The Rosary is, perhaps, one of Catholicism’s best known prayers and October is dedicated to this ancient prayer. Tradition holds that Our Lady gave the Rosary to St. Dominic. But historically, many aspects of this devotion predated St. Dominic's life. And, certain elements of the rosary were added after his death.
Immediately after Vatican II, the Rosary and other Marian devotions were less popular than they had been in the centuries leading up to the Second Vatican Council. But in recent years, the Catholic faithful have been drawn back to Marian devotions and the Rosary. Today, many honor Mary during the month of May. And Catholics around the world celebrate the Rosary in the month of October.
According to Reverend Matthew R. Mauriello, “Current scholarship traces the development of the Rosary to the High Middle Ages period”. Each month of October is dedicated to the Most Holy Rosary. This is primarily due to the fact that the liturgical feast of Our Lady of the Rosary is celebrated annually 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.” (Source)
Pope Pius V introduced the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary (also known as Our Lady of Victory) to commemorate a miraculous victory over the Ottoman Empire. In 1571, The Ottoman Empire was expanding West with the goal of overtaking Europe. To protect Italy and the Catholic faith, Pope Pius V assembled a fleet of naval ships, known as the Catholic League who sailed into the Mediterranian Sea to confront the Ottoman armada. The battle involved over 400 ships and is considered to have been the largest sea battle for centuries. (Source)
The Catholic League was outmatched and so Pope Pius V asked the Faithful to pray the Rosary and ask for the Holy Mother’s intercession. The Catholic League prevailed and thwarted the Ottoman Empire’s expansionist efforts, thus protecting Christianity. To honor Mary and to memorialize her intervention, Pope Pius V identified October 7th as the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. According to Northwest Catholic, “In 1571, the rosary was still a relatively new prayer for the universal church. Pope Pius V had issued a decree formally establishing devotion to the rosary in the papal bull Consueverunt Romani Pontifices just two years before the Battle of Lepanto.” Pope Pius’ inclination toward the power of the Rosary was certainly providential.
For 449 years, the Catholic Church has recognized and celebrated Mary and prayed the Rosary in October. As we close out the month of October, consider spending just fifteen minutes praying the Rosary and meditating on the mysteries of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Or consider listening to St. Pope John Paul II saying the Rosary in Latin. Listen to his voice praying this ancient prayer.