Bishops of Wichita, Denver call Catholics to turn to Mary in 'time of crisis'

Pope Francis holds a rosary during an audience Aug 7 2019 Credit Daniel Ibanez CNA Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Two bishops have called for rosary crusades in their respective dioceses in the month of August, asking Catholics to pray daily rosaries for the end of the pandemic, for justice and peace, for an end to the desecration of churches, and for multiple other intentions.

"In our current time of crisis, our Church, world and our country need faith in God and the protection and intercession of Mary," Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver said in an August 7 statement. "And so...I am launching a Rosary Crusade to ask Mary to urgently bring our needs to Jesus."

Aquila invited all Catholics in his diocese to pray a daily rosary, beginning on the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, Aug. 15, through the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows on Sept. 15. He asked that they pray for 15 distinct intentions, including for an end to the coronavirus pandemic and all those who have died of the virus, and end to abortion and euthanasia and attacks against life, as well as for peace, justice and an end to discrimination on the basis of race.

"We turn to Mary in our difficulty because she is our spiritual mother, who with her 'yes' to the Lord embraced the mysterious ways of God's almighty power," Aquila noted.

Aquila said the inspiration for his rosary crusade came from Bishop Carl Kemme of Wichita, who in July announced that he was starting a rosary crusade for the month of August in his diocese for similar intentions.

In his message to the Catholics of his diocese, Kemme said that while the pandemic, racial injustice, civil unrest and other upheavals America is experiencing this year may seem like these are "unprecedented times," the Church and her members have experienced similar - and worse - sufferings throughout the ages.

"It has been said that we live in unprecedented times. But do we really?" Kemme wrote. "After all, any amateur student of history and especially Church history can attest that Holy Mother Church has already experienced everything we are living through and even far worse, things like plagues and pandemics, persecutions of Christians, violent attacks against persons for reason of color or other discriminatory traits, the shameless desecration of churches and statues and acts that cause scandal, even by those who are called to serve as leaders of the faith."

While the current situations may bring about feelings of "uncertainty, fear and dismay," he said, "...the Church has been here before. The only difference between then and now is us. We are the ones whom God has chosen and destined to live at this time in history, bringing our faith to bear, as did our predecessors, so that with God's grace and by God's grace alone, we too will triumph and overcome all adversity and grow stronger in faith, hope and love in the process."

Kemme said he invited all Catholics in his diocese to strengthen or rediscover their faith during these times, primarily through the sacraments of reconciliation and Holy Communion.

In addition to a renewed commitment to the sacramental life, Kemme also invited his diocese to a month-long rosary crusade, because "the Rosary has been recommended to the faithful for centuries as a prayer of contemplation, a weapon against evil and a source of divine strength and consolation."

Numerous popes have written about the significance of the rosary as a spiritual weapon in difficult times.

In 2002, St. John Paul II declared a "Year of the Rosary", and wrote of his love for and the merits of this devotion in his apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae.

"The Rosary has accompanied me in moments of joy and in moments of difficulty," John Paul II wrote. "To it I have entrusted any number of concerns; in it I have always found comfort. Twenty-four years ago...I frankly admitted: 'The Rosary is my favourite prayer. A marvellous prayer! Marvellous in its simplicity and its depth...our heart can embrace in the decades of the Rosary all the events that make up the lives of individuals, families, nations, the Church, and all mankind. Our personal concerns and those of our neighbour, especially those who are closest to us, who are dearest to us. Thus the simple prayer of the Rosary marks the rhythm of human life.'"

The rosary is a "compendium of the Gospel," John Paul II noted, as it calls those praying it to contemplate different events and mysteries throughout the life of Christ.

"The Rosary mystically transports us to Mary's side as she is busy watching over the human growth of Christ in the home of Nazareth. This enables her to train us and to mold us with the same care, until Christ is 'fully formed' in us," he wrote.

Leo XIII was pope from 1878 until his death in 1903 and became known as the "Rosary Pope." He wrote a total of 11 encyclicals on the rosary and instituted the tradition of October as the month of the rosary, during which Catholics are encouraged to pray the rosary daily.

"It has always been the habit of Catholics in danger and in troublous times to fly for refuge to Mary, and to seek for peace in her maternal goodness; showing that the Catholic Church has always, and with justice, put all her hope and trust in the Mother of God," Leo XIII wrote in Supremi Apostolatus officio, his 1883 encyclical on devotion of the rosary.

"And truly the Immaculate Virgin, chosen to be the Mother of God and thereby associated with Him in the work of man's salvation, has a favour and power with her Son greater than any human or angelic creature has ever obtained, or ever can gain. And, as it is her greatest pleasure to grant her help and comfort to those who seek her, it cannot be doubted that she would deign, and even be anxious, to receive the aspirations of the universal Church," Leo XIII added. 

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Numerous other saints and popes have recommended Catholics turn to Mary in times of need, Aquila noted, including St. Padre Pio, who once said: "In times of darkness, holding the Rosary is like holding our Blessed Mother's hand."

Kemme noted that while Catholics may feel helpless in the face of numerous current crises,  "we can and must always pray. Prayer is not a passive response to life's challenges, or something we do in the absence of something more productive or beneficial; no prayer in all its many forms is an active engagement, calling upon the powers of heaven to come to our assistance."

"I am praying and hoping that thousands from all over the diocese will choose to participate so that together and through the powerful intercession of Mary, we will emerge from this present darkness with renewed faith and confidence in God."

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