The Month of the Rosary
October is a busy month. Fall is making its presence known, school is in full swing, and Halloween is fast approaching. However, in the Catholic calendar, October is the month of the Rosary. More specifically, October 7 is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.
However – what do October and Our Lady of the Rosary have to do with each other and how did the Rosary originate?
Origins of the Rosary
The history of the Rosary mostly consists of legend and tradition. There is evidence that beads were used to count Our Fathers and Hail Marys in the Middle Ages. Fittingly, bead is derived from the Old English word for prayer.
Between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries, the structure of the Rosary included praying fifty Hail Marys together with the Psalms. Our word Rosary derives its meaning from the word rosarium, or rose garden. Saint Louis de Montfort wrote in his book, The Secret of the Rosary,
The word Rosary means “Crown of Roses,” that is to say that ever time people say the Rosary devoutly they place a crown of…roses upon the heads of Jesus and Mary. Being heavenly flowers these roses will never fade or lose their exquisite beauty.
“One day, through the Rosary…Our Lady will save the world.”
Saint Dominic’s words have proven themselves true countless times. The Rosary has been a sign of hope and a source of many graces. There is a tradition that in 1214, Our Lady appeared to Saint Dominic and gave him the Rosary as we know it today. She offered it as a way to convert hardened sinners.
During his lifetime, Saint Dominic fought the Albigensian heresy. After the vision of Our Lady, he encouraged the praying of the Rosary especially in his work among the Albigensians. When Saint Dominic died in 1221, the Albigensian heresy was no longer a major threat.
Our Lady of the Rosary: A Feast of Victory
The sixteenth century was a dangerous time in Europe as the Ottoman Empire was expanding throughout Europe. In 1571, Pope Pius V created an alliance between several Christian nations to form the Holy League, whose purpose was to defend Christian civilization from the Turks. Don John of Austria headed the Holy League’s fleet.
Pope Leo XIII said, “It has always been the habit of Catholics in danger and in troublous times to fly for refuge to Mary,” and this was no exception. Sailing under a blue flag bearing the image of Christ crucified, the fleet’s crew members fasted and prayed the Rosary for protection. Pope Pius V urged Christians all throughout Europe to do the same.
The famous naval Battle of Lepanto took place on October 7, 1571. The result was a decisive victory for the Holy League. Around 7,500 people died on the Christian side during the battle, while the Turks lost around 30,000 people, making this battle the first major defeat of a Turkish fleet.
The Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary
Pope Pius V credited the victory at Lepanto to Our Lady of the Rosary – Our Lady of Victory. In thanksgiving for her intercession, he declared October 7 to be the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary in 1573. Pope Clement XI then declared it a feast for the universal Church in 1716.
“The rosary is the weapon for these times.”
These words spoken by Saint Padre Pio ring true in every age. The Rosary is a powerful weapon in our times just as it was in his. The simplicity and repetitiveness of the Rosary do not take away the power it contains.
When Our Lady of Fatima appeared to the three shepherd children on May 13, 1917, her message was clear, “Pray the Rosary every day in order to obtain peace for the world.” Her message reaches into our times as well, and serves as a valuable reminder.
The Rosary begins with the Apostles’ Creed, followed by an Our Father, three Hail Marys (offered for an increase in Faith, Hope, and Charity), and a Glory Be.
The Mysteries of the Rosary
There are four mysteries in the Rosary: the Joyful, Sorrowful, Luminous, and Glorious Mysteries. Through praying the Rosary, we contemplate the mysteries and events in the lives of Jesus and Mary and unite ourselves more closely to them.
The Joyful Mysteries are usually prayed on Mondays, Wednesdays, and during Advent – on Sundays. The Annunciation, The Visitation, The Nativity, The Presentation, and the Finding of Jesus in the Temple.
The Sorrowful Mysteries are usually prayed on Tuesdays, Fridays, and during Lent – Sundays. The Agony in the Garden, The Scourging at the Pillar, the Crowning with Thorns, The Carrying of the Cross, and the Crucifixion and Death of Our Lord.
The Glorious Mysteries are usually prayed on Wednesdays and Sundays (except during Lent or Advent). The Resurrection, The Ascension, The Decent of the Holy Spirit, The Assumption of Mary, and The Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth.
The Luminous Mysteries were instituted in 2002 by Pope Saint John Paul II and are usually prayed on Thursdays. The Baptism of Jesus, The Wedding Feast at Cana, Jesus’ Proclamation of the Kingdom of God, The Transfiguration, and The Institution of the Eucharist.
After praying the five decades, say the Hail, Holy Queen, and end with the following:
Leader: Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
Response: That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray: O God, whose Only Begotten Son,
by his life, Death, and Resurrection,
has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life,
grant, we beseech thee,
that while meditating on these mysteries
of the most holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
we may imitate what they contain
and obtain what they promise,
through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Family that Prays Together, Stays Together
Praying the Rosary as a family is a highly encouraged practice. When children are young, there is a prayer parents can pray for their children after each decade: With this Rosary I bind my children to the Immaculate Heart of Mary for her guidance and protection.
Children can learn to pray the Rosary at an early age, due to the simplicity and repetition of the prayers. They can begin by simple listening then move to responding, and eventually to leading one of the decades. The process can take time, but will eventually prove fruitful. One can only imagine what the power of the Rosary and children’s prayers can accomplish. They may not understand what they are saying at first, but understanding will come with time. Reading small passages from a children’s Bible and explaining the significance of the Rosary and the meaning and power of the prayers, may help children understand the true power and value of the Rosary.
In my family, the Rosary has become an integral part of every day. When I was little, my parents used to let me play while they prayed the Rosary together. Eventually, they decided if I could talk, I could pray. I would sit and listen, join in when I could, and when I was school-age, I began leading. My siblings eventually joined the ranks as well. As babies, they would hold jumbo-rosaries and suck on the large plastic beads. After years of listening, with mastery came the responsibility of leading a decade. Each of us leads a decade. We usually pray before or after dinner and it is a quiet time to calm down from business of the day.
“If at First You Don’t Succeed – Try, Try Again.”
There were (and still are) many failed attempts and many distractions to overcome. The advice from Thomas Palmer’s famous poem has been put into practice numerous times – “if at first you don’t succeed….” Praying the Rosary takes patience and perseverance, even after years of routine. With time, however, children come around to expecting the Rosary as part of the daily routine. There are days some of us fall asleep or are busy calculating how much time will be left to play or study afterwards, or are busy making faces at whoever is in front of us, but over the years I have become grateful for this prayer time. It brings us together for half-an-hour to calm down and thank God for His goodness.
It is a respite from the craziness of the day. There are many days I wish I had half-an-hour extra of study-time and my mind is elsewhere. There are some days we arrive at the end and I wonder what I just said. However, one thing I have come to realize, is that the Rosary is a source of great comfort. When the world seems to be falling apart, the Rosary is a source of consistency and unity, “an ever present help in distress” (Psalm 46:1).
A Feast for All Time
The month of October is a powerful time to draw close to Our Blessed Mother by praying the Rosary. She loves it when we draw near to her in trust. Praying the Rosary is similar to small children reaching up to hold the hand of their mother in complete trust.
During her lifetime, Mother Teresa always carried a rosary in her hand. In this way, she said, she was holding Mary’s hand.
Saint Louis de Montfort said, “Mary is the safest, easiest, shortest, and most perfect way of approaching Jesus.” May she draw us ever nearer to her Immaculate Heart and to that of her beloved Son.
Our Lady of the Rosary, Our Lady of Victory – Pray for us!