When October 7th does not fall on a Sunday, the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, or in times past the Feast of Our Lady of Victory, is commemorated. Nevertheless, it testifies to what countless generations have known to be true: we can rely on Blessed Mary’s prayers for deliverance and protection. This feast’s significance is rooted both in piety and history.
St. Dominic, in the 12th century, was tasked with preaching against the Albigensian heresy. Its proponents asserted that the God of the Old and New Testaments were two distinct beings, one evil, the other good. St. Dominic had little success, until according to legend, the Blessed Mother appeared in a vision giving him the Rosary.* Centuries later, Pope St. Pius V dispatched a coalition of naval ships to Lepanto--now Nafpaktos--Greece to the halt an Ottoman Turk takeover of the Mediterranean Sea. A lot was a stake. Not only was the European fleet at a disadvantage, but there was a real possibility that Rome, the seat of the Catholic Church, would fall into non-Christian hands. The Pope asked for all Christians to pray the Rosary; the Holy Father himself even lead a procession! The Battle of Lepanto, that October 7th, 1517, was won by Christian forces. Pius V attributed this victory to the Virgin’s intercession, hence the feast’s name. In 1868, it seems fitting that Irish Catholics, in a place called Bedford-Stuyvesant, would erect a Marian parish on Throop Avenue not long after the Union victory in the Civil War, then the nation’s bloodiest armed conflict.
One should not think of the Rosary as an earthly weapon, reserved for heresy trials and martial conflicts. It is a spiritual weapon, one of great import. The twenty Mysteries of the Rosary allow one to meditate on the whole of the Gospels, and its prayers are indulgenced by the Church. The Virgin Mother, in apparitions at Lourdes, Fatima, and elsewhere, implored those listening to not only pray the Rosary, but to do so with great frequency and fervor. The reason being? For an increase of faith, hope, and charity, for sincere repentance of sin, and most importantly, for the conversion of souls, others and our own! A number of our separated brethren believe the Rosary to be a superstitious or idolatrous practice. This vicar points them to her words at the Feast of Cana, “Do whatever He tells you!” The Mother of God is never apart from her Divine Son, from her yes to the angel Gabriel to her sorrow beneath the Cross; she models for us Christian discipleship.
This October 7th, let us rattle those Rosary beads, not only in witness that no one who has asked for Our Lady’s assistance was ever left unaided, but for the grace of final perseverance, final victory over the forces of sin and death.
Mary, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, pray for us!
Fr. Daniel O. Kingsley
*Historical aside: The origins of the Rosary are said to go as far back as the 9th Century!