OCTOBER 7 FEAST OF THE ROSARY
The feast day of Our Lady of the Rosary was instituted by St. Pius V in commemoration of the victory of the Battle of Lepanto on October 7, 1571 against the Turks who were threatening Europe. In 1716, the feast was extended to the entire Church in thanksgiving for the defeat of the Muslim Crescent in Hungary.
Apart from the signal defeat of the Albigensian heretics at the battle of Muret, in 1213, which has been attributed to the recitation of the Rosary by St. Dominic, it is believed that Heaven has, on many occasions, rewarded the faith of those who had recourse to this devotion in times of special danger. More particularly, the naval victory of Lepanto, gained by Don John of Austria, over the Turkish fleet on the first Sunday of October in 1571, responded wonderfully to the processions made at Rome on that same day by the members of the Rosary confraternity.
We know that the victory of the Battle of Lepanto was achieved when St. Pius V interrupted a meeting with Cardinals at the Vatican and went to a window and started to pray the Rosary. He was deeply concerned about the future of the Church and Christendom that was being decided in those Mediterranean waters. After the Pontiff finished praying the Rosary, he returned to the meeting and told the Cardinals that the Catholic fleet had been victorious. That is, he had a revelation while he was praying the Rosary. It was the way Our Lady showed him that she linked that victory to his praying of the Rosary. Understanding this, St. Pius V instituted the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, which was extended to the whole Church in commemoration for another great victory over the Mohammedans in 1716.
St. Pius V thereupon ordered that a commemoration of the Rosary should be made upon that day, and at the request of the Dominican Order Gregory XIII in 1573 allowed this feast to be kept in all churches which possessed an altar dedicated to the Holy Rosary. In 1671 the observance of this festival was extended by Clement X to the whole of Spain, and somewhat later Clement XI after the important victory over the Turks gained by Prince Eugene on 6 August, 1716 (the feast of our Lady of the Snows), at Peterwardein in Hungary, commanded the feast of the Rosary to be celebrated by the universal Church.
A set of “proper” lessons in the second nocturn were conceded by Benedict XIII. Leo XIII later raised the feast to the rank of a double of the second class and has added to the Litany of Loreto the invocation “Queen of the Most Holy Rosary”. 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. Today, it is a feast of the second class.
The devotion of the Rosary was revealed to St. Dominic by Our Lady. It was born, therefore, in a private revelation. And we know that such revelations are abhorred by the enemies of the Church – internal and external. Although it came from a private revelation, the praying of the Rosary was extended to the entire Catholic Church, and was considered by St. Louis Grignion de Montfort as the characteristic devotion of predestined souls.
Before Vatican II, the habits of many religious Orders had Rosaries that hung on their cinctures, and good Catholics used to carry the Rosary with them all day. It was considered not only an item for counting the Hail Mary’s, but a blessed object, the seal of a special liaison of the person with Our Lady. Many times, the mere physical presence of the Rosary would repel the Devil and attract special graces. It became the classic religious object to fight against the Devil.
What is the Rosary? The Rosary is a series of mediations on the mysteries from the lives of Our Lord and Our Lady. These mysteries are simultaneously prayers that one says vocally and meditations that one makes mentally. This mixture of vocal prayer and meditation is a splendid thing, because while the lips pronounce a plea, the mind concentrates on a point of the mystery. It is a dual activity that intimately unites one with God.
The practice of praying the Rosary to beg a grace from God supposes the theological truth that Our Lady is the Universal Mediatrix of all graces. It is, therefore, a small masterpiece of spirituality and Catholic doctrine as they should be understood. The Rosary is not a religious custom relying on emotions, but rather a serious, solid, and meditative pious practice, which explains why the Rosary has obtained so many graces.
It is very beautiful and valuable to meditate on the mysteries of the Rosary, because for each decade, one contemplates a different thing with its special graces: There are particular graces for the mystery of the Annunciation, others for the Agony in the Garden, yet others associated with the Ascension of Our Lord. Each one of the decades has its special graces, and the person who meditates on all of them attracts to his soul the ensemble of graces from the lives of Our Lord and Our Lady. It is a complete circumnavigation that brings a supernatural plenitude to the soul of the person, which helps us to better understand the salutary influence of the Rosary.
A Catholic, thinking and reflecting on things of the Faith, should draw conclusions that build upon each other and constitute a kind of architectural construct. This should be the spiritual life of a Catholic. It follows in accordance with the way God governs the universe. He wisely judges the weight and measure of everything. This is another reason why the Rosary is an excellent devotion.
The fact that this devotion is specially linked to victories over the enemies of the Church and Christendom induces us to think that it will protect all those who fight against the enemies of the Catholic cause. It is a devotion that most probably will endure until the end time, when the enemies of the Church will be more dangerous than ever.
Therefore, also during the chastisement predicted at Fatima, the assiduous recitation of the holy Rosary should be a decisive factor of victory for those who would be defending the Catholic cause. The historical antecedents of the value of the Rosary are a pledge of analogous future victories.
When St. Alphonsus of Liguori was already old, sick, and in a wheelchair, a lay brother used to wheel him around the cloister of his monastery in the evening so he could take some fresh air. Engaging the brother in conversation, St. Alphonsus asked him:
“Did you pray your Rosary today?”
“I don’t remember,” the brother answered,
“Then, let us pray it now,” the Saint said