It all started in 1571, when the Catholic League entered into battle against the Ottoman Empire to protect Italy from invasion. The Turks were on a warpath to overthrow all of Europe, killing millions of people and forcing Islamic conversion on survivors. They had conquered the Middle East and Mediterranean islands of Cyrus and Crete. Italy was next.
As the impending battle loomed, Pope Pius V called on various religious communities throughout Europe to join him in praying the rosary, including public recitations, to defeat the Islamic threat. Heading into battle, every man in the Catholic League’s forces carried a rosary. Their fleet was no match for the competition, vastly outnumbered.
Miraculously, the Catholic League returned victorious after a daylong battle known as the Battle of Lepanto that took place off the coast of Greece. In thanksgiving for Mary’s intercession and protection, Pope Pius V declared the day — October 7 — as a feast day for Our Lady of the Rosary. To celebrate, a rosary procession was held in Saint Peter’s Square.
The presence and protection of our Mother Mary has immense power — requested, channeled, and honored through the rosary. Her immaculate intercession has won wars and conquered hearts. After the feast day was established, the entire month of October was dedicated to the rosary in 1884 by Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical Superiore Anno:
“Last year, as each of you is aware, We decreed by an Encyclical Letter that, to win the help of Heaven for the Church in her trials, the great Mother of God should be honored by the means of the most holy Rosary during the whole of the month of October. In this We followed both Our own impulse and the example of Our predecessors, who in times of difficulty were wont to have recourse with increased fervor to the Blessed Virgin, and to seek her aid with special prayers.”
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