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The following article1 written by Father Leite, S.J., was published in the March-April 1993 issue of "Christ to the World" with the imprimatur of the Vicarate of Rome. It is most appropriate today considering the many imminent moral and physical dangers that threaten each of us. (For more about these dangers see other articles in this issue. For example see pages 11, 18, 27 and 40).
The eminent appeal of the Rosary is well expressed by St. Anthony Mary Claret who writes: "The ancient peoples of the East had a practice of offering rose-wreaths to be worn as crowns, to distinguished persons; and true Christians have the praiseworthy practice of offering each day with great devotion the crown of Marian roses to their beloved Mother, the Blessed Virgin. Such was the practice of St. Louis King of France, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Charles Borromeo, the great Bossuet, Fenelon, St. Francis de Sales, St. Francis Xavier, and others. Ever since the year 1208, during which the glorious St. Dominic taught people to pray it daily, there has not been a Saint nor any person distinguished for learning and virtue, nor an observant religious community, nor a well-ordered seminary, which has not had the devotion to the Rosary." (Taken from St. Anthony Mary Claret's "El Collegial Instruido" Barcelona 1865, 1:258).
Our Lady appeared six times at Fatima. During each of these apparitions She requested that we allow no day to pass without reciting the Rosary. Three times She indicated that the recitation of the Rosary is a needed way to obtain peace:
"Recite the Rosary every day to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war" (May 13, 1917).
She wanted everyone to continue saying the Rosary every day in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary, "in order to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war," because She said that only She can help you (July 13, 1917).
"Everyone should continue to recite the Rosary in order to obtain the end of the war" (September 13, 1917).
The facts - old as well as new - show that the Rosary is truly the arm of peace.
In the Thirteenth Century a terrible danger threatened the Catholic Church, especially in the south of France: the Albigensian heresy. The Albigensians2 are more dangerous than the Moors, declared Pope Innocent II.
At the request of the Pope, the Christians of north France organized a crusade for the defense of the Faith, but events did not at first favor them. St. Dominic propagated the Rosary, and victory did not have to be long awaited. The Battle of Muret, near Toulouse, took place on September 12, 1213. There 2,000 Christian soldiers vanquished 100,000 men of the Albigensian army.
To whom was this resounding victory over heresy attributed? Simon of Montfort, head of the Crusaders' army, did not hesitate to attribute it to Our Lady of the Rosary. Thus he erected on the very place of the victory a chapel under the name of Our Lady of the Rosary.
On September 29, 1937, Pope Pius XI wrote: "We strongly desire that during the next month of October the Holy Rosary be recited with an increase in devotion by all Christians ... May She who victoriously cast the terrible sect of the Albigensians from the frontiers of Christian peoples be invoked and implored to dissipate the new errors of our times, and in particular those of the Communists who, for more than one reason, and by their perversity, bring to mind those ancient heresies. As in the time of the Crusades, one common supplication was lifted up from all of Europe, amongst all her peoples, so also today may all in the world, in cities, in towns, in villages, be united in desire by one same effort, to seek by unceasing prayers to obtain the favor from the powerful Mother of God that the destroyers of Christian and human civilization be overcome and that true peace shine over the afflicted and upset nations" (Encyclical Ingravescentibus malis).
In 1571 the Moslems strove to take revenge for the defeats suffered in the West during the preceding centuries, especially in Portugal and Spain. They wanted to attack Europe, coming from the Near East. Christendom was seriously menaced.
Pope St. Pius V especially saw the danger. He saw that it was not simply a struggle between rival nations but a menace for the Catholic Faith in the West. Thus he worked for a spiritual and temporal mobilization of the faithful. In particular, he asked that on the First Sunday in October of the year 1517, the Holy Rosary be honored by its recitation and by processions of confraternities, in order to implore from Our Lady the help which was necessary for the Christians.
At the same time a Christian fleet commanded by John of Austria, son of Charles V and brother of Philip II, headed towards the Near East. It was the wish of the Holy Father that each combatant be provided with a Rosary and that he promise to recite it in order to obtain the protection of Mary.
On Sunday, October 7, the Christian and Turkish fleets met in Lepanto Gulf, off the coast of Greece. The bitter battle which lasted all afternoon finished with a brilliant victory of the Christians. That very evening St. Pius V had at Rome a clear knowledge of this success. The same afternoon, the Confraternities of the Rosary, particularly in Rome, had marched through the streets in procession reciting the Rosary.
This victory put an end to the naval power of the Turks and saved Christian Europe. St. Pius V attributed this victory to the Rosary more than to armed forces and he ordered that the invocation, "Help of Christians, pray for us" be added to the Litany of the Blessed Virgin. Moreover, he established a feast to celebrate the 7th of October every year, in thanksgiving for the victory, under the title of "Our Lady of Victory".
His successor, Gregory XIII, instituted the Solemnity of the Holy Rosary, to be celebrated every year on the First Sunday of the month of October in order to bring to mind this victory.
On May 10, 1955, Pope Pius XII said: "The name given to Our Lady of 'Queen of the Most Holy Rosary' brings to mind, without any doubt, a great victory won over the infidels; but even more it brings to mind the conquests of the Faith over evil and religious ignorance."
Monsignor Francisco Rendeoriro, O.P., wrote: "It is especially since the victory of Lepanto that the faithful have become accustomed to invoking Mary by the means of the Holy Rosary at times of public calamity."
There is in central Europe only one small country which is entirely free: Austria. This is an extraordinary fact if we remember that Austria was occupied by the Russians in 1945, at the end of the Second World War. In 1954 one of the supreme heads of Russia even declared: "That which we occupy we shall never abandon."
But Austria was liberated. Why? How did the Russians abandon it without war, without the use of force, even though it was but a small, unarmed nation?
The reply must be sought in the power of the Rosary. Austria has about ten million inhabitants. One million of them, with Chancellor Figl at the head, promised to recite the Rosary every day. On May 13, 1955, the anniversary day of the first apparition at Fatima, the Russians decided to leave Austria.
Therese Neuman, the great stigmatized German mystic, who was nourished by the Blessed Sacrament alone for ten years, said a short time before her death: "Certainly it was the prayers and the Rosaries of the Austrian people which merited its liberation." Even today the unforeseen liberation after ten years of Russian occupation is astonishing.
In September 1972, an Austrian bishop, speaking before the entire episcopate of the country, as well as more than 30,000 people, on the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of the Reparation Rosary, declared: "Just as Austria was freed from the Communist yoke by the fervent recitation of the Rosary, it will be in like manner by the arm of the Rosary that the world will be freed from the present assaults of the devil and his associates."
If we recite the Rosary Our Lady will give us true liberty and peace.
In 1964 Brazil was in a very dangerous state. One journalist wrote: "Communism's hold on Brazil seemed imminent. However, it did not come about, thanks to the strength of the Rosary."
This is what happened. The entire public life of the country was openly directed towards Marxism by the authorities, and this as much in politics as in the economy and public instruction. Nothing worse could be imagined. The errors of Marxism were even introduced into the clergy. In the young clergy there are sometimes confusions of an ideological nature. It was this confused clergy who was responsible for allowing the Marxists to take hold of the Catholic Youth Movement.
But the people remained sensible. They reacted and began to recite the Rosary. First of all, the simple and pious women started alone. The men and young lads followed. Television recorded and showed programs where women could be seen opposing the Communists. It is this which saved Brazil at the Last moment: the recitation of the Rosary.
In July 1964, the promoter of the Marian Confraternities of Brazil, Father Valerio Alberton, went to Fatima to thank the Most Blessed Virgin for the liberation of his country. This is what he said and wrote.
We have overcome, thanks to Our Lady of the Rosary. It is the message of Fatima, lived in Brazil, which just saved us in time ... The situation in my country was very serious. Every aspect of human activity was undermined. The key positions were in the hands of notorious Communists, or those in favor of Communism. The unions were mostly controlled by them.
Continual strikes, many of which were of an openly political nature, provoked disturbances everywhere. The universities themselves were affected. I noticed myself the seriousness of the situation when I travelled from November 1963 to March 1964 to all the capital cities of Brazil, where I was in contact with the university milieux. In the middle of March I finished my travels with this conclusion: it is a fact that the Church has lost the universities ...
The penetration in the Catholic faculties was very profound. Even in our colleges there were Communist cell groups ... Catholic associations were not spared.
There remained only one hope: devotion to the Blessed Virgin ...
Repeated calls for prayer and penance, according to the spirit of Fatima, brought the Faith back to life - the Faith which moves mountains. Thus the impossible came to pass: the miracle of a war won without any drop of bloodshed.
The contra-revolutionary high command foresaw at least three months of bitter fighting. But a force which was inexplicable, humanly speaking, made the whole military organization collapse - an organization which had been patiently and diabolically built up over several years collapsed, like a house of cards.
The evidence of the working of grace was such that all were convinced that this could have no human explanation. Military and civil heads of the contra-revolution were almost unanimous in attributing this victory to a special grace of the Blessed Virgin. Many declared that the Rosary had been the decisive arm.
Faced with this perilous situation, Catholic associations had put all their efforts in the service of the Blessed Virgin. Two hundred thousand men and lads, enrolled in the 2,000 Marian congregations, had formed a true pacifying army in the struggle for freedom.
Women had given the example by their courage and confidence in Our Lady. They contributed enormously to the failure of the Marxist Revolution of 1964. They, and their children, distributed thousands of brochures with this supplication: "Mother of God, protect us and spare us from new sufferings ..." Women passed in the streets, reciting the Rosary out loud and singing songs. On March 17, 1964, the "March of the Family for Freedom, with the Help of God", was organized.
Every week, the Cardinal Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro put Catholics on their guard, demanding of them prayer and penance according to the spirit of Fatima, in order to obtain the mercy of God by the intercession of Our Lady.
While it is true that many problems remain in this great country, it is equally true that on March 31, 1964, without armed conflict, and without any blood being spilt, the hour of freedom and peace sounded.
1. This article originally was published in The Laity: Journal of Christian Thought and Action, Oct.-Nov. 1992, Madras, India, which was edited by Victor Kulanday (R.I.P.).
2. The Encyclopedia Britannica (1962 ed., s.v. "Albigenses") attributes a doctrine to the Albigensians which is quite immoral and anti-social: "At all events they were free from all moral prohibition and all religious obligation on condition that they promised by an act called convenenza to become "hereticized" by receiving the consolamentum, the baptism of the Spirit ..."