Town Rejects Rosary as Offensive — and the Prayers That Changed Everything
BY Matthew Archbold
Special to the Register
November 20-December 3, 2011 Issue | Posted 11/14/11 at 7:15 PM
Mike Casey is a praying man. The father of two believes in the power of prayer to change things. But it’s easy to believe in the power of prayer when you see how a little prayer can change so many things.
It all started simply: Casey wanted to pray. As part of the nationwide “America Needs Fatima” movement, he wanted to hold a public Rosary in the small Massachusetts town of Upton. It was to be one of 7,515 public-square Rosaries held across the United States on Oct. 15.
Last year, he and a group of others prayed the Rosary outside the rectory of a local church, but this year, Casey, the owner of a hardwood-floor company, asked the township if he and a group of others could pray the Rosary in the town common. “Part of the Rosary is penance, and praying in public is part of that,” he explained recently.
The town told him they’d consider his request. They also told him not to bother coming to the town meeting. They told him they’d email him their decision. Well, Casey didn’t exactly like the sound of that, so he went anyway. And he couldn’t believe what happened.
“When my agenda item came up, all three of them unanimously denied my request,” he said. “They said they didn’t want to offend anyone in the town.”
Casey was shocked. He wasn’t asked to speak. He was denied, and he left.
The selectmen were reportedly “uncomfortable” with the idea of public prayer.
Casey knew there was something wrong with their decision. But he wasn’t going to fight it. He didn’t want a battle. He didn’t want a media circus. He didn’t want lawyers. He wanted to pray the Rosary. That’s all. But now, looking back, he thinks that Jesus wanted something more.
So he scrambled around and received permission to hold the Rosary at the entrance of their new church. And he was just happy that he was able to pray the Rosary that night along with thousands of others nationwide.
But one of Casey’s friends told him that the town shouldn’t have denied his request. He told him he had constitutional rights. A friend of his, Rita, even sent a letter to the local Town Crier, which boasts on its website of being “distributed biweekly to all 5,700 addresses in Mendon and Upton.” The paper also explains that there are a number of out-of-town subscribers as well.
Al Holman, the publisher, read the letter and was moved enough to write an editorial, saying:
The response from the selectmen was a simple “No,” and the reason was given that they did not want to offend any taxpayers. I have read both the state Constitution and the Constitution of the United States and have yet to find where the right to assemble and free speech can be stopped by the possibility of offending taxpayers. The common is a public place and is owned by all the taxpayers and, therefore, is open to the public to assemble on. It should be noted that Upton has no bylaw that requires a permit for public demonstrations or marches, and saying the Rosary would not seem, to me, an action that would incite a riot.
Well, it would seem that one of those out-of-town subscribers the paper boasts of is the Boston Herald. Reporter Jessica Heslam read Holman’s piece and decided to write a story.
She called Casey, who told me he wasn’t sure if he even wanted to talk to a reporter. So he prayed on it. “I didn’t know what they would do with it,” he worried. “I thought maybe they’d write something negative.”
But after praying on it, he decided to do what he always does: He just told the truth. He said that if the newspaper wanted to do something negative with that, that was on them.
So he spoke with Heslam and told her that he believed the town wasn’t within its rights to reject the public Rosary. He told her everything that happened, including about his friend Rita writing the letter and every detail he could think of. It’s easy to remember details when you believe every word you’re saying. He even posed for a picture with his rosary.
And to everyone’s surprise, it was that picture that ran on the front page of the Boston Herald — with the caption “Let Us Pray.”
Casey didn’t know he was on the front page until his phone started ringing, and friends began texting him about it. And then the local radio stations began calling.
What did he do? He went to work.
On his way in, he had to pull over on the side of the road to talk to one radio host who called him. All day at work, the requests started coming in: from radio stations and then big television stations like Fox, CNN and CBS. And lawyers even started calling with offers to represent him.
“The calls kept coming in and coming in,” he said. “It was getting bigger and bigger.”
Casey was unsure of what to do. So he did what he always does when he doesn’t know what to do: He prayed on it. “I told Jesus: ‘If you want this to keep going, I will keep it going.’” he said. “‘But if what you needed to be done is done, I won’t.’”
“I didn’t want to push it out of pride,” he explained. “Sometimes people turn something true, honest and good into something rotten and bad because of their pride.”
His prayer for humility was interrupted by a phone call from a lawyer who told him that the town had just told him it changed its mind and that next year he could hold the Rosary on public property.
Casey saw that phone call from the lawyer as Jesus’ answer to him. (I couldn’t help but wonder if this was the first time Jesus had acted through legal counsel.) And then the reporter from the Herald called to say the town would be reversing its decision as well.
It was the Lord at work, said Casey.
“I never lifted a phone. I never called anyone,” he said. “This was the Lord’s work, and justice was done.”
So what did Casey do about all the media requests? He had dinner with his son, who’s heading off overseas with the Navy this month. “We had plans to go out to dinner … so I didn’t call anyone.”
When I called him, he said he was willing to speak with me only because he often read the National Catholic Register and EWTN.com was his homepage on his computer. We talked a lot about faith and prayer. He said he’d be praying to the Virgin Mary and Father Vincent Capodanno (The Grunt Padre), whose cause for canonization is under way, for his son’s safety. We talked about the power of prayer, and he told me about his son; and we laughed about my 9-year-old daughter, who’d recently seen a mouse run right by her in church, and she dropped her rosary as she was leading a decade of the Rosary in front of hundreds of people.
In the end, I told him I’d pray for him, and especially for his son. Casey thanked me. Because he knows that prayers can be very effective.
Matthew Archbold blogs at NCRegister.com.
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