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As has been the teaching throughout the history of the Church, the Rosary is one of our greatest weapons against demons and the minions of Satan. As Blessed Pius IX said, “Give me an army saying the Rosary and I will conquer the world.” The Rosary ultimately is a devotion that is meant to unite our hearts with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It is the surest source of intercession we have, as our Blessed Mother is the “Mediatrix of all graces.”
The history of the Rosary can sometimes be very disordered or contentious among historians, leading to great difficulty in identifying its origins. As the tradition of the Church holds, however, St. Dominic is the one who formed great devotion to the Holy Rosary through preaching. At the time in which St. Dominic lived, Albigensianism, also known as Catharism, was rapidly spreading throughout western Europe. The followers of this heresy believed that the universe was governed by two beings, a good deity, and an evil deity. The supposed righteous deity was one of the supernatural, not focusing on material goods or possessions, whereas its rival evil deity was the deity of matter, and all things earthly. This is contrary to the teachings of the Faith, especially in regards to the Incarnation and the Sacraments.
The speed at which Albigensianism was taking over Europe was such a great threat to Christendom that the Pope called the Inquisition, and sought to end the rampage and killings that the Albigensians had wrought upon Europe, where they would sack towns and murder the innocent faithful. St. Dominic was so distraught by the sins of the people, and of the Albigensians, he went into a forest near the city of Toulouse, in France, for three days and three nights. During this time, he prayed in reparation for the grievous sins against God. After he had finished his unceasing prayers, Our Lady appeared to him. According to St. Louis-Marie de Montfort in his book The Secret of the Rosary, the apparition went as follows:
“At this point, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him, accompanied by three Angels of heaven, and she said: “My dear Dominic, do you know which weapon the Blessed Trinity has used to reform the world?” “My Lady,” replied St. Dominic, “you know better than I because next to your Son Jesus Christ you were the chief instrument of our salvation.” Our Lady added: “I want you to know that the principal means has been the Angelic Psalter, which is the foundation of the New Testament. That is why, if you want to win these hardened hearts for God, preach my Psalter.”
What Our Lady refers to as Her “Angelic Psalter” is the Rosary. In those days, one prayed the Hail Mary one hundred and fifty times in a row, mimicking the Psalter, which contained 150 psalms. It also contained the Mysteries of the Rosary – meditations on the life of Christ, with the Glorious, Sorrowful, and Joyful Mysteries all being accompanied by fifty Hail Maries. The apparition of Our Lady to St. Dominic inspired him and filled him with zeal to preach the Holy Rosary for the rest of his life, whether it was to the highest nobility or the lowest peasants. This devotion was so powerful, that in less than a century, the Albigensian heresy was totally destroyed in Europe.
Exorcists, even, have always commented that the Holy Name of Mary and the Holy Rosary make all the demons in Hell tremble with fear, and that they shall bend their knees to her. The downfall of Satan is marked by this fact; certain traditions, such as that of the Franciscans, tell us how Mary actually influenced the fall of Satan. As the story goes, Satan knew that one day there would be a woman born, a human, who would rule over Heaven and be higher above him in rank, and he refused to accept this. Her humility and coronation as “Regina Caeli” or the Queen of Heaven, is contrasted to Satan’s pride which led to his fall from Heaven.
Another great historical example is the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. The Ottoman fleet was assembled and was sailing through the Mediterranean from their base of Lepanto to take over Italy. After learning of this fact, Pope St. Pius V sent the Holy League to take care of them and ordered that a “Rosary Crusade” be held in Rome. The account of the legend states that Pope Pius V called that all the churches of the city of Rome be held open all day and all night, and that all the Catholics throughout Europe pray for the intercession of Our Lady. The Ottoman force was obliterated by the greatly outnumbered fleet of the Holy League, and this victory was credited to Our Lady of Victory. Due to her intercession, Pope St. Pius V instituted the Feast of Our Lady of Victory, later renamed the Feast of the Most Holy Rosary.
Over the course of history since the birth of Christ, Our Lady has saved countless souls through her Holy Rosary; as Padre Pio often said, it is the greatest weapon of spiritual warfare. It is truly the greatest prayer we have, and one that we all should make use of. Our day and age is rife with spiritual and physical battles, for Satan is the prince of this world. As the people take up arms against their oppressors, so too must we take up this “spiritual weapon” and defend our families and lives against the temptations of the Prince of Lies.