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Our Lady of the Rosary

The Rosary, Heaven's gift to earth

Before Saint Dominic, who lived in the twelfth century, many holy people and pious souls had the custom of reciting a certain number of Our Fathers and Hail Marys, which they offered to heaven as a crown of praise, to obtain the graces they needed. The custom of repeating the Lord’s Prayer and the Angelic Salutation several times, and even of using threaded beads to mark the number, is very ancient, and examples of it can be found in the early centuries of the Church.It is said of Saint Bartholomew that he prayed a hundred times during the day and a hundred times during the night, which serious authors understand to be the Pater noster and the first part of the Ave Maria. Blessed Alain de la Roche, a Dominican, assures us that as early as the eighth century, images were made which represented figures carrying the rosary in their hands. (Little Bollandists, October 1)

But who established the present form of the Rosary, that is to say, its division into fifteen parts, each composed of one Our Father and ten Hail Marys, recited in honor of the mysteries of our Redemption? It was the Blessed Virgin Herself. Here is how the fact is related by Fr. Henri-Dominique Lacordaire:

Saint Dominic had preached for a long time, in the south of France, against the error of the Albigensians. As he despaired of the success of his efforts, he had recourse to the Blessed Virgin, and resolved to pray to Her without interruption until he was heard. So he left Toulouse, withdrew to a solitary forest, and spent three consecutive days and nights in prayer. At the end of this time, the Mother of God appeared to him in an ecstasy, surrounded by glory and magnificence. She was escorted by three queens, and each of them was surrounded by fifty virgins as if to serve her.The first queen, as well as her companions, was dressed in white, the second in red, and the third in a garment of the most brilliant gold. The Blessed Virgin explained to Saint Dominic the meaning of these symbols:

“These three queens,” She told him, “represent the three rosaries; the fifty virgins who form the procession of each queen, represent the fifty Hail Marys of each rosary; finally, the color white recalls the joyful mysteries; the color red, the sorrowful mysteries, and the color gold, the glorious mysteries. The mysteries of the Incarnation, birth, life and Passion of My divine Son, as well as those of His resurrection and glorification, are enclosed and as if artfully set in the Angelic Salutation and in the Lord’s Prayer. This is precisely the Rosary, that is to say, the crown in which I will place all My joy. Spread this prayer everywhere, and the heretics will be converted, and the faithful will persevere and arrive at eternal bliss.”

Consoled by this apparition, Saint Dominic promptly returned to Toulouse and went to the church. “Then,” tradition tells us, “the bells began to ring of their own accord. The inhabitants, astonished to hear the bells ringing at such an unusual hour, flocked to the Lord’s temple. Saint Dominic ascended the pulpit, and after speaking with energetic eloquence of the justice of God and the rigor of His judgments, he declared that there was no surer way of avoiding these rigors than to implore the Mother of Mercy. He immediately gave an explanation of this beautiful prayer and began to say it aloud.”

However, the Toulousans did not yet surrender. An extraordinary storm broke out: lightning and thunder followed one another almost without interruption, to the point that the earth shook, to the great terror of the obstinate. The statue of the Blessed Virgin Herself raises a threatening arm. The people fell on their knees, implored the Mother of Jesus, abjured their errors, and enrolled in the Confraternity of the Rosary. More than one hundred thousand heretics, subjugated by the new and heavenly devotion, return to the true faith.

“The walls of Jericho,” says a famous writer, “fell no sooner at the sound of the trumpet of Joshua’s soldiers, than the disastrous errors of the Albigensians, at the preaching of Saint Dominic.”

Let us thank the Queen of Angels, the Mother of Mercy, for having brought us from heaven such a powerful means of victory in all our battles. Let us use it every day, meditating on the mysteries of the Incarnation, the life, the Passion and the Resurrection of Jesus. In this way we will strengthen ourselves against the prejudices of the world, against the lures of vice, against the attacks of hell and the world; we will make ourselves capable of waging the good fight, and of reaching with confidence the eternal happiness of Heaven.

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