October 2, 2009


Pray the rosary daily

October is observed as the month of the rosary, and Oct. 7 is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

The rosary has been part of Catholic devotions for centuries, but fewer Catholics seem to be praying it these days. We encourage our readers to pray the rosary daily.

We have examples of many of our Church’s leaders during the century just past. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta was photographed frequently with a rosary. Pope John Paul II, who learned to pray the rosary as a young boy, continued the practice throughout his life. He gave rosaries to those he received in private audiences.

Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago was one of numerous Catholics who give the first hour of each day to prayer. Writing about that practice in his book The Gift of Peace, which he completed on Nov. 1, 1996, 13 days before his death, he said that he began with the Liturgy of the Hours.

Then, he wrote, “I also pray the rosary because it brings into vivid images some of the high points in the Lord’s life and ministry as well as that of his Blessed Mother. It’s a real help. Some people think it may be repetitious, and in a sense it is. But it keeps you focused on the mysteries of the Lord.”

Nobody was more associated with the rosary during the last 100 years than Holy Cross Father Patrick Peyton, known as “the rosary priest.”

He encouraged families to say the rosary together each evening. Thousands of families did. He conducted “rosary crusades” throughout the world. By the time he died on June 3, 1992, he had conducted rosary crusades in 40 countries, attracting 28 million people. Perhaps we need another Father Peyton to revive that practice.

Another Holy Cross priest was instrumental in helping Father Peyton get the family rosary started.

Father Theodore M. Hesburgh was still a seminarian in 1942 when just-ordained Father Peyton showed him a letter he had composed to Bishop Edwin O’Hara of Kansas City, who had recently spoken to the seminarians about the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine that he had helped establish. Father Peyton asked Father Hesburgh to edit the letter and type it for him, which he did. The letter asked the bishop to approve and promote Father Peyton’s idea for the family rosary. Bishop O’Hara replied enthusiastically, and that was the beginning of what became a worldwide crusade.

Father Hesburgh, former president of the University of Notre Dame, has always had a great devotion to the rosary. Now 92 and nearly blind from macular degeneration, he told this writer a few years ago that he could no longer see well enough to pray the breviary. Therefore, he said, he now says three rosaries each day.

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen was another prominent Church leader who helped Father Peyton get his family rosary crusade started. At the time, he was still Msgr. Sheen, a speaker on the “Catholic Hour” radio program. He told Father Peyton that he would announce on the program that he would send copies of the pamphlet, “The Story of the Family Rosary,” and rosary beads to any listener who wrote in. There were 50,000 requests.

Archbishop Sheen, known for his devotion to the Blessed Virgin, said that he hoped to die on one of her feast days. He almost got his wish. He died on Dec. 9, 1979, the day after the feast of the Immaculate Conception, in his chapel before the Blessed Sacrament, a rosary in his hand.

Criterion reporter Sean Gallagher wrote in our April 24 issue about one of Archbishop Sheen’s rosaries. He gave it to Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara, his friend for more than 20 years, who would become Archbishop of Indianapolis.

Archbishop O’Meara gave the rosary to Msgr. Mark Svarczkopf, pastor of Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish in Greenwood, when the archbishop was on his deathbed. In turn, Msgr. Svarczkopf gave the rosary to then-Msgr. Timothy Dolan when Msgr. Dolan was chosen to become an auxiliary bishop in St. Louis. Archbishop Dolan is now the archbishop of New York. At his installation at St. Patrick’s Cathedral (where Archbishop Sheen is buried), he said to Msgr. Svarczkopf, “Mark, I prayed your rosary this morning.”

We all should pray the rosary daily.

—John F. Fink

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