Feast Day of Our Lady of the Rosary

Here are some links for 7 October, the Feast day of Our Lady of the Rosary.

First, the history of the rosary, which begins:

As a youngster, I learned that St. Dominic was given the Rosary by the Blessed Virgin, and accepted that story of invention by divine intervention. Many years later, I learned that anecdote was only an austere version of the true story, simplified for young minds. The true origin of the Rosary is quite different, more interesting, and predates St. Dominic! Theologians have traced the origin of the Rosary back to the Ninth century, and a form of prayer that evolved in the monasteries of the early Irish church. Prayer and labor filled the days of the Irish monks, and one of the most important forms of monastic prayer was the daily chanting of the 150 psalms of David. Lay people around the monastery would hear the psalms every day as they were sung or recited, and the beauty of this form of prayer intrigued them. They yearned to join in, but the psalms were too long to memorize, copies could not be found since printing was rare, and few knew how to read Latin anyway. The lay people were however, determined to adapt this prayer form for their own use.

Sometime around 800 AD, the people’s desire to participate led to their reciting The Lord’s Prayer in response to every psalm recited by the monks. As this form of devotion became popular, people began to carry leather pouches of 150 pebbles, in order that they might keep count of their daily prayers when they were not in hearing distance of the monastery. A thin rope with 150 knots became less of a burden and soon replaced the bag of stones. The Celtic infatuation with the number three, soon saw the prayer rope evolve into a rope of 50 knots to be said three times, and this became an accepted standard…

Read on to find out about developments through medieval times, including the rosary’s association with Saint Dominic and his order.

Developments continue even into our own days, with the Jesus prayer added at Fatima in the early part of the 20th Century, and a fourth set of mysteries added by John Paul II recently.

Next, the history of the feast day itself:

The feast of Our Lady of the Rosary was instituted by Pope Pius V after the Christian victory over the Turks in 1571 and celebrates the powerful intercession and protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary to those who are devoted to praying the Rosary and meditating on the mysteries of the life of Christ.

Third, technical instructions:

Fourth, a beautiful apostolic letter by John Paul II on the Rosary. This gives history, context, and a guide to meditation:

When prayed well in a truly meditative way, the Rosary leads to an encounter with Christ in his mysteries and so cannot fail to draw attention to the face of Christ in others, especially in the most afflicted. How could one possibly contemplate the mystery of the Child of Bethlehem, in the joyful mysteries, without experiencing the desire to welcome, defend and promote life, and to shoulder the burdens of suffering children all over the world? How could one possibly follow in the footsteps of Christ the Revealer, in the mysteries of light, without resolving to bear witness to his “Beatitudes” in daily life? And how could one contemplate Christ carrying the Cross and Christ Crucified, without feeling the need to act as a “Simon of Cyrene” for our brothers and sisters weighed down by grief or crushed by despair? Finally, how could one possibly gaze upon the glory of the Risen Christ or of Mary Queen of Heaven, without yearning to make this world more beautiful, more just, more closely conformed to God’s plan?

And finally, a series of videos to help you to meditate:

(Cross posted on joyfulpapist.wordpress.com)
Related articles:
The Mediaeval Rosary
The Rosary a short introduction

About joyfulpapist

JoyfulPapist is an adult convert to Catholicism, with a passion for her God, her faith, and her church.
This entry was posted in Catholic Prayers, Devotion, Living Catholic lives, Saints and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Feast Day of Our Lady of the Rosary

  1. New Templar says:

    “Developments continue even into our own days, with the Jesus prayer added at Fatima in the early part of the 20th Century, and a fourth set of mysteries added by John Paul II recently”.

    The late pontiff did not add a fourth set of mysteries to the Rosary. In his encyclical on the Rosary he merely offerred the Luminous Mysteries as a suggestion for those interested. Unfortunately these ruin the symbolism so well described earlier in your article in that there are then 160 Aves and not 150.

    I find it interesting that when Archbishop Anibale Bugnini approached Pope Paul VI to suggest that the Rosary be ‘updated’ the pontiff was horrified. “People will think that we are trying to change their faith!”


  2. bwr47 says:

    Yes, but what insight JPII had to offer the luminous mysteries! There are elements of our faith that are eternal and unchangeable, but others that can indeed be changed. The luminous mysteries not only fill an obvious chronological gap, covering the adult life of Christ before his passion, but also highlight for spiritual contemplation some of the most profound mysteries of our faith.

    How can we not wish to contemplate the astonishing fact of Christ accepting baptism, though perfect in Himself? How can we fail to be moved by Christ’s response to His mother at the wedding in Cana (“this is not the right time, but for you I will do anything”)? How can we ever ponder Christ’s teaching sufficiently, in all its depth and wisdom? How long can we spend in contemplation without fully grasping the significance of the Transfiguration? And as for the Eucharist, that ultimate and all-embracing mystery at the very heart of our Catholic faith, how would anyone say that it does not deserve pride of place as a topic of contemplation in the rosary?

    Thank you, JPII, the first pope in my life as a Catholic convert, for the gift of these additional mysteries.


  3. The Raven says:

    I thought that the Luminous Mysteries added an extra 50 Aves, have I missed something?

    For myself, I have chosen to decline the late Pope’s invitation and will stick to saying my layman’s psalter of 150 Aves.


  4. Gertrude says:

    I’m afraid that I too decline! As so rightly said, the Luminous Mysteries were ‘offered’, and as for Bugnini, it was he also who wanted Holy Mass changed to ‘something more modern’, and look where that took us! Having just returned from a particularly lovely and holy traditional Solemn Mass for the Feast Of Our Lady of the Rosary (and in thanksgiving for the success of the Papal Visit), forgive me if these things make me particularly polemical this evening. A big thank you to Frs. Aidan, Anthony and Tom for showing us how Holy Mass can be just that. I should also add that the MC, Servers and Altar boys were all beautifully turned out – as befits their place on the Sanctuary in the presence of the King of Kings.


  5. joyfulpapist says:

    I am perhaps also missing something, but isn’t the symbolism of the 150 Aves already a little lost through the addition of the extra three at the beginning of each set of 50? Making a total of 159 if all prayed in one day? And don’t we in this modern more literate day have the best of both worlds, with not only the Rosary but also the Divine Office and therefore the Psalms themselves?

    Not that I’m disagreeing with Raven and Gertrude. Yes, the Luminous mysteries were ‘offered’, not mandated. Perhaps my enthusiasm for the extra set of mysteries is in part that I was poorly taught – I didn’t know about the link with the psalms and the early monastic tradition until long after I’d fallen in love with the Rosary as a prayer.

    Strange though it seems to me, who started praying the Rosary before I began to think about becoming a Catholic, the Rosary is a private devotion, not an official prayer of the Church. It is not one of the essentials listed as a requirement of being a practicing Catholic. Each of us chooses for ourselves what private devotions we find most useful.

    The Rosary is a uniquely useful prayer, and urged on us repeatedly by the saints and the angels, and especially by Our dear Lady, who understands how well a Rosary, prayed devoutly, can bring a soul closer to her Beloved Son.

    In the prayer after the Rosary, we say:

    O God, whose only-begotten Son, by His life, death and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life; grant, we beseech Thee, that, meditating upon these mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

    I believe I have benefited through using my Rosary one day a week to meditate on the Baptism in the Jordan, the wedding at Cana, the Sermon on the Mount, the Transfiguration, and the Last Supper. I understand that others feel these as an intrusion, and I respect their wish to maintain the symbolism of the 150.


  6. Gertrude says:

    As you say Joyful, the Holy Rosary is a private meditation, and one that for very many years I have said daily, and in times of great need, (when I was sitting at the side of some-one I loved very much who was dying, for example). When reciting the Rosary with others, the Luminous Mysteries are inevitably included, and they are wonderful meditations. The Dominicans – traditionally promulgators of the Rosary, had, I believe started producing Rosarys with the ‘extra’ decade for Religious almost before the Holy Father could sit down! (JP2).
    For me, entrenched as I am in the Faith of my Fathers, I choose the traditonal Rosary for my private devotions. As you say, it’s a personal preference.


  7. joyfulpapist says:

    We latecomers to the feast should be enormously grateful to you cradle Catholics for keeping the treasures of the Faith safe for us. Converted into the near-desert of the 70s, it has taken me a long time to discover many wonderful devotional practices that were once a normal part of Catholic life – and that will be again!

    I was blessed enough to come to the Faith in a parish with a Rosary group that met weekly, and so was taught the Rosary even before I became a Catholic, and in turn taught it to my children. But there are so many other devotionals I have only discovered in the last decade. We are rich indeed.


  8. Pingback: Sometimes we sit and talk – meditative prayer |

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