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 | By Candace Bryant-Lester

Celebrating the Month of the Holy Rosary

Since the Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary on October 7, the entire month is dedicated to celebrating the Holy Rosary. But how did this extra-liturgical devotion become the most popular Catholic devotion?

A Brief History of the Rosary

According to legend, St. Dominic was given this prayer by the Virgin Mary, instructing him to use it as an aid against the Albigensian heresy in the beginning of the 13th century. History, however, indicates a murky beginning that most likely started in the Middle Ages where lay monks and laypeople who didn’t know how to read prayed 150 “Our Fathers” instead of psalms for the Divine Office, keeping count on a string of beads. Marian devotion grew in the 12th century and eventually substituted “Our Fathers” with “Hail Marys.” The 150 prayers were then divided into 15 decades by Dominican friar Henry Kalkar in the 14th century, each meditating on an event of the lives of Jesus and Mary. Another Dominican, Alanus de Rupe, divided them further into the mysteries of the history of salvation—joyful, sorrowful, and glorious— in the 15th century and formed the “Psalter of the Blessed Virgin.” Pope St. Pius V officially approved the rosary as we know it in 1569 in the papal bull Consueverunt Romani Pontifices.

In the 19th century, Pope Leo XIII encouraged Catholics to constantly use this devotion and wrote 12 encyclicals on the rosary. Perhaps most notably, the rosary was a favorite prayer of St. John Paul II, who wrote the apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae (The Rosary of the Virgin Mary) in 2002 and added the luminous mysteries to the rosary.

Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary

The Battle of Lepanto in 1571 was a naval battle between the Ottoman empire and Christian forces (Venice, Spain, and the pope) during the Ottomans’ attempt to acquire Cyprus. Pope St. Pius V asked all Christians to pray the rosary, and the battle was won by Christian forces. Attributing the victory to the prayer of the Blessed Virgin, he established a new feast: Our Lady of Victory, which became the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

7 Ways to Celebrate the Month of the Holy Rosary

There are many ways to celebrate the rosary this month, but here are a few to get you started.

  1. Pray the rosary! Super simple way to celebrate, right? Check out FAITH’s Quick Guide to the Rosary. Maybe you have a rosary bracelet that’s gone unused — learn how to pray with a rosary bracelet to put it to good use.
  2. Learn more about the rosary. Read Church documents such as Rosarium Virginis Mariae or Marialis Cultus. Pick up a rosary classic by St. Louis-Marie de Montfort or Thomas à Kempis. Watch a video or listen to a podcast that explores the rosary’s history and prayers.
  3. Get involved in a rosary ministry. Whether it’s a homegrown rosary group at your parish, a formal Rosary Society or rosary guild, or an organization such as the Rosary Confraternity, consider joining or even starting a rosary ministry to pray and spend time with the Blessed Mother.
  4. Make a rosary or rosary bracelet. Here’s how to make a rosary. If you’re feeling extra creative, you can even make a rosary out of roses. Don’t forget a case or a box to store it in!
  5. Share the rosary with others. Rosaries make wonderful gifts! Giving away rosaries is not the only way to share it with others; ask friends or family to join you in prayer, whether for a special intention or to simply pray together. Share your experiences praying the rosary and how it makes a difference in your faith.
  6. Create a rosary garden. For those with a green thumb or wanting to spend more time outdoors in God’s creation, there are many plants and flowers associated with the Blessed Mother and her Son that can be used to create a meditative place to pray. Alternatively, you can keep things simple by creating a Mary garden and use it to help you contemplate the mysteries of the rosary.
  7. Use rosary-inspired prayers outside the rosary. While praying a full rosary is always recommended, sprinkling those prayers into your day is also a wonderful way to include the rosary in your daily life! Pray a Hail Mary after grace before a meal or when you hear a siren. Recite the Fatima Prayer when you see someone (or yourself) in need of mercy.