Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary—6 Octobet A.D. 2013

Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in Latin and English
Our Lady of the Rosary
Sacratissimi Rosarii Beatæ Mariæ Virginis
Blessing of Rosaries
Rosary and Litany of Loreto Leaflet (MS Word)



The Battle of Lepanto, H. Letter, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich/London.


“Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women.” [1]

    Today is the feast—our patronal feast—of Our Lady of the Rosary.  The feast day goes back only a few centuries, which is to say that it is relatively new when compared with many of the feast days celebrated in our Catholic Faith.  The words which I just spoke—the very foundation of the holy Rosary—go all the way back to first century Nazareth in the Jewish province of Galilee, when the Archangel Gabriel announced to Mary that God had chosen her to be the mother of His Son.  Her humble acceptance of God’s offer—“Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word”—set in motion the chain of events that effected nothing less than the redemption of mankind, and our ability to become the adopted sons and daughters of God Himself.  It is this chain of events that we call to memory whenever we properly pray the holy Rosary.  In the Holy Rosary we meditate on the events of our Redemption, with the hope of securing our eternal salvation.

    The origin of counting one’s prayers is lost in antiquity.  Saint Anthony and other monks of the Egyptian desert are said to have used small pebbles.  For example, they might start with a bowl of one hundred pebbles, transferring one to an empty bowl each time they recited a prayer—most likely, the Lord’s Prayer or a Hail Mary.  The pebble counting method has the advantage of leaving the hands free to do some sort of light craftwork—the Egyptian monks are said to have braided baskets and other things from palm leaves, as a means of earning their livelihood.

    Of course, anyone who has to move about will have difficulty carrying the two bowls, so the string of beads must have gained early popularity.  There is a string of prayer beads that dates to the seventh century, which were buried with the Abbess Saint Gertrude of Nivelles in Belgium.  No doubt there were earlier examples.

    There is a relationship between the Rosary and the Breviary, the book used by priests and religious to pray the 150 Psalms each week.  The fifteen decades of the Rosary total 150 beads, and in the middle ages some monasteries were praying each of the Psalms prefaced with a brief meditation which related the Psalm to Jesus or Mary.  These meditations may have formed the basis for the mysteries we have today.[2]

    Saint Dominic Guzman (c. 1170-6 August 1221) the founder of the Order of Preachers (a.k.a. the Dominicans) is probably the Saint most closely identified with the Rosary.  Saint Dominic was occupied with trying to convert the Albigensian heretics.  The Albigensians were people who clung to a centuries old error that a “good god” created spiritual things, and that a “bad god” created material things—obviously a bad situation for human beings who were both body and soul!

    The Roman Breviary tells us that Dominic:

    Implored with earnest prayers the aid of the Blessed Virgin ... to whom it is given to destroy all heresies throughout the world. As everyone knows, she instructed Dominic to preach the Rosary to the people as a unique safeguard against heresy and vice, and he carried out this commission with a wonderful ardor of soul, and with great success.[3]

    In the natural order of things, the people were able to recognize that God Himself took human form and human flesh from the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Certainly, this God-man could only be good, and not any sort of mixture of good and evil.  And Mary had to be good as well, lest she contaminate the Son of God.  And the other men and women, for whom her Son died on the Cross, had to be good as well (or at least capable of being good).  And, to top it all off, the Holy Rosary taught them that the material bodies of Jesus and Mary were taken up into heaven, foreshadowing the resurrection of ordinary men and women who would spend eternity with God.

    The Rosary was a great teaching tool, but it also had a supernatural dimension.  The prayers of the Rosary received the supernatural intercession of the Mother of God with her Son.  Mary, you will recall, is the woman who got Jesus to work His first miracle at Cana of Galilee, even though His “hour had not yet come.”  She is the woman who did not even discuss this objection with her Son, but immediately turned to the waiters, saying: “Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye”—just do whatever He says, because I know my Son, and I know that He will not refuse me. [4]

      The saintly Pope Leo XIII referred to Mary sitting

... by the side of the throne of God as Mediatrix of Divine grace ... Now, this merciful office of hers, perhaps, appears in no other form of prayer so manifestly as it does in the Rosary. For in the Rosary all the part that Mary took as our co-Redemptress comes to us ... set forth ... as though the events were even then taking place.[5]

    Pope Pius XI would write that Mary was not just a Mediatrix of Divine grace, but rather the Mediatrix of all graces.”[6]

    But, let me come back to the circumstances for the establishment of our feast.  For centuries, the Moslems had invaded Christian lands, demanding tribute, ransom, and even the forced conversion of Christians to their heathen religion.  In Moslem countries Christians were third class citizens—if they were permitted to be there at all.  Within a hundred years of Mohammad’s death all of Arabia was conquered, followed by Jerusalem, Egypt, Persia, Libya, Armenia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Northern India, Algeria, Modern Iraq, Carthage, the South and East of Spain, and Toulouse in Southern France had all been conquered.  Only in 732, after a hundred years, at the Battle at Tours, under Charles Martel did Christians win their first battle.  And there were many more battles, some won, some lost.  In 846, Rome itself was sacked, and Saint Peter’s looted.  Most problematic was Moslem control of the Mediterranean, which had been the means of trade and transportation for the Christian nations surrounding it.

    Today’s feast commemorates the naval victory at Lepanto, in the Gulf of Corinth, by Catholic forces over the Ottoman Navy on Sunday the 7th of October, 1571.  I emphasize “Catholic forces,” partly because this was after the “Reformation” and the Protestants offered no help, but also because the Catholic Church, under Pope Saint Pius V, was united in praying the Rosary, and asking the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Under similar circumstances, at Vienna in 1683, and in Hungary in 1716, victory was attributed to the Blessed Virgin, through the use of her Rosary.  Originally referred to as “Our Lady of Victories,” the title was changed to Our Lady of the Rosary, and spread throughout the Church by various Popes.

    Moslems, who had been accustomed to winning the battles, and attributing their success to the supposed superiority of Islam, began to take note of Christianity and its achievements.  For a period of time Moslem governments began to recognize the rights of Christians in their lands, many allowing the free exercise of religion under secular law instead of Islamic (Sharia) law.  But today, once again, Christians are under siege in these nations.  One can make the case that Western civilization has degenerated, leaving Moslems to once again feel superior.  Europe and the Americas no longer think of themselves as Christian lands, and have become exporters of moral degeneracy.  Obama was rightly rebuked in several Moslem countries when he tried to lecture them about the need to legalize same sex marriages.[7]  Moslems ridicule the Western idea that children are a burden to be prevented or destroyed.  Political correctness has taken over Europe and the Americas, making it impolite (or even possibly a “hate crime”) to discuss limiting Moslem immigration.

    One has only to consider the recent slaughter of Christians and the burning of their churches in countries like Egypt, Syria, and Kenya to recognize that we are once again in danger.  I would suggest to you that there is only one tried and true protection against this danger—and that is the invocation of the Blessed Virgin Mary through the use of her Rosary.  We must pray not only for protection from without, but also for conversion within.  Western civilization must once again become “Christendom” if it is to survive.  So please pray the Rosary—daily if at all possible—asking our Blessed Mother for the grace of that protectioon and conversion.

    Before I close, I would like to read something to you from this morning’s Divine Office.  I have always thought it to be very beautiful:

A homily of St. Bernard, Abbot
On the Blessed Virgin

     To commend His grace to us, and to destroy human wisdom, God was pleased to take flesh of a woman who was a virgin, and so to restore by like, to cure a contrary by a contrary, to draw out the poisonous thorn, and most effectively to blot out the decree of sin. Eve was a thorn; Mary is a rose.  Eve was a thorn in her wounding; Mary a rose in the sweetening of the affections of all.  Eve was a thorn fastening death upon all; Mary is a rose giving the heritage of salvation back to all.  Mary was a white rose by reason of her virginity, a red rose by reason of her charity; white in her body, red in her soul; white in cultivating virtue, red in treading down vice; white in purifying affection, red in mortifying the flesh; white in loving God, red in having compassion on her neighbor.



[2]   Cf. Anne Winston, “Tracing the Origins of the Rosary: German Vernacular Texts,”  Speculum Vol. 68, No. 3, July 1993, pages 619-636.

[3]   Lesson iv of the Feast of the Holy Rosary

[5]   His Holiness Pope Leo XIII, Iucunda Semper Expectatione #2, On the Rosary, 8 September  1894

[6]   His Holiness Pope Pius XI, Caritate Christi Compulsi #31  Encyclical on the Sacred Heart 3 May 1932


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