Saturday, October 07, 2023

Pope Leo XIII on the Holy Rosary 2023

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. Much of what Pope Leo writes is every bit as germane to the condition of society and the Church as it was when it was written over a century ago. The following is an excerpt from the 1892 Encyclical Magnae Dei Matris, with a few corrections of the English translation given on the Vatican’s website, where you can also read the full text in Latin.

It is now only too plain how many and of what nature are the corrupting agencies by which the wickedness of the world deceitfully strives to weaken and completely uproot from souls their Christian faith and the observance of God’s law on which that faith is fed is brought to fruitfulness. Already the Lord’s fields are everywhere turning into a wilderness abounding in ignorance of the Faith, in error and vice, as though blown upon by a most foul plague. And to add to the anguish of this thought, so far from putting a check on such insolent and destructive depravity, or imposing the punishment deserved, they who can and should correct matters seem in many cases, by their indifference or open connivance, to increase the spirit of evil.

We have good reason to deplore the public institutions in which the teaching of the sciences and arts is purposely so organized that the name of God is passed over in silence or disparaged; to deplore the license - growing more shameless by the day - in publishing or speaking any kind of insult to Christ our God and His Church. And We deplore no less the consequent laxity and apathy in the practice of the Catholic religion which if not quite open apostasy from the Faith, will most certainly lead there, since it is a manner of life having nothing in common with faith. Nobody who ponders this disorder and the surrender of the most fundamental principles will be astonished if afflicted nations everywhere are groaning under the heavy hand of God’s vengeance and stand anxious and trembling in fear of worse calamities.
The Fifteen Mysteries and the Virgin of the Rosary; Netherlandish, ca. 1515-20, possibly by Goswijn van der Weyden (active by 1491, died after 1538). Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.
Now, to appease the might of an outraged God and to bring that health of soul so needed by those who are sorely afflicted, there is nothing better than devout and persevering prayer, provided it be joined with a love for and practice of Christian life. And we deem that both of these, the spirit of prayer and the practice of Christian life, are best attained through the Mary’s Rosary. ...

When we have recourse to Mary in prayer, we are having recourse to the Mother of mercy, who loves us so well that, whatever the necessity that presses upon us especially in attaining eternal life, She is instantly at our side of her own accord, even though she has not been invoked. She dispenses grace with a generous hand from that treasure with which from the beginning she was divinely endowed in fullest abundance that she might be worthy to be the Mother of God. By the fullness of grace which confers on her the most illustrious of her many titles, the Blessed Virgin is infinitely superior to all the hierarchies of men and angels, the one creature who is closest of all to Christ. “It is a great thing in any saint to have grace sufficient for the salvation of many souls; but to have enough to suffice for the salvation of everybody in the world, is the greatest of all; and this is found in Christ and in the Blessed Virgin.” (St Thomas Aquinas, opus vij de Salutatione Angelica) ...

It is scarcely possible to say how pleasing and gratifying to her it is when we greet her with the Angelic Salutation, “full of grace”; and in repeating it, fashion these words of praise into crowns for her. For every time we say them, we recall the memory of her exalted dignity and of the Redemption of the human race which God began through her. We likewise bring to mind the divine and everlasting bond which links her with the joys and sorrows, the humiliations and triumphs of Christ in directing and helping mankind to eternal life. ...

Therefore, let us approach Mary confidently, wholeheartedly beseeching her by the bonds of her motherhood which unite her so closely to Jesus and at the same time to us. Let us with deepest devotion invoke her constant aid in the prayer which she herself has indicated and which is most acceptable to her. Then with good reason shall we rest with an easy and joyous mind under the protection of the best of mothers.

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