The Catholic Rosary
The Catholic Rosary is the first one that comes to mind. A five-decade rosary contains five groups of ten beads (a decade), with additional large beads before each decade. The Hail Mary is said on the ten beads within a decade, while the Lord’s Prayer is said on the large bead before each decade. A new mystery meditation commences at each of the large beads. Some rosaries, particularly those used by religious orders, contain fifteen decades. Both five- and fifteen-decade rosaries are attached to a shorter strand, which starts with a crucifix, followed by one large bead, three small beads, and one large bead, before connecting to the rest of the rosary. A five-decade rosary consists of a “total” of 59 beads.
The Anglican Rosary
The thirty-three beads remind us of the number of years of Jesus’ life on earth before his crucifixion. It is commonly used by Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, and Episcopalians. The Anglican Rosary consists of a cross and thirty-three beads, five large and twenty-eight small. Thirty-two of the beads form a circle, with one large bead and the cross outside the circle. Inside the circle are four large beads evenly spaced between the twenty-eight smaller beads. The four large beads inside the circle are called cruciform beads because they form an invisible cross. The small beads divided into groups of seven by the cruciform beads are called “weeks” because they represent the seven days of the week and also recall the seven days of creation Some rosaries include an additional bead just above the invitatory, this is often referred to as the resurrection bead and signifies a reminder that Christ lives on. The invitatory bead, the large bead directly above the cross, acts as a call to worship the Lord and invites us into the circle of prayer.
The Decade Rosary
Count the same ring of ten beads repeatedly for every decade. During religious conflict in 16th and 17th century Ireland severe legal penalties were imposed on practicing Roman Catholics. Small, easily hidden rosaries were used to avoid identification and became known as Irish penal rosaries. Sometimes rather than a cross, other symbols of specific meanings were used, such as a hammer to signify the nails of the cross, cords to represent the scourging, a chalice to recall the Last Supper, or a crowing rooster signifying the denial of Peter.