Your priest has probably never told you anything about the Rosary. Let us correct this unfortunate situation with some short remarks.
The Rosary is both a cycle of prayer and a small object used to help the faithful in reciting it. The objects are easily available – e.g. on on ebay – and they can be from extremely cheap to refined pieces of jewellery. I will deal here with the way to pray the rosary.
There are some regional variations in the way of praying the rosary and every faithful can adjust some parts as he likes. Personally, I recite the rosary as follows:
1) Sign of the Cross. Creed of the Apostles; Pater Noster; three Hail Marys; Glory Be; Fatima prayer.
2) Five decades, each composed of the following: Pater noster; ten Hail Marys; Glory Be; Fatima Prayer. At the beginning of each decade I introduce a short pause to reflect on the mystery and/or to ask Our Lord or the Blessed Virgin for a particular grace.
3) “Hail, Holy Queen”. Sign of the Cross.
During the three Hail Marys of the introduction you can meditate on the three Theological Virtues (Hope, Faith and Charity). During each of the ten Hail Marys of every decade you can meditate on the traditional mysteries of the day or substitute them with some other meditation you prefer. The traditionally used mysteries are – in this context – 15 episodes of the life of Our Lord or of the Blessed Virgin. They are divided into three groups of five (the joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries). Every day you meditate on one set of five mysteries, one mystery for every decade. The five mysteries added by John Paul II (“improving” on several apparitions of Mary) and called the mysteries of light are not traditional and are therefore not considered here, but again there is no obligation as to what is the object of the meditation.
The way to pray (and the beauty of the rosary) is to allow your lips to regularly go through the Hail Marys whilst keeping your mind fixed on the relevant mystery. The mind being what it is, you’ll discover that you are easily distracted. Still, the fact that you are vocally (this is much better than to do it mentally!) reciting the Hail Marys will help your mind to keep focused.
Traditionally, a vocal recitation of the prayers will not require you to be sure that you never, ever lose concentration (and you will!). What will initially happen is a constant bouncing of your mind from the meditation to the words of the Hail Mary to what you want to eat for dinner and back to the words of the Hail Mary or to the meditation, in a play of wandering thoughts whilst still trying to remain anchored in the meditation. In time, you will discover that you become more and more focused on the mysteries and your rosary becomes more spiritual, more relaxed (because you are not constantly “trying to stay focused”) and more rapid.
When a good practice has been attained, allow some twenty minutes for the rosary in its entirety (meaning here: the daily five decades). You can split the rosary into its components but not split a decade. Imagine that every Hail Mary is a rose you are giving to Mary, with the rosary being a beautiful garland.
The rosary is a beautiful way to transform boring times of your day into an uplifting experience: for instance whilst waiting for the train or as an alternative to reading junk newspapers during your commute. A complete decade will take you (with practice) not more than three or four minutes. You’ll see how refreshingly beautiful it is.
Much more could be said about the Rosary and many are the Internet sites dedicated to this beautiful devotion. Two links are given on the right hand site. Therein you will find descriptions of the mysteries and visual helps to aid your meditation efforts, historical informations, etc.; the spiritual meaning and the benefits of the rosary will also be discussed more in-depth. Please do not neglect to read the Promises of Mary to the Christians who recite the rosary!
Here ends this little introduction. I hope that you will find the Rosary uplifting and that you will one day start his recitation as a daily practice. I have found the practice extremely beneficial and cannot imagine a life without it anymore.