By Larry Peterson
October is the month of the Holy Rosary. During the month we might also acknowledge the person known as the Pope of the Rosary, Pope St. Pius V.
In 1517, Martin Luther, a Catholic priest, posted his 95 Theses on the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany. Within the Catholic world, a great theological revolt ensued. This revolt spread throughout Europe and it was focused on many of the practices taking place within the church at the time, such as the selling of indulgences, papal authority, and Transubstantiation. This “revolt” is more commonly known as the Protestant Reformation.
The Catholic Church did not begin to confront the Reformation seriously until Pope Paul III convened the Council of Trent in the year 1545. This was to be a mammoth undertaking as virtually all church doctrines had been challenged by the Reformation including the Real Presence and the validity of the sacraments.
The Council did not adjourn until 1563, eighteen years after its inception. A period of 46 years had elapsed since the 95-Theses were first posted. But the final pronouncements of the Council had yet to be enacted and sealed as doctrinal law. Three years after the Council adjourned Michael Cardinal Ghislieri was elected to the papacy. He took the name of Pope Pius V.
Pope Pius V was a devout priest who found his strength in Christ crucified. He also held a deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. His first acts as pontiff were to give approval to the changes instituted by the Council of Trent and immediately implement the reforms set forth.
Pope Pius V codified the Tridentine Mass (Latin Mass) as the primary Mass for the Roman Church, He authorized a revised breviary and a new Roman Catechism and Missal. He approved the Council’s teachings that Christ is present in both the consecrated bread and the consecrated wine. The Mass was defined as a TRUE sacrifice and he approved doctrinal statements on the sacraments of Holy Orders and Matrimony. He also affirmed church teachings on Purgatory and indulgences. He would quickly have much more to do. The Turks of the Ottoman Empire were determined to conquer Europe and Rome.
Deeply devoted to our Lady, Pope Pius V, issued a document in 1569 called a Papal Bull . This document was called, Consueverunt Romani Pontifices (On the Rosary) and it set in place the permanent format for the Rosary, the same which is used today. This is the same Rosary that our Lady presented to St. Dominic in 1214.
The greatest challenge at the time to the papacy of Pius V and to the Catholic Church was the Ottoman Empire. Pius V understood the intense desire of the Muslim Turks to conquer the entire Mediterranean area. Just as it is today, jihad, had been declared by the Muslim imams and Pope Pius V knew full well this was spiritual war about to be waged.
Pope Pius called together the Christian nations of Europe and formed them into what became known as the Holy League. Both Protestants and Catholics from different nations came together under the guidance of Pope Pius V to fight back against the Ottoman Turks. Pope Pius asked all Catholics to pray the Rosary asking for our Lady’s intercession when the battle ensued.
And so it was that on October 7, 1571, the Battle of Lepanto, took place. As the Pope and thousands of his followers prayed the Rosary the Battle of Lepanto began. Under the military leadership of Don Juan of Austria, the Christian fleet won a resounding victory over the more powerful Ottoman Turks. This battle literally saved Christendom and western civilization. Pope Pius V declared that from that day on, the day would be called The Feast Day of Our Lady of Victory. Today it is called The Feast Day of Our Lady of the Rosary.
The papacy of Pope Pius V lasted a mere six years. During his reign, he led the forces of “good against the forces of “evil” literally saving Christianity throughout Europe. He gave all credit to our Blessed Mother and today she bears the title of Our Lady of the Rosary.
Pope Pius V also set in place the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which was unchanged for over 400 years (until Vatican II), established the doctrines of Transubstantiation and the Real Presence, restored discipline in seminaries, republished the Roman Breviary and the Roman Missal. He was canonized a saint on May 22, 1712 by Pope Clement XI. How honored he must be to be called the Pope of the Holy Rosary.
Pope St. Pius V please pray for us.