Phoenix, Ariz., May 20, 2012 (CNA) -
As Manny Yrique prayed before the Blessed Sacrament, his heart was burdened with concerns about the United States and the level of animosity in American discourse.
“I knelt down to pray and I was overwhelmed by the feeling that Our Lord wanted me to pray a rosary,” Yrique said. “I felt Him telling me, ‘Take it to My Mother.’”
He pulled out his rosary beads and as he began to pray, was struck by the realization that the 50 Hail Mary prayers of the rosary could each be offered for one of the 50 United States.
Yrique said he’s always had a strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. He remembers being 8 years old, kneeling with his 6-year-old sister to pray the rosary while their mother was undergoing surgery.
“We didn’t know if our mom was coming back home, so we took out our plastic rosaries, knelt down at the Virgin of Guadalupe statue that was over my mom’s bed and we prayed a rosary,” Yrique said. “It was like, ‘Nothing’s going to happen as long as Mary’s with you.’”
That conviction about the love of the Mother of God is something that Yrique said can partly be explained by his own mother’s unshakeable devotion to her children.
“I believe that a mother has tremendous impact on her family — I saw that in my mother,” Yrique said. “We knew that nothing would happen to us as children as long as Mom was there.”
“I believe the Blessed Virgin Mary is the same way — she’s always been my Mother and I believe she has the ear of God at her command.”
Yrique said he designed the Rosary for the United States of America through prayer, often waking in the middle of the night to compose the intentions. Each of the five decades has a designated intention.
The first three decades are prayed for the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. The fourth decade is dedicated to state and local governments as well as police and fire fighters. The fifth decade is devoted to U.S. military personnel.
The Rosary for the USA is not a political statement, Yrique said. He’s not praying for a particular candidate to win the upcoming election or for any political party’s success. He’s simply praying for the United States — its leaders and populace.
“At the time I started praying for my country, I was really concerned with how divisive we became over the SB 1070 (immigration) issue,” Yrique said. “So when I saw things happening on the news — when I saw people being angry at one another, shouting at one another, I thought, ‘This is not the way I was brought up.’”
Fr. Johnrita Adegboyega, parochial vicar at St. Mary Parish in Chandler, Ariz. said the Virgin Mary is always ready to listen and intercede for her children.
“In the midst of every evil, only prayer can make us safe — only prayer can bring about the truth,” Fr. Adegboyega said. “The Mother of God is there to find solutions to every problem, regardless of the challenges … She is the perfect means to approach the throne of grace through Christ Jesus Our Lord.”
Davonna Serrano, parishioner at St. Mary Magdalene Parish in Gilbert, Ariz. said the Rosary for the USA should be prayed to defend the nation.
“The only way that we have to fight is through prayer — that’s our first and foremost defense in any kind of battle,” Serrano said. “And right now the battle is for the souls of our children and the future of our country.”
Praying the Rosary for the USA, she said, could also help bring people back to the Catholic Church.
“Whether you’re a grandmother or a parent or just a family member, and you’ve lost family from the Church, all you have to do is pray,” Serrano said. “Pray the rosary, pray for the intercession of the saints and pray for the Blessed Mother to open their eyes, and they will return to the faith.”
Yrique said it’s important for the 30 million Catholics in the United States to pray for their leaders, regardless of political persuasion.
“I really believe that it doesn’t matter who we elect if the power of God is not working through our elected officials,” Yrique said. “I’d like people to get off their soapboxes and get on their knees and pray. God will bless America when Americans remember to bless God.”
Yrique has already given away or sold 3,000 of the red, white and blue rosary beads and has ordered another 2,000. Along with the rosary, people can order a prayer booklet or prayer card that lists all the intentions as well as the names of the 50 states.
The booklet also lists other intentions for the rosary, depending on the time of day in which it is prayed. From midnight to 3 a.m. for example, the rosary could be offered for those who work at night, such as truck drivers and railroad workers.
For more information on the USA Rosary, visit http://www.magnalitecatholic.com/usa_rosary.html or call (602) 269-0009
Posted with permission from The Catholic Sun, official newspaper for the Diocese of Phoenix, Ariz.
Denver, Colo., May 20, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - On May 25 the Catholic Church celebrates Pope St. Gregory VII, who sought to reform the Church and secure its freedom against the intrusion of civil rulers during his 11th century pontificate.
Born in the Italian region of Tuscany sometime between 1020 and 1025, the future Pope Gregory VII was originally named Hildebrand. His father Bonzio is thought to have been a carpenter or peasant farmer, while his mother's name is unknown. His uncle Laurentius was abbot of a monastery in Rome.
Sent to the school run by his uncle's monastery, Hildebrand entered a world of discipline and fervent devotion. After his primary education, he entered religious life as a monk. Hildebrand served as chaplain to his mentor John Gratian who had a brief and turbulent reign as Pope Gregory VI.
In 1046 Hildebrand left Rome for Cologne along with Gratian, who was forced to leave Rome and resign from the Papacy. After the former Pope's death in 1047, Hildebrand left for France and spent more than a year in the monastery at Cluny.
During 1049 he made the acquaintance of Bruno of Toul, who would soon become Pope Leo IX. Under his reign, Hildebrand was put in charge of a historic monastery, which he rescued from structural and administrative ruin through a series of reforms.
Hildebrand served Leo IX as an adviser and legate until the Pope's death in 1054. While others considered him a possible successor to Leo, Hildebrand did not wish to be elected, though he continued his work as an influential and respected cardinal during several subsequent pontificates.
In April 1073, Hildebrand was finally elected as Pope Gregory VII. Though he still did not want the office, his electors praised him as “a devout man … mighty in human and divine knowledge, a distinguished lover of equity and justice, a man firm in adversity and temperate in prosperity.”
Overwhelming challenges confronted the new Pope – including scandalous corruption among the clergy, a hardening schism between the churches of Rome and Constantinople, and a struggle against civil rulers who claimed a right to choose the Church's clergy and control its properties.
In March of 1074 Gregory promulgated a sweeping set of reforming decrees. These met with widespread opposition, but the Pope stood his ground. The resulting standoff pitted him against the German Emperor Henry IV, who sought to depose the Pope when threatened with excommunication.
The Pope carried out his threat and declared that the emperor's subjects were no longer bound to obey him as their ruler. The emperor was forced, in 1077, to come before the Pope as a penitent, spending three days waiting in the snow before he was received and given the conditions of his reconciliation.
Though temporarily reconciled, Henry was excommunicated for later attacks, which included supporting a rival Pope and invading Rome. Gregory never gave up his pontificate, but was forced to flee the city in 1084.
“I have loved justice and hated iniquity, therefore I die in exile,” he proclaimed, just before his death in Salerno on May 25, 1085. Remembered as a champion of the Church's freedom against state intrusion, St. Gregory VII was canonized by Benedict XIII in 1728.
Vatican City, May 20, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Ascension of Jesus should remind Christians of the promise of Heaven and the power of earthly prayer, Pope Benedict XVI said at the Regina Coeli prayer on Sunday.
When he ascended into heaven, Jesus “did not separate himself from our condition, in fact, in his humanity, he took mankind with him in the intimacy of the Father, and so has revealed the final destination of our earthly pilgrimage,” the Pope told pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square on May 20.
“Just as he came down from heaven for us, and for us suffered and died on the cross, so for us he rose again and ascended to God, who therefore is no longer distant, but ‘Our God,’ ‘Our Father.’”
The Pope spoke to several thousand people who gathered to hear his midday Sunday address, followed by recitation of the Regina Coeli prayer.
He noted that in many countries the feast of the Ascension – which occurs 40 days after the Resurrection – is celebrated today, rather than on Thursday.
“The Ascension of Our Lord marks the fulfillment of salvation which began with the Incarnation,” the Pope explained. It is “the ultimate act of our deliverance from the yoke of sin.”
“Not only is the immortality of the soul proclaimed, but also that of the flesh,” he said, quoting Pope St. Leo the Great. “Today, in fact, not only are we confirmed possessors of paradise, but in Christ we also penetrated the heights of heaven.”
The Ascension also tells us that when we pray, “our humanity is brought to the heights of God, so every time we pray, the earth joins with Heaven.”
“And like burning incense, its fragrant smoke reaches on high,” the Pope said of prayer, adding that “when we raise our fervent and trusting prayer in Christ to the Lord, it crosses the heavens and reaches the Throne of God, it is heard by Him and answered.
“Let us beseech the Virgin Mary to help us contemplate the heavenly things, which the Lord promises us, and become more credible witnesses of divine life.”
After the Marian prayer, Pope Benedict issued a series of greetings and appeals.
The Pope asked people to pray for the Church in China, “that they may announce with humility and joy the Risen Christ, be faithful to his Church and the Successor of Peter and live their daily life in a manner consistent with the faith we profess.”
Also on the pontiff’s mind was a bomb attack that hit at a high school in the southern Italian town of Brindisi on Saturday. The blast seriously injured several students and took the life of a 16-year-old girl named Melissa. Pope Benedict described the attack as “cowardly” and asked everyone to pray for the victims of the “brutal violence,” especially for Melissa and her family.
Finally, he offered his “affectionate thoughts” and said he is “spiritually close” to the victims of a 6.0 earthquake that hit northeastern Italy at around 4:00 a.m. on Sunday morning. The quake killed at least four people and caused millions in damage to historic buildings.
Washington D.C., May 20, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Various initiatives are planned throughout the country in response to the U.S. bishops’ call for a “Fortnight for Freedom” June 21-July 4 to encourage prayer, education and public action about religious freedom.
The initiative was created in response to several moves by the Obama administration that are threatening the Church’s religious freedom. The most well-known action is the Health and Human Services mandate that requires employers to cover birth control and other services that Catholics and other believers find morally objectionable.
At Baltimore’s Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Archbishop William E. Lori will offer a special June 21 Mass at 7 p.m. to open the fortnight. June 21 is the vigil Mass for the feast of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More.
The close of the two-week observance will feature a July 4 Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, which will be concelebrated by Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington and Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia. Archbishop Chaput will serve as the homilist at the 12:10 p.m. liturgy.
Bishop Richard Malone of Portland, Maine will celebrate a July 2 Mass at Portland’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
“Religious liberty is not only about our ability to go to Mass on Sunday or to pray the Rosary at home. It is about whether we can continue to make our contribution to the common good of all Americans without violating our deeply-held moral beliefs,” Bishop Malone said. “This issue affects all Americans — it is not a Catholic issue, a Jewish issue, an Orthodox, Mormon, or Muslim issue. It is an American issue.”
In Arlington, Va. Bishop Paul S. Loverde will celebrate a Holy Hour for Religious Freedom at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More on June 21 at 7:30 p.m.
“In many ways, this struggle is more a marathon than a sprint. I ask you to join me and prayerfully embrace this challenge not only as a vital struggle over Catholics’ right to full citizenship in this great country but as a teaching moment for us all,” Bishop Loverde said in a May 2 letter to his diocese’s priests.
Bishop Loverde has encouraged Arlington priests to host talks on religious freedom, educate the faithful on the issues at stake, and urge them to pray a Novena for religious freedom.
Priests should provide a “tangible focal point” for the faithful to learn about religious freedom, he said. He advised a place near the sanctuary entrance where parishioners can obtain prayer cards and educational materials.
“With God’s grace, much good will come of this,” the bishop said.
In the Archdiocese of Denver, archdiocesan administrator Bishop James D. Conley will ask Catholics to fast and pray on each of the fortnight’s two Fridays. Parishes have been invited to hold Holy Hours for religious liberty.
“The most important thing is the invitation to Catholics to pray and fast for religious liberty,” archdiocesan chancellor J.D. Flynn told CNA May 18.
The archdiocese has invited political science professor Robert Kraynak of Colgate University to speak about religious liberty on June 21 and 22.
An essay contest on religious liberty for high school students, with a scholarship as a prize, is also in the works.
Other events in the Denver archdiocese include gatherings for college-age students at St. Thomas Aquinas University Parish in Boulder and Bl. John XXIII Parish in Fort Collins, and an event for Hispanic Catholics at the archdiocese’s Centro Juan Diego.
The Archdiocese of Louisville has encouraged parishes to incorporate a prayer for religious liberty at “liturgically appropriate” times on the weekends of the fortnight. The archdiocese is planning a package of electronic resources for parishes to publish on their websites.
In an April 12 statement, the U.S. bishops’ ad hoc committee for religious liberty called for a “fortnight of freedom” from June 21 to July 4. The period includes a series of feasts of “great martyrs” who faced political oppression.
Their statement was an “urgent summons” to U.S. Catholics, stressing the need for prayer, fasting, and public action for religious freedom.