October is almost upon us. The month of May has always been dedicated to Mary, but unknown to many is that October is also dedicated to Mary. Originally, October was dedicated to Mary as Our Lady of Victory. Saint Pius V established this feast in 1571. The purpose was to thank God for the victory of Christians over the Turks at Lepanto—a victory attributed to the praying of the rosary. In 1573, Pope Gregory XIII changed the name of the feast to Feast of the Holy Rosary, to be celebrated on the first Sunday of October.[Clement XI extended the feast to the universal Church in 1716. Pope Leo XIII raised the feast to the rank of a double of the second class and added to the Litany of Loreto the invocation "Queen of the Most Holy Rosary". On this feast, in every church in which the Rosary confraternity has been duly erected, a plenary indulgence toties quoties is granted upon certain conditions to all who visit therein the Rosary chapel or statue of Our Lady. This has been called the "Portiuncula" of the Rosary. Furthermore, it was under the Papacy of Leo XIII that October was recognized as a month of Mary. In 1884, Pope Leo, in his encyclical Superiore Anno, wrote;
“We have therefore resolved that in this coming month of October, in which the sacred devotions to Our Virgin Lady of the Rosary are solemnized throughout the Catholic world, all the devotions shall again be observed which were commanded by Us this time last year. - We therefore decree and make order that from the 1st of October to the 2nd of November following in all the parish churches [curialibus templis], in all public churches dedicated to the Mother of God, or in such as are appointed by the Ordinary, five decades at least of the Rosary be recited, together with the Litany. If in the morning, the Holy Sacrifice will take place during these prayers; if in the evening, the Blessed Sacrament will be exposed for the adoration of the faithful; after which those present will receive the customary Benediction. We desire that, wherever it be lawful, the local confraternity of the Rosary should make a solemn procession through the street as a public manifestation of religious devotion.”
A few years later in 1889, in his encyclical Quamquam Pluries, Leo wrote;
“This is the reason why We have considered it necessary to turn to the Christian people and urge them to implore, with increased zeal and constancy, the aid of Almighty God. At this proximity of the month of October, which We have already consecrated to the Virgin Mary, under the title of Our Lady of the Rosary, we earnestly exhort the faithful to perform the exercises of this month with, if possible, even more piety and constancy than heretofore. We know that there is sure help in the maternal goodness of the Virgin, and We are very certain that We shall never vainly place Our trust in her. If, on innumerable occasions, she has displayed her power in aid of the Christian world, why should We doubt that she will now renew the assistance of her power and favor, if humble and constant prayers are offered up on all sides to her? Nay, we rather believe that her intervention will be the more marvelous as she has permitted Us to pray to her, for so long a time, with special appeals. But We entertain another object, which, according to your wont, Venerable Brethren, you will advance with fervor. That God may be more favorable to Our prayers, and that He may come with bounty and promptitude to the aid of His Church, We judge it of deep utility for the Christian people, continually to invoke with great piety and trust, together with the Virgin-Mother of God, her chaste Spouse, the Blessed Joseph; and We regard it as most certain that this will be most pleasing to the Virgin herself.”
Under Pope Leo XIII, a greater understanding of Scripture was fostered. He was open to the knowledge that could be gained by the “Scientific Method” of research and analysis. However, before the backdrop of groundbreaking research and conclusions, Mary, of whom little is known, still stands prominently in the foreground of his Theology.