St Pope Pius V (1504-1572)
In his six-year reign, Dominican Pope Pius V, champion of the Catholic Reformation, issued the Roman catechism (1566), and a reformed breviary (1568) and missal (1570). What is less known, is that in 1569, with the bull “Consueverunt Romani Pontifices”, he promoted a certain unity in the way of praying the Rosary.
The bull is exemplary in its prudence as regards the legend according to which Our Lady had given the rosary to St Dominic. The founder of the Dominicans had been inspired to invoke the saints by the example of the popes and holy fathers of the past, so it says, “and, as is piously believed, by the Holy Spirit”, and “looked to that simple way of praying and beseeching God, accessible to all and wholly pious, which is called the Rosary or Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary”, implying that it could have existed already. Even the so-called Dominican method of praying the Rosary – 150 Hail Marys, with an Our Father at each decade and interposed meditations “showing forth the entire life of Our Lord Jesus Christ” – is not claimed to have originated with St Dominic. It was simply a method he propagated and which was spread by his disciples, thus the bull – as indeed it was, for the practice of reciting 50 or 150 Hail Marys had already become generally familiar before the birth of the saint. The bull does not impose the Dominican Rosary, but mentions its effectiveness and ‘encourages and admonishes’ the faithful to follow, like the saintly pope himself, the example of “our predecessors”, i.e. the preceding popes and holy fathers, by seeking the powerful intercession of the Blessed Virgin in these difficult times for the Church.