Consider this… October: The Month of the Rosary
Why is October the month of the Rosary you ask? In the year 1571AD, Europe was under the threat of invasion from the Ottoman Empire. More than a stately affair, in those days Europe was then known as Christendom in which the Christian faith could grow and thrive, and the Ottoman Empire extending around the rest of the Mediterranean Sea was interested at that time, not only in expanding their territory, but in forcing conversion to Islam to all the inhabitants of their empire. On October 7th, 1571, soldiers from the Holy League, an allied force of Christian states, engaged in the Battle of Lepanto and despite the extraordinarily great odds against them, emerged victorious, thus securing Europe’s religious autonomy. Now, each of the soldiers in the battle were given a rosary and much of Europe was united in praying the rosary with them and for them. While the rosary had been prayed since the time of Saint Dominic, this was one of the first large-scale efforts of bringing people together in such a prayer. A result of such prayer, the miraculous victory was thus attributed to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. October 7th became known as the feast day of Our Lady of Victory (if we think of the basilica in Lackawanna – this Marian title originates here as well), and the title of the feast was changed over the following years to Our Lady of the Rosary to mark this victory as well as to continue to unite people throughout the world in prayers of thanksgiving and intercession through the devotion of the rosary. Accordingly, this devotion grew so that the whole month revolving around this feast became a way of inviting participation in this great devotional treasure of the Church.
The invitation to pray the rosary is extended to us today in a special way during this month of the rosary. If you are not sure how to pray the rosary, this might be a good time to learn! There are how-to brochures located throughout the Church and Chapel, you can pick it up simply by joining us and following along with us at the many times we are praying it throughout this month and beyond (see elsewhere in the bulletin and on our electronic media for this schedule), and you can always ask around with any questions you might have. All the same, I would like to add for us here a couple of different practical practices that can help us enter into praying the rosary even more meaningfully beyond that of a step-by-step guide.
1) As you know, we repeat many of the same prayers throughout the decades of the rosary. This repetitiveness gives us a chance to really focus in on the words that we are saying by allowing them to sink in, indeed ‘get lost’ in such simple words, as they move more deeply from our minds into our hearts and souls. As we do so, different words within these prayers will jump out at us at various points. One moment might be God’s invitation to ponder “thy will be done” and what we are doing for our Father, the next moment it’s the fact that our Mother Mary is indeed “pray(ing) for us, … now” in this particular moment of my life! In this way, prayer is relational and keeps us connected to what is being communicated with God as well as all those in communion with God. If words are especially important to you, then you will find this way of praying the rosary very meaningful.
2) One of the ways to enter more meaningfully into the rosary is to contemplate on the joyful, sorrowful, glorious, or luminous mysteries of the rosary that are announced at the beginning of each decade. All of these mysteries highlight a particular aspect of Jesus’ life for us as revealed by the Sacred Scriptures. As you go through the various decades, the prayers we say recede to the background to allow us to contemplate what is unfolding in that mystery. Through the rosary, Mary will take you by the hand, put you in the scene, and reveal her son to you. If you are an imaginative person, this will be a fruitful way for you to pray the rosary.
3) As you pray through the rosary, each decade, or even each bead, you can pray it for others. When I am anxious about something, or someone has asked me to pray for them, I’ve always found that offering up these particular prayers for that intention was a very concrete and powerful way of praying for others. We’ve already said that the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary owes itself to answered prayer reaffirming for us that the rosary is a powerful intercessory tool in our prayer kit.
4) Some people find it hard to be still so as to pray. I am a very fidgety person myself. The beads help with this, giving our hands something to do and engages our body in the prayer. Further still, I like to walk and pray the rosary. While my body is physically engaged in this way, it frees up my mind and heart to pray. So, you will more likely see me praying the rosary walking around rather than in the pew, using a finger rosary that is attached to my keychain and always on my person.
Point being, there are many ways to engage in this great prayer of the Church! There really is something for everyone in the rosary. Come join us at St. Mary’s and with the Church worldwide under the patronage of Our Lady of the Rosary in together praying this great devotion and discover the power of the rosary for yourself.