Today’s feast of Our Lady of the Rosary was instituted to honor Mary for the Christian naval victory over the Turks at the “Battle of Lepanto.” on October 7, 1571. Pope Pius V, whose treasury bankrolled much of this large military endeavor, ordered the churches of Rome continuously opened for prayer, encouraging Catholics to petition the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary through the recitation of the Rosary. This naval victory would severely curtail attempts by the Ottoman Empire to control the Mediterranean, causing a shift in East-West relations. The victory of Lepanto is arguably considered the most complete victory ever gained over the Ottoman Empire. This victory prevented Europe from being overrun by the forces of Islam.When word reached the Pope Pius of the victory of “the Holy League,” he added a new feast day to the Roman Liturgical Calendar. October 7th would henceforth be the feast of Our Lady of Victory. Pope Pius’ successor, Gregory XIII would change the name of this day to the feast of the Holy Rosary.
Odd to think such a large and important military battle was victorious from a prayer said on simple beads. Of course it’s not the beads that are important, but the prayers said and whose intercession they call upon. Mary’s psalter has a long history in the Church and it often is considered a replacement for the recitation of the 150 psalms of the Liturgy of the Hours. Mary’s psalter covers the entire mission of her Son, from Nativity to Annunciation. At the same time it also meditates on the life of Mary, she who had the closest relation with the Christ. This feast day starts a month of devotion to the continuous prayer that is the Rosary.
While the feast celebrates a large naval victory, victories of the Rosary are common to all that are able to carry and recite the prayers of those beads. Their intercessions need not be limited to large occasions, but are ideally suited to overcome the battles of everyday life. They are a prayer designed to be recited by every person and every day, a contrast to the grandiose battle that is commemorated today.
Interesting point of the rosary is that its prayers are directed at Mary, and the mysteries that are meditated revolve around her Son. The prayers link Holy Mother of God in a way so similar to the way that their lives were interconnected. One never separated from the other. Uniquely Catholic it is directed at Mary, it proclaims Hail Mary. Each decade meditates on a particular aspect of the Lords life: joyful, sorrowful, glorious, and the luminous. Mary and her Son. They begin and end with the prayer of the Lord directed to the Father, and are recited in the name of the trinity. It is no wonder this simple prayer leads to so many victories.