The feast of the Holy Rosary was established by Saint Pius V on the anniversary of the naval victory won by the Christian fleet at Lepanto, October 7, 1571. The victory was attributed to the help of the holy Mother of God whose aid was invoked through praying the rosary. A rosary procession was offered on that day in St. Peter’s Square in Rome for the success of the mission of the Holy League to hold back Muslim forces from overrunning Western Europe. The celebration of this day invites all to meditate upon the mysteries of Christ, following the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary who was so singularly associated with the incarnation, passion and glorious resurrection of the Son of God from the Christian Prayer. In 1573, Pope Gregory XIII changed the title of this feast day to “Feast of the Holy Rosary”. This feast was extended by Clement XII to the whole of the Latin Rite, inserting it into the Roman Catholic calendar of saints in 1716, and assigning it to the first Sunday in October. Pope Pius X changed the date to 7 October in 1913. In 1969, Pope Paul VI changed the name of the feast to “Our Lady of the Rosary”.
Pope Leo XIII and every Pontiff of modern times has pointed out, over and over again, that the Holy Rosary is the means of salvation more than once experienced by our fathers. In fact, Pope Leo consecrated the entire month of October to the Holy Rosary, this devotion that is so dear to heaven. Pope Leo honored Our Lady in her litanies with a new title, Queen of the most holy rosary; and raised this day to the honor of a second class feast with a proper Office. Only a short time after this, Our Lady of Fatima appeared in 1917, and in October of that year, the very month dedicated to the Holy Rosary, She announced to the world: “I am the Lady of the Rosary.”
Since the Rosary is composed, principally and in substance, of the prayer of Christ and the Angelic Salutation, that is, the Our Father and the Hail Mary, it was without doubt the first prayer and the principal devotion of the faithful and has been in use all through the centuries, from the time of the apostles and disciples down to the present. The Church Sacramental of the Rosary recited daily throughout the world, brings back to memory thousands and thousands of times the words of the angel of God, “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” As a Catholic devotion, the Rosary involves meditation on the twenty mysteries surrounding the lives of Our Lord Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary.
By the sixteen century, the fifteen mysteries taken from the Biblical episodes had become accepted by all as the proper way of reciting the Rosary. During that period of time, the second half of the Hail Mary was added and the “Glory be to the Father” was used to close each decade of the Rosary.
It was only in the year 1214, however, that the Church received the Rosary in its present form and according to the method we use today. It was given to the Church by St. Dominic, who had received it from the Blessed Virgin as a means of converting the Albigensians and other sinners. Saint Dominic withdrew into a forest near Toulouse, where he prayed continuously for three days and three nights. Our Lady said to have appeared to him, accompanied by three angels, and gave him the Rosary to pray with and Dominic preached this to the world. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, instructed by the Blessed Virgin as well as by his own experience, Saint Dominic preached the Rosary for the rest of his life.
However, tradition of the church says that the rosary probably began as a practice by the laity to imitate the monastic Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours, during the course of which the monks daily prayed the 150 Psalms. The laity, many of whom could not read, substituted 50, or even 150, Hail Marys for the Psalms.
Rosary means a crown of roses, a spiritual bouquet given to the Blessed Mother. It is sometimes called the Dominican Rosary, to distinguish it from other rosary-like prayers namely, the Franciscan Rosary of the Seven Joys or Franciscan Crown, the Servite Rosary of the Seven Sorrows. It is also, in a general sense, a form of chaplet or corona (crown), of which there are many varieties in the Church. While the hands and lips are occupied with the prayers, the mind meditates on the mysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption represented by the decades.
The Joyful mysteries introduce the believer to meditation on the Annunciation to Mary, the Visitation to Elizabeth, cousin of Mary, Nativity of Jesus at Bethlehem, the Presentation of Jesus in the temple and Jesus being lost and found in the Temple. The Sorrowful mysteries concentrate on the Passion of our Lord. We have the mysteries of the Agony in the Garden, Scourging at the Pillar, Crowning with Thorns, Carrying the Cross to Calvary and finally, Crucifixion and death of Jesus on the Cross. In the Glorious Mysteries we concentrate on the Resurrection of Jesus, His Glorious Ascension to heaven, the Coming of the Holy Spirit on Our Lady and the Apostles, the Assumption of Mary Body and Soul into Heaven and the Crowning of Mary as the Queen of Heaven.
Pope John Paul II in October 2002 has given five new mysteries which would take their place between the joyful and the sorrowful mysteries, which focus respectively on Christ’s childhood and on his suffering and death. They include his Baptism of Jesus at the Jordan, Manifestation at the Wedding Feast of Cana, and Proclamation of the Kingdom of God by Jesus, the Transfiguration and the Institution of the Eucharist. Although Mary remains in the background of four of the mysteries of light, she stands forth as an intercessor in the Wedding at Cana. She is the one who tells the servants to do whatever Jesus tells them to do.
.The Rosary indicates its Gospel character with each of the constituent prayers of the rosary, the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Hail Mary, and the Glory Be, is rooted directly or indirectly in the Gospels. As a result, Mary’s authentic importance in the Gospels and in the life of the Church has become more evident. Pope Paul VI in Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary emphasized that all Christian piety should have a biblical imprint. That the Rosary is pre-eminently the prayer of the people adapted alike for the use of simple and learned is proved not only by the long series of papal sayings, by which it has been commended to the faithful.