Regni Dei proclamátio coniúncta cum invitaménto ad conversiónem. (Proclamation of the Kingdom of God with the invitation to conversion)
Eucharístiæ Institútio (Institution of the Eucharist).
The prayers of the rosary
Curiously, the Compendium of the Catechism's collection of common prayers does not include either instructions on how to say the rosary, or even all of the necessary prayers. That's a pity since because of the poor catechesis of recent times, and antagonism to the rosary even from those who should know better, not every Catholic is actually that familiar with this beautiful form of meditation! But you can find an excellent guide to it over at New Advent.
**Update: Fr John Flynn has drawn my attention to a Vatican 'Mysteries of the Rosary' Site that also takes you through how to say the rosary, and provides some Scriptural and Catechetical material to meditate on for each mystery.
The key prayers you need for the rosary in Latin are:
1. The Sign of the Cross (ie In nomine...).
2. The Apostles' Creed (Credo)
3. Pater Noster (Our Father)
4. Ave Maria (Hail Mary)
5. Gloria (Glory Be):
Glória Patri et Fílio et Spirítui Sancto. Sicut erat in princípio, et nunc et semper et in sæcula sæculórum. Amen.
(ie Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now, and ever shall be world without end. Amen.)
6. The Fatima Prayer (added to counter the spread of communism; though these days Russia seems more a force for resisting the secularist imperative!):
Domine Iesu, dimitte nobis debita nostra, salva nos ab igne inferiori, perduc in caelum omnes animas, praesertim eas, quae misericordiae tuae maxime indigent.
O my Jesus, forgive us our sins. Save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy.
7. Salve Regina (Hail Holy Queen)
8. Concluding prayer:
Déus, cújus Unigénitus per vítam, mórtem et resurrectiónem súam nóbis salútis ætérnæ præmia comparávit: concéde, quæsumus: ut hæc mystéria sacratíssimo beátæ Maríæ Vírginis Rosário recoléntes, et imitémur quod cóntinent, et quod promíttunt, assequámur. Per eúndem Chrístum Dóminum nóstrum. Amen.
O GOD, WHOSE only-begotten Son by His life, death and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life; grant, we beseech Thee, that by meditating upon these mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain and obtain what
they promise, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
You can hear all of these read out in Latin here.