Rosary Sunday in Phoenix is over and I'm savoring the memories. It was a moving experience of the Church in all its richness and diversity.
I arrived at the Phoenix convention center around noon, in time to set up a table in the lobby with Apostleship of Prayer materials. Several local members staffed the table throughout the event and answered questions. Once they were in place, I went to a room where the Sacrament of Reconciliation was being celebrated. It was a good way for me to prepare for my talk, getting my mind off the talk itself and celebrating the mercy of God.
The procession into the hall where six thousand people were gathered was quite long and I took my place on the stage with the other speaker, Fr. Juan Diego Brunetta, a Dominican priest who is the director of the Catholic Information Service at the Knights of Columbus headquarters in New Haven, CT. Bishop Olmstead and his new auxiliary, Bishop Nevares, stood on the main floor and blessed the various groups from around the diocese that came forward to present roses to Our Lady. There were representatives of parishes and prayer groups, members of the Schoenstatt movement, the Legion of Mary, and Third Order Carmelites. For me the most interesting group were the Matachines who pounded out a rhythm on drums while dancers in native dress danced for Our Lady. Earlier they had led the Missionary Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on her pilgrimage that began at a nearby church, went through the downtown streets of Phoenix, and ended at the convention center.
The Men's Honor Choir of the local Jesuit high school, Brophy College Preparatory, sang before the procession and at different intervals throughout the program.
The youth contingent of the Knights of Columbus, the Squires, presented a Silver Rose to our Blessed Mother. The Rose had made its way from Ontario, Canada to Phoenix on its way to Monterey, Mexico--all part of an event that has been going on since 1960 called "The Running of the Rose."
Both Bishops said a few words and then I spoke about the how Mary has from the beginning come to the help of her children. With His dying breath, Jesus gave His mother to his closest and most loyal friend, John, and in doing so the Church hears Jesus giving her to us as well: "Behold your mother." Thus she has always prayed with us and for us, beginning after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus when Mary prayed with the apostles in the Upper Room where Jesus gave us the Eucharist. In the first novena in history, they prayed for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit who came at Pentecost.
Throughout history Mary has continued to be the Help of Christians. In 1215 she appeared to St. Dominic and gave him the Rosary, the weapon with which the Abigensian heresy was defeated. Three hundred years later she appeared to a recently baptised Christian in Mexico and told him of her special love and protection. Through this one small individual, St. Juan Diego, millions were converted and the culture of death with its human sacrifice was ended. Forty years later, when the Turkish navy and pirates prevented Christians from going to the Holy Land, kidnapped and enslaved them, and threatened Europe with an invasion of Venice, the Pope asked for help. He called on Christians to gather to meet the threat and he asked that the Rosary be prayed for this intention. The result was the Battle of Lepanto on October 7, on which date we now celebrate Our Lady of the Rosary. One hundred years later when Vienna was threatened by a different Turkish force, King Jonn Sobieski of Poland gathered troops to come to its rescue. After consecrating himself and his army to Mary, he won a resounding victory against overwhelming odds on September 11, 1683. In 1808 Pope Pius VII was arrested by Napolean and taken to France in chains where he was imprisoned for five years. Somehow he smuggled a letter out of prison and asked the Church to pray to the Blessed Mother under her title, Mary Help of Christians. He was eventually released and returned to Rome on May 24 which became the date of Mary's feast under this title. St. John Bosco was very devoted to Mary Help of Christians and in a dream he had on May 14, 1862 he saw the Church as a ship guided by the Pope which was being attacked on all sides. It sailed safely through two pillars, one of which held the Blessed Sacrament and the other an image of Mary Help of Christians.
Lastly, I talked about Fatima and its connection with the Apostleship of Prayer, something I've written about in other blog entries. The words of Pope Benedict who, when he was the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote about the mystery of Fatima and the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II, ring as true today as ever: "There is no immutable destiny. Faith and prayer are forces which can influence history and in the end prayer is more powerful than bullets and faith more powerful than armies."
I ended by calling on everyone to join in faith and prayer this afternoon. Faith in Jesus' Eucharistic Presence soon to be with us. Faith in His and our Mother's love. Prayer using the the chain of love that binds us to her. Prayer using the weapon that our Mother gave us to defeat evils in every time and place. Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe! Viva Maria Auxiliadora!
After Fr. Juan Diego spoke about the Rosary, its importance, and how to pray it well, the Blessed Sacrament was brought into the hall. We prayed the Rosary with the students, staff, and chaplains of various Catholic high schools in the diocese leading the decades. After benediction the Blessed Sacrament was processed out and all of us on the stage also processed out to the words of the song, Hail Holy Queen Enthroned Above.
I was privileged to be part of the 35th annual Rosary Sunday in Phoenix and I hope to post some pictures from it in the future. I'll close with the words with which I began my talk, trying to say a few things in Spanish. Que lindo! Y todo para la Madre de Dios y nuestra Madre. How beautiful! And all for the Mother of God and our Mother.