The month of October is dedicated to the Holy Rosary. The Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary is celebrated on October 7. It was instituted to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary in gratitude for the protection that she gives the Church in answer to the praying of the Rosary by the faithful.
The feast was introduced by Pope St. Pius V (1504-1572) in the year 1571 to commemorate the miraculous victory of the Christian forces in the Battle of Lepanto on October 7, 1571. The Pope attributed more to the "arms" of the Rosary than the power of cannons and the valor of the soldiers who fought there.
Legend tells us that the Rosary as a form of prayer was given to St. Dominic (1170-1221) by Mary, the Mother of Our Lord, who entrusted it to him as an aid in the conflicts with the Albigensians.
The Dominican pope, St. Pius V, did much to further the spread of the Rosary and it thereafter became one of the most popular devotions in Christendom. It was the same Pope St. Pius V, who in 1569 officially approved the Rosary in its present form with the Papal Bull, CONSUEVERUNT ROMANI PONTIFECES. It had been completed by the addition of the second half of the "Hail Mary" and the "Glory be to the Father" at the conclusion of each mystery.
Current scholarship traces the development of the Rosary to the High Middle Ages where it came into being in various medieval monasteries as a substitute for the Divine Office for the lay monks and devout lay persons who did not know how to read. Instead of the 150 psalms, they would pray 150 "Our Fathers" counting them on a ring of beads known as the crown or "corona". With the growth of popularity of Marian devotion in the 12th century, the "Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary" developed now substituting 150 "Hail Marys" in place of the "Our Fathers".
The 150 "Hail Marys" were subsequently subdivided into 15 decades by the young Dominican friar, Henry Kalkar (1328-1408), with each decade referring to an event in the life of Jesus and Mary.
The Rosary is primarily a scriptural prayer. This can be summarized by the traditional phrase used by Pope Pius XII (1939-1958) that the Rosary is "a compendium of the entire Gospel". The Rosary draws its mysteries from the New Testament and is centered on the great events of the Incarnation and Redemption.
The purpose of the rosary is to help us meditate on the great mysteries of our salvation. Pius XII called it a compendium of the gospel. The main focus is on Jesus—his birth, life, death and resurrection. The Our Fathers remind us that Jesus' Father is the initiator of salvation. The Hail Marys remind us to join with Mary in contemplating these mysteries. They also make us aware that Mary was and is intimately joined with her Son in all the mysteries of his earthly and heavenly existence. The Glorys remind us that the purpose of all life is the glory of the Trinity.
The rosary appeals to many. It is simple. The constant repetition of words helps create an atmosphere in which to contemplate the mysteries of God. We sense that Jesus and Mary are with us in the joys and sorrows of life. We grow in hope that God will bring us to share in the glory of Jesus and Mary forever.
Our late Holy Father, Pope John Paul II has called the Rosary his favorite prayer, in which we meditate with Mary upon the mysteries which she as a mother meditated on in her heart (Luke 2:19). “The rosary, though clearly Marian in character, is at a heart a Christ-centered prayer. It has all the depth of the gospel message in its entirety. It is an echo of the prayer of Mary, her perennial Magnificat for the work of the redemptive Incarnation which began in her virginal womb...It can be said that the rosary is, in some sense, a prayer-commentary on the final chapter of the Vatican II Constitution Lumen Gentium, a chapter that discusses the wondrous presence of the Mother of God in the mystery of Christ and the Church" (Pope John Paul II, apostolic letter The Rosary of the Virgin Mary).
In this month of October, let us consider this beautiful prayer of the Rosary as a means that we too can use in order to draw closer to Jesus and Mary by meditating on the great mysteries of our salvation.