National Catholic Register


Year of the Rosary, 5 Years Later

May 19’s Rosary Bowl in Los Angeles was only the largest event recently promoting the Church’s age-old Marian prayer.



May 20-26, 2007 Issue | Posted 5/15/07 at 10:00 AM


PASADENA, Calif. — Pope John Paul II unleashed a flurry of activity five years ago that hasn’t slowed down.

For example, some 65,000 people were expected to gather at the Rose Bowl May 19 to say the Rosary, long after the Year of the Rosary and its message that Catholics should urgently promote the Rosary.

In 2002, the Holy Father kicked off a year dedicated to praying and promoting the Rosary. The Rosary is a method of praying with beads in which 10 Hail Marys are said while meditating on specific mysteries of Christ’s life — from the Annunciation, in which he was conceived by the Holy Spirit in Mary’s womb, to the Coronation, in which he honors his mother in heaven.

Pope John Paul II called on all Catholics to say the Rosary daily — particularly praying for peace and for the family — and asked for specific projects to urgently promote the prayer. The Pope even added five new mysteries to the traditional prayer in order to increase interest in it — the Luminous Mysteries, which add events from the ministry of Jesus to the original mysteries, which were limited to his infancy, childhood, passion and death.

The new interest in the prayer led to the Rosary Bowl, the largest outdoor celebration of the Rosary in southern California in nearly 50 years. Held at the stadium where the Rose Bowl football game is played every New Year’s Day, it’s one of many efforts under way to promote devotion to the Rosary, signaling a widespread rediscovery of the Church’s age-old prayer.

The event comes just six days after the 90th anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady of the Rosary at Fatima, Portugal. Beth Mahoney, Rosary Bowl co-coordinator, said that the event continues the tradition of Servant of God Father Patrick Peyton, who led Family Rosary Crusades worldwide between the 1940s and 1970s. Known as “The Rosary Priest,” Father Peyton died in 1992, and his canonization is being considered by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

“This Rosary celebration in Mary’s honor will enhance the prayer lives of our families, strengthen family unity and rely on Mary as an intercessor for world peace,” said Auxiliary Bishop Oscar Solis, vicar for ethnic ministries for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the archdiocesan director of the event.

Sponsored by the Easton, Mass.-based Holy Cross Family Ministries and its local member, Family Theater Productions of Hollywood and the archdiocese, among others, the event was to be a three-hour, multi-ethnic Eucharistic celebration combining prayer, music and cultural exhibitions.

The free, event was to begin with praise and worship music, followed by a Eucharistic procession and adoration led by Cardinal Roger Mahony, archbishop of Los Angeles. The religious service was to culminate in a public recitation of the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary in 55 languages.

Actor Eduardo Verastegui and Miss Mexico, Jacky Bracamontes, will offer personal reflections on the mysteries. A homily by Cardinal Mahony and Benediction will conclude proceedings.

Father Wilfred Raymond, co-coordinator of the event, noted that it is the first celebration of its size since the death of Father Peyton in 1992.

“I believe most bishops and Catholic Church leaders in North America will be watching to see how this large event unfolds,” said Father Raymond. “I think all the faithful will be eager to participate in this kind of a large public gathering celebrating the Catholic faith and the power of prayer.”

While organizers expected the majority of attendees would be from California and the western U.S., Mahoney noted that one large group was traveling from the Philippines to participate.

“There have been many Rosary celebrations done on a smaller scale,” she said. “Our hope is that other dioceses will consider doing an event like this.”

Not all celebrations, however, are on such a grand scale. A host of individual efforts nationwide are spawning renewed interest in the Rosary, as well.

One Decade at a Time

Year of the Rosary momentum continues all over the country with new initiatives in Michigan, Georgia, New York and elsewhere.

John Rybski of Commerce Township, Mich., has created a set of four pictorial Rosary DVDs as a way to teach the devotion, and help students raise funds for tuition. Rybski said that the DVD grew out of teaching catechesis.

“I created the DVD to teach fourth graders how to pray the Rosary,” said Rybski. “It includes still images for each bead with soft, meditative music in the background to help eliminate distractions.”

After receiving requests from fellow teachers and others, Rybski decided to use the DVD as part of a tuition assistance program. Through the Rosary Tuition Fund, students of any age can sell the DVDs, at a cost of $25, with 50% of the proceeds going to a student’s tuition, and another 25% going to a seminary or religious order in the diocese where they are sold. Rybski said that he has received requests from as far away as Alabama, Alaska and Florida.

“While kids are out using this to help generate financial support, they are also evangelizing and helping people to pray the Rosary,” said Rybski.

In Sacramento, Jackie Whittle has worked with Diocese of Monterey Bishop Richard Garcia and the Oblates of St. Joseph to record a pro-life Rosary CD that will be available sometime in October, the month of the Rosary. She said the idea originated in the pro-life office in the Diocese of Lafayette, La.

The CD comes with a specially-made Rosary featuring seven different colors for various pro-life intentions, and a prayer card. It bears an imprimatur from Bishop William Weigand of Sacramento.

“The provisional license on it will allow people to dub it in its entirety so that it can be spread around the world,” said Whittle. “They’ll also be able to translate it into other languages.”

Atlanta’s Greg Willits’ Rosary apostolate was born in the confessional. In September 2002, Willits frequented the Sacrament of Reconciliation. While there, he saw the priest sitting with a single-decade knotted nylon twine rosary.

“I thought it was cool, so I tried to find some directions for making one,” explained Willits. “When I finally got it, I couldn’t stop making them and giving them away.”

Thus was born his apostolate, The Rosary Army, which is committed to teaching people how to make nylon twine rosaries and pray with them.

“Our motto is ‘Make Them. Pray Them. Give Them Away,’” said Willits. To date, Greg and his wife Jennifer have given away tens of thousands through their website. In addition, they teach rosary-making classes and have created a DVD on how to make the rosaries.

Because of their apostolic work, they started hosting an audio podcast (of the same name) and a popular video podcast called “That Catholic Show.”

High school art teacher Robert Renaud of Carthage, N.Y., decided to use his talent as an artist as a way to promote the Rosary. Although he had never heard of Father Peyton, five years ago he created a celebration at his parish, St. James, that shares its name with Father Peyton’s — the Family Rosary Crusade.

Usually on the third Friday in May, the celebration begins with Mass, followed by seven hours praying three complete Rosaries, one hour for each of Mary’s Seven Sorrows, as well as a special intention, such as for life, marriage or vocations.

As an incentive, Renaud creates a painting each year that exemplifies a theme for the evening. For those who attend the celebration and commit to praying for at least three hours, in honor of Christ’s suffering on the cross, Renaud gives prints of his artwork. This year’s theme is “Embrace Thy Holy Cross.”

Over the past couple of years, Renaud estimated that of the hundreds of people who have attended, between 45 and 50 have remained for at least three hours.

Last year, Renaud contacted 15 different monasteries and convents, asking them to join the group “in spirit” to pray. This year he contacted 40, including monasteries and convents in Australia, Korea, New Zealand, and England.

Why the Interest?

The Year of the Rosary re-introduced many people to a devotion that they may have forgotten. Once remembered, it’s a hard habit to break.

“With my ministry I travel around the U.S. and what I’m seeing is more individuals and more young people praying the Rosary,” said Mahoney. “It’s not just a matter of young people wearing it around their neck or putting it on their rear view mirror. I see more people praying it.”

She credits Pope John Paul II for the new interest.

“Pope John Paul II stated that the Rosary was a significant prayer in his own life,” said Mahoney. “One of the quotes from his apostolic letter on the Rosary talked about how effective this prayer has been in bringing families together.”

Mahoney said the Rosary gives people the opportunity to reflect on their own lives as they contemplate Christ’s life.

“We believe that the mysteries of the Rosary — the joys, sorrows and celebrations — are the mysteries of our own lives as well,” said Mahoney. “The Luminous Mysteries allow people an opportunity to look at reconciliation and healing.”

Renaud has seen the increased interest as well.

“In the last two years, our crusade has been growing like wildfire,” said Renaud. “We’re receiving inquiries from others wanting to start their own. It’s spreading and growing.”

“The rosary is the chain that will bind Satan,” added Renaud. “How beautiful that something so simple will take down the pride of Satan.”

Tim Drake is based in

Saint Joseph, Minnesota.