Catholics are renewing Mary’s Rosary devotion as the Church commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Fatima apparitions.
“Say the Rosary every day to bring peace to the world and the end of the war.”
One hundred years ago at a field in Fatima, Portugal, the Blessed Virgin Mary spoke those words to three shepherd children. One thousand miles away, in the bloodstained fields of France, Europe’s proud empires counted hundreds of thousands of their youth killed and wounded in another battle vainly promised as the way to end the “war to end all wars.”
The great guns of World War I have fallen silent, but these words of Our Lady of the Rosary have endured. In this centenary year of Our Lady’s apparitions at Fatima, as nations continue to teeter toward war and strife, Catholics have been making a stronger effort to spread the devotion of the Rosary as a powerful way for men and women to draw close to Jesus Christ and convert the world.
“The message of Fatima is more relevant today than in 1917,” David Carollo, executive director of the World Apostolate of Fatima, also known as the “Blue Army,” told the Register. While the world no longer faces the prospect of Soviet communism, Carollo said many nations throughout the world are succumbing to spiritual annihilation through atheistic secularism.
The Blue Army has many different activities worldwide in 2017 to spread the Rosary devotion and awareness of Our Lady’s message at Fatima — which began on May 13, 1917 — that people turn away from their sins, do penance and draw close to Jesus. It has produced a Fatima documentary as well as a 13-part miniseries with EWTN (the Register’s parent company), called Fatima: Hope for the World, as well as another one-hour documentary with EWTN. (See Fatima-related coverage in “TV Picks” on page B3.)
The Blue Army also has a campaign to bring the Pilgrim Virgin of Fatima statue to 100 dioceses in the U.S. to commemorate the 100 years of Our Lady’s apparition. It intends to extend the campaign into 2018, so all 195 U.S. dioceses and eparchies can participate.
“We want Our Lady to regain her dominion over this country and turn things around,” he said. “That’s really what it is all about.”
‘So Many Blessings’
The America Needs Fatima campaign of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) has also planned 5,000 Rosary rallies for May 13, to commemorate the start of the Marian apparition, and another 20,000 Rosary rallies nationwide for Oct. 14, the day following the 100th anniversary of the “Miracle of the Sun” at Fatima. The organization aims to distribute two million rosaries to commemorate the Fatima events and spread the Marian devotion.
Our Lady of Fatima parish in Lakewood, Colorado, spearheaded a major campaign in May 2015 to invite Catholics to pray one million Rosaries by Oct. 13, 2017, the 100th anniversary of the final Fatima apparition. The campaign has drawn participants from across the nation and around the world and surpassed its goal March 31.
Its “Fatima Centennial” site has a Rosary counter that shows how many Rosaries have been offered as part of the campaign. The new goal is to have two million Rosaries prayed by the October centenary, according to Mary Herzogenrath, the parish’s volunteer coordinator.
“We’re just stunned since we made the campaign,” she told the Register, of the response.
Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila, Herzogenrath added, has greatly supported the parish’s efforts to spread the message of Fatima about the Rosary. The archbishop, she said, obtained permission from the Vatican to declare a “Fatima Pilgrimage Year” and consecrate a holy door at Our Lady of Fatima parish. Pilgrims who visit the parish and enter through the holy door, carved by a local Catholic craftsman, can obtain a special plenary indulgence. The pilgrimage year ends Oct. 29, when the archbishop will close the holy door. Almost 300 groups have come on pilgrimage so far, and as many as 700 groups are already registered to come to the church as pilgrims. “There are so many blessings coming out of this,” Herzogenrath said.
History of the Rosary
The practice of the Rosary in the Catholic Church has had both “ups and downs” over the past 100 years since the Fatima apparitions, according to Father Donald Calloway, a Marian of the Immaculate Conception and author of Champions of the Rosary, a comprehensive history of the devotion from the 12th century to the present day.
“We’re in a good period of the Rosary being promoted and prayed,” he told the Register. The Rosary devotion had suffered in the 1960s and ’70s, he said, but in seminaries today, it is highly common to see young men pray it faithfully.
Father Calloway explained the Rosary is a private devotion that serves as “a supplement” to the higher public prayer prayed by the Church’s members: the Divine Liturgy — the Mass — and the Liturgy of the Hours, such as matins and vespers. “It comes from the liturgy and leads us back to the liturgy,” he said. The Rosary began as a way for Catholics to join themselves spiritually to the monks chanting the Psalms and was known in St. Dominic’s time as “Mary’s Psalter”: The 15 decades of Hail Marys, with each decade separated by an Our Father, represented the 150 Psalms.
All the mysteries of the Rosary, Father Calloway explained, put the New Testament on “a set of beads” and help a person make a spiritual pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where they can contemplate the life of Jesus Christ and how to imitate him.
“What the Rosary does is reconnect us to Our Lord. And it is a sacramental which leads us to a changed way of life,” he said.
One of his favorite examples of the Rosary’s power to produce real change of heart is Blessed Bartolo Longo (1841-1926), a fallen-away Catholic who became a Satanic priest before he came back to the Church.
Blessed Bartolo later founded a pontifical basilica dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary in Pompeii and was dubbed the “Apostle of the Rosary” by St. John Paul II.
A Heavenly Peace Plan
The 2017 Fatima centenary shares some historical parallels with 1917 that underline the renewed urgency of Our Lady of the Rosary’s message at Fatima.
When Our Lady appeared to Blesseds Jacinta and Francisco Marto and their cousin Servant of God Lucia dos Santos, it took place on the eighth day of Benedict XV’s novena to Our Lady, Queen of Peace, after the Holy Father’s pleas for conversion, reconciliation and peace were rejected by the world.
Pope Francis, who daily practices the 15-decade Rosary and calls it “the prayer of simple people and saints,” has declared repeatedly World War III is being fought “piecemeal” with conflicts all over the globe, particularly in the Middle East. The Fatima centenary follows the Jubilee Year of Mercy, in which the Holy Father also proclaimed an “invitation to conversion.”
Carollo expected that Pope Francis’ canonization of Blesseds Jacinta and Francisco in May would spur renewed attention to the Blessed Mother’s call for conversion and penitence through the Rosary as the path to peace.
But he pointed out the Church in the past has been slow to embrace Our Lady’s message: World War I was followed by World War II, and Russia spread atheistic communism all over the globe, making it necessary for St. John Paul II to consecrate the entire world to the Immaculate Heart in 1984.
But Carollo said he has no doubt that the Rosary has helped prevent “worse things from happening.”
Five years after St. John Paul II’s consecration of the world, the Soviet Union fell. Carollo said the world needs to embrace Our Lady’s “peace plan from heaven.”
“When enough people truly understand it, we’ll attain that era of peace that was promised and bring about the triumph of the Immaculate Heart.”
By Peter Jesserer Smith
Peter Jesserer Smith is a Register staff writer.