On September 1, 1883, Pope Leo XIII released the first in a series of encyclicals on the rosary. (He would issue 11 such encyclicals throughout his reign.) Entitled Supremi apostolatus officio ("The supreme Apostolic office"), this encyclical urged Catholics to increase their devotion to the Virgin Mary, especially through the use of the rosary. To foster such devotion, Pope Leo dedicated the month of October to Our Lady of the Holy Rosary.
The following year, Pope Leo, in his encyclical Superiore anno ("Last year"), decreed that:
from the 1st of October to the 2nd of November following in all the parish churches, in all public churches dedicated to the Mother of God, or in such as are appointed by the Ordinary, five decades at least of the Rosary be recited, together with the Litany. If in the morning, the Holy Sacrifice [of the Mass] will take place during these prayers; if in the evening, the Blessed Sacrament will be exposed for the adoration of the faithful; after which those present will receive the customary Benediction.
For most of the next century, the Holy Father's wishes were followed, but devotion to the rosary has fallen in the past few decades. Many traditional parishes still maintain the custom, but in other churches, even those dedicated to St. Mary, the rosary is no longer prayed publicly during the month of October.
What about your parish? Are public devotions to Mary planned for this month? Leave a comment to let us know what your church is doing!
(A statue of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary in the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome, Italy. Photo © Scott P. Richert)