Titles of Our Lady from the Litany of Loreto

Queen of the Most Holy Rosary

Rosary Window

Our Lady of the Rosary with Pope Leo XIII and St. Dominic.

There is not a true Pope in the last five hundred years who has not urged devotion to the Rosary, and enriched its recitation with Indulgences. From Pope Sixtus IV, in 1479, down to Pope Pius XII, it is one long urging of the Rosary. It was to the aspiration, "Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, pray for us!" that Pope Benedict XV, on October 1, 1915, during the First World War, granted an Indulgence of one hundred days. The prayer to Our Lady of the Rosary, to which St. Pius X granted an Indulgence of three hundred days, is one of the loveliest we have:

O Virgin Mary, grant that the recitation of Thy Rosary may be for me each day, in the midst of my manifold duties, a bond of unity in my actions, a tribute of filial piety, a sweet refreshment, an encouragement to walk joyfully along the path of duty. Grant, above all, O Virgin Mary, that the consideration of Thy fifteen Mysteries may form in my soul, little by little, a luminous atmosphere, pure, strengthening and fragrant, which will permeate my understanding, my will, my heart, my memory, my imagination, my whole being. So shall I acquire the habit of praying while I work, without the aid of formal prayers, by interior acts of admiration and of supplication, or by aspirations of love. I ask this of Thee, O Queen of the Holy Rosary, through St. Dominic, Thy son of predilection, the renowned preacher of Thy Mysteries, and the faithful imitator of Thy virtues. Amen.

No devout Catholic doubts the tradition of the establishment of the Rosary, as we now have it, by Our Lady through Her instrument, St. Dominic. And no one will presume to rob his spiritual sons and daughters of the glory of having manifested it to the world. They too were the instruments Our Lady used for binding about the world the rose garland of Her love. They inherited the spirit of St. Dominic, his love for Mary and his confidence in Her aid. One of the traits of St. Catherine of Siena was her love of flowers. While walking in the garden she would gather flowers and bind them together in the form of a cross and send them by her foster-brother Father Thomas, a Dominican, to her friends. We are sure a prayer was breathed into every flower. Gathering her roses, she drew a spiritual lesson—"From the thorns of tribulation let us pluck the rose of peace and quiet."

There is no name, however, that has as much right to be associated with the Rosary as that of Pope Leo XIII. It is due to him that we have this title, "Queen of the Most Holy Rosary," in our Litany. Not that he discovered it. As far back as 1614 it was inserted by the Dominicans in the Litany used by their Order, and in 1675 it was permitted to the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary. But Leo XIII made it universal. On September 1, 1883, he issued an Encyclical wherein he declared that the Rosary was the great means of prayer against the evils of his day, and he ordered it to be said publicly every day in Rome. A few months later, December 10, he ordered the invocation, "Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, pray for us!" to be inserted in the Litany of Loreto for the Universal Church. That same month he expressed his desire in a Brief that the Rosary be recited every day in Cathedrals, and on Sundays and holy days of obligation in all parish churches. Finally, in 1885, he established Rosary Month—October—to be continued till the peace and liberty of the Church be restored. And, in 1887, he raised the Feast of the Most Holy Rosary to a Double of the Second Class. The numerous writings of Pope Leo XIII on the Holy Rosary are timely reading today—and will always be timely—for they insist on what will always be timely—devotion to Our Lady in Her queen of devotions, the Rosary.

There is one passage from his writings that sums up the whole meaning of the Rosary:

May the Christian nations cling more and more to the practice of the Rosary, to which our ancestors had recourse as an every-ready refuge in misfortune, and as a glorious pledge and proof of Christian faith and devotion. We have desired, and desired nothing more ardently, than that the fervor of the faithful in performing the devotion of the Rosary should not languish, but should remain firm. The Holy Father desires to increase devotion toward the Mother of God, particularly by this form of prayer which is most pleasing to Her. Amongst the various forms of prayer used in the Church piously and well, the Rosary has many titles of praise—especially this, that it was instituted to implore the help of the Mother of God against the enemies of the Faith; and, as all know, it has frequently consoled the Church in trial. Not only, therefore, is it proper for private prayer, but also for public occasions. This form of prayer should be restored to the honor it long held, when every Christian family marked each day with its recital. Hence We exhort and beseech all to say the Rosary every day with constancy. Care must be taken that, in these sad times for the Church, the holy custom of reciting the Rosary be carefully observed, especially as this form of prayer is excellently suited to nourish the spirit of devotion.

Ever since the victory at Lepanto, October 7, 1571, Our Lady of the Rosary has been the war-cry of Christian civilization. Catholics were in terror. It looked as if they were to be destroyed from the face of the earth by the Turks, who were sweeping all before them. By the grace of God, there was a great Saint at the head of the Church, St. Pius V, who had unbounded faith in the help of the Mother of God. He fasted and prayed, got his people to fast and pray. The fight of the Catholic forces was against all odds, but what could the enemies of God do when they were facing Her, who is "terrible as an army set in battle array"? She won the victory, as the Confraternities of the Rosary were holding their processions in supplication to Her. The Rosary won. "By the Rosary," said St. Pius, "the darkness of heresy has been dispelled, and the light of the Catholic Faith shines out in all its brilliancy."

Vivat Hispania! Domino Gloria!
Don Juan of Austria has set his people free!

Chesterton tells the story in his magnificent poem "Lepanto," but we wish he had paid tribute to what Mary had contributed to the might of Don Juan of Austria. The victory of Lepanto is but another comment on the words addressed by the Church to Her—"Thou alone hast destroyed all the heresies in the whole world."

Lourdes WindowI like to think that when Pope Leo was urging the daily recitation of the Rosary, he was somehow thinking of the example of the Irish (the author is Irish). Father Tom Burke says somewhere that it was the Rosary which kept the Faith in the Irish people. The Rosary was part and parcel of the Irish. During the horrible Penal days, when the Irish Catholics were driven into caves to worship God, the Rosary was the golden chain that bound them together as the Church militant. The worshippers in the Catacombs had not known greater trial. They faced martyrdom confidently, with their hands in the hands of Mary. They went into battle with the beads about their neck. They had been initiated into a love for the Rosary by starvation and pain. It became the sign of their Faith, as they continued to wear it so in the face of their anti-Catholic neighbors, who hated everything Catholic, but the Rosary most of all.

But the love for the Rosary is not only a mark of the Irish Catholic. Say Catholic and you say Rosary. It is the garden of the world where every Catholic delights to walk and breathe in the fragrance of Mary’s presence, from the little child to the mighty Doctor of Theology. The greater the Saint, the greater his love for the Rosary. It is in the Rosary that Mary speaks a universal language. As someone has said, it is "the most complete expression of Christian piety."

The Rosary has a special meaning for us today. We have not yet begun to appreciate to the full the definition of the Immaculate Conception. It has clarified Mariology beyond the greatest hopes of the theologians of past ages. Nor have we begun yet to appreciate to the full the apparitions of Our Lady at Lourdes. Lourdes was a second proclamation of the Immaculate Conception. When St. Bernadette asked the Vision Her name, She replied, "I am the Immaculate Conception." But there is another point to the apparition that is not made as much of as it should be. It is in regard to the Rosary. When St. Bernadette saw the beautiful Lady, instinctively she took her Rosary in her hands and went on her knees. "The Lady," said Bernadette, "made with Her head a sign of approval and Herself took into Her hands a Rosary which hung on Her right arm. When I attempted to begin the Rosary and tried to lift my hand to my forehead, my arm remained paralyzed, and it was only after the Lady had signed Herself that I could do the same. The Lady let me pray alone; She passed the beads of Her Rosary between Her fingers, but She said nothing; only at the end of each decade did She say the Gloria with me." It is all so theologically correct. No mere child could have invented such a story. Mary could not pray for daily bread, or for forgiveness of trespasses, nor could She pray to Herself in the Hail Mary, but She could sing to the Holy Trinity the song of the Gloria Patri. Lourdes was a new proclamation of the Rosary, a declaration of Our Lady that the Rosary was dear to Her and that She wished to be identified with it.

It is a new inspiration to us. We love the Rosary. It is the rope-ladder to Heaven. It is the chain of love, holding us fast to the hands of the Queen of Heaven. Some day when we are leaving the world with empty hands, the only thing that we will want to carry is a handful of beads, hoping that back in Her garden every one of them will be glorified into a fragrant rose, for us, Her little ones, to lay at Her feet.

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