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For the Preservation of the Deposit of the Faith
For the Kingdom of God to come!
History portrays the thirteenth century of the Church as a time of disorder when the enemy of salvation made every effort to destroy, if it were possible, the true religion. The darkness of ignorance and the corruption of morals had almost erased, among Christians, the traces of the Gospel. To make matters worse, the impious sect of the Albigensians spread like a torrent in several provinces of France, and especially in Languedoc and Dauphiné, where it wreaked the greatest havoc. Fierce enemies of the Church and of any practice of piety, these heretics set everything on fire, overthrew altars and temples, slit the throats of the Lord’s ministers, and brought desolation to all the countries through which they passed.
But God, who always watches over His Church, raised up an apostolic man who stopped the progress of error and libertinism. Dominic, that is the name of this predestined man, travelled, with incredible fatigue, through the provinces infected with heresy, announcing everywhere with zeal the word of God and supporting his preaching by the holiness of his life and the dazzling miracles he performed. Everything preached in this man of God; all his words were like so many sparks of the divine fire with which his heart was ablaze; and his tender and trusting devotion to the Blessed Virgin was always, as he himself said, the principal means he used to convert heretics and sinners. He never began his instructions until he had humbly prostrated himself before the image of the Mother of God and prayed to Her: Dignare me laudare te, Virgo sacrata; da mihi virtutem contra hostes tuos. – Allow me, Holy Virgin, to proclaim Your praises; and give me the strength to fight Your enemies and to defeat them.
St. Dominic had the consolation of seeing a certain number of heretics return to the bosom of the Church; but the success was far from matching the ardor of his zeal. As he humbly complained to God, the Mother of Mercy appeared to him in the chapel of Our Lady of Prouille in the year 1202, and ordered him to preach the devotion of the Holy Rosary, promising that he would obtain the most successful effects for the conversion of this obstinate people. The Saint obeyed; instead of engaging in controversy, he began to preach the practice of this salutary devotion; he taught the people the method and the spirit of it, he explained its mysteries, and he won more souls to God by this prayer than by any other means. Indeed, the results were prodigious, according to all the historians of the time.
After the apparition of the Blessed Virgin, who revealed to him the devotion of the Holy Rosary, Saint Dominic returned to the city of Toulouse and went to the parish church. During this time, tradition tells us, the bells began to ring by themselves. The inhabitants, astonished to hear the bells ringing at such an extraordinary hour, rushed to the church, and one of them asked what it all meant. Then St. Dominic went up to the pulpit, and after speaking to the people in a forceful voice about the justice of God and the rigor of His judgments, he declared that, in order to avoid them, there was no better way than to implore the Mother of Mercy, to do penance and to pray the Rosary. He also gave an explanation of this prayer and began to recite it aloud. Soon the effects of this devotion were felt. Many renounced their errors, did penance and returned to the Catholic Church.
More than a hundred thousand heretics were converted, an incredible number of sinners returned from their disorders, these were the first effects of this nascent devotion which soon spread throughout Europe, where it produced incalculable good, and where it still produces it every day, in those locations where this uplifting practice has been maintained in spite of the dissipation and indifference of the century.