Sunday, October 7, 2012

Our Lady of the Rosary

St Dominic receiving the Rosary from Pope Innocent III

Even though the Rosary is a daily devotion which most Catholics pray every day, the month of October has always been connected in a special way to the Rosary. The origin of the Rosary has been attributed to a Marian apparition to Saint Dominic in 1208 in the church of Prouille. People wanted a devotional of sorts to pray, since the priests were able to pray the Office and read the 150 psalms in Latin, while most of the people could not read. So the devotion was started to pray 150 Hail Marys, later divided into decades and divided into three Mysteries, while more recently in 2002, the Luminous Mysteries were added.
Many people however had abandoned the devotion to the Rosary and it was only revived after plagues, a schism and other calamities hit most of Europe in the 13th and 14th centuries. The Blessed Mother appeared to Blessed Alan de la Roche to revive this devotion, also reviving the ancient Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary. Blessed Alan was one of the Dominican Fathers from the monastery at Dinan, in Brittany. He was an eminent theologian and was famous for his sermons. Our Lady chose him because it was most fitting that a Dominican from the very same province, should have the honor of re-establishing this feast.

In 1571 Pope St Pius V instituted "Our Lady of Victory" as an annual feast to commemorate the victory of the Christians against the Turks in Lepanto. The victory was attributed to Our Lady, as a rosary procession was offered on that day in St. Peter's Square in Rome for the success of the mission of the Holy League to hold back Muslim forces from overrunning Western Europe. In 1565, the Turks had already tried to take over Malta in the Great Siege, but the Maltese people, with the help of the Knights of Malta, were able to defend the island from the attack of the Ottoman Empire. 

Goswijn van der Weyden - Polyptych of the Rosary (click to enlarge)
In 1573 Pope Gregory XIII changed the title of this feast day to "Feast of the Holy Rosary". This feast was extended by Pope Clement XII to the whole of the Latin rite, inserting it into the Roman calendar of saints in 1716, and assigning it to the first Sunday in October. Pope St Pius X changed the date to October 7th in 1913. In 1969, Pope Paul VI changed the name of the feast to "Our Lady of the Rosary".

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