THE MONTH OF OCTOBER, at least since the 16th century, has been associated particularly with the recitation of the Rosary, and indeed today is sometimes called Rosary Sunday. Traditionally the Church encourages us to make a particular effort this month to make use of this traditional form of devotion. In our parish we are fortunate in that we have a Rosary circle who recite five decades every weekday and Saturday before the 10am Mass, and there are other groups (such as the children, teachers and parents who join in a decade and a litany every Friday morning in October in our parish school).

One of the great things about the Rosary is that it is adaptable: there are lots of ways of ‘doing it’. Often we say it together (as in the mornings at church) and sometimes when this is public it is a great act of witness (there are lots of examples). We can also pray it privately – walking along, or on a train (some may do so while driving though this may be illegal). In recent years in particular special booklets have been produced to help us as we try to imagine the scenes which make up each of the twenty mysteries – there are some very fine booklets using works of art and others with relevant Bible passages. There are also good Rosary booklets for children and young people, and also meditations on the mysteries produced by spiritual writers and organizations such as CAFOD, drawing on the experience of Christians in the poorest parts of the world. It’s also not fixed in stone, but rather it develops and grows: not long ago St John Paul II added the Mysteries of Light or Luminous Mysteries, which encompass the adult teaching ministry of Our Lord, hitherto not covered (in case this is news to you and you don’t know what they are these mysteries are the Baptism of Jesus, the miracle at Cana in Galilee, the proclamation of the Kingdom of God, the Transfiguration and the Institution of the Eucharist).

The Rosary or adaptations of it are also used by Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans and Methodists; but at the same time the beads at least have for centuries been a sign or Catholic identity. For many years Year 6 children in our school used to go on school journey to the Isle of Wight, where there is an extraordinary Museum of Smuggling near Ventnor: here in a display case is a 16th century Rosary, for Catholics, including priests, had to smuggle them into England during penal times.

This year there is a special reason why we should make an effort to pray the Rosary this month. This is because Pope Francis, shown above ‘telling his beads’, went out of his way before the month began to encourage us to as part of our battle against evil in the world. This is part of the press release from the Vatican:

The Holy Father has decided to invite all the faithful, from all over the world, to pray the Holy Rosary every day, during the entire Marian month of October; and thus to unite in communion and penance, as a people of God, in asking the Holy Mother of God and St. Michael the Archangel to protect the Church from the devil, who always aims to divide us from God and among us. In the past few days, the Holy Father asked that his appeal be spread to all the faithful throughout the world, inviting them to conclude the recitation of the Rosary with the ancient invocation Under your protection we seek refuge, Holy Mother of God: do not despise the supplications of us who are in the trial, and deliver us from every danger, O glorious and blessed Virgin, and with the invocation to St. Michael the Archangel who protects and helps us. in the fight against evil : St Michael the Archangel, defend us in the struggle, be our garrison against the wickedness and the snares of the devil. Supreme head of the celestial army, thrust into hell, with the power of God, Satan and the other evil spirits that roam the world for the loss of souls. Amen… the Holy Father asks the faithful of the whole world to pray to the holy Mother of God to place the Church under her protective mantle: to preserve her from the attacks of the evil one, the great accuser, and make it at the same time always more aware of the faults, the errors, the abuses committed in the present and in the past, and committed to fight without any hesitation so that evil does not prevail.

There is much evil in the world, and indeed in the Church; the Holy Father’s words speak for themselves. Try and make an effort to do what he asks.