The Johannite Rosary

A few days ago, Father Tony Silvia posted the text of the “Johannite Rosary” on his blog.

This practice is one of the most popular practices in Fr Tony’s book so, given that Johannite practice is the focal topic of the school this year, I thought I’d add a little detail and pass it on, in case you don’t subscribe to Fr Tony’s blog.

Origins and Variations

A “rosary” is a sequence of prayers recited in tandem with counting beads on a string of beads – often referred to as “rosary beads” – which look like the picture to the right. The practice is an old (9th Century), popular, Roman Catholic tradition which is usually attributed to Saint Dominic, but it clearly pre-dates him by several centuries.

Anglicans and other Western Christians have also developed rosary prayers based in similar principles to the Roman version.

The practice of praying repetitive prayer by counting beads or, earlier, knots in a rope, is ancient. It’s practised as early in the tradition as the Desert Mothers and Fathers, but probably before that. Orthodox Christians use a prayer rope with knots in it (called a komboskini in Greek) to this day.

Similar manual counting beads are used by Muslims as well as Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists and Shintō practitioners. They’re almost universal because they work. As Wikipedia notes,

The rosary beads provide a physical method of keeping count of the number of Hail Marys said as the mysteries are contemplated. The fingers are moved along the beads as the prayers are recited. By not having to keep track of the count mentally, the mind is free to meditate on the mysteries. 

– https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosary#Rosary_beads

Roman Practice

The Roman Catholic practice is, in a way, a version of the Office of the Hours for lay people who, in past time, couldn’t read. The main prayers are the familiar prayers of the Office with a verbal focus on Ave Maria (Hail Mary) and a mental focus on a set of “mysteries” – meditations on the life of Jesus.

Like a lot of old, Roman traditions, the rosary has innumerable terms, versions, variations and specificities which obsess traditionalists and bore outsiders.

Johannite Variation

The Johannite Rosary sequence was first documented by Monsignor Scott Rassbach in 2011 based on his own devotions. It uses a normal set of Roman Catholic rosary beads, a so-called “five-decade rosary” (illustrated above) – which has five sets of ten beads in a loop, plus a short string with a one bead – three bead – one bead sequence that connects the main loop to a cross.

Using a standard, five-decade rosary means you can pick these up from a local church, a Catholic gift shop, online or make it yourself.

This Johannite version shifts focus from Jesus, to the Logos itself, from Mary to Wisdom. It introduces the four archangels and mysteries related to them. It guides the practitioner always towards the Most High.

Grab some rosary beads, print out a copy and give it a try.


Photo by twinsfisch on Unsplash

Tim Mansfield
Bishop of New South Wales
Bishop Tim is the rector of the Parish of St Uriel the Archangel in Sydney and Bishop of New South Wales. He serves on the Apostolic Council of the AJC. He was ordained in 2008 and consecrated to the episcopacy in 2012.
Tim Mansfield on FacebookTim Mansfield on Twitter