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    The Holy Rosary is one of the most popular lay devotions among Roman Catholics worldwide. Its formal name is the “Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”

    Church historians also call it the Dominican Rosary, the Marian Rosary, and the Vita Christi or Life of Christ Rosary, to distinguish it from other Roman Catholic bead-prayers (devotions that use beads to keep count).
    The Holy Rosary is closely associated with Saint Dominic de Guzm?°n (1170-1221 A.D.), the Spaniard who founded of the Order of Preachers, better known as the Dominicans. From the fifteenth century forward the Dominicans were the foremost promoters of the Rosary. Recent scholarship suggests, however, that the first groups to combine the repetition of the Hail Mary with the contemplation of Mysteries were other religious orders in Prussia around 1300 A.D.

    Over the next 250 years the devotion spread across Europe, reaching the laity via voluntary confraternities and rosary picture-books. There were numerous competing versions, advocating as few as five Mysteries and as many as 200. The matter was not settled until 1569. In that year St. Pope Pius V, himself a Dominican, issued an apostolic letter establishing the fifteen-Mystery form of the Holy Rosary as the official, Church-authorized version. This was the format in use for the next four centuries. In the year 2002, Pope John Paul II published an apostolic letter that added five more Mysteries, making a total of twenty authorized Mysteries.

    The Church celebrates the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary on October 7. This commemorates the day in 1571 when Christian forces defeated the Turkish (Moslem) fleet in a sea battle at Lepanto, off the western coast of Greece. St. Pope Pius V had asked all Christians to pray the Rosary for victory.

    E.M. Mulhare

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