OCTOBER, THE MONTH OF THE ROSARY
The chief devotion for Catholics during the Month of October is the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary is October 7th and today at our 10:30 Latin Mass we will celebrate Our Lady of the Rosary as an External Solemnity. In its historical origins the Feast is a perpetual act of thanksgiving for the deliverance of Christendom from an overwhelming sea-invasion by the Ottoman Turks in 1571 A.D.
In Rome, Pope Pius V had authorized public processions of the Rosary to beseech heaven for deliverance. The decisive victory of the much weaker Christian navy over the Ottomans at the Battle of Lepanto on October 7th seemed to be nothing less than miraculous, on a par with the unequal victories by divine power of the Israelites against their mortal foes in the Old Testament.
It was Pope Leo XIII during his long reign (1878 -1903) who greatly expanded the Rosary devotion to include the whole month of October. The “October Devotions” became a part of Catholic life. In the late 1800s, the chief prayer petition of these October Devotions was for the Restoration of the Papal States, which had been suppressed by the armed invasion of the Kingdom of Sardinia in its efforts to forge a new united Kingdom of Italy.
Such a restoration did not occur, but the prayer of the Rosary developed into a more urgent petition for the peace of the world in the wake of the extraordinary events which occurred at Fatima, Portugal, in 1917, and which concluded with the great public sign of the “Miracle of the Sun” on October 13th, 1917. This prayer has lost none of its urgency or relevance to the present day.
It is true that we do not want the prayer of the Rosary to become caught up in a kind of “Rosary-apocalypticism”, a rosary-mania where so many rosaries have to be prayed in order for the world not to end or in order for us to effect a certain outcome—a disedifying “weaponizing” of the Rosary which turns the act of prayer inside out. We pray in order to understand better what God’s will is for us and how to co-operate with it: we do not pray in order to compel God to do what we want, when we want, and how we want. “Magico-Marianism” should have no place in our Catholic faith life.
Our praying of the Rosary—whether privately or in public recitation—should (like all our prayer) be humble, trusting, patient and persevering. The Mysteries of the Rosary are a most beautiful meditation on the lives of Jesus and Mary. They are rooted in the Sacred Scriptures, and they reenforce and complement our sacramental life.
Pope St. Paul VI, in his advocacy of the prayer of the Rosary, encouraged the expanded meditation on different scenes of the Gospel and particular Scripture verses. No doubt he was speaking from the benefit of his own experience. This method is particularly well-suited to private recitation of the Rosary.
It is not enough to merely pray the Rosary — we must also have the desire to pray the Rosary well. We do not want the Rosary prayer to be an echo chamber of our own egocentricity. Let it be a means of bringing us closer to God. Let it make us more humble. Let it help us to bear our crosses in all patience. Let it teach us how to love.