Oct. 10, 2021 – “The Month of the Rosary”
In the Catholic Church, while May is commonly known as “the Month of Mary,” the month of October is known as the “the Month of the Holy Rosary.” (Hence why at most of our parishes we have been publicly praying the Rosary before Mass this month). The primary reason that October is the month of the Rosary is that the Feast of “Our Lady of the Rosary” is celebrated on Oct. 7. But why this date? Why would we have such a Feast in October? Wouldn’t it make more sense to celebrate this Feast during the month of Mary in May?
On Oct. 7, 1571, an important battle took place, the Battle of Lepanto. This was a naval sea battle fought by a coalition of Catholic Kingdoms (called “the Holy League”) to repel the invading forces of the Ottoman Turkish Empire who had the goal of conquering all of Europe, and who had a reputation for cruel and merciless treatment of those they conquered, including slaughtering of innocent civilians. Thus Pope St. Pius V called all to a campaign of prayer, specifically to pray the Rosary in petition for the Holy League’s Victory at this battle. After the apparently miraculous victory by the greatly outnumbered Holy League (outnumbered by the Ottomans 7 to 1), Pope St. Pius V credited this victory to the prayers of the Rosary, and decreed Oct. 7 to be commemorated as “Our Lady of Victory.”
But while this feast commemorates a historical event, it is meant to emphasize the power of the Rosary as a prayer in aiding us in victories in whatever battles against the spiritual forces of darkness or evil that we find ourselves fighting or struggling against. Thus to emphasize this point, this feast has now come to be known as “Our Lady of the Rosary.”
And under the patronage of Our Lady of the Rosary (of Victory), the Bishops of the United States have entrusted the cause for the protection of every human life, from conception until natural death, and thus October has also become “Respect Life” month, where we pray especially for the protection of the unborn. Every human life has dignity from the moment of conception; and that is no small, trifle thing. How we treat the “least” among us, the most vulnerable lives, including life in its most vulnerable stages, is something Our Lord Jesus takes quite seriously, “whatever you do to the least of these, you do unto me.”
Finally, as long as we are talking about Our Lady, at the apparitions of Fatima in 1917, (a series of six apparitions, of which the final one was on October 13 (during this very month of the rosary)), Our Lady specifically asked that we pray the rosary each day for world peace.
There is a story of an ambassador of Japan who came to a Catholic priest and told the priest that it was the fault of Catholics that there was no world peace. The priest asked him what he meant, and the ambassador told him that “the Lady” appeared to Catholics at Fatima, telling them to secure world peace by their prayers…she didn’t appear to any other religious group but appeared to “you Catholics,” telling them to secure world peace in their prayers, and therefore it is Catholics’ responsibility.
While certainly, everyone has a part in working for world peace, it is very moving that a non-Catholic would have so much faith in the power of prayers of Catholics, and it’s a story that calls us Catholic Christians to our responsibility in praying for world peace, especially through the powerful intercession of Our Blessed Mother, to battle for the true Victory of an end to the power of death in the world, an end to war, and an end to the violation of the dignity of the human person, in all the forms that that takes.
During this month of the Holy Rosary, let us not take for granted this holy duty and responsibility.
PS: A good reflection on Our Lady of Victory and the Battle of Lepanto can be found here:
PPS: G.K. Chesterton wrote a poem about the Battle of Lepanto, a sort of romantic re-telling of the story, that is worth a read: