This feast was fixed for the first Sunday in October by Pope Clement XI, in perpetual commemoration of a celebrated double victory gained by the Christians at Lepanto, in 1571, under Pope Saint Pius V, and at Belgrade, under Pope Clement XI, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, who had been invoked by saying the Holy Rosary. It is at the same time the principal feast of the Arch-confraternity of the Holy Rosary.
In 1885 Pope Leo XIII, ordered the Rosary to be recited every day duriug the month of October in every parish church and cathedral throughout the world, and those of the faithful who cannot be present at this recital he exhorted to say it with their families or in private.
The Holy Rosary is a form of prayer in which there is first said the Apostles’ Creed, and then fifteen decades, each one of which consists of ten Hail Marys. Each decade has one Our Father to be said before it, and is followed by a meditation upon some one mystery of our redemption. It is called the Rosary, or Wreath of Roses, because the joyful, the sorrowful, and the glorious mysteries, aptly symbolized by the leaves, the thorns, the flower, of which the rose consists – with the prayers and praises that are blended together – compose, as it were, a wreath or crown. It is also called the Psalter, because it contains a hundred and fifty Hail Marys, as the Psalter of David contains a hundred and fifty psalms, and because it is used in place of the singing of psalms, as practised in former times.
There are three parts in the Rosary – the joyful, the sorrowful, the glorious.
The joyful part consists of the five first decades, to which are attached five mysteries of the incarnation of Jesus Christ, through which, full of joy, we speak to Mary of Him:
- Whom she conceived while a virgin.
- Whom she bore to Elizabeth.
- Whom she brought forth while a virgin.
- Whom she offered to God in the temple.
- Whom she found in the temple.
The sorrowful part, in like manner, contains five decades, in connection with which there are presented for our meditation five mysteries of the passion and death of Jesus:
- Who for us sweat blood.
- Who for us was scourged.
- Who for us was crowned with thorns.
- Who for us bore the heavy cross.
- Who for us was crucified.
The glorious part, consisting of the last five decades, reminds us of the glory of Christ and of the Blessed Virgin by five mysteries in which we commemorate Him:
- Who rose from the dead.
- Who ascended into heaven.
- Who sent to us the Holy Ghost.
- Who received thee, O Virgin, into heaven.
- Who crowned thee, O Virgin, in heaven.
How was this prayer introduced into the Church?
Saint Dominic had for many years preached against the errors of the Albigenses and other heretics, with such zeal and profound ability that they were often convinced. But nevertheless the results were unimportant; but few returned to the bosom of the Catholic Church. In this discouraging state of things Saint Dominic redoubled his prayers and works of penance, and in particular besought Mary for support and assistance. One day Mary appeared to him and taught him the Rosary. He zealously labored to introduce everywhere this manner of prayer, and from that time preached with such success that in a short period more than one hundred thousand heretics and sinners were converted. The divine origin of the Rosary is testified to by the bull of Gregory XIII of the year 1577.
Yes; for by bringing before the eyes of the spirit the fundamental mysteries of Christianity it supplies us with the strongest motives to love God, to hate sin, to subdue the passions, to contemn the world and its vanity, and to strive after Christian perfection, in order that we may gain those happy mansions which Jesus prepares for us. The Rosary, besides, brings before us living examples – Jesus and Mary – whom we must follow; and encourages us to good works by pointing to the all-powerful grace procured for us by Jesus, and the all-prevailing intercession of the gracious Mother of God. Let us not be ashamed to carry the beads with us, for otherwise we might be ashamed of being Catholics; let us say the Rosary often – every evening – as was the custom with Catholics in former times, and we shall find that, as in Saint Dominic’s day it was a wholesome check to error, so too In our times it will be, if said aright, a powerful weapon against heresy and unbelief, and will increase faith, piety, and virtue.
1. Properly; that is, as has been above described, and slowly, with a distinct pronunciation of the prayers and mysteries.
2. Devoutly, not only with the lips, but also with the heart.
More particularly we ought to meditate upon the mysteries that come before us; thus, at the joyful mysteries we should think of the infinite love of God to men and on His humiliation for us, thanking Him, and promising our love to Him in return; at the sorrowful mysteries we should have compassion on the Saviour suffering for us, should from the heart detest the sins which were the cause of His sufferings, and make the most earnest resolutions for the future; at the glorious mysteries we should remember the glory which awaits us also if we follow Jesus and Mary.
O God, Whose only-begotten Son, by His life, death, and resurrection, procured for us the rewards of eternal salvation, grant, we beseech Thee, that, commemorating these mysteries in the most holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain, and possess what they promise. Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, etc.
The Lord possessed Me in the beginning of His ways, before He made anything from the beginning. I was set up from eternity, and of old before the earth was made. The depths were not as yet, and I was already conceived, neither had the fountains of waters as yet sprung out: the mountains with their huge bulk had not as yet been established: before the hills I was brought forth: He had not yet made the earth, nor the rivers, nor the poles of the world. When He prepared the heavens, I was present: when with a certain law and compass He enclosed the depths: when He established the sky above, and poised the fountains of waters: when He compassed the sea with its bounds, and set a law to the waters that they should not pass their limits: when He balanced the foundations of the earth, I was with Him forming all things; and was delighted every day, playing before Him at all times; playing in the world, and My delights were to be with the children of men. Now, therefore, ye children, hear Me: Blessed are they that keep My ways. Hear instruction and be wise, and refuse it not. Blessed is the man that heareth Me, and that watcheth daily at My gates, and waiteth at the posts of My doors. He that shall find Me shall find life, and shall have salvation from the Lord.
At that time the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace: the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. Who having heard, was troubled at his saying, and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God. Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of David His father; and He shall reign in the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end. And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man? And the angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren; because no word shall be impossible with God. And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word.
-- Goffine’s Devout Instruction
* Pope Pius X changed the date to 7 October in 1913, as part of his effort to restore celebration of the liturgy of the Sundays.