Friday, October 7, 2011

Feast Day: Our Lady of the Rosary

Our Lady of The Rosary calls
humankind to love of her Son
through praying the Rosary and
meditating on the mysteries of Christ's life.
Pope St. Pius V established this feast in 1573. The purpose was to thank God for the victory of Christians between the Turkish and British Navies at Lepanto. The victory at Lepanto is considered to be one of the greatest in naval history, since the Christians easily defeated an army reported to be about three times larger in number. The quick and pronounced victory by the Holy League was attributed to the help of the Mother of God whose intercession was invoked by the soldiers through the praying of the Rosary for three hours, during which time the wind shifted in their favor.

Our Lady of the Rosary at the Battle of Lepanto
Today, the entire month of October is dedicated to praying the Rosary, a mental and vocal prayer of great depth in which Christians are drawn into the healing and regenerative mysteries of Christ's life, just as the Virgin Mary unceasingly directs all the faithful toward her Son: the Savior of humankind. It is no exaggeration to say that, if we desire to know Jesus Christ, we ought to diligently and with love seek to know the Mother of God whose holy womb nourished and protected the infant Jesus, and whose entire life was and is lived in complete union with her Son's divine purpose.

Blessed John Paul II tells us: "The Rosary, though clearly Marian in character, is at the heart a Christocentric prayer. In the sobriety of its elements, it has all the depth of the Gospel message in its entirety, of which it can be said to be a compendium. . . . Through the Rosary the faithful receive abundant grace, as though from the very hands of the Mother of the Redeemer" (Rosarium Virginis Mariae, Introduction).

The word rosary means "crown of roses." St. Louis De Montfort professes the Rosary to be a "priceless treasure which is inspired by God," and the "mystical rose tree of Jesus and Mary in life, death, and eternity." He tells us that reciting the Rosary produces spiritual roses which will "never wilt or die, and they will be just as exquisite thousands of years from now as they are today" (The Secret Of The Rosary 9, 13).

Rosary means Crown of Roses
St. Louis De Montfort teaches that the Rosary is principally and in substance composed of the Prayer of Christ (The Our Father) and the Angelic Salutation (The Hail Mary; see Lk. 1:26 ff.). Therefore, in a sense, the Rosary dates to that pivotal day when the angel Gabriel greeted Mary with the words: "Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you" (Lk. 1:28). The Rosary thus becomes the "first prayer and the first devotion of the faithful" (The Secret Of The Rosary 17).

However, it was in the year 1214 that the Catholic Church received the Rosary in its present form, when it was given to St. Dominic from our Blessed Mother to be used as a powerful instrument of conversion in order to turn the hearts of the Albigensians back to God.

From that day forward, then as now, the Rosary has been embraced by the Catholic faithful the world over as a prayer of great power, from which graces of repentance, conversion, love of truth, and inexplicable joy flow forth from the infinite wellspring of Trinitarian Love. For those of the faithful who seek to advance in the spiritual life, it is through praying the Rosary that the indispensable graces necessary for such a sublime journey are received.

The Rosary is a strong weapon against
Satan, terrorism, war, evil...
Also, the Rosary is widely known to be an antidote against the diabolical poisons of Satan. In his encyclical Supremi Apostolatus Officio, Pope Leo XIII taught that the Rosary is an effective spiritual weapon against the evils of an ill society. Observing that there have been many "exceedingly great favors obtained" through the ages by the Christian peoples' devotion to the Rosary, he tells us: "We desire that that same devotion [to the Rosary] should be offered by the whole Catholic world with the greatest earnestness to the Blessed Virgin, that by her intercession her Divine Son may be appeased and softened in the evils which afflict us" (Introduction).

Those "evils which afflict us" in contemporary society are legion: we are daily confronted with numerous intrinsic and grave evils: the intentional killing of thousands of unborn children through abortion; the destruction of multitudes of embryonic children through IVF and embryonic stem-cell experimentation; and the continued widespread use of contraceptives in an attempt to destroy the procreative potential that should exist in each intimate union of man and wife.

As if these are not enough, we must deal with the numerous and increasing attacks on the indispensable institution of marriage; a militant relativism which seeks to annihilate -- albeit futilely -- the truth; and powerful secularists whose intent is to force the privatization of religion, relegating public worship to closet ritual and evangelization to imposed silence. It is no exaggeration to say that society itself is threatened.

The words of Pope Leo XIII, in which he exhorts the faithful's devotion to the Rosary, echo those of Our Lady of The Rosary, when, at Fatima in 1917, she appeared to Lucia and her cousins, Jacinta and Francisco Marto, as the Lady "more brilliant than the sun." On that day, the Virgin Mary announced to the entire world in union with her Son:

"I am the Lady of the Rosary. I have come to warn the faithful to amend their lives and to ask pardon for their sins. They must not offend our Lord any more, for he is already too grievously offended by the sins of men. People must say the Rosary. Let them continue saying it every day."

Our Lady of Fatima
Queen of the Most Holy Rosary


The development of the rosary has a long history. First, a practice developed of praying 150 Our Fathers in imitation of the 150 Psalms. Then there was a parallel practice of praying 150 Hail Marys. Soon a mystery of Jesus' life was attached to each Hail Mary. Though Mary's giving the rosary to St. Dominic is recognized as a legend, the development of this prayer form owes much to the followers of St. Dominic. One of them, Alan de la Roche, was known as "the apostle of the rosary." He founded the first Confraternity of the Rosary in the 15th century. In the 16th century the rosary was developed to its present form—with the 15 mysteries (joyful, sorrowful and glorious). In 2002, Pope John Paul II added the Mysteries of Light to this devotion.


The purpose of the rosary is to help us meditate on the great mysteries of our salvation. Pius XII called it a compendium of the gospel. The main focus is on Jesus—his birth, life, death and resurrection. The Our Fathers remind us that Jesus' Father is the initiator of salvation. The Hail Marys remind us to join with Mary in contemplating these mysteries. They also make us aware that Mary was and is intimately joined with her Son in all the mysteries of his earthly and heavenly existence. The Glorys remind us that the purpose of all life is the glory of the Trinity.The rosary appeals to many. It is simple. The constant repetition of words helps create an atmosphere in which to contemplate the mysteries of God. We sense that Jesus and Mary are with us in the joys and sorrows of life. We grow in hope that God will bring us to share in the glory of Jesus and Mary forever. 


“The rosary, though clearly Marian in character, is at a heart a Christ-centered prayer. It has all the depth of the gospel messge in its entirety. It is an echo of the prayer of Mary, her perennial Magnificat for the work of the redemptive Incarnation which began in her virginal womb...It can be said that the rosary is, in some sense, a prayer-commentary on the final chapter of the Vatican II Constitution Lumen Gentium, a chapter that discusses the wondrous presence of the Mother of God in the mystery of Christ and the Church" 
The Rosary of the Virgin Mary
Pope John Paul II
Apostolic Letter 
October 16, 2002

"Today, together we confirm that the Holy Rosary is not a pious practice banished to the past, like prayers of other times thought of with nostalgia. Instead, the Rosary is experiencing a new Springtime. Without a doubt, this is one of the most eloquent signs of love that the young generation nourish for Jesus and his Mother, Mary. In the current world, so dispersive, this prayer helps to put Christ at the centre, as the Virgin did, who meditated within all that was said about her Son, and also what he did and said. When reciting the Rosary, the important and meaningful moments of salvation history are relived. The various steps of Christ's mission are traced. With Mary the heart is oriented toward the mystery of Jesus. Christ is put at the centre of our life, of our time, of our city, through the contemplation and meditation of his holy mysteries of joy, light, sorrow and glory. May Mary help us to welcome within ourselves the grace emanating from these mysteries, so that through us we can "water" society, beginning with our daily relationships, and purifying them from so many negative forces, thus opening them to the newness of God. The Rosary, when it is prayed in an authentic way, not mechanical and superficial but profoundly, it brings, in fact, peace and reconciliation. It contains within itself the healing power of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, invoked with faith and love at the centre of each "Hail Mary"".
Saturday, 3 May 2008
Basilica of Saint Mary Major

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