Pope Pius V instituted the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary to commemorate the naval battle of Lepanto in Greece, where on October 7, 1571 a Christian coalition fleet defeated the Turkish armada. Pope Pius’s leadership, financing, and alliances made the historic victory possible — along with, in Catholic tradition, the intercession of Our Lady through the prayers of the Rosary Confraternity throughout the campaign. During the battle, Pius V led prayers before her holy icon in Santa Maria Maggiore.
HISTORY OF THE ROSARY
The Rosary is a Christian meditation practice that occupies the hands, voice, and imagination while the soul communes with God. It originated as early as the 600s as the “Psalter of Mary,” in which repetitive prayers, sometimes counted on beads or other aids, substituted for the 150 Biblical Psalms of the monastic liturgy. By the 1200s, Europeans were saying Ave Maria on circles of 50 beads. In the 1400s, meditations on the lives of Christ and his mother were combined with those prayers. In 1483, the first of several editions of Unser Lieben Frauwen Psalter (Our Dear Lady’s Psalter) was printed in Germany, containing 15 “mysteries,” one for each Pater Noster bead separating groups of 10 Ave Maria beads. The meditation and prayer sequence was basically the one used today, except that the fifth Glorious Mystery was the Last Judgment instead of the Crowning of Mary. By then the Rosary was becoming a popular devotion. The Rosary Confraternity — an association of laymen devoted to prayer and good works begun in Cologne in 1474 — spread through much of Europe over the next century. The Ave Maria (Hail Mary) prayer combines the greeting of the Angel Gabriel, “Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee” and that of St. Elizabeth, “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb” (Luke 1:28 & 42) with an ending added during the 1500s, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.” In early rosary devotions, the Biblical salutations concluded with a simple Amen, or with other short prayers or reflections.
Prayers have been added to the rosary as well. By the 1500s, a crucifix often hung from the circle on a string of an additional Pater Noster and three Ave beads. In the 1600s, it became common to say a Gloria after each decade, before the Our Father. This is now universal. In many places (such as the U.S.) it is also customary to precede the rosary with the Apostles Creed (Credo) and to conclude it with the Hail Holy Queen (Salve Regina). Often a prayer that Our Lady of the Rosary requested at Fatima (1917) is added between the Glory Be and Our Father: “O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fire of hell, and raise all souls to heaven, especially those who most need your mercy.” Pope John Paul II added a fourth sequence of “Luminous Mysteries” with meditations on Christ’s active mission: his baptism; the miracle at Cana; the message of God’s Kingdom; the Transfiguration; and the Last Supper.
Many Catholic churches hold Rosary devotions before or after masses, and the Rosary is often recited at private services for the dead.
HOW TO PRAY THE ROSARY: