To Our Venerable Brethren the Patriarchs,
Primates, Archbishops, Bishops, and other
having Grace and
Communion with the Apostolic See.
Venerable Brethren, Greeting and Apostolic Benediction.
the coming of the month of October, dedicated and consecrated as it is to the Blessed Virgin of the Rosary, we recall with
satisfaction the instant exhortations which in preceding years We addressed to you, venerable brethren, desiring, as We did,
that the faithful, urged by your authority and by your zeal, should redouble their piety towards the august Mother of God,
the mighty helper of Christians, and should pray to her throughout the month, invoking her by that most holy rite of the Rosary
which the Church, especially in the passage of difficult times, has ever used for the accomplishment of all desires. This
year once again do We publish Our wishes, once again do We encourage you by the same exhortations. We are persuaded to this
in love for the Church, whose sufferings, far from mitigating, increase daily in number and in gravity. Universal and well-known
are the evils we deplore: war made upon the sacred dogmas which the Church holds and transmits; derision cast upon the integrity
of that Christian morality which she has in keeping; enmity declared, with the impudence of audacity and with criminal malice,
against the very Christ, as though the Divine work of Redemption itself were to be destroyed from its foundation-that work
which, indeed, no adverse power shall ever utterly abolish or destroy.
2. No new events are these in the career of
the Church militant. Jesus foretold them to His disciples. That she may teach men the truth and may guide them to eternal
salvation, she must enter upon a daily war; and throughout the course of ages she has fought, even to martyrdom, rejoicing
and glorifying herself in nothing more than in the occasion of signing her cause with her Founder's blood, the sure and certain
pledge of the victory whereof she holds the promise. Nevertheless we must not conceal the profound sadness with which this
necessity of constant war afflicts the righteous. It is indeed a cause of great sorrow that so many should be deterred and
led astray by error and enmity to God; that so many should be indifferent to all forms of religion, and should finally become
estranged from faith; that so many Catholics should be such in name only, and should pay to religion no honour or worship.
And still sadder and more beset with anxieties grows the soul at the thought of the fruitful source of most manifold evils
existing in the organisation of States that allow no place to the Church, and that oppose her championship of holy virtue.
This is truly a terrible manifestation of the just vengeance of God, Who allows blindness of soul to darken upon the nations
that forsake Him. These are evils that cry aloud, that cry of themselves with a daily increasing voice. It is absolutely necessary
that the Catholic voice should also call to God with unwearied instance, "without ceasing;"(1) that the Faithful should pray
not only in their own homes, but in public, gathered together under the sacred roof; that they should beseech urgently the
all-foreseeing God to deliver the Church from evil men(2) and to bring back the troubled nations to good sense and reason,
by the light and love of Christ.
3. Wonderful and beyond hope or belief is this. The world goes on its laborious way,
proud of its riches, of its power, of its arms, of its genius; the Church goes onward along the course of ages with an even
step, trusting in God only, to Whom, day and night, she lifts her eyes and her suppliant hands. Even though in her prudence
she neglects not the human aid which Providence and the times afford her, not in these does she put her trust, which rests
in prayer, in supplication, in the invocation of God. Thus it is that she renews her vital breath; the diligence of her prayer
has caused her, in her aloofness from worldly things and in her continual union with the Divine will, to live the tranquil
and peaceful life of Our very Lord Jesus Christ; being herself the image of Christ, Whose happy and perpetual joy was hardly
marred by the horror of the torments He endured for us. This important doctrine of Christian wisdom has been ever believed
and practised by Christians worthy of the name. Their prayers rise to God eagerly and more frequently when the cunning and
the violence of the perverse afflict the Church and her supreme Pastor. Of this the faithful of the Church in the East gave
an example that should be offered to the imitation of posterity. Peter, Vicar of Jesus Christ, and first Pontiff of the Church,
had been cast into prison, loaded with chains by the guilty Herod, and left for certain death. None could carry him help or
snatch him from the peril. But there was the certain help that fervent prayer wins from God. The Church, as the sacred story
tells us, made prayer without ceasing to God for him;(3) and the greater was the fear of a misfortune, the greater was the
fervour of all who prayed to God. After the granting of their desires the miracle stood revealed; and Christians still celebrate
with a joyous gratitude the marvel of the deliverance of Peter. Christ has given us a still more memorable instance, a Divine
instance, so that the Church might be formed not upon his precepts only, but upon His example also. During His whole life
He had given Himself to frequent and fervent prayer, and in the supreme hours in the Garden of Gethsemane, when His soul was
filled with bitterness and sorrow unto death, He prayed to His Father and prayed repeatedly.(4) It was not for Himself that
He prayed thus, for He feared nothing and needed nothing, being God; He prayed for us, for His Church, whose prayers and future
tears He already then accepted with joy, to give them back in mercies.
4. But since the salvation of our race was accomplished
by the mystery of the Cross, and since the Church, dispenser of that salvation after the triumph of Christ, was founded upon
earth and instituted, Providence established a new order for a new people. The consideration of the Divine counsels is united
to the great sentiment of religion. The Eternal Son of God, about to take upon Him our nature for the saving and ennobling
of man, and about to consummate thus a mystical union between Himself and all mankind, did not accomplish His design without
adding there the free consent of the elect Mother, who represented in some sort all human kind, according to the illustrious
and just opinion of St. Thomas, who says that the Annunciation was effected with the consent of the Virgin standing in the
place of humanity.(5) With equal truth may it be also affirmed that, by the will of God, Mary is the intermediary through
whom is distributed unto us this immense treasure of mercies gathered by God, for mercy and truth were created by Jesus Christ.(6)
Thus as no man goeth to the Father but by the Son, so no man goeth to Christ but by His Mother. How great are the goodness
and mercy revealed in this design of God! What a correspondence with the frailty of man! We believe in the infinite goodness
of the Most High, and we rejoice in it; we believe also in His justice and we fear it. We adore the beloved Saviour, lavish
of His blood and of His life; we dread the inexorable Judge. Thus do those whose actions have disturbed their consciences
need an intercessor mighty in favour with God, merciful enough not to reject the cause of the desperate, merciful enough to
lift up again towards hope in the divine mercy the afflicted and the broken down. Mary is this glorious intermediary; she
is the mighty Mother of the Almighty; but-what is still sweeter - she is gentle, extreme in tenderness, of a limitless loving-kindness.
As such God gave her to us. Having chosen her for the Mother of His only begotten Son, He taught her all a mother's feeling
that breathes nothing but pardon and love. Such Christ desired she should be, for He consented to be subject to Mary and to
obey her as a son a mother. Such He proclaimed her from the cross when he entrusted to her care and love the whole of the
race of man in the person of His disciple John. Such, finally, she proves herself by her courage in gathering in the heritage
of the enormous labours of her Son, and in accepting the charge of her maternal duties towards us all.
5. The design
of this most dear mercy, realised by God in Mary and confirmed by the testament of Christ, was comprehended at the beginning,
and accepted with the utmost joy by the Holy Apostles and the earliest believers. It was the counsel and teaching of the venerable
Fathers of the Church. All the nations of the Christian age received it with one mind; and even when literature and tradition
are silent there is a voice that breaks from every Christian breast and speaks with all eloquence. No other reason is needed
that that of a Divine faith which, by a powerful and most pleasant impulse, persuades us towards Mary. Nothing is more natural,
nothing more desirable than to seek a refuge in the protection and in the loyalty of her to whom we may confess our designs
and our actions, our innocence and our repentance, our torments and our joys, our prayers and our desires - all our of fairs.
All men, moreover, are filled with the hope and confidence that petitions which might be received with less favour from the
lips of unworthy men, God will accept when they are recommended by the most Holy Mother, and will grant with all favours.
The truth and the sweetness of these thoughts bring to the soul an unspeakable comfort; but they inspire all the more compassion
for those who, being without Divine faith, honour not Mary and have her not for their mother; for those also who, holding
Christian faith, dare to accuse of excess the devotion to Mary, thereby sorely wounding filial piety.
6. This storm
of evils, in the midst of which the Church struggles so strenuously, reveals to all her pious children the holy duty whereto
they are bound to pray to God with instance, and the manner in which they may give to their prayers the greater power. Faithful
to the religious example of our fathers, let us have recourse to Mary, our holy Sovereign. Let us entreat, let us beseech,
with one heart, Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ, our Mother. "Show thyself to be a mother; cause our prayers to be accepted
by Him Who, born for us, consented to be thy Son."(7)
7. Now, among the several rites and manners of paying honour
to the Blessed Mary, some are to be preferred, inasmuch as we know them to be most powerful and most pleasing to our Mother;
and for this reason we specially mention by name and recommend the Rosary. The common language has given the name of corona
to this manner of prayer, which recalls to our minds the great mysteries of Jesus and Mary united in joys, sorrows, and triumphs.
The contemplation of these august mysteries, contemplated in their order, of fords to faithful souls a wonderful confirmation
of faith, protection against the disease of error, and increase of the strength of the soul. The soul and memory of him who
thus prays, enlightened by faith, are drawn towards these mysteries by the sweetest devotion, are absorbed therein and are
surprised before the work of the Redemption of mankind, achieved at such a price and by events so great. The soul is filled
with gratitude and love before these proofs of Divine love; its hope becomes enlarged and its desire is increased for those
things which Christ has prepared for such as have united themselves to Him in imitation of His example and in participation
in His sufferings. The prayer is composed of words proceeding from God Himself, from the Archangel Gabriel, and from the Church;
full of praise and of high desires; and it is renewed and continued in an order at once fixed and various; its fruits are
ever new and sweet.
8. Moreover, we may well believe that the Queen of Heaven herself has granted an especial efficacy
to this mode of supplication, for it was by her command and counsel that the devotion was begun and spread abroad by the holy
Patriarch Dominic as a most potent weapon against the enemies of the faith at an epoch not, indeed, unlike our own, of great
danger to our holy religion. The heresy of the Albigenses had in effect, one while covertly, another while openly, overrun
many countries, and this most vile off spring of the Manicheans, whose deadly errors it reproduced, were the cause in stirring
up against the Church the most bitter animosity and a virulent persecution. There seemed to be no human hope of opposing this
fanatical and most pernicious sect when timely succour came from on high through the instrument of Mary's Rosary. Thus under
the favour of the powerful Virgin, the glorious vanquisher of all heresies, the forces of the wicked were destroyed and dispersed,
and faith issued forth unharmed and more shining than before. All manner of similar instances are widely recorded, and both
ancient and modern history furnish remarkable proofs of nations saved from perils and winning benedictions therefrom. There
is another signal argument in favour of this devotion, inasmuch as from the very moment of its institution it was immediately
encouraged and put into most frequent practice by all classes of society. In truth, the piety of the Christian people honours,
by many titles and in multiform ways, the Divine Mother, who, alone most admirable among all creatures, shines resplendent
in unspeakable glory. But this title of the Rosary, this mode of prayer which seems to contain, as it were, a final pledge
of affection, and to sum up in itself the honour due to Our Lady, has always been highly cherished and widely used in private
and in public, in homes and in families, in the meetings of confraternities, at the dedication of shrines, and in solemn processions;
for there has seemed to be no better means of conducting sacred solemnities, or of obtaining protection and favours.
Nor may we permit to pass unnoticed the especial Providence of God displayed in this devotion; for through the lapse of time
religious fervour has sometimes seemed to diminish in certain nations, and even this pious method of prayer has fallen into
disuse; but piety and devotion have again flourished and become vigorous in a most marvellous manner, when, either through
the grave situation of the commonwealth or through some pressing public necessity, general recourse has been had-more to this
than to even other means of obtaining help - to the Rosary, whereby it has been restored to its place of honour on the altars.
But there is no need to seek for examples of this power in a past age, since we have in the present a signal instance of it.
In these times - so troublous (as we have said before) for the Church, and so heartrending for ourselves - set as We are by
the Divine will at the helm, it is still given Us to note with admiration the great zeal and fervour with which Mary's Rosary
is honoured and recited in every place and nation of the Catholic world. And this circumstance, which assuredly is to be attributed
to the Divine action and direction upon men, rather than to the wisdom and efforts of individuals, strengthens and consoles
Our heart, filling Us with great hope for the ultimate and most glorious triumph of the Church under the auspices of Mary.
But there are some who, whilst they honestly agree with what We have said, yet because their hopes - especially as regard
the peace and tranquillity of the Church - have not yet been fulfilled, nay, rather because troubles seem to augment, have
ceased to pray with diligence and fervour, in a fit of discouragement. Let these look into themselves and labour that the
prayers they address to God may be made in a proper spirit, according to the precept of our Lord Jesus Christ. And if there
be such, let them reflect how unworthy and how wrong it is to wish to assign to Almighty God the time and the manner of giving
His assistance, since He owes nothing to us, and when He hearkens to our supplications and crowns our merits, He only crowns
His own innumerable benefits;(8) and when He complies least with our wishes it is as a good father towards his children, having
pity on their childishness and consulting their advantage. But as regards the prayers which we join to the suffrages of the
heavenly citizens, and offer humbly to God to obtain His mercy for the Church, they are always favourably received and heard,
and either obtain for the Church great and imperishable benefits, or their influence is temporarily withheld for a time of
greater need. In truth, to these supplications is added an immense weight and grace - the prayers and merits of Christ Our
Lord, Who has loved the Church and has delivered Himself up for her to sanctify her . . . so that He should be glorified in
her.(9) He is her Sovereign Head, holy, innocent, always living to make intercession for us, on whose prayers and supplication
we can always by divine authority rely. As for what concerns the exterior and temporal prosperity of the Church, it is evident
that she has to cope with most malicious and powerful adversaries. Too often has she suffered at their hands the abolition
of her rights, the diminution and oppression of her liberties, scorn and affronts to her authority, and every conceivable
outrage. And if in their wickedness her enemies have not accomplished all the injury they had resolved upon and striven to
do, they nevertheless seem to go on unchecked. But, despite them the Church, amidst all these conflicts, will always stand
out and increase in greatness and glory. Nor can human reason rightly understand why evil, apparently so dominant, should
yet be so restricted as regards its results; whilst the Church, driven into straits, comes forth glorious and triumphant.
And she ever remains more steadfast in virtue because she draws men to the acquisition of the ultimate good. And since this
is her mission, her prayers must have much power to effect the end and purpose of God's providential and merciful designs
towards men. Thus, when men pray with and through the Church, they at length obtain what Almighty God has designed from all
eternity to bestow upon mankind.(10) The subtlety of the human intelligence fails now to grasp the high designs of Providence;
but the time will come when, through the goodness of God, causes and effects will be made clear, and the marvellous power
and utility of prayer will be shown forth. Then it will be seen how many in the midst of a corrupt age have kept themselves
pure and inviolate from all concupiscence of the flesh and the spirit, working out their sanctification in the fear of God;(11)
how others, when exposed to the danger of temptation, have without delay restrained themselves gaining new strength for virtue
from the peril itself; how others, having fallen, have been seized with the ardent desire to be restored to the embraces of
a compassionate God. Therefore, with these reflections before them, We beseech all again and again not to yield to the deceits
of the old enemy, nor for any cause whatsoever to cease from the duty of prayer. Let their prayers be persevering, let them
pray without intermission; let their first care be to supplicate for the sovereign good - the eternal salvation of the whole
world, and the safety of the Church. Then they may ask from God other benefits for the use and comfort of life, returning
thanks always, whether their desires are granted or refused, as to a most indulgent father. Finally, may they converse with
God with the greatest piety and devotion according to the example of the Saints, and that of our Most Holy Master and Redeemer,
with great cries and tears.(12)
11. Our fatherly solicitude urges Us to implore of God, the Giver of all good gifts,
not merely the spirit of prayer, but also that of holy penance for all the sons of the Church. And whilst We make this most
earnest supplication, We exhort all and each one to the practice with equal fervour of both these virtues combined. Thus prayer
fortifies the soul, makes it strong for noble endeavours, leads it up to divine things: penance enables us to overcome ourselves,
especially our bodies - most inveterate enemies of reason and the evangelical law. And it is very clear that these virtues
unite well with each other, assist each other mutually, and have the same object, namely, to detach man born for heaven from
perishable objects, and to raise him up to heavenly commerce with God. On the other hand, the mind that is excited by passions
and enervated by pleasure is insensible to the delights of heavenly things, and makes cold and neglectful prayers quite unworthy
of being accepted by God. We have before Our eyes examples of the penance of holy men whose prayers and supplications were
consequently most pleasing to God, and even obtained miracles. They governed and kept assiduously in subjection their minds
and hearts and wills. They accepted with the greatest joy and humility the doctrines of Christ and the teachings of His Church.
Their unique desire was to advance in the science of God; nor had their actions any other object than the increase of His
glory. They restrained most severely their passions, treated their bodies rudely and harshly, abstaining from even permitted
pleasures through love of virtue. And therefore most deservedly could they have said with the Apostle Paul, our conversation
is in Heaven:(13) hence the potent efficacy of their prayers in appeasing and in supplicating the Divine Majesty. It is clear
that not every one is obliged or able to attain to these heights; nevertheless, each one should correct his life and morals
in his own measure in satisfaction to the Divine justice: for it is to those who have endured voluntary sufferings in this
life that the reward of virtue is vouchsafed. Moreover, when in the mystical body of Christ, which is the Church, all the
members are united and flourish, it results, according to St. Paul, that the joy or pain of one member is shared by all the
rest, so that if one of the brethren in Christ is suffering in mind or body the others come to his help and succour him as
far as in them lies. The members are solicitous in regard of each other, and if one member suffer all the members suffer in
sympathy, and if one member rejoice all the others rejoice also. But you are the body of Christ, members of one body. (14)
But in this illustration of charity, following the example of Christ, Who in the immensity of His love gave up His life to
redeem us from sin, paying Himself the penalties incurred by others, in this is the great bond of perfection by which the
faithful are closely united with the heavenly citizens and with God. Above all, acts of holy penance are so numerous and varied
and extend over such a wide range, that each one may exercise them frequently with a cheerful and ready will without serious
or painful effort.
12. And now, venerable brethren, your remarkable and exalted piety towards the Most Holy Mother
of God, and your charity and solicitude for the Christian flock, are full of abundant promise: Our heart is full of desire
for those wondrous fruits which, on many occasions, the devotion of Catholic people to Mary has brought forth; already We
enjoy them deeply and abundantly in anticipation. At your exhortation and under your direction, therefore, the faithful, especially
during this ensuing month, will assemble around the solemn altars of this august Queen and most benign Mother, and weave and
offer to her, like devoted children, the mystic garland so pleasing to her of the Rosary. All the privileges and indulgences
We have herein before conceded are confirmed and ratified. (15)
13. How grateful and magnificent a spectacle to see
in the cities, and towns, and villages, on land and sea - wherever the Catholic faith has penetrated - many hundreds of thousands
of pious people uniting their praises and prayers with one voice and heart at every moment of the day, saluting Mary, invoking
Mary, hoping everything through Mary. Through her may all the faithful strive to obtain from her Divine Son that the nations
plunged in error may return to the Christian teaching and precepts, in which is the foundation of the public safety and the
source Of peace and true happiness. Through her may they steadfastly endeavour for that most desirable of all blessings, the
restoration of the liberty of our Mother, the Church, and the tranquil possession of her rights - rights which have no other
object than the careful direction of men's dearest interests, from the exercise of which individuals and nations have never
suffered injury, but have derived, in all time, numerous and most precious benefits.
14. And for you, venerable brethren,
through the intercession of the Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, We pray Almighty God to grant you heavenly gifts, and greater
and more abundant strength, and aid to accomplish the charge of your pastoral office. As a pledge of which We most lovingly
bestow upon you and upon the clergy and people committed to your care, the Apostolic Benediction.
Given at Rome, St.
Peter's, the 22nd day of September, 1891, in the fourteenth year of Our Pontificate.
2. 2 Thes 3.2.
3. Acts 12.5.
4. Lk 22.44.
5. III. q. xxx, a. 1.
6. Jn 1.17.
Ex sacr. liturg.
8. S. August. Epi CXCIV al 106 Sixtum, c. v., n. 19.
9. Eph 5.25-27.
10. S. Th. II-II,
q LXXXIII, a. 2, ex S. G. reg. M.
11. 2 Cor 7.1.
12. Heb 5.7.
13. Phil. 3.20.
14. 1 Cor 12.
15. Cf. ep. encycl. Supremi Apostolatus officio (September 1, 1893); ep. encycl. Superiore anno (August 30,
1884); decree S. R. C. Inter plurimos (August 20, 1885); ep. encycl. Quamquam pluries (August 15, 1889).
Return to Rosary Page
Return to Home Page