October is known as the ‘Month of the Most Holy Rosary’. The word Rosary means ‘Crown of Roses’ because of the custom in the Middle Ages of crowning Our Lady’s statues with flowers. In 1214 the Rosary in its present-day format was given to St. Dominic, founder of the Dominican Order, as a weapon to use against the Albigensian heresy.
The Rosary is also called the ‘Psalter of Mary’ because as we recite the 150 Hail Mary’s in the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary we are mindful of the 150 Psalms in the Book of Psalms. Many of the saints had great devotion to the Rosary. St. Pope John Paul II said that the Rosary was his favourite prayer. He himself introduced the Mysteries of Light which are recited on Thursdays. The Rosary is a summary of the Gospels as it recalls the lives of Jesus and Mary as we meditate on each mystery.
The praying of the Rosary consists of a wealth of prayers which have either come from Heaven or from the Church. The Our Father, a prayer addressed to God the Father, was taught to us by His Son Jesus when the disciples asked Him how we should pray. The first few words of the Hail Mary, ‘Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you’, were addressed by the Angel Gabriel at the request of God the Father to Mary at the Annunciation. This is followed by the words spoken by St. Elizabeth to Mary at the Visitation: ‘Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb’. The Church added in: ‘Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death’, asking Our Lady to intercede for us. At the end of each Mystery we pray the Gloria which is a hymn to the Holy Trinity and which includes words spoken and sung by the angels meeting with shepherds on the First Christmas Night to announce the birth of Jesus.
Our Lady appeared to the three children at Fatima in 1917. On each of her six visits she asked for the recitation of the Rosary. Her message is as relevant today as it was then over 100 years ago, with so much unrest and warfare. It was the Rosary which kept the Irish people strong in faith during the Penal Laws when the Mass was not often available for them. Fr. Peyton from Mayo, the great Rosary Priest, travelled throughout the United States preaching at numerous Rosary Rallies. His famous saying was, ‘The family that prays together stays together.’
The Feast of the Most Holy Rosary on October 7th was instituted by Pope Pius V to commemorate the victory of the Christian fleet against the Turks at the Battle of Lepanto on October 7th 1571. Now in the month of October it is customary to focus our attention more on the recitation of the Rosary which contains such a rich heritage of Faith. After the World Meeting of Families and the visit of Pope Francis to Ireland recently, much reflection on the Faith formation of future generations of families is required. On Sunday, October 7th 2018, we are called in Ireland to pray the ‘Rosary on the Coast for Life and Faith’. Information on this can be found on www.coastalrosaryireland.ie.
The Vatican announced on 1st October 2018 Pope Francis’ appeal to pray the Rosary every day in October for the Church’s protection against the Devil, and that we end the Rosary every day with these two prayers:
We fly to Thy protection, O Holy Mother of God. Do not despise our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us from all dangers, O Glorious and Blessed Virgin.
Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do thou O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl through the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.