October is the month of the Most Holy Rosary. Next to my wallet and cell phone, the article I most desire to have on my person is the rosary. Even as I write this article I am reaching in my pocket to touch the beads to give me the assurance that Mother Mary is with me.
Some may think my reliance on the rosary is an adolescent spiritual fixation implying I haven’t matured in my prayer life. However, some of my fondest images of my spiritual heroes (John Paul II, Mother Teresa of Calcutta) are when they have a rosary in their hands. No doubt in my mind about the power of prayer.
I know I am the recipient of a multitude of graces because so many people are praying for me and I am so grateful. It is the rosary which offers that ability to initiate private prayer and devotion no matter where we are or what time of day it is.
The church chooses October as the month of the rosary because Oct. 7 is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. This special title was given by Pius V who attributed the victory of the greatest naval battle in the history of Christendom, the Battle of Lepanto, to Mary.
According to H.W. Crocker III in “Triumph,” “When the smoke cleared, and the timber-wrecked ships sank away, more than 30,000 Turks had perished, compared to 7,500 Catholics, though many were knights and noblemen. Their deaths however freed 12,000 Christian slaves who had been chained as rowers for the Turkish ships. Bad weather, exhaustion and pillaging prevented the Holy League from further pursuit of the devastated Turks. St. Pius V – who had insisted on prayer and holiness as an armor for his Crusaders – attributed the smashing victory to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mother, and Catholic churches rang out praises to God in celebration” (Page 282).
We are privileged to have a church in Kenosha named in honor of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary. On Sunday Oct. 6, the parish and its pastor, Marian Fr. William Hayward, in collaboration with St. Peter Parish, Kenosha, and its pastor, Marian Fr. Ireneusz Chodalowski, held a procession. Together we traveled two miles to Our Lady of the Rosary Parish from St. Peter.
I was honored to carry the eucharistic monstrance as hundreds followed Jesus publicly on the streets. Often along the way I would look back and view this army of believers and realize these are the same Christians, armed with prayer and holiness, witnessing to their belief in Christ and singing praise to his mother in hymns and Hail Marys, who helped create the victory at Lepanto.
Many non-Catholics criticize Catholic devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary claiming Catholics elevate her to a God-like status.
In his book, “Handbook of Catholic Apologetics,” Peter Kreeft writes, “The exaltation of Mary is the exaltation of matter, man, creation, the church and nature. It is the first consequence of the Incarnation and of the ‘incarnational principle’ of grace perfecting nature. These consequences are like concentric circles reaching out like ripples in a pool from the Rock that fell from heaven. The ripples move outward from Christ to Mary; then to Israel (for all Israel comes to a point in her, like a sword), then to the new Israel, the church then to all of mankind; and then to all nature, to matter as such, to the whole creation, which God filled with his own life and which the Bible tells us is ‘groaning in travail together’ like Mary to bring forth the eschatological Christ, the Second Coming” (Rom 8:18-25) (Page 439).
There are those who claim the repetitious nature of the Hail Mary in the rosary focuses on Mary to the detriment of her Son. John Paul II wrote an apostolic letter, “On the Most Holy Rosary,” in 2002, in which he stated: “One thing is clear: although the repeated Hail Mary is addressed directly to Mary, it is to Jesus that the act of love is ultimately directed with her and through her. The repetition is nourished by the desire to be conformed ever more completely to Christ the true program of the Christian life. St. Paul expressed this project with words of fire: ‘For me to live is Christ and to die is gain’ (Phil 1:21). And again: ‘It is no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me’ (Gal 2:20).
“The rosary helps us to be conformed ever more closely to Christ until we attain true holiness” (26).
My episcopal motto is Life is Christ (Phil 1:21). I know that the incarnational life was given to all of us through the “Yes” uttered by Mary. She is his mother and therefore she is our mother. Pope Francis is consecrating the whole church to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This is to draw us all closer to Jesus through the Heart of Mary who suffered with him for the sake of us all.
“Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be contradicted and you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thought of many hearts may be revealed” (Lk 2:34).
I ask all of you to join me in praying for our archdiocese. If Pope Pius V can achieve a victory against overwhelming odds through the intercession of Mary, Queen of the Rosary, then I know the power of prayer can assist us to resolve our problems, empower our archdiocesan Synod and lead us to lives of holiness. Pray the rosary.