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The Holy Rosary

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History of the Rosary

The Rosary is one of the oldest and most popular Catholic prayer devotions. According to tradition, the concept of the Rosary was revealed by the Blessed Virgin Mary to Saint Dominic in A.D. 1214. Before this time, it was a common practice among pious lay people to recite either the Lord's Prayer ("Our Father") or the Angelic Salutation ("Hail Mary") 150 times a day, in solidarity with clergy and monks who prayed the 150 Biblical Psalms each day during the Liturgy of the Hours. To assist in this practice, knotted or beaded prayer ropes (which have been used since the early days of Christianity, and are common in other religions as well) were used to count off the prayers as they were said. 

The earliest Dominican versions of the Rosary were referred to as the "Marian Psalter" and consisted of 150 Hail Marys and 150 "mysteries" for meditation. It was in this form that the Dominican Blessed Alan de la Roche spread the devotion in the 15th century. The form of the Rosary as we know it today really dates from its papal approval in 1569 by Pope Saint Pius V (also a Dominican), which established the standard 15 "decades" of the Rosary (i.e., 10 Hail Marys bounded by 1 Our Father and 1 Glory Be) and the standard set of 15 mysteries: 5 Joyful, 5 Sorrowful, 5 Glorious. The first recorded use of the word rosarium (Latin for "set of roses") in reference to this devotion was in 1597.

Additions to the devotion over time inlcude allowance to pray only one set of Mysteries (i.e., 50 Hail Marys) at a time, the Fatima Prayer ("O my Jesus") after 1917, and the 5 Luminous Mysteries in 2002 by Pope Saint John Paul II. The Rosary--much like the Word of God--is living and effective.

Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary

On Sunday, October 7, 1571, the Holy League engaged the Ottoman Empire in a naval battle. The Holy League was a coalition of the Papal States, Venice, Genoa, Spain, and others brought together in 1571 by Pope Saint Pius V for the purpose of breaking the Ottoman hold on thre Mediterranean. After a series of skirmishes and campaigns, the League met the Ottomans in the Gulf of Patras in western Greece, off the coast of Lepanto, on October 7 and won a decisive victory. Until that day, the Ottomans had not lost a naval battle in over 100 years. The League credited the victory to the Blessed Virgin Mary, as the soldiers had all prayed the Rosary prior to the battle. To commemorate the victory, Pius V added the Feast of Our Lady of Victories to the calendar, to be celebrated on the first Sunday of October each year. In 1573, Pope Gregory XIII changed the name of the feast to "Our Lady of the Rosary," and it is still celebrated with that name today. In 1913, Pope Saint Pius X fixed the feast on October 7, thr anniversary of thr battle.

Fifteen Rosary Promises

Blessed Alan de la Roche reported fifteen promises made by the Blessed Mother to Saint Dominic to those who pray the Rosary. These have been accepted by the Church as a "private revelation."

  1. Whoever shall faithfully serve me by the recitation of the Rosary shall receive signal graces.
  2. I promise my special protection and the greatest graces to all those who shall recite the Rosary.
  3. The Rosary shall be a powerful armor against hell; it will destroy vice, decrease sin, and defeat heresies.
  4. It will cause virtue and good works to flourish; it will obtain for souls the abundant mercy of God; it will withdraw the heart of men from the love of the world and its vanities, and will lift them to the desire of eternal things. Oh, that souls would sanctify themselves by this means.
  5. The soul which recommends itself to me by the recitation of the Rosary shall not perish.
  6. Whoever shall recite the Rosary devoutly, applying himself to the consideration of its sacred mysteries, shall never be conquered and never overwhelmed by misfortune. God will not chastise him in His justice, he shall not perish by an unprovided death (unprepared for heaven). The sinner shall convert. The just shall grow in grace and become worthy of eternal life.
  7. Whoever shall have a true devotion for the Rosary shall not die without the sacraments of the Church.
  8. Those who are faithful to recite the Rosary shall have, during their life and at their death, the light of God and the plenitude of His graces; at the moment of death they shall participate in the merits of the saints in paradise.
  9. I shall deliver from purgatory those who have been devoted to the Rosary.
  10. The faithful children of the Rosary shall merit a high degree of glory in heaven.
  11. You shall obtain all you ask of me by the recitation of the Rosary.
  12. All those who propagate the holy Rosary shall be aided by me in their necessities.
  13. I have obtained from my Divine Son that all the advocates of the Rosary shall have for intercessors the entire celestial court during their life and at the hour of death.
  14. All who recite the Rosary are my sons, and brothers of my only son Jesus Christ.
  15. Devotion of my Rosary is a great sign of predestination.
 

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