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Our Lady of the Rosary

In the Dominican tradition, it is recounted that in 1206, St. Dominic found himself in Prouille, France, endeavoring to bring the Albigensians back to the Catholic faith. Despite his initial struggles, a turning point occurred when he reportedly received a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In this vision, she entrusted to him the Rosary as a potent instrument against heresy. While the narrative of Mary giving the Rosary to St. Dominic is often considered legendary, the evolution of this prayer form owes a great deal to the followers of St. Dominic, among them the 15th-century priest and educator, Alanus de Rupe.

Our Lady of Victory

In 1571, Pope Pius V organized a coalition of forces comprising Spain, along with smaller Christian realms, republics, and military orders. Their primary objective was to relieve Christian strongholds in Cyprus, notably the Venetian outpost at Famagusta. Despite valiant efforts, Famagusta ultimately capitulated on August 1 following an extended siege, prior to the departure of the Christian fleet.

On October 7 of the same year, the Holy League, consisting of various Catholic maritime states from southern Europe, embarked from Messina, Sicily, to confront a formidable Ottoman fleet in the Battle of Lepanto. Recognizing the material inferiority of the Christian forces, Pope Pius V implored all of Europe to pray the Rosary for victory and personally led a rosary procession in Rome.

After approximately five hours of intense combat off the western coast of Greece, near the northern edge of the Gulf of Corinth, the combined navies of the Papal States, Venice, and Spain succeeded in halting the Ottoman navy. This strategic victory thwarted the Ottoman advance westward, preventing their access to the Atlantic Ocean and the Americas. Had the Ottomans emerged triumphant, there existed a genuine risk of an invasion of Italy, potentially placing the Ottoman sultan in control of both New and Old Rome, given his claims to the title of Emperor of the Romans. Concurrently, developments in Morocco saw the Sa’adids effectively repel Ottoman encroachments, thereby confining Turkish naval dominance to the eastern Mediterranean. Although the Ottoman Empire endeavored to replenish its fleet, it never fully rebounded from the loss of skilled sailors and marines, and consequently never regained the naval supremacy it had enjoyed in the century preceding the fall of Constantinople.

Feast Day

Pope Pius V instituted the annual feast of “Our Lady of Victory” to honor the triumph at Lepanto, attributing the success to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

However, prior to this papal decree, dedications to Our Lady of Victory had already been made. Notably, Simon de Montfort, 5th Earl of Leicester, erected the first shrine to Our Lady of Victory in gratitude for the Catholic victory over the Albigensians at the Battle of Muret on September 12, 1213. Similarly, in appreciation for the triumph at the Battle of Bouvines in July 1214, Philip Augustus of France established the Abbey of Notre Dame de la Victoire between Senlis and Mont l’Evêque.

In 1573, Pope Gregory XIII renamed the feast from “Our Lady of Victory” to the “Feast of the Holy Rosary,” to be celebrated annually on the first Sunday of October. Dominican friar Juan Lopez, in his 1584 work on the rosary, emphasized that this feast was a perpetual expression of gratitude for the miraculous victory bestowed upon Christians against the Turkish armada.

The observance of this festival was later extended to the entire Kingdom of Spain by Clement X in 1671. Subsequently, Clement XI, following Prince Eugene’s victory over the Turks at the Battle of Petrovaradin on August 5, 1716 (the feast of Our Lady of the Snows), mandated the universal celebration of the Feast of the Rosary by the Church.

Pope Leo XIII elevated the feast to the rank of a double of the second class and introduced the invocation “Queen of the Most Holy Rosary” into the Litany of Loreto. Additionally, on this feast day, a plenary indulgence is granted to those who visit the Rosary chapel or statue of Our Lady in any church where the Rosary confraternity has been duly established.

In 1913, Pope Pius X changed the date of the feast to October 7 as part of his efforts to reinstate the liturgy of Sundays. Under Pope John XXIII’s pontificate in 1960, it was listed as the “Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Rosary,” while the liturgical reforms of Pope Paul VI in 1969 designated “Our Lady of the Rosary” as a mandatory memorial.

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