October 7, 2004
The inspired writer Qoheleth wrote somewhat pessimistically and with a strong dose of determinism, “Nothing new under the sun” (Qo 1: 9). Even a casual glance at history unearths facts that seem to support him. When the Dominican friar Michael Ghisleri, one time teacher of philosophy and theology, was elected Pope in 1566, he began to deal with some of the very same issues we are facing today. He worked on a new missal, a new catechism, and seminary education. As shepherd of the Church, Pope Pius V strenuously enacted the reforms of the Council of Trent. In our time, Paul VI, John Paul I and John Paul II have made a major impact on the life of the Church in the pastoral efforts to carry forward the reforms of Vatican II. We have seen a renewal of the Liturgy with a new sacramentary and lectionary (the old missal), a new impetus to seminary formation and the publication of a much needed
Catechism of the Catholic Church.
There is one interesting detail told about the papacy of Pius V. One day when he was working with the cardinals, he suddenly interrupted his work. He opened the window; and looking at the sky, he cried out, "A truce to business; our great task at present is to thank God for the victory which He has just given the Christian army." At that very moment, Christian Europe was engaged in war to preserve its freedom. Pius V realized how important the struggle was. On the morning of October 7, 1571, as the decisive battle of Lepanto was being fought in the Gulf of Corinth, the Pope, accompanied by many faithful, prayed the Rosary in the Basilica of St. Mary Major. He had led the people of Rome in vigils and processions, imploring God to spare Europe. He always gave a special place in those prayers to the Rosary. Now standing at the window, the Pope clearly recognized the maternal protection of Mary in saving Europe. To commemorate the victory, Pius V established a feast to be celebrated on October 7 every year. Once called the Feast of Our Lady of Victory, it is now the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.
In a certain sense, Qoheleth is right. “Nothing new under the sun.” Today we are facing many threats to our freedom. The world’s materialism and secularism easily undermine the basic human principles and values taught by Jesus. Once these are lost, the very foundation for freedom is lost. Radical individualism and excessive competition have played their terrible part in plunging us into a struggle where we are forced to defend the sanctity of all life. Now it is the very freedom to live that is at stake. The conflicts that we face between nations and even within nations on fundamental questions of right and wrong, of life and death, the endless strife on the battlefield in open fire and in terrorist attacks—all rise from deep within the human heart. It is there that the war between good and evil is waged daily. It is a struggle that began at the very dawn of creation. It is war in which we Christians know there is victory. Jesus has come and has won the battle. He has proven that good does triumph over evil. He is the one who, not just by teaching but by the gift of His Spirit working within us, graces us with true freedom. Jesus is the victor who strengthens us with his word, “I have overcome the world” (Jn 16: 33).
One time-tested and treasured way to let the victory of Christ touch our lives in the many struggles to live in freedom and peace as the children of God remains the rosary. In his recent apostolic letter on the Rosary, our Holy Father said, “The grave challenges confronting the world at the start of this new Millennium lead us to think that only an intervention from on high, capable of guiding the hearts of those living in situations of conflict and those governing the destinies of nations, can give reason to hope for a brighter future” (
Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 40). For this reason, the Holy Father urged us to pray the Rosary and entrusted to this prayer the cause for freedom and peace in our world.
In his general audience of October 29, 2003, the Pope pointed to the many smoldering hotbeds of war and violence in our world. He noted that the attacks of 11 September 2001 have escalated tension on a global level. He said, “In the face of this disturbing situation, the recitation of the Rosary is not a passive withdrawal but a conscious choice of faith.” The Rosary is a prayer after the heart of Mary. For the rosary is totally Christ-centered. In meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary, we place ourselves in contemplation before God’s great love given us in Christ Jesus. John Paul II calls the rosary a way “to contemplate with Mary the face of Christ.” That face is the image of the invisible God. Jesus not only reveals to us the mystery of God’s love, but as we contemplate that mystery we are changed by the power of his love. As St. Paul teaches, the contemplation of God in Christ transforms us into the very likeness of God. “We, with our …faces reflecting like mirrors the brightness of the Lord, all grow brighter and brighter as we are turned into the image that we reflect… (2 Cor 3: 18).”
Indeed, Qoheleth was not complete in his remarks. There is something new yet to come. It is the full revelation of God in us.
Through the intercession of Our Lady of the Rosary, may we come to the freedom and peace Christ brings.