St. Dominic (1170-1221) lived in a tumultuous age in Spain. He experienced the constant threat of the moors sweeping across Spain. Nonetheless, he felt the call of God and was ordained by age 24. At the age 33, Dominic exercised his priestly ministry in the southern region of France called Languedoc. It was in this region that St. Dominic came in contact with the Albigensian heresy. The Albigensians believed that adultery, fornication, and suicide were praiseworthy; there is no heaven, no hell, no moral code. St. Dominic traveled from village to village teaching the truths of the Faith. The Albigensians jeered, insulted, and pelted him with stones as he traveled along their roads.
It was during this time that the tradition of the Rosary comes to us. The form in which it has come down to us will best be stated in the words of P. Corneluis de Snecka, a disciple of the French Dominican Alan de la Roche:
We read that at the time when he was preaching to the Albigenses, St. Dominic at first obtained but scanty success: and that one day, complaining of this in pious prayer to our Blessed Lady, she deigned to reply to him, saying: ’Wonder not that you have obtained so little fruit by your labors, you have spent them on barren soil, not yet watered with the dew of Divine grace. When God willed to renew the face of the earth, He began by sending down on it the fertilizing rain of the Angelic Salutation. Therefore, preach my Psalter composed of 150 Angelic Salutations and 15 Our Fathers, and you will obtain an abundant harvest.’
The place of the revelation was the church of Prouille and the time was 1208. The claim of place and time are most strongly supported by the tradition of the Dominican Order. Pope Leo XIII affirmed over and over the Dominican origin of the Rosary and in a letter to the Bishop of Carcassone (1889), he accepts the tradition of Prouille as the place where the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St. Dominic, revealing this devotion. The tradition that Mary first revealed the Rosary devotion to St. Dominic is supported by 13 popes. St. Dominic went into the villages of the heretics, gathered the people, and preached to them the mysteries of salvation – the Incarnation, the Redemption, Eternal Life. As the Holy Virgin had taught him to do, he distinguished the different kinds of mysteries and after each short instruction he had ten Hail Marys recited. St. Dominic found great success in this new devotion, bringing about the conversion of the Albigensians. He was canonized in 1234 AD. The feast day of St. Dominic is August 8.
The idea of memorizing and reciting prayers regularly is thought to have begun centuries before Jesus walked the Earth. People may have used pebbles or rocks to keep count of the prayers they said, so they could know when they reached their recitation goals. During the Middle Ages, devout monks would recite all 150 Psalms every day or week as part of their devotion to God. People living near these monks may have wanted to emulate this devotion. Often pebbles and rocks were used to keep count, which was difficult for many.
Their solution was to recite Our Fathers using a string with tied knots to keep track. They’ would later replace the knots with beads, and the modern concept of the Rosary was born. Over time, it received the name “rosarium,” which means “rose garden” — a common term to describe a collection of similar things. In this case, the similar items were the many prayers bound together and repeated in the Rosary.
Pope Clement VIII declared that St. Dominic established the Confraternity of the Rosary in the Church of St. Sixtus in Rome. Pope Alexander VI in 1495, addressed St. Dominic as “the renowned preacher long ago of the Confraternity of the Rosary, and through his merits, the whole world was preserved from universal ruin.” Pope Pius XI stated that the Rosary of Mary is, as it were, the principle and foundation on which the very Order of St. Dominic rests for making perfect the life of its members and obtaining the salvation of others. The Catholic Church looks to the Dominicans as official promoters of both the Rosary and the Rosary Confraternity. The late Dominican Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, who was a teacher of Pope John Paul II when he was a student at the Angelicum in Rome, stated: “Our Blessed Lady made known to St. Dominic a kind of preaching till then unknown; which she said would be one of the most powerful weapons against future errors and in future difficulties.”
The Dominican Friars Foundation affirms; The form of the rosary today is believed to have been shaped and organized by Dominic, although the use of beads in prayer is much older than he and is not necessarily Christian; the Buddhists, for example, use a rosary that is similar to the Catholic one. What is certain, however, is that the Dominicans popularized both devotion to Mary and the mysteries of the rosary. Some scholars theorize that Dominic worked out a combination of the rosary’s mental and vocal prayer in connection with his preaching, so that when his audience returned home and said the rosary in private the mention of the mystery would help them recall the sermon’s text. Tradition also holds that Mary made various promises to Christians who recite the rosary: those who faithfully recite the rosary shall receive many graces, shall have during their life and at their death the light of God and the plenitude of his graces, and at the moment of death shall participate in the merits of the saints in paradise.
the gift of Mary goes well beyond the ministry of Dominic and resonates trongly with us today.