Each year on May 6 about two-dozen Swiss Guards are sworn into service, pledging to protect and defend the Pope at all costs. This year the Commander of the Swiss Guards, Col. Christoph Graf, highlighted the importance of the Rosary to the new recruits, holding aloft a “combat rosary” that was donated to them by Father Richard Heilman, priest of the Diocese of Madison, Wisc.

Col. Graf referred to the Rosary in his speech, saying:

At the right time, at the beginning of the year, a generous donor has surprised us with a gift. He sent the Swiss guard the most powerful weapon that exists on the market: the ‘Combat Rosary’, Literally, the rosary for the fight. Now it was given in allocation to all the guards. It is important that we find the path of prayer, especially the prayer of the Rosary. Our life, our works and our actions are in the hands of God. However, this does not mean that we can give up to arms and to exercises. God uses us as instruments to ward off evil in some situations. This is why we need a faith, faith in God and prayer.

What is unique about this rosary is that it is a replica of a rosary commissioned by the U.S. Government for the soldiers during World War I. They were called “service rosaries” and were manufactured 100 years ago in 1916. Father Heilman discovered this rosary a few years ago and with the help of a manufacturing company, developed a new version of the rosary aimed to inspire men and women to engage in “spiritual combat.” The rosaries have been extremely popular with men because of their association with the military and their “combat tested” strength. Since the inception of the idea Father Heilman has done what he can to meet the increased demand for the rosary, even creating new colors such as “Gun Metal.”

Recently, Father Heilman was prompted by Father John Zuhlsdorf to send the Swiss Guards this new rosary and sent 150 of them as a personal gift. As it can be seen, they were gladly received and it is hoped they will inspire the men in service to keep themselves in a spirit of prayer, fighting both physical and spiritual enemies of the Pope. 

It is fitting that the new Swiss Guards were given these rosaries in the month of Our Lady, a month dedicated to her motherly protection. Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin also urged the Swiss Guards to honor the Blessed Mother saying, “let us ask by the intercession of Mary Most Holy, of the holy apostles Peter and Paul and the patron saints of the Guard, to be docile instruments of God and to show to the men and women of our world that you are true witnesses of Christ.”

The Swiss Guards are a reminder to us all of the need to be vigilant, not only in the world, but also in the spiritual life. Let us renew our own efforts to pray the Rosary on a regular basis and to fight back the powers of evil that seek to subvert Christian culture.