We celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary on October 7th. But who is she and why do we honor her?
In 1206, St. Dominic de Guzmán was in France working as a missionary and preaching against Albigensianism, a heresy that taught that only spiritual things can be good and that all material things are bad. He was not very successful in his attempts to convert Albigensians back to the Catholic faith. After several days of prayer and fasting, Dominic was visited by the Virgin Mary, who encouraged him to pray the “Marian Psalter”.
The Psalter had been developed by Cistercian Monks and consisted of 150 Hail Marys in groups of 10, separated by Our Fathers. With the assistance of Our Lady, Dominic added mysteries to each group of 10 Hail Marys. These mysteries focused on the life, death, and resurrection of Christ - these events alone contradicted the Albigensian heresy.
Our Lady of the Rosary is sometimes referred to as Our Lady of Victory, a title given to Mary due to her intercession in the Battle of Lepanto on October 7, 1571. That year, Pope Pius V responded to the Ottoman Empire’s takeover of the eastern Mediterranean by sending forces, known as the Holy League, into battle. The pope led a rosary procession in Rome and called for Europeans to pray the Rosary, asking for Mary’s intercession in battle. After five hours of fighting, Spain was able to stop the Ottoman, effectively stopping their spread throughout Europe.
Catholics are often challenged on the validity of the Rosary, calling it a prayer to Mary. However, we know that we pray with Mary, as we would pray with a friend here on Earth. When we say, "Pray for us sinners..." we request her intercession, as the Mother of our Savior, Jesus Christ. The distinct privilege bestowed upon her as the woman who would bear, birth, nurse, kiss, and rock the Son of God to sleep gives her a unique position of honor among us that cannot and should not be ignored.