|Devotion to Our Lady||
THE BORING PART
The Rosary Is The Weapon!
At Fatima, in 1917, Our Lady repeatedly commanded that the Rosary be prayed every day (Francisco was told to say many Rosaries a day), further saying: “Pray the Rosary every day in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary, in order to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war, because only she can help you!” At Akita, in 1973, she added: “Continue to pray very much—very much ... The only weapons which will remain for you will be the Rosary and the Sign left by My Son. Each day recite the prayers of the Rosary... Pray very much the prayers of the Rosary. I alone am able still to save you from the calamities which approach. Those who place their confidence in me will be saved.”
This calls to mind the message that Our Lady communicates to us through Sr. Lucia of Fatima, concerning the Rosary. Sr. Lucia said to Fr. Fuentes in 1957: “The Most Holy Virgin has made me understand that we are in the last times of the world. She has told me that the devil is about to wage a decisive battle with the Virgin, and a decisive battle is a final battle, in which one side wins, the other side loses. Also, starting with the present time, we belong either to God, or we belong to the demon—there is no middle ground … The Most Holy Virgin, in these last times in which we live, has given a new efficacy to the recitation of the Rosary—to such an extent that there is no problem, no matter how difficult it is, whether temporal or above all, spiritual, in the personal life of each one of us, of our families, of the families of the world, or of the religious communities, or even of the life of peoples and nations, that cannot be solved by the Rosary. There is no problem I tell you, no matter how difficult it is, that we cannot resolve by the prayer of the Holy Rosary. With the Holy Rosary, we will save ourselves, we will sanctify ourselves, we will console Our Lord and obtain the salvation of many souls.”
Fighting in the Latter Times
St. Louis de Montfort—also speaking of “Last Days “ or “End Times “—writes in his True Devotion to Mary that:
“According to the explanation of St. Bernard—all the rich among the people shall supplicate her face from age to age, and particularly at the end of the world; that is to say, the greatest saints, the souls richest in graces and virtues, shall be the most assiduous in praying to our Blessed Lady … because the Most High with His holy Mother has to form for Himself great saints who shall surpass most of the other saints in sanctity as much as the cedars of Lebanon outgrow the little shrubs …
“These great souls, full of grace and zeal, shall be chosen to match themselves against the enemies of God, who shall rage on all sides; and they shall be singularly devout to our Blessed Lady, illuminated by her light, strengthened with her nourishment, led by her spirit, supported by her arm and sheltered under her protection, so that they shall fight with one hand and build with the other. With the one hand they shall fight, overthrow and crush the heretics with their heresies, the schismatics with their schisms, the idolaters with their idolatries and the sinners with their impieties. With the other hand they shall build the temple of the true Solomon and the mystical city of God, that is to say, the most holy Virgin, called by the Fathers the “Temple of Solomon “ and the “City of God. “ By their words and their examples they shall draw the whole world to true devotion to Mary. This shall bring upon them many enemies, but shall also bring many victories and much glory for God alone. This is what God revealed to St. Vincent Ferrer, the great apostle of his age, as he has sufficiently noted in one of his works …
“Mary must shine forth more than ever in mercy, in might and in grace, in these latter times: in mercy, to bring back and lovingly receive the poor strayed sinners who shall be converted and shall return to the Catholic Church; in might, against the enemies of God, idolaters, schismatics, Mahometans, Jews and souls hardened in impiety, who shall rise in terrible revolt against God to seduce all those who shall oppose them and to make them fall by promises and threats; and finally, she must shine forth in grace, in order to animate and sustain the valiant soldiers and faithful servants of Jesus Christ, who shall battle for His interests ...
Triumphant Over the Devil and His Crew
“And lastly, Mary must be terrible to the devil and his crew, as an army ranged in battle, principally in these latter times, because the devil, knowing that he has but little time, and now less than ever, to destroy souls, will every day redouble his efforts and his combats. He will presently raise up cruel persecutions and will put terrible snares before the faithful servants and true children of Mary, whom it gives him more trouble to conquer than it does to conquer others “ (St. Louis de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary, §46-§50).
“But the power of Mary over all the devils will especially shine forth in the latter times, when Satan will lay his snares against her heel: that is to say, her humble slaves and her poor children, whom she will raise up to make war against him. They shall be little and poor in the world’s esteem, and abased before all like the heel, trodden underfoot and persecuted as the heel is by the other members of the body. But in return for this they shall be rich in the grace of God, which Mary shall distribute to them abundantly. They shall be great and exalted before God in sanctity, superior to all other creatures by their lively zeal, and so well sustained with God’s assistance that, with the humility of their heel, in union with Mary, they shall crush the head of the devil and cause Jesus Christ to triumph “ (St. Louis de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary,§54).
The Formation of the Apostles of the Latter Times
“In a word, God wishes that His holy Mother should be at present more known, more loved, more honored than she has ever been. This, no doubt, will take place if the predestinate enter, with the grace and light of the Holy Ghost, into the interior and perfect practice which I will disclose to them shortly. Then they will see clearly, as far as faith allows, that beautiful Star of the Sea. They will arrive happily in harbor, following its guidance, in spite of the tempests and the pirates. They will know the grandeurs of that Queen, and will consecrate themselves entirely to her service as subjects and slaves of love. They will experience her sweetness and her maternal goodness, and they will love her tenderly like well-beloved children. They will know the mercies of which she is full, and the need they have of her help; and they will have recourse to her in all things, as to their dear advocate and Mediatrix with Jesus Christ. They will know what is the surest, the easiest, the shortest and the most perfect means of going to Jesus Christ; and they will give themselves to Mary, body and soul, without reserve, that they may thus belong entirely to Jesus Christ …
“But who shall those servants, slaves and children of Mary be? They shall be the ministers of the Lord who, like a burning fire, shall kindle the fire of divine love everywhere. They shall be ‘like sharp arrows in the hand of the powerful’ Mary to pierce her enemies. (Psalm 126:4). They shall be the sons of Levi, well purified by the fire of great tribulation, and closely adhering to God (1 Corinthians 6:17), who shall carry the gold of love in their heart, the incense of prayer in their spirit, and the myrrh of mortification in their body. They shall be everywhere the good odor of Jesus Christ to the poor and to the little, while at the same time, they shall be an odor of death to the great, to the rich and to the proud worldlings …
“They shall be clouds thundering and flying through the air at the least breath of the Holy Ghost; who, detaching themselves from everything and troubling themselves about nothing, shall shower forth the rain of the Word of God and of life eternal. They shall thunder against sin; they shall storm against the world; they shall strike the devil and his crew; and they shall pierce through and through, for life or for death, with their two-edged sword of the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17), all those to whom they shall be sent on the part of the Most High …
“They shall be the true apostles of the latter times, to whom the Lord of Hosts shall give the word and the might to work marvels and to carry off with glory the spoils of His enemies. They shall sleep without gold or silver, and, what is more, without care, in the midst of the other priests, ecclesiastics, and clerics (Psalm 67:14); and yet they shall have the silvered wings of the dove to go, with the pure intention of the glory of God and the salvation of souls, wheresoever the Holy Ghost shall call them. Nor shall they leave behind them, in the places where they have preached, anything but the gold of charity, which is the fulfillment of the whole law (Romans 13:10) ...
“In a word, we know that they shall be true disciples of Jesus Christ, walking in the footsteps of His poverty, humility, contempt of the world, charity; teaching the narrow way of God in pure truth, according to the holy Gospel, and not according to the maxims of the world; troubling themselves about nothing; not accepting persons; sparing, fearing and listening to no mortal, however influential he may be. They shall have in their mouths the two-edged sword of the Word of God. They shall carry on their shoulders the bloody standard of the Cross, the Crucifix in their right hand and the Rosary in their left, the sacred Names of Jesus and Mary in their hearts, and the modesty and mortification of Jesus Christ in their own behavior …
“These are the great men who are to come; but Mary is the one who, by order of the Most High, shall fashion them for the purpose of extending His empire over that of the impious, the idolaters and the Mahometans. But when and how shall this be? God alone knows. As for us, we have but to hold our tongues, to pray, to sigh and to wait: ‘With expectation I have waited’ (Psalms 39:2)” (St. Louis de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary, §55-§58).
The Day the Holy Rosary Was Given
In his book, The Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis de Montfort, in the chapters entitles The Second and Third Rose, explains the origin of the Rosary and the role that St. Dominic plays in its final format, as we know it today:
“Since the Holy Rosary is composed, principally and in substance, of the Prayer of Christ and the Angelic Salutation, that is, the Our Father and the Hail Mary, it was without doubt the first prayer and the first devotion of the faithful and has been in use all through the centuries, from the time of the apostles down to the present. But it was only in the year 1214, however, that Holy Mother Church received the Rosary in its present form and according to the method we use today. It was given to the Church by Saint Dominic who had received it from the Blessed Virgin as a powerful means of converting the Albigensians and other sinners.
“I will tell you the story of how he received it, which is found in the very well-known book, ‘De Dignitate Psalteri’ by Blessed Alan de la Roche. Saint Dominic, seeing that the gravity of people’s sins was hindering the conversion of the Albigensians, withdrew into a forest near Toulouse where he prayed unceasingly for three days and three nights. During this time he did nothing but weep and do harsh penances in order to appease the anger of Almighty God. He used his discipline so much that his body was lacerated, and finally he fell into a coma.
“At this point Our Lady appeared to him, accompanied by three angels, and she said: ‘Dear Dominic, do you know which weapon the Blessed Trinity wants to use to reform the world?’
“‘Oh my Lady,’ answered Saint Dominic, ‘you know far than I do because next to your Son Jesus Christ you have always been the chief instrument of our salvation.’
“Then Our Lady replied: ‘I want you to know that, in this kind of warfare, the battering ram has always been the Angelic Psalter which is the foundation stone of the New Testament. Therefore if you want to reach these hardened souls and win them over to God, preach my Psalter.’
“So he arose, comforted, and burning with zeal for the conversion of the people in that district he made straight for the Cathedral. At once unseen angels rang the bells to gather the people together and Saint Dominic began to preach.”
Like Moses on Mount Sinai
“At the very beginning of his sermon an appalling storm broke out, the earth shook, the sun was darkened, and there was so much thunder and lightning that all were very much afraid. Even greater was their fear when looking at a picture of Our Lady exposed in a prominent place they saw her raise her arms to heaven three times to call down God’s vengeance upon them if they failed to be converted, to amend their lives, and seek the protection of the Holy Mother of God. God wished, by means of these supernatural phenomena, to spread the new devotion of the Holy Rosary and to make it more widely known …
“At last, at the prayer of Saint Dominic, the storm came to an end, and he went on preaching. So fervently and compelling did he explain the importance and value of the Holy Rosary that almost all the people of Toulouse embraced it and renounced their false beliefs. In a very short time a great improvement was seen in the town; people began leading Christian lives and gave up their former bad habits …
"This miraculous way in which the devotion to the Holy Rosary was established is something of a parallel to the way in which Almighty God have His law to the world [through Moses] on Mount Sinai and obviously proves its value and importance. Inspired by the Holy Ghost, instructed by the Blessed Virgin as well as by his own experience, Saint Dominic preached the Holy Rosary for the rest of his life. He preached it by his example as well as his sermons, in cities and in country places, to people of high station and low, before scholars and the uneducated, to Catholics and to heretics. The Holy Rosary which he said every day was his preparation for every sermon and his little tryst with Our Lady immediately after preaching” (St. Louis de Montrfort, The Secret of the Rosary, “Second Rose “ & “Third Rose “).
Understanding the Times
St. Dominic (Dominic Guzman) was born in 1170 in Calaroga, Castile (Spain) in an age of change. The Mohammedans had swept across the Mediterranean, turning Christian temples into Moorish mosques, leaving many regions of Spain under the Moorish yoke. At the age of 14, Dominic went to the University of Palencia and graduated with a degree in liberal arts and sacred sciences. He was known for his devotion to study and reverence for learning. He was generous, compassionate, gentle, and strong. At the age of 24, he was ordained a priest by the bishop of Osma, Spain.
At the age 33, Dominic exercised his priestly ministry in the southern region of France called Languedoc. It was in this region that St. Dominic came in contact with the Albigensian heresy. This heresy was an offshoot of Manicheanism. Its originator, Manes, was a preacher who lived in the plains between the Tigris and Euphrates during the third century. Manes taught that all matter is evil and that man is a combination of two opposing principles; a spiritual being created by God, thrust into a material body created by an evil being. The Albigensians believed that adultery, fornication, and suicide were praiseworthy; there is no heaven, no hell, no moral code—sounds like today, eh? What goes around, comes around!
St. Dominic traveled from village to village teaching the truths of the Faith. The Albigensians jeered, insulted, and pelted him with stones as he traveled along their roads. He prayed to God in churches at night and hardly ever slept. His contemporaries described him as a “strong athlete,” capable of great physical endurance. He was always good to talk to when you were in trouble, always affectionate, and quickly made you feel at home.
It was during this time that the tradition of the Rosary comes to us. The form in which it has come down to us will best be stated in the words of Fr. Corneluis de Snecka, a disciple of the French Dominican Alan de la Roche:
“We read that at the time when he was preaching to the Albigenses, St. Dominic at first obtained but scanty success: and that one day, complaining of this in pious prayer to our Blessed Lady, she deigned to reply to him, saying: ‘Wonder not that you have obtained so little fruit by your labors, you have spent them on barren soil, not yet watered with the dew of Divine grace. When God willed to renew the face of the earth, He began by sending down on it the fertilizing rain of the Angelic Salutation. Therefore preach my Psalter composed of 150 Angelic Salutations and 15 Our Fathers, and you will obtain an abundant harvest.’”
The place of the revelation was the church of Prouille and the time was 1208. The claim of place and time are most strongly supported by the tradition of the Dominican Order. Pope Leo XIII affirmed over and over the Dominican origin of the Rosary and in a letter to the Bishop of Carcassone (1889), he accepts the tradition of Prouille as the place where the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St. Dominic, revealing this devotion. The tradition that Mary first revealed the Rosary devotion to St. Dominic is supported by 13 popes.
St. Dominic went into the villages of the heretics, gathered the people, and preached to them the mysteries of salvation— the Incarnation, the Redemption, Eternal Life. As the Holy Virgin had taught him to do, he distinguished the different kinds of mysteries and after each short instruction upon the mysteries, he had them pray ten Hail Marys. St. Dominic found great success in this new devotion, bringing about the conversion of the Albigensians. The late Dominican Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, who was a teacher when at the famous seminary, the Angelicum, in Rome, stated: “Our Blessed Lady made known to St. Dominic a kind of preaching till then unknown; which she said would be one of the most powerful weapons against future errors and in future difficulties.”
THE ROSARY BECOMES A WEAPON IN BATTLE
The Battle of Muret — September 12th, 1213
The beads of Paternosters and Aves have been prayed from very early times and were commonly prayed by the knights and sergeants of the military religious orders when in battle and on campaign when they could not pray their prescribed office. After Our Lady’s revelation about the Rosary, St. Dominic formalized the current Dominican Rosary prior to the Battle of Muret in 1213 (that battle was fought and won on September 12th, the feast of the Holy Name of Mary) when he prayed for Count Simon de Montfort and his 700 knights as they sallied forth against a huge army of 50,000 Albigensians.
The battle of Muret was fought in 1213 between the Catholic forces, led by Simon de Montfort and the Albigenses forces, led by Raymond of Toulouse. The Catholic forces were in the habit of praying the Rosary, at the suggestion of St. Dominic. Count Simon de Montfort and his knights routed the Albigensians by charging straight into their midst. They gained the Albigensian headquarters and when their leader, the heretic King Peter of Aragon, was slain, the Albigensians fled.
Thus the day was won and the tiny Catholic army triumphed over the huge heretic army. This was great victory obtained by the all-powerful Rosary of Our Lady. The Catholic force won the battle of Muret, looked upon the victory as miraculous, and counted it as the fruit of prayer. The English Dominican historian, Nicholas Trivet wrote, “St. Dominic warred by prayer, De Montfort by arms. The first chapel in honor of the Rosary was built, out of gratitude, by Simon de Montfort in the town of Muret.”
The Battle of Lepanto — October 7th, 1571 (read more here)
On the 7th of October, in 1571, Don John of Austria, son of the Emperor Charles V, commanding the navies of the Pope St. Pius V and the Emperor, together with the navies of Spain and Venice, defeated a much larger Turkish navy off the coast of Greece at a place now called Naupactos. To the men of his day this place was called by its Roman name: Lepanto
How did this extraordinary victory come about? The answer is simple enough: It was obtained—yet again—by the most powerful weapon known to men: the Holy Rosary- the chaplet of the Blessed Virgin Mary given to St. Dominic in the 13th century. In preparation for this battle, one of the greatest naval battles of Roman Christendom, the Pope, St. Pius V, (himself a Dominican friar) ordered that the Holy Rosary be prayed throughout the length and breadth of Christendom—just as it would be later done before the Battle of Vienna in 1683.
The soldiers and sailors of the Christian fleet prayed the Rosary for more than three hours prior to battle, and continued to pray as they sailed into the enemy ships. As a result, the feast of “Our Lady of Victory” (later to be renamed “Our Lady of the Rosary”) was instituted by the popes to be celebrated on October 7th for an everlasting memory of this great victory. On October 7th, 1571, members of the Confraternity of the Rosary in Rome, processed while praying the Rosary for a blessing on the Christian fleet fighting the Turks at Lepanto. Pope St. Pius V, a Dominican, joined them, and God revealed to him that Mary had, at that hour, obtained a glorious victory for the Christian fleet. This great victory saved Europe from the Mohammedan peril.
Let us hear what Dom Prosper Gueranger O.S.B., of the monastery of Solesmes, writes of that great battle and feast in his great work, The Liturgical Year (the book read to St Therese of Lisieux when she was a child):
“Soliman II, the greatest of the Sultans, taking advantage of the confusion caused in the West by Luther, had filled the 16th century with terror by his exploits. He left to his son, Selim II, the prospect of being able at length to carry out the ambition of his race: to subjugate Rome and Vienna, the Pope and the Emperor, to the power of the crescent. The Turkish fleet had already mastered the greater part of the Mediterranean, and was threatening Italy, when, on 7th October 1571, it came into action, in the Gulf of Lepanto, against the pontifical galleys supported by the fleets of Spain and Venice. It was Sunday; throughout the world the confraternities of the Holy Rosary were engaged in their work of intercession. Supernaturally enlightened, St. Pius V watched from the Vatican the battle undertaken by the leader he had chosen, Don John of Austria, against the 300 vessels of Islam. The illustrious Pontiff, whose life’s work was now completed, did not survive to celebrate the anniversary of the triumph; but he perpetuated the memory of it by an annual commemoration of Our Lady of Victory. His successor, Gregory XIII, altered the title to our Lady of the Rosary, and appointed the first Sunday of October for the new feast [now celebrated on 7th October, the actual day of the battle], authorizing its celebration in those churches which possessed an altar under that invocation. A century and a half later, this limited concession was made general. As [now Venerable] Innocent XI, in memory of the deliverance of Vienna by King Jan Sobieski, had extended the feast of the most Holy Name of Mary to the whole Church, so, in 1716, Clement XI inscribed The Feast of The Holy Rosary on the universal calendar, in gratitude for the victory gained by Prince Eugene of Savoy [commander-in-chief of the Imperial forces] at Peterwardein, on 5th August, under the auspices of our Lady of the Snow. This victory was followed by the raising of the siege of Corfu, and completed a year later by the taking of Belgrade” (Dom Gueranger, The Liturgical Year, reading from October 7th).
The Battle of Vienna — September 12th, 1683
One of the most important battles of the 17th century was the battle of Vienna, which was fought on September 12, 1683. The outcome of this battle would have a profound effect on the future of Eastern, if not of all, Europe. The Battle of Vienna was mainly fought by the Turks, with about 15,000 Tatars on their side, against a less numerous combination of Polish, German, and Austrian forces. The Turkish forces were led by the Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa, an ambitious man, but who wasn’t a very good general judging by the number of battles he had lost. The opposing forces were led by Jan Sobieski. On May 21, 1674, Sobieski was elected king as Jan III (John the Third) by the Diet. This was after the death of King Michael Wisniowiecki the previous year, on November 10th. Sobieski was an intelligent, talented, and brave man. He was also a patriot of Poland and always wanted the best for his country.
Since about March the Turks were preparing for an attack on the Hapsburg capital, Vienna, and were gathering their forces together rather rapidly. By June, they had invaded Austria. Kara Mustafa Pasha led an Ottoman force of 140,000 against Vienna, defended by a force of 11,000. King Leopold and his court fled to Passau. On July 14th, the Turks reached Vienna. They laid siege to the great city. One of the disadvantages that the Turks had was that they did not have sufficient heavy artillery. The defenders fought bravely but their food supply and their ammunition were growing low. The Turks had made some breaches in the walls but their effort was hindered by the barricades erected by the people of Vienna.
Earlier that year on March 31st, 1683, King John III had signed the Treaty of Warsaw, with the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold. In this treaty, it was agreed to come to one’s aid if the Turks attacked either Krakow or Vienna. Following his agreement in the treaty and the appeal of the pope, King Jan Sobieski marched to Vienna with an army of about 30,000 men. Sobieski said that his purpose for going to Vienna was “to proceed to the Holy War, and with God’s help to give back the old freedom to besieged Vienna, and thereby help wavering Christendom.”
Upon reaching Vienna, he joined up with the Austrians and Germans. Sobieski had noticed that the Turkish resistance was weak. When he ordered full attack, he completely surprised Kara Mustafa. Sobieski and his husaria, which is Polish heavy cavalry, alongside with the cooperation of the whole army, played an important role in the victory. Sobieski with his husaria charged toward Kara Mustafa’s headquarters and, seeing this, Mustafa’s army fled in panic. Even so, the Turkish army suffered heavy losses. This victory freed Europe from the Ottoman Turks and their invasions and secured Christianity as the main religion in all of Europe.
After the Battle of Vienna, Jan Sobieski entered Vienna in glory. The King and his Polish army had won lots of fame after their victory. King Jan Sobieski was not only looked upon as the savior of Vienna, but as a savior of the whole Europe from the Ottoman Turks.
Such are but a few examples of the many victories obtained through the extraordinary power of the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary! Our Lady has so often appeared and asked her children to pray the Holy Rosary for victory and peace, as she did to St. Bernadette of Lourdes and later to the little shepherds at Fatima in 1917 during the Great War.
The Battle of Lepanto and the Battle of Vienna were great victories for Catholic Europe. However, they did not end the threat of invasion nor completely break the power of the Ottoman Turks. More naval and land battles would follow in the years to come.
History of the Feast of the Most Holy Rosary
For the reason behind the feast, we must go back to October 7th, 1571, the first Sunday of October, when Don Juan of Austria won his famous naval battle over the Turks at Lepanto. When giving praise and thanksgiving, he attributed the victory to the praying of the Holy Rosary and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
October 7th is nowadays celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church annually as the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. For several centuries it was known by the alternate title of “Our Lady of Victory,” in honor of the naval victory which secured Europe against Turkish invasion. Pope St. Pius V attributed the victory to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was invoked on the day of the battle through a campaign to pray the Rosary throughout Europe.
The feast always occurs one week after the similar Byzantine celebration of the Protection of the Mother of God, which most Eastern Orthodox Christians and Eastern Catholics celebrate on October 1st in memory of a 10th-century military victory which protected Constantinople against invasion after a reported Marian apparition.
Pope Leo XIII was particularly devoted to Our Lady of the Rosary, producing 11 encyclicals on the subject of this feast and its importance in the course of his long pontificate. In the first of them, 1883’s, Supremi Apostolatus Officio, he echoed the words of the oldest known Marian prayer (known in the Latin tradition as the Sub Tuum Praesidium--“We fly to thy patronage, O Holy Mother of God”), when he wrote, “It has always been the habit of Catholics, in danger and in troublous times, to fly for refuge to Mary.”
“This devotion, so great and so confident, to the august Queen of Heaven,” Pope Leo continued, “has never shone forth with such brilliancy as when the militant Church of God has seemed to be endangered by the violence of heresy … or by an intolerable moral corruption, or by the attacks of powerful enemies.” Foremost among such “attacks” was the Battle of Lepanto, a perilous and decisive moment in European and world history.
“Turkish victory at Lepanto would have been a catastrophe of the first magnitude for Christendom,” wrote military historian, John F. Guilmartin, Jr., “and Europe would have followed a historical trajectory strikingly different from that which obtained.”
The Evolution of the Feast
● Pope St. Pius V (1566-1572), established an annual feast on October 7th and named the feast “Our Lady of Victory” and ordered that a commemoration of the Rosary should be made upon that day, because the Christians were victorious over the Turks through Our Lady’s intercession.
● Pope Gregory XIII (1572-1585),in 1573, the immediate successor to Pope St. Pius V, enhanced the title from “Feast of Our Lady of Victory” to “Feast of the Holy Rosary.” He allowed it’s the Office (Mass and Breviary prayers) for the feast to be prayed in any church where there was an altar consecrated to Our Lady of the Rosary. At the request of the Dominican Order, Pope Gregory XIII, in 1573 allowed this feast to be kept in all churches which possessed an altar dedicated to the Holy Rosary.
● Pope Clement X (1670-1676), in 1671, the observance of this festival was extended by to the whole of Spain.
● Pope Clement XI (1700-1721), forty-five years later, in light of these great victories and especially after the important victory over the Turks, gained by Prince Eugene on August 6th, 1716, at Peterwardein in Hungary, the pope commanded the Feast of the Most Holy Rosary to be celebrated by the universal Church.
● Pope Benedict XIII (1724-1730) allowed a set of “proper” lessons (personalized or particularized readings) to be added to the second nocturn of Matins in the Divine Office (Breviary).
● Pope Benedict XIV (1740-1758) entered the feast into the Roman Breviary.
● Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903) promoted the feast of the Most Holy Rosary to a feast of a double of the second class. On this feast, in every church in which the Rosary confraternity has been duly erected, a plenary indulgence toties quoties is granted upon certain conditions to all who visit therein the Rosary chapel or statue of Our Lady. This has been called the “Portiuncula” of the Rosary. Pope Leo also added an invocation to the Litany of Loreto -- “Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, pray for us!”
● Pope Clement XI extended the feast to the whole of the Latin Rite, inserting it into the General Roman Calendar in 1716, and assigning it to the first Sunday in October.
● Pope St. Pius X, in 1913, changed the date to October 7th, as part of his effort to restore celebration of the liturgy of the Sundays.
● In 1960, Pope John XXIII changed the title from “Feast of the Holy Rosary “ to “Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.”
THE SPIRITUAL PART
The Crown of Roses
The Rosary (“Garland or Crown of Roses”) is a certain form of prayer wherein one recalls successively in pious meditation the mysteries of our Redemption found in the life of Our Lord Jesus Christ, lived in union His Blessed Mother, Mary the Theotokos. Each time we say a “Hail Mary”, we are giving the Blessed Virgin Mary a beautiful rose, and each complete Rosary makes her a crown of roses. The rose is the queen of flowers, and so the Rosary is the rose of all popular devotions in the Catholic Church, and therefore the most important one.
The Holy Rosary is a compendium of the Gospels. It is considered a perfect prayer, because, within it, lies the awesome story of our salvation. The Rosary, though clearly Marian in character, is at heart a Christocentric prayer. With the Rosary, the Christian people sit in the school of Mary and are led to contemplate Christ and to experience the depths of His love.
Since the Rosary is composed, principally and in substance, of the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9–13) and the Angelic Salutation (Luke 1:42), that is, the “Our Father” and the “Hail Mary”, it was, without doubt, the first prayer and the principal devotion of the Christian faithful, and has been in use all through the centuries, from the time of the Apostles and the disciples down to the present. The “Hail Mary” (at least the biblical first half of it), seems to date from as early as the 2nd Century, as ancient graffiti at Christian sites has suggested.
The Psalter of Mary or Bidding Beads
The Rosary began as a practice by the laity to imitate the monastic Divine Office (Breviary or Liturgy of the Hours), during the course of which the monks daily prayed the 150 Psalms. Prayer beads and cords were created to keep count of one’s prayers. In fact, the small round objects we know in English as “beads” were named from this practice; the root of the English word “bead” is the same as for the word “bid” and originally meant “to pray or request.”
The practice of counting prayers using a string of beads is very old. Rosaries, paternosters, Jesus Prayer ropes, or similar strings of prayer beads, have been a common accessory carried by men and women, old and young since the early centuries of the Church. There are legends of St. Anthony, in the desert, counting his prayers with pebbles in the 3rd Century, and a string of beads is preserved in Belgium, that is said to have been buried with the saintly Abbess Gertrude (died 659). Among the monks of the Greek Church, we hear of the kombologion, or komboschoinion, a cord with a hundred knots, used to count genuflections and Signs of the Cross.
From Paternosters to Ave Marias
The first prayer Christians recited on prayer beads was the “Our Father” (in Latin, “Pater Noster”). For those who could not read, reciting 150 paternosters was regarded as equivalent to reciting the 150 Psalms. This alternative “Psalter” appears in the Rule of St. Francis of Assisi. The beads used for counting were called Paternoster Beads: usually a string of 10, 50 or 150 beads, with or without dividing markers. As time went on, devout people began to create variations on this devotional practice, adding an “Ave Maria” (“Hail Mary”) or “Gloria Patri” (“Glory be”) after each “Pater Noster” (“Our Father”) or simply saying 150 Aves. This was the creation of “St. Mary’s Psalter” or the “Psalter of Mary”.
The Birth of the Rosary as We Know It
It was in the year 1214 that the Church received the Rosary in its present form and according to the method we use today. Tradition affirms that the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St. Dominic, the founder of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans), in the 13th Century to preach the Rosary among the people as an antidote to heresy and sin. This blessed formula of prayer unites to the repetition of the Angelic Salutation (“Hail Mary”), the Lord’s Prayer (“Our Father”), and the Minor Doxology (“Glory Be”), as a devout commemoration of the principal events and mysteries of our Redemption. The Blessed Virgin herself referred to the Rosary as “her Psalter”. In 1917, Our Lady appeared to three children in Fatima, Portugal, and taught them to add the prayer “O my Jesus...” at the end of each decade of the Rosary after the “Glory Be”.
The traditional 15 Mysteries of the Rosary were standardized, based on long-standing custom, by Pope St. Pius V in the 16th century. The mysteries are grouped into three sets of fifty Hail Mary’s: the Joyful Mysteries, the Sorrowful Mysteries, and the Glorious Mysteries, which correspond to the joyful, sorrowful, and glorious mysteries of Christ’s life, death, and Resurrection. This tradition began with the Desert Fathers in the 4th Century, was developed by Irish Monks in the 7th Century, and was taught by St. Benedict in his Rule. St. Thomas Aquinas, who belonged to the Order of St. Dominic, to whom the Rosary was given, also taught that these three equal parts represent figuratively the three stages in which the Faithful find themselves: the state of penance, the state of justice, and the state of glory.
A Rosary Army
Innumerable benefits have been conferred on mankind through the Rosary. In fact, Our Lady promised St. Dominic: “Whatever you ask through the Rosary shall be granted.” Blessed Pope Pius IX said: “Give me an army saying the Rosary and I will conquer the world.” A spiritual war requires spiritual armor, and the Rosary has proven itself an effective means of conquest throughout history. St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina referred to the Rosary as “the weapon”. He also said: “Our Lady has never refused me a grace through the recitation of the Rosary. Love the Blessed Mother and make her loved. Always recite the Rosary.”
There are five battles won by outnumbered Catholic forces, and each victory was attributed to the Rosary:
(1) the Battle of Muret against the Albigensians at 1213;
(2) Pope St. Pius V’s rosary crusade defeating the Muslim invasion of Christendom at the Battle of Lepanto on October 7, 1571 (read more here). It is that victory which the Church commemorates on October 7th with the Feast of the Most Holy Rosary (also called Our Lady of the Victory);
(3) the Battle of La Rochelle, in 1628, against the Protestant French Huguenots;
(4) the Battle of Vienna, in 1683, commemorated by the feast of the Holy Name of Mary, and
(5) the Battle of Belgrade in 1716.
We Are Still At War!
Let us not think that wars and battles are things of the past, for Hoy Scripture warns us that: “The life of man upon Earth is a warfare!” (Job 7:1) and Our Lord Himself states: “The Kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away!” (Matthew 11:12).
Yet we are at war—whether we know it not, or admit it or not—for Sr. Lucia of Fatima stressed that: “The Most Holy Virgin has made me understand that we are in the last times of the world. She has told me that the devil is about to wage a decisive battle with the Virgin, and a decisive battle is a final battle, in which one side wins, the other side loses. Also, starting with the present time, we belong either to God, or we belong to the demon—there is no middle ground.”
The Rosary must still be used today in spiritual combat: “For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places” (Ephesians 6:12).
This spiritual combat can be won through the Rosary, as Our Lady promised. Sr. Lucia says: “The Most Holy Virgin, in these last times in which we live, has given a new efficacy to the recitation of the Rosary, to such an extent, that there is no problem, no matter how difficult it is, whether temporal or, above all, spiritual, in the personal life of each one of us, of our families, of the families of the world, or of the religious communities, or even of the life of peoples and nations, that cannot be solved by the Rosary. There is no problem I tell you, no matter how difficult it is, that we cannot resolve by the prayer of the Holy Rosary. With the Holy Rosary, we will save ourselves, we will sanctify ourselves, we will console Our Lord and obtain the salvation of many souls.”
We Need A Radical Improvement in Rosary Fire
Yet one or two bullets, or a mere occasional Rosary will win little or nothing! Our Lady at Fatima (1917) demanded that the Rosary be prayed daily—yet today, it is estimated that only 2% of Catholics pray it daily.
Do not listen to the “minimalists” who tell you that the daily Rosary is not a dogma! Do not listen to the “minimalists” who tell you that you only have to pray five decades a day! Do not follow the “minimalists” who what to spend as little time as possible praying the Rosary—and so say it quickly! These “minimalists” will be spending maximum time in Purgatory for going against the commands and wishes of Heaven.
Prayer time is not be minimal, but maximal—Our Lord Himself told us “that we ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1). The Holy Ghost, through Holy Scripture, tells us in the words of St. Paul: “Pray without ceasing!” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
Eight-Year-Old Prayer Machine
At Fatima, the little eight-year-old boy, Francisco, was informed by Our Lady that he would not go to Heaven until he had prayed MANY Rosaries—to which he exclaimed without the least trace of resentment: “O, my dear Our Lady, I will say as MANY Rosaries as you want!” If Our Lady wanted so MANY Rosaries from an eight-year-old boy, who lived nearly 100 years ago—how much more does she want from us adult sinners, who live a world a hundred times more sinful than the world was 100 years ago?
As Francisco’s Decree of Beatification, on May 13th, 2000. states: “He recited the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary daily, and MANY MORE besides, in order to fulfil Our Lady's desire”—and that was by an eight-year-old! The Decree continues: “After these apparitions he seemed to have received the vocation of an anchorite; he hid behind the rocks and trees in order to pray alone, while at other times he climbed to the highest and most solitary places and there gave himself so intensely to meditation and prayer that he did not hear the voices of those who called him ... He already prayed before the apparitions. Afterwards, however, moved by a more living and mature spirit of Faith, he became conscious of being called to dedicate himself zealously and constantly to the duty of prayer according to the intentions of the Virgin Mary. He sought silence and solitude in order to immerse himself totally in contemplation and in dialogue with God ... He prayed for the needs of the world, ravaged by hatred and sin; he prayed for the Church and for the eternal salvation of souls. He prayed alone, with his family, and with the pilgrims.”
How easily we excuse our youngest children from praying much in this time of war! What an awful judgement we bring upon ourselves by robbing God of glory and robbing mankind of graces! How easily we excuse ourselves from praying more Rosaries! If Our Lord says that on Judgement Day, we will even be judged for every idle word we have ever uttered—“But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall render an account for it in the day of judgment” (Matthew 12:36)—then how much more should we fear having neglected to trade or profit with the Rosary that was given to us? The parable of the Talents is very applicable here—have we buried our Rosary in the ground, or can we show some profit with it?
The Parable of Talents (Rosaries)
Just substitute the word “Rosary” for the word “Talent” and it will help drive the point home.
“A man going into a far country, called his servants, and delivered to them his goods; and to one he gave five talents, and to another two, and to another one, to every one according to his proper ability: and immediately he took his journey.
“And he that had received the five talents, went his way, and traded with the same, and gained other five. And in like manner he that had received the two, gained other two. But he that had received the one, going his way dug into the earth, and hid his lord’s money. But after a long time the lord of those servants came, and reckoned with them.
And he that had received the five talents coming, brought other five talents, saying: ‘Lord, thou didst deliver to me five talents, behold I have gained other five over and above!’ His lord said to him: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant, because thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will place thee over many things! Enter thou into the joy of thy lord!’
And he also that had received the two talents came and said: ‘Lord, thou deliveredst two talents to me: behold I have gained other two!’ His lord said to him: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! Because thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will place thee over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord!’
“But he that had received the one talent, came and said: ‘Lord, I know that thou art a hard man! Thou reapest where thou hast not sown, and gatherest where thou hast not strewed! And being afraid I went and hid thy talent in the earth: behold here thou hast that which is thine!’
“And his lord answering, said to him: ‘Wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sow not, and gather where I have not strewed! Thou oughtest therefore to have committed my money to the bankers, and at my coming I should have received my own with usury. Take ye away therefore the talent from him, and give it to him that hath ten talents. For to every one that hath shall be given, and he shall abound: but from him that hath not, that also which he seemeth to have shall be taken away. And the unprofitable servant cast ye out into the exterior darkness. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth!’” (Matthew 25:14-30).
What’s Your Profit Margin Like?
What profits have you earned with your Rosaries? Remember that not all Rosaries are good Rosaries—we are told that one Hail Mary said well, is better than hundreds said badly. “It is not so much the length of a prayer as the fervor with which it is said which pleases God and touches his heart. A single Hail Mary said properly is worth more than a hundred and fifty said badly” (St. Louis de Montfort, The Secret of the Rosary, “Forty-First Rose”).
Prayers must be said well, as Our Lady said to the children at La Salette: “Do you say your prayers well?” As St. Louis de Montfort writes: “When the Rosary is well said, it gives Jesus and Mary more glory and is more meritorious for the soul than any other prayer. But it is also the hardest prayer to say well and to persevere in, owing especially to the distractions which almost inevitably attend the constant repetition of the same words” (The Secret of the Rosary, “Forty-Second Rose”) ... The holy and learned Jesuit, Father Suarez, was so deeply aware of the value of the Angelic Salutation that he said he would gladly give all his learning for the price of one Hail Mary well said” (The Secret of the Rosary, “Nineteenth Rose”).
The Battlefield of Prayer
To pray the Rosary well is not easy, “because of the constant repetition of the Our Father and Hail Mary in the same unvarying form, it is difficult, while saying the Rosary, not to become wearied and inclined to sleep, or to turn to other prayers that are more refreshing and less tedious. This shows that one needs much greater devotion to persevere in saying the Rosary than in saying any other prayer. Our imagination, which is hardly still a minute, makes our task harder, and then of course there is the devil, who never tires of trying to distract us and keep us from praying. To what ends does not the evil one go against us, while we are engaged in saying our Rosary against him. Being human, we easily become tired and slipshod, but the devil makes these difficulties worse when we are saying the Rosary” (St. Louis de Montfort, The Secret of the Rosary, “Forty-Third Rose”).
Most Catholics say the Rosary, either the whole fifteen mysteries or five of them, or at least a few decades. Why is it then that so few of them give up their sins and make progress in virtue, if not because they are not saying them as they should. It is a good thing to think over how we should pray if we want to please God and become more holy. Firstly, to say the Holy Rosary with advantage, one must be in a state of grace or at least be fully determined to give up sin.
“Before we even begin, he makes us feel bored, distracted, or exhausted; and when we have started praying, he oppresses us from all sides, and when after much difficulty and many distractions, we have finished, he whispers to us, ‘What you have just said is worthless! It is useless for you to say the Rosary! You had better get on with other things! It is only a waste of time to pray without paying attention to what you are saying; half an hour’s meditation or some spiritual reading would be much better. Tomorrow, when you are not feeling so sluggish, you’ll pray better; leave the rest of your Rosary till then!’
“By tricks of this kind the devil gets us to give up the Rosary altogether or to say it less often, and we keep putting it off or change to some other devotion” (St. Louis de Montfort, The Secret of the Rosary, “Forty-Third Rose”).
Don’t Listen to the Father of Lies!
“Dear friend, do not listen to the devil, but be of good heart, even if your imagination has been bothering you throughout your Rosary, filling your mind with all kinds of distracting thoughts, so long as you tried your best to get rid of them as soon as you noticed them. Always remember that the best Rosary is the one with the most merit, and there is more merit in praying when it is hard than when it is easy” (St. Louis de Montfort, The Secret of the Rosary, “Forty-Third Rose”).
You Must Struggle To Pray Better!
St. Louis continues: “In order to pray well, it is not enough to give expression to our petitions by means of that most excellent of all prayers, the Rosary, but we must also pray with great attention, for God listens more to the voice of the heart than that of the mouth. To be guilty of willful distractions during prayer would show a great lack of respect and reverence; it would make our Rosaries unfruitful and make us guilty of sin.
“How can we expect God to listen to us if we ourselves do not pay attention to what we are saying? How can we expect him to be pleased if, while in the presence of His tremendous majesty, we give in to distractions, like a child running after a butterfly? People who do that forfeit God’s blessing, which is changed into a curse for having treated the things of God disrespectfully: ‘Cursed be the one who does God’s work negligently!’ (Jeremias 48:10).
“Of course, you cannot say your Rosary without having a few involuntary distractions; it is even difficult to say a Hail Mary without your imagination troubling you a little, for it is never still; but you can say it without voluntary distractions, and you must take all sorts of precautions to lessen involuntary distractions and to control your imagination.
To do this, put yourself in the presence of God and imagine that God and His Blessed Mother are watching you, and that your guardian angel is at your right hand, taking your Hail Marys, if they are well said, and using them like roses to make crowns for Jesus and Mary. But remember that at your left hand is the devil, ready to pounce on every Hail Mary that comes his way and to write it down in his book of death, if they are not said with attention, devotion, and reverence” (St. Louis de Montfort, The Secret of the Rosary, “Forty-Second Rose”).
The Two Major Rosary Faults!
“Take great care to avoid the two pitfalls that most people fall into during the Rosary. The first is the danger of not asking for any graces at all, so that if some good people were asked their Rosary intention they would not know what to say. So, whenever you say your Rosary, be sure to ask for some special grace or virtue, or strength to overcome some sin.
“The second fault commonly committed in saying the Rosary is to have no intention other than that of getting it over with as quickly as possible. This is because so many look upon the Rosary as a burden, which weighs heavily upon them when it has not been said, especially when we have promised to say it regularly or have been told to say it as a penance more or less against our will.
“It is sad to see how most people say the Rosary. They say it astonishingly fast, slipping over part of the words. We could not possibly expect anyone, even the most important person, to think that a slipshod address of this kind was a compliment, and yet we imagine that Jesus and Mary will be honored by it! Small wonder, then, that the most sacred prayers of our holy religion seem to bear no fruit, and that, after saying thousands of Rosaries, we are still no better than we were before” (St. Louis de Montfort, The Secret of the Rosary, “Forty-Fourth Rose”).
Pray the Rosary!
Pray it well!
Pray it much!
It will save you from Hell!
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