Feast Day: October 07
This feast derives from the feast of Saint Mary of Victory, instituted by the Dominican Pope Saint Pius V, to thank God for the victory of Christians over the Turks at Lepanto on October 7, 1571 – a victory attributed to the praying of the rosary. Pope Gregory XIII made it obligatory for Rome and for the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary in 1573. In 1716 Pope Clement XI inscribed the feast in the Roman Calendar. Each year, the month of October is dedicated to the Holy Rosary.
The development of the rosary goes back many centuries and contains a unique history. Counting one’s prayers on beads is a very ancient form of praying, used by Muslims and the people of India. People who could not read continued to observe the traditional prayer times with private devotions of their own. They began to substitute memorized private prayers for the Scripture readings and psalms of the liturgical hours prayed by monks and clergy. Soon it became popular to pray 150 Our Fathers each day in place of the 150 Psalms. Later these 150 Our Fathers were substituted with the simpler Hail Marys, spaced with meditations on mysteries (Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious, and Luminous) related to Jesus and Mary.
Though Mary’s giving the rosary to Saint Dominic is recognized as a legend, the development of this prayer form owes much to the followers of Saint Dominic. In the 15th century, one of Saint Dominic’s followers, Alan de la Roche, emerged as an outstanding preacher of the “Psalter of our Lady,” a term he preferred to the term “rosary.” In the 16th century, the rosary received its final form and continues to be a popular private daily prayer of many Christians.
The rosary could be considered as a good ‘prayer tool’ and the purpose of praying the rosary is to help us meditate on the great mysteries of our salvation. It was known that at times, Saint Padre Pio would make a request to his monk friars to “…bring me my weapon!” This great saint’s weapon was the rosary and he could be seen praying it several times throughout the days of his life.
Pope Pius XII called the rosary 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 the mysteries of Jesus’ life. 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 Hail Mary prayer:
Hail Mary full of Grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed are thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus. Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death, Amen.
Dues, Greg. “Catholic Customs & Traditions.” Mystic, CT: Twenty-Third Publications, 2004.
Foley, Leonard, O.F.M., and Pat McCloskey, O.F.M. “Saint of the Day-Updated and Expanded.” Cincinnati: Franciscan Media, 2013.
Lodi, Enzo. “Saints of the Roman Calendar-Updated and Revised Edition.” New York: Alba House, 2012.