Pope Leo XIII is the longest lived pope in Church history, dying at 93. He could be dubbed “The Rosary Pope” since he published a dozen of encyclicals and several letters on the rosary over the course of his pontificate (1878-1903).
From his youth, Pope Leo XIII had a strong devotion to Mary. Through the discovery of the Marian writings of St. Louis de Montfort in 1846, and the subsequent investigations into these writings as part of de Montfort’s beatification cause, Pope Leo XIII was deeply influenced by de Montfort’s Marian thought. He was so enamored with True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin that he granted an indulgence to anyone who consecrated themselves to Mary using St. Louis de Montfort’s method.
Pope Leo XIII was very open to private revelation. He promoted the Brown Scapular, instituted the Feast of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, wrote an apostolic letter promoting pilgrimages to Marian shrines, especially Lourdes, and received the visionary of La Salette, Mélanie Calvat, in two separate private audiences. He so loved Lourdes that he commissioned the construction of a Lourdes Grotto in the Vatican Gardens. Following the thought of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, he taught that a Christian trying to live their faith without Mary is comparable to a bird trying to fly without wings.
Champion of the Rosary
Pope Leo XIII is the greatest champion of the rosary to ever hold the office of the Vicar of Christ. During his pontificate, he wrote 11 encyclicals on the rosary, promulgated numerous apostolic letters on the rosary, and gave countless messages on the rosary to various dioceses and religious institutes. His rosary encyclicals contain a summary of all the statements previous popes had made about St. Dominic’s role as the father of the rosary and the founder of the Confraternity of the Rosary. In almost every rosary encyclical that he wrote, he affirmed that St. Dominic was the founder of the rosary. He expressly taught that Our Lady herself entrusted the rosary to St. Dominic, and compared St. Dominic’s Confraternity to an army of prayer and a spiritual battalion capable of winning souls for Christ.
He tirelessly taught that the rosary was the most effective means of expanding the kingdom of Jesus Christ in the world and was of benefit to both individuals and society at large. He encouraged everyone to pray the rosary every day, and especially encouraged priests and missionaries to preach the rosary, since it has the power to expel evil and heal the sores of the human heart.
Pope Leo XIII dedicated the month of October to the rosary, granted many indulgences to the rosary, approved a comprehensive list of the indulgences attached to the rosary, supported the construction of the Basilica of the Rosary in Lourdes, inserted the title “Queen of the Most Holy Rosary” into the Litany of Loreto, wrote a charter for the Confraternity of the Rosary, encouraged the Dominicans to promote the rosary, and supported the rosary apostolate of Bl. Bartolo Longo at the Basilica of the Rosary in Pompeii.
Titles of Mary
Pope Leo XIII used many titles and described Mary in many ways throughout his encyclicals. The following list is not exhaustive, but it affords us the opportunity to reflect on Mary’s many titles. These titles go beyond the Litany of Loreto, which the pontiff encouraged to be recited after the rosary during the month of October. The following list of titles could become a secondary litany.
Mother of God
Mother of the Almighty
Mother of Sorrows
Mother of God and of Men
Mother of the Church
August Queen of Heaven
Queen of the Rosary
Teacher and Queen of Apostles
Queen of the Universe
Guardian of our Peace
Mighty in War
Giver of Peace
Mighty Helper of Christians
Help of Christians
Vanquisher of Heresies
Authoress and Teacher of the Rosary
Seat of Divine Wisdom
Guardian of Christian Unity
Mystical Rose of Paradise
The Reparatrix of the whole World
Mediatrix of Divine Grace
Mediatrix to the Mediator
Minister of Heavenly Grace
Minister of the Divine Gifts
Dispenser of all Heavenly Gifts
Leo XIII's Encyclicals on Rosary
1) Supremi apostolatus. Sept. 1, 1883. It prescribes the public recitation of the rosary and the Litany of Loreto in Catholic churches and chapels as a special observance "for the month of October of this year."
2) Superiore anno. August 30, 1884. The reception of the previous year's October devotions warranted their continuation.
3) Quod auctoritate. Dec. 22, 1885. Exhortation to a greater spirit of penance and devotion to the rosary during the upcoming extraordinary jubilee year (the pope's fiftieth anniversary of ordination).
4) Vi E Ben Noto. Sept. 20, 1887. On the Rosary and Public Life.
5) Octobri mense. Sept. 22, 1891. The power of prayer and the efficacy of the rosary.
6) Magnae Dei Matris. Sept. 8, 1892. The relation of the rosary to faith and morality.
7) Laetitiae sanctae. Sept. 8, 1893. The social benefits of the rosary.
8) Iucunda semper expectatione. Sept. 8, 1984. The rosary as witness to Mary's intercession.
9) Adiutricem populi. Sept. 5, 1895. Mary's universal motherhood; the rosary as the way to unity.
10) Fidentem piumque animum. Sept. 20, 1896. The rosary's influence on Christian faith and life.
11) Augustissimae Virginis Mariæ. Sept. 12, 1897. Mary's association with Christ; the rosary confraternities, and "living rosary."
12) Diuturni temporis. Sept. 5, 1898. A summary of the pope's teaching on the rosary; notice of the constitution on the rosary sodalities.