Do you believe in dragons? You should. All the saints do.
Not the Komodo dragons of Indonesia. Those are the kind people can see and everyone acknowledges their existence. It’s the kind of dragons that can’t be seen that saints know exist. Did you know that Satan is referred to as a dragon in the Bible (see Revelation 12: 9)? It is this kind of dragon (the demonic, fallen angel kind) that breathes deadly fire and that saints do battle against.
As a fallen angel and former bearer of light, Lucifer has seven deadly heads. Each of these seven heads represents one of the seven deadly sins (pride, lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath and envy). These sins deprive the soul of sanctifying grace and bar one from entering paradise. So how on earth are we, simple human beings, going to be able to slay a fire-breathing dragon with seven deadly heads?
Well, I bet you instinctively know that it takes a sword to slay a dragon, right? But did you know that when Mary gave the rosary to St. Dominic in 1208, she told him that it was a weapon against the forces of darkness? It’s true. After that event, the Dominicans and almost all other religious communities began to wear the rosary as part of their religious habit. Even today, almost all religious communities that have the rosary as part of their habit wear it on their left side to signify that it is a sword ready to be “unsheathed” and taken into spiritual battle.
Throughout history there have been numerous others who have championed the rosary and helped spread it to the ends of the earth. There are even papal champions of the rosary, like St. Pope Pius V. This incredible pope is responsible for saving Western civilization from Islamic takeover, and he did it through the rosary and a Holy League of men willing to defend Christianity. Other papal champions of the rosary, such as Pope Leo XIII and St. Pope John Paul II, wrote important documents on the rosary and helped spread the devotion far and wide. Pope Leo XIII wrote 11 encyclicals on the rosary, and St. John Paul II resharpened the ancient blade of the rosary by turning it into a modern-day light saber by offering the Church the Luminous Mysteries.
History has also witnessed saints like St. Louis de Montfort and St. Anthony Mary Claret champion the rosary. St. Louis de Montfort wrote one of the greatest books ever written on the rosary, and St. Anthony Mary Claret mandated that every priest in his diocese pray the rosary with their parishioners on Sundays and solemnities. For his zeal in promoting the rosary, Our Lady appeared to St. Anthony Mary Claret on several occasions and declared him the “new St. Dominic.” St. Josemaria Escriva also wrote a magnificent book on the rosary, while St. Pio of Pietrelcina and St. Teresa of Kolkata gave witness to the blessed beads by almost always having a rosary in their hands.
One of the most amazing stories of the power of the rosary is from a man who was once an ordained satanic priest. Blessed Bartolo Longo was from Naples, Italy, and after his radical return to Catholicism — which he attributed to the rosary — he began construction on what would become the famous shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompeii. His love for Jesus and Mary knew no bounds, and he also initiated many works of mercy to help orphans, widows and the sick.
Then there’s the Servant of God Frank Duff, founder of the world’s largest Marian apostolate, the Legion of Mary. He required all members to pray the rosary. Mao Tse-tung, the Communist leader and father of the People’s Republic of China, once referred to the Legion of Mary as “public enemy number one.”
Did you know that one of the visionaries of Fátima, the Servant of God Sister Lucia Dos Santos, was explicitly instructed by Our Lady to learn how to read and write in order to promote the rosary to the world? Sister Lucia was so bold that she desired the rosary be declared a liturgical prayer.
Perhaps one of the most inspiring champions of the rosary was the Servant of God Patrick Peyton, the holy priest who gathered more people together to pray the rosary than any other person in Church history. Through his heroic efforts, millions gathered in the streets of Brazil, Colombia and the Philippines to pray the rosary and peacefully overcome political dictators and ideological regimes. He also gathered half a million people in a San Francisco park to pray the rosary in 1961.
The holy men and women mentioned above are only a sampling of the great champions of the rosary throughout history. By praying and promoting the rosary, you, too, can be a champion of the rosary of Our Lady.
One hundred years ago, Our Lady came to Fátima, Portugal, and asked three little children to pray the rosary daily for conversion and peace in the world. During the last apparition on Oct. 13, 1917, Mary specifically referred to herself as “The Lady of the Rosary.” The rosary is at the heart of the Fátima message, and today we need the rosary in our lives more than ever before.
Who will wield the spiritual sword of the Rosary for Our Lady today and become a champion against the darkness of our present times? Will it be you?
Father Donald Calloway, MIC, is vocations director for the Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, author of 10 books and leads pilgrimages to Marian shrines around the world. For more information about his pilgrimages and his latest book “26 Champions of the Rosary: The Essential Guide to the Greatest Heroes of the Rosary,” go to www.fathercalloway.com.