Friday, October 07, 2022

Pope Leo XIII on the Holy Rosary 2022

As has now been our tradition for several years, we commemorate the feast of the Holy Rosary with some excerpts from one of the encyclicals on the subject by His Holiness Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903). Altogether, he wrote eleven of these, all published in September (except one, at the very end of August), looking forward to the feast, which in his time was kept on the first Sunday of October. In 1911, with the reform of the breviary and liturgical calendar, his successor Pope St Pius X fixed it to October 7, the date of the famous Battle of Lepanto which it commemorates.
The following is an excerpt from the last such encyclical, that of 1898, Diuturni temporis. The pope seems to write as if he expects to die soon, and thus, as if this will be his last opportunity to address a subject so near and dear to his heart. By the autumn of 1898, he was more than half-way through the 21st year of his reign, which had surpassed the length of all but eight previous papacies. For many centuries, it was part of the papal coronation ritual that as soon as the cardinal archbishop of Ostia had placed the crown on the new pope’s head, he would say to him, “Numquam videbis annos Petri. – Thou shalt never see the years of Peter”, since no pope had ever surpassed St Peter’s 25 years as bishop of Rome. However, Leo’s predecessor, Bl. Pius IX, did surpass that mark in 1871, and then continued for more than 6½ beyond that. This custom was removed from the coronation rite, and Leo himself reached exactly 25 years and 4 months.

Looking back over the long space of time which by God’s will we have passed in the supreme pontificate, we cannot but acknowledge that, despite our demerits, we have enjoyed the most powerful protection of divine Providence. This We deem must be attributed principally to the united, and therefore most powerful, prayers, which, as once for Peter (Acts 12, 5), so now also for ourselves, are uninterruptedly poured forth by the universal Church. Wherefore we first of all give the greatest thanks to God, the giver of all good things, and as long as life lasts, we shall cherish in mind and heart all things received from Him. Then there comes to our mind the sweet remembrance of the august Queen of Heaven’s motherly protection; and this memory likewise we shall dutifully preserve inviolate, thanking her and proclaiming her benefits. From her, as from an abundant spring, are derived the streams of heavenly graces. “In her hand are the treasures of the Lord’s mercies” (St John Damascene, sermon 1 on the Nativity of the Virgin). “God wishes her to be the beginning of all good things.” (St Irenaeus, Contra Valen., 1, 3. 33) In the love of this tender mother, which We have constantly striven to foster and increase day by day, we confidently hope to end our days.
For a long time, desiring to place the welfare of human society in an increase of devotion to the Virgin, as in a mighty fortress, we have never ceased to promote the custom of the Marian Rosary the among the Christian faithful, by publishing encyclical letters on this subject since September 1, 1883, … And since God’s merciful counsel once this year again allows us to see the approaching month of October, which we have already consecrated to the Heavenly Queen of the Rosary, we would not refrain from addressing you;

Driven, therefore, by a constant desire that the Christian people should ever be convinced of the power and dignity of Mary’s Rosary, having first recalled that the origin of this prayer is divine rather than human, we showed it to be an admirable garland woven from the Angelic Salutation, interspersed with the Lord’s Prayer, and joined to the observance of meditation, and a form of prayer most powerful and particularly fruitful for the attainment of immortal life. For besides the excellence of the prayers, it affords a suitable protection of the faith, and an outstanding model of virtue through the mysteries proposed for contemplation. (We showed) further how easy the devotion is and how suited to the character of the people, since it offers them an absolutely perfect model of domestic life in consideration of the Holy Family of Nazareth, and that therefore the Christian people has never failed to experience its most salutary power.
The Madonna of the Rosary, by Lorenzo Lotto, 1539
For these reasons especially, we have repeatedly encouraged the recitation of the Holy Rosary, and have endeavored to increase its dignity by a more solemn cult, following in this the footsteps of our predecessors. For just as Pope Sixtus V of happy memory approved the ancient custom of reciting the Rosary, and Gregory XIII dedicated a feast to this title, which Clement VIII then inscribed in the martyrology, Clement XI ordered to be kept by the universal Church, and Benedict XIII inserted into the Roman Breviary, so did we, in perpetual testimony of our affection for this devotion, command that the same solemnity with its office should be celebrated in the universal Church as a double of the second class, and will that the entire month of October be consecrated to this devotion. Finally, we ordered that the invocation “Queen of the most Holy Rosary” be added to the Litany of Loreto an augury of victory in our present warfare.

The Pope goes on to say that he intends to publish an apostolic constitution which will enumerate the rights, privileges and indulgences which are enjoyed by the members of the various Rosary sodalities.

Let this constitution of ours be a testimony of our love for the most august Mother of God, and at the same time offer both encouragement to all the Christian faithful and a reward of their piety, so that in the last hour of life they may be relieved by her assistance and able most sweetly to rest in her embrace.
Having heartily besought these things from Almighty God through the Queen of the most Holy Rosary, as an earnest and pledge of heavenly blessings, venerable brethren, to your clergy and to the people entrusted to the care of each one of you, we lovingly impart the apostolic benediction.

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