On October 7th we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. Did you know, this feast day was instituted by Pope Pius V in thanksgiving for the Blessed Virgin Mary's assistance in the Christian victory over the Turks at Lepanto on October 7, 1571. The Pontiff foretold that the Rosary would win that battle in 1569. Clement XI extended the feast to the universal Church in 1716.
To celebrate this feast day, we're sharing the first passage of the meditation from In Conversation with God, Volume 7. (This book is available in both paperback and ebook formats.)
The Rosary is a powerful weapon in the apostolate.
And when he came to her he said: Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. The angel greeted Our Lady in this way which is now so familiar to us since we have often repeated the very same words to her.
In the Middle Ages Christians greeted the Virgin Mary with the invocation Mystical Rose, the symbol of love and joy. As an expression of this affection her images were adorned with crowns or bouquets of roses called Rosarium in medieval Latin as they still are today. Whoever was unable to recite the one hundred and fifty Psalms of the Liturgy of the Hours each day would pray as many Hail Marys instead. The faithful used stones strung together by the decade or knots on a rope to keep count of each invoc-ation. At the same time they would meditate on a particular aspect of Our Lord's or Our Lady's life.
The Hail Mary has long been amongst the richest prayers of the Church. Popes and Councils have frequently ecommended it. The wording itself would acquire its final form with the addition of the petition for a happy death: Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. We beseech the Virgin's help in each situation now, and at the climactic moment of our definitive meeting with Christ.
The mysteries focus on the central events in the life of Jesus and Mary. In a sense they are a summary of the iturgical year and of the whole Gospel. The prayers of the Litany that ensue are a song of love for the Blessed Wother. They are Marian praises, petitions for her help and manifestations of joy and exaltation before her virtue and power.
St Pius V attributed the Victory of Lepanto to the intercession of the Blessed Mother, since a grave threat to the Faith soon came to an end when Rome and the Christian world invoked her patronage through the Rosary. Today's feast recalls the wonderful event. On the occasion of its institution, the petition to Our Lady Help of Christians was added to the Litany. From that moment on the Roman Pontiffs would encourage devotion to the Blessed Virgin with renewed fervor as public and universal prayer, for the ordinary and extraordinary needs of the universal Church and the nations of the entire world.
The Church devotes the month of October to the Rosary in order to honour our Blessed Mother in a special way. Our love for this devotion should be constantly renew-ed. How is our contemplation of the various mysteries going? Do holy ambitions, such as the Christians had who prayed for victory at Lepanto, enter into our stream of praise and petition during the Rosary? Given our great need for help and our concern for the spiritual growth of our families, Our Lady's presence is crucial. There are always the needs of the friends we do apostolate with to remember too. We need to bring constantly to mind: Today as in other times the Rosary must be a powerful weapon to enable us to win in our interior struggle and to help all souls.
You can find the rest of this meditation in Volume 7.