Life is one storm after another. The Rosary is a great ship of obedience.
The most common depictions of Our Lady of the Rosary show the Blessed Mother handing her chain of prayers to St. Dominic and St. Catherine of Siena. According to tradition, Dominic, the founder of the Dominicans, received the Rosary from Our Lady to help his work of preaching in medieval France. St. Catherine of Siena, another great medieval Dominican saint, was an advocate for reform and known widely for her piety and devotion.
The Battle of Lepanto
But today’s feast has a connection with another Dominican saint. 450 years ago, in 1571, Pope Saint Pius V (a Dominican!) called on the Christian West to pray the Rosary. The occasion? The pope had marshalled a naval force, the Holy League, to sail out to meet the Ottoman navy off the coast of Greece, at Lepanto.
Despite having some strategic advantages—including a new type of floating fortress called galleasses—the Christian fleet was outnumbered and faced other significant disadvantages.
Our Lady of Victory
As history tells us, the Christian fleet won the battle that day. St. Pius V had a vision which relayed the success of the Holy League. He attributed the victory to Our Lady’s intercession, having asked Christians everywhere to have recourse to the Rosary.
St. Pius then inaugurated today’s feast, Our Lady of the Rosary (once known as “Our Lady of Victory”) in commemoration of her protection.
A Ship for Souls
Today, we ought to think of the Rosary as a great ship for souls. This traditional prayer to Our Lady is a vessel that can bear us through the stormy seas of life.
Catherine of Siena once famously described the Order as a ship. Her Dialogue recounts Jesus teaching her,
Now that places suitable for obedience have been found, namely, these ships commanded by the Holy Spirit through the medium of their superiors, for, as I told you, the Holy Spirit is the true Master of these ships, which are built in the light of the most holy faith by those who have the light to know that My clemency, the Holy Spirit, will steer them.
The Rosary is another great ship of obedience. Faithfully praying the Rosary shapes the heart. The examples of Jesus, Mary, and other great saints included in its mysteries, show forth the path of Christian life.
The mysteries are the sails, providing the way to catch the wind of the Holy Spirit. The chains of Hail Marys are the rigging, binding the Holy Spirit’s wind to the deck of our hearts. And finally, the cross is the anchor, the true source of our hope.