Leo XIII on the Holy Rosary

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We are told that on 13 October 1884, His Holiness Pope Leo XIII had a vision in which he saw Satan ask God for one hundred years to the destroy the Catholic Church.

Satan’s task is impossible and will never be accomplished. The Church today is what she has always been. She is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. She is perpetual, indefectible, visible and infallible. She is united in faith, worship and government. And yet, today many millions have apostatised from her, failed to recognise her, and refused to enter within her sacred bounds.

The key to understanding this appalling mystery is indicated in the prayer which Pope Leo XIII composed after this vision:

“These most crafty enemies have filled and inebriated with gall and bitterness the Church, the spouse of the immaculate Lamb, and have laid impious hands on her most sacred possessions. In the Holy Place itself, where the See of Holy Peter and the Chair of Truth has been set up as the light of the world, they have raised the throne of their abominable impiety, with the iniquitous design that when the Pastor has been struck, the sheep may be scattered.”

The See of Holy Peter, the Chair of Truth, from which the light of Christ’s truth is proclaimed to the world, is vacant. But even for those who do not agree with us on this, let us all at least agree that there has been no real exercise of papal authority for the last sixty years. And in the absence of a Roman Pontiff and papal authority, our world falls into darkness:

“This wicked dragon pours out, as a most impure flood, the venom of his malice on men of depraved mind and corrupt heart, the spirit of lying, of impiety, of blasphemy, and the pestilent breath of impurity, and of every vice and iniquity.” 

What is the remedy for such an evil?

The same great Pontiff had already provided the solution for us in his encyclical letter Supremi Apostolatus Officio – available in The Rosary Encyclicals of Pope Leo XIII (UK readersreminder that these are commission links). In this encyclical, Leo XIII taught:

[T]o preserve the rights of the Church and to obviate or repel present or contingent dangers, we constantly seek for help from Heaven – the sole means of effecting anything.”

Prayer is the sole means of effecting what we desire: a Roman Pontiff teaching, governing and sanctifying the flock of Christ.

And how are we to pray? Pope Leo taught:

“We deem that there could be no surer and more efficacious means to this end than by religion and piety to obtain the favour of the great Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, the guardian of our peace and the minister to us of heavenly grace, who is placed on the highest summit of power and glory in Heaven, in order that she may bestow the help of her patronage on men who through so many labours and dangers are striving to reach that eternal city.”

Why is this?

“It has always been the habit of Catholics in danger and in troublous times to fly for refuge to Mary, and to seek for peace in her maternal goodness; showing that the Catholic Church has always, and with justice, put all her hope and trust in the Mother of God. And truly the Immaculate Virgin, chosen to be the Mother of God and thereby associated with Him in the work of man’s salvation, has a favour and power with her Son greater than any human or angelic creature has ever obtained, or ever can gain. And, as it is her greatest pleasure to grant her help and comfort to those who seek her, it cannot be doubted that she would deign, and even be anxious, to receive the aspirations of the universal Church.”

And how is her assistance to be sought?

Through “the devotion of the Rosary” by which “manifold and exceedingly great favours” have been “obtained by a Christian people”.

The pope teaches:

“This devotion, so great and so confident, to the august Queen of Heaven, has never shone forth with such brilliancy as when the militant Church of God has seemed to be endangered by the violence of heresy spread abroad, or by an intolerable moral corruption, or by the attacks of powerful enemies. Ancient and modern history and the more sacred annals of the Church bear witness to public and private supplications addressed to the Mother of God, to the help she has granted in return, and to the peace and tranquillity which she had obtained from God. Hence her illustrious titles of helper, consoler, mighty in war, victorious, and peace-giver.”

After recounting the great triumphs obtained by the Church through the rosary since the time of St Dominic, Pope Leo concluded:

“We, who seek a remedy for similar evils, do not doubt therefore that the prayer introduced by that most blessed man with so much advantage to the Catholic world, will have the greatest effect in removing the calamities of our times also.”

The great calamity of our time is that the enemies of the Church “have raised the throne of their abominable impiety” in the very place from which the Successor of St Peter should teach the flock of Christ.

Let us the redouble our commitment to prayer of the rosary so that:

“[I]n these times of trial for the Church, the ancient devotion to the august Virgin should live and flourish… The heavenly Patroness of the human race will receive with joy these prayers and supplications, and will easily obtain that the good shall grow in virtue, and that the erring should return to salvation and repent; and that God who is the avenger of crime, moved to mercy and pity may deliver Christendom and civil society from all dangers, and restore to them peace so much desired.”

Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, pray for us!


The Rosary Encyclicals of Pope Leo XIII (and for UK readers)

And further encyclicals from the great Pope: A Light in the Heavens – The Great Encyclicals Letters of Pope Leo XIII (and for UK readers)

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