On October 7, the Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, originally called the Feast of St. Mary of Victory, instituted by the Dominican Pope, St. Pius V, after the defeat of the Turkish naval fleet at the Battle of Lepanto on October 7, 1571. The title of this feast was changed to the Feast of the Holy Rosary in 1721 by Pope Clement XI and then changed yet again to the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary in 1960, by Pope St. John XXIII.

For over four hundred years, the Church has highly recommended the prayer of the Rosary to all of the faithful as a most efficacious form of Christian prayer and a powerful spiritual weapon to ward off and defeat the evils that threaten individuals, families and whole nations. Countless saints have testified to the great merits of the Rosary, such as, to name just a few: St. Dominic (to whom Our Lady gave the Rosary), St. Pius V, St. Louis de Montfort, St. Alphonsus Liguori, St. Bernadette, Blessed Bartolo Longo, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, St. John Paul II, and St. Teresa of Calcutta. (Highly recommended is the book by Fr. Donald Calloway, Champions of the Rosary: The History and Heroes of a Spiritual Weapon.) 

Our Lady herself has warmly encouraged us to pray the Rosary; after all, it was she who gave it to the Church through St. Dominic and the Dominican Order, but she has also renewed her approval of this prayer, particularly through her apparitions at Lourdes (in 1858) and at Fatima (in 1917), when Our Lady repeated at each apparition: “Pray the Rosary every day.” 

The efficacy of the Rosary comes from its combination of vocal prayer and mental prayer (meditation). The vocal prayers of the Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be and the optional Fatima prayer that make up each decade, form the “body” of the prayer; whereas the mental prayer or meditation of the individual mysteries are the “soul” of the prayer: both are necessary. As Pope St. John Paul II states in his apostolic letter on the Rosary, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, the prayer of the Rosary enables us to enter ever more deeply into the principal mysteries or events in the life of Christ, but in union with Mary, through her eyes, as it were, and even with her heart. The Rosary is, indeed, a compendium of the Gospel or, as someone else put, the “Gospel on a string.”

The Rosary is also a highly practical prayer: it can be prayed almost anytime and anywhere: in a church, chapel or oratory, in a car, bus, train or plane, while waiting in line at the store, at the doctor’s or dentist’s office, while going for a walk, a jog or a hike, and it can be prayed in increments: one or two decades here, another there and another later still…

The Rosary is a prayer that can be prayed individually or with others, especially as a family. As Fr. Patrick Peyton rightly said, “The family that prays together, stays together.” And the family prayer, par excellence, is the Rosary. Following a whole cortege of pontiffs, this was highly encouraged by St. John Paul II in his letter on the Rosary, and rightly so, since the family has been under vicious attack in recent times and has suffered immensely, leaving many families utterly devastated and, consequently, society, as a whole, as well.

During the month of the Rosary, let us renew our commitment to pray the Rosary each and every day, and with greater love and devotion. As Pope Leo XIII confided, “The Rosary is the most excellent form of prayer and the most efficacious means of attaining eternal life. It is the remedy for all our evils, the root of all our blessings. There is no more excellent way of praying.”  Similarly, Sister Lucia of Fatima has said, “The Most Holy Virgin in these last times in which we live has given a new efficacy to the recitation of the Rosary to such an extent that there is no problem, no matter how difficult it is, whether temporal or above all spiritual, in the personal life of each one of us, of our families…that cannot be solved by the Rosary. There is no problem, I tell you, no matter how difficult it is, that we cannot resolve by the prayer of the Holy Rosary.” And, finally, St. Padre Pio assured his spiritual children, “The Rosary is the ‘weapon’ for these times.” 

Our Lady, Queen of the most Holy Rosary, pray for us!