Understanding the Mysteries of the Rosary

The word “rosary” means “garland of roses,” and each prayer in the rosary can be thought of as an offering of a rose to Jesus through Mary. The structure of the rosary lends itself to meditation on the mysteries of the life of Christ, during which Catholics can contemplate the virtues practiced and the lessons learned.

But what are the mysteries and what lessons should we be learning from them? In this story, we explain each of the mysteries of the rosary, accompanied by photos of the stunning rosary windows at Immaculate Conception Parish in Ravenna.

Though the parish was formed in 1854, Immaculate Conception’s church was not built until 1862. That structure was demolished after Easter Sunday in 1926, to make way for a new structure to be built on the same site. The new church, which was dedicated in 1927, featured three sets of rosary windows, depicting the mysteries of the rosary at that time: The Joyful Mysteries, The Sorrowful Mysteries and the Glorious Mysteries. The Luminous Mysteries were instituted much later by Saint Pope John Paul II in his apostolic letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae.

The rosary is a dialogue between us and our Blessed Mother. Saint Pope John Paul II said this about the rosary: “It is our daily meeting, which neither I nor the Blessed Virgin neglect.” Let us pray that Mary will intercede for us in heaven and lead us closer to her Son Jesus Christ.

Mary gifts the rosary to Saint Dominic in this Stained glass window. Located at Immaculate Conception Parish in Ravenna. Photo by Brian Keith.
Tradition holds that Saint Dominic developed the structure of the rosary after receiving a vision of the Holy Mother in 1208, in which she gave him a set of rosary beads and implored him to instruct others in its use. The final rosary window at Immaculate Conception Parish depicts this vision.

The Joyful Mysteries

Two stained glass windows. On the left, Mary visits with Elizabeth. On the right, the angel Gabriel shines light on Mary. Located at Immaculate Conception Parish in Ravenna. Photo by Brian Keith.
The Annunciation is on the right and the Visitation is on the left.

The Annunciation

The angel Gabriel announces to Mary, a virgin, that God has chosen her to conceive and bear the Son of God. Mary’s faith and trust in God’s message allowed her to be receptive to God’s sovereign plan and to cooperate with all that was asked of her. May we, too, listen with faith and humility to the word of our Lord and willingly submit ourselves to His divine will.

The Visitation

Mary, pregnant with Jesus, travels with haste to the hill country to be with her cousin Elizabeth, who is also with child. Elizabeth reveals that upon Mary’s greeting, the child in her womb leapt for joy. Mary glorifies God for His greatness. Just as Mary traveled with haste to spread the good news to Elizabeth, we must not hesitate to carry out our evangelistic mission to bring God’s presence into the lives of others.

Two stained glass windows. A man holds Jesus, presenting him to the holy family. The second window is the holy family at the nativity. Located at Immaculate Conception Parish in Ravenna. Photo by Brian Keith.
The Nativity is on the right and the Presentation in the Temple is on the left.

The Nativity

Mary gives birth to a son, our Savior, in a humble stable. The birth of the divine Child is first proclaimed to the lowly shepherds in the field. Jesus, the eternal King, who came to save His people from their sins, entered the world in poverty to teach us humility and detachment from earthly things.

The Presentation in the Temple

In obedience to the Law of Moses, Mary and Joseph bring the Christ child to the Temple to present Him to God. Even though Jesus, as God, is not subject to the Law, His parents model obedience by submitting to the Law. Likewise, Mary, the embodiment of purity itself, ritually purifies herself in humble submission. We must always purify our hearts and be obedient to God’s Law.

In this stained glass window, Jesus preaches to onlookers. Located at Immaculate Conception Parish in Ravenna. Photo by Brian Keith.

The Finding in the Temple

Following the feast of the Passover, Mary and Joseph are unknowingly separated from Jesus. After three days of searching, they find him in the Temple, sitting and conversing with the elders. This account reminds us of the importance of family and our obligation to care for one another. We pray for the wisdom to understand the needs of others and respond with charity.

The Luminous Mysteries

Image of the altar at Immaculate Conception Parish in Ravenna

The Baptism of Our Lord

Jesus comes to the River Jordan to be baptized by John the Baptist. All three persons of the Holy Trinity are present: The voice of God the Father from heaven proclaims Jesus to be His Son, and the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus. Thus, Jesus is ready to begin His ministry. May we practice our ministry of evangelization by proclaiming to all that Jesus is the Son of God, come down from heaven to redeem us from our sins.

The Wedding at Cana

Jesus and His mother Mary travel to Cana for a wedding. When the wine runs low, Mary intercedes with her son Jesus, who then transforms water into wine, starting His public ministry. We can also ask Mary to intercede for us; she will not leave us unaided.

The Proclamation of the Kingdom

In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus proclaims: “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Jesus calls us to conversion. Let us repent and commit ourselves to a life of faith in Jesus.

The Transfiguration

Jesus leads Peter, James and John to the top of a mountain, where Jesus is transfigured: His face shines like the sun, and His clothes become white as light, as Moses and Elijah also appear. God the Father once again proclaims Jesus to be His Son. May the glory of the Transfiguration strengthen our faith and increase our resolve to follow Christ.

The Institution of the Eucharist

At the Last Supper, Jesus offered the bread and wine as His own body and blood. He told His apostles to do the same, and for us to eat and drink the Real Presence. May we consume worthily, that we may be strengthened for our journey of faith.

The Sorrowful Mysteries

Stained-glass window of Jesus pleading with an angel in a garden. Located at Immaculate Conception Parish in Ravenna. Photo by Brian Keith.

The Agony in the Garden

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prays with such intensity in the face of death that He is in agony. Yet He still prays that His Father’s will be done. May we have the strength, especially in difficult times, to discern and do God’s will.

Two stained glass windows. In the window on the left, Jesus is crowned with the crown of thorns. On the right, he is scourged. Located at Immaculate Conception Parish in Ravenna. Photo by Brian Keith.
The Scourging at the Pillar is on the right and the Crowning with Thorns is on the left.

The Scourging at the Pillar

Jesus is tied to a pillar and viciously scourged with a multi-thong whip to near-death. Christ willingly suffered this torture for our sins. How have we repaid Him for those wounds? Can we suffer some small deprivations and mortifications in order to make room to receive God’s grace?

The Crowning with Thorns

The Roman soldiers weave thorns into a crown and roughly press it onto the head of Jesus. The soldiers were required to scourge and crucify Jesus, but they were not required to crown Him with thorns and mock Him. This gratuitous act of cruelty should remind us of our own unwarranted sinfulness. May we have the courage to rise above our sinful nature.

Two stained-glass windows. On the right, Jesus carries his cross and on the left he is Crucified. Located at Immaculate Conception Parish in Ravenna. Photo by Brian Keith.
The Carrying of the Cross is on the right and The Crucifixion is on the left.

The Carrying of the Cross

Jesus is forced by His captors to carry His heavy cross to His own place of execution, falling three times along the way. May the example of Christ encourage us to take up our cross of sufferings and follow Him.

The Crucifixion

Jesus is nailed to the cross and is lifted up to His agonizing death. Blood and water come forth from His side when He is pierced by the spear. Still, He forgave. Christ knows our pain. May we feel appropriate sorrow for our sins and extend our own mercy and forgiveness to others.

The Glorious Mysteries

Two stained glass windows. In the window on the left, Jesus ascends. In the window on the right, Jesus stands above his tomb. Located at Immaculate Conception Parish in Ravenna. Photo by Brian Keith.
The Resurrection is on the right and the Ascention is on the left.

The Resurrection 

Jesus rises from the dead, defeating sin and death, and securing eternal life for those who believe in Him. Let us open our hearts to the grace of the Resurrection and the love that so completely unites us with our Blessed Savior. Give thanks and praise as we receive His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity at Holy Communion.

The Ascension 

After spending 40 days with his disciples, Christ ascends into heaven to take his throne at the right hand of the Father. Christ has now prepared a place for us in His eternal kingdom. As we wait in hope for the glory of eternal life, let us be reassured that this life’s sufferings are only temporary. We may draw comfort and strength through Christ’s Church and the Sacraments. 

Two Stained Glass windows. On the left, Mary stands with hands raised during her assumption. On the right, a dove shines light on people below. Located at Immaculate Conception Parish in Ravenna. Photo by Brian Keith.
The descent of the Holy Spirit is on the right and the Assumption is on the left.

The Descent of the Holy Spirit

After His Ascension, Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to guide His followers and be present with them until He returns. The Church is now ready for its mission of spreading the Gospel. Pray that the Holy Spirit enlightens us with the wisdom to fruitfully work for our own sanctification and our mission of boldly witnessing to Jesus Christ.

The Assumption

The ever Virgin Mary, preserved from the stain of original sin and having completed the course of her earthly life, is taken up body and soul into heaven. She is our model of humility, obedience and perfect holiness through life’s many trials. In meditating on her example, may our hope never give way to despair.

Stained glass window of Mary being crowned. Located at Immaculate Conception Parish in Ravenna. Photo by Brian Keith.

The Coronation

Mary is exalted by the Lord and crowned Queen of Heaven. She rules with maternal affection and intercedes for sinners. May we always rely on her special prayers and unfailing help on our earthly pilgrimage toward eternal life. Mary, pray for us!

About the authors: 

Mike and Janice Zwilling are parishioners of Immaculate Conception Parish in Ravenna, where they are lectors and serve on the RCIA team and in the catechesis group. They are the parents of Father Matthew Zwilling, administrator at St. Paul the Apostle Parish in New Middletown and Christ the Good Shepherd Parish in Campbell.

About the parish:

Immaculate Conception Parish is located at 409 West Main Street in Ravenna. To learn about upcoming Masses and events, visit or call the parish office at 330-296-6434.

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Mike and Janice Zwilling

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