This Sunday is the usual day for the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary.
And even though the readings and prayers for Sunday take precedence over those of a Memorial, it is a good occasion to reflect upon this devotion. The rosary was developed during the High Middle Ages as a way of praying the Hail Mary or Our Father 50 or 150 times, partially to join with the practice of monks and nuns, who prayed all psalms a week as part of their vocation. People would use beads to keep track of the prayers. And gradually these prayers were organized into 15 groups (now called decades) of one Our Father, 10 Hail Mary’s, and a Glory Be.
These groups soon became associated with the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries, which reflect respectively the early life of Jesus, His sacrifice on Calvary, and then the Resurrection and its effects. As time went on, people added the Apostles Creed, an Our Father, and three Hail Mary’s to enter into this meditation, and the Hail, Holy Queen to conclude it. In 1571, when as the Ottoman Empire threatened an invasion by sea, Pope St. Pius V called upon Europeans to pray the rosary for the Christian fleet protecting Europe. When the Christian fleet under Admiral Don John of Austria won a decisive victory on October 7, 1571, Pope St. Pius V established October 7 as the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary, which it is to this day.
When Our Lady appeared to the children in Fatima in 1917, in the midst of world wide war, she called for them to promote praying the rosary to bring about conversion and peace. And she added a request that a prayer, now known as the Fatima prayer, be added to each decade. In his 2002 apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, St.Pope John Paul II built upon this venerable devotion by adding the Mysteries of Light to meditate on the public life of Jesus from His first miracle at the wedding of Cana to the Holy Eucharist He gave us on the night before He died. In so doing, he made the rosary a more complete reflection upon the entire Gospel. As St. John Paul II pointed out at that time, in praying the Rosary, we are not merely repeated the same words. Rather, the repeated prayers serve as a sort of bridge through which we can enter (with the help of Mary) into contemplation of the mysteries of our salvation.
As he wrote, , “With the rosary, the Christian people sits at the school of Mary and is led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of His love.”