The first Sunday of October offers us two reasons for prayer and reflection: the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary and missionary commitment, to which this month is especially dedicated. The traditional image of Our Lady of the Rosary portrays Mary who with one arm supports the Child Jesus and with the other is offering the rosary beads to St Dominic.
This important iconography shows that the Rosary is a means given by the Virgin to contemplate Jesus and, in meditating on his life, to love him and follow him ever more faithfully. It is this message that Our Lady has also bequeathed to us in her various apparitions.
I am thinking in particular of the apparitions in Fatima. Presenting herself as "Our Lady of the Rosary", she insistently recommended the daily recitation of the Rosary to the three little shepherd children, Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco, in order to obtain the end of the war. Let us also accept the Virgin's motherly request, pledging to recite the Rosary with faith for peace in families, nations and throughout the world.
We know, however, that true peace spreads wherever people and institutions are open to the Gospel. The month of October helps us to remember this fundamental truth by means of a special animation that endeavours to keep the missionary desire alive in every community and to support the work of all those who work on the front lines of the Church's mission - priests, men and women religious and lay people.
The Gospel proclamation remains the first service that the Church owes to humanity in order to offer Christ's salvation to the people of our time, in so many ways humiliated and oppressed, and to give a Christian orientation to the cultural, social and ethical changes that are taking place in the world.
Let us entrust all men and women missionaries to the intercession of the numerous Missionary Saints and Blesseds, and in particular to the motherly protection of the Queen of the Holy Rosary. May Mary help to remind us that all Christians are called to be heralds of the Gospel with their words and with their lives.
From Pope Benedict XVI's Angelus Message in St Peter's Square, on Sunday, 7 October 2007.