The April 14, 2022, edition of The Atlantic referred to the rosary as a symbol of extremism, comparing it to the AR-15 rifle. To quote directly from the article, “Just as the AR-15 rifle has become a sacred object for Christian nationalists in general, the rosary has acquired a militaristic meaning for radical Catholics.” The author goes on to say, “Rosary beads have been woven into conspiratorial politics and absolutist gun culture. These armed radical traditionalists have taken up a spiritual notion that the rosary can be a weapon in the fight against evil and have turned it into something dangerously lethal.”
The author of this article unknowingly stated a truth: the rosary can be a weapon in the fight against evil, but it is not “dangerously lethal,” except in the spiritual realm. Padre Pio said, “Love the Madonna and pray the rosary, for her rosary is the weapon against the evils of the world today.” He went on to say, “The rosary is the weapon for these times.” Pope Pius IX said, “Give me an army saying the rosary and I will conquer the world.” Saint Jose Maria Escriva said, “The holy rosary is a powerful weapon. Use it with confidence, and you’ll be amazed at the results.”
The fact that this man would write an article criticizing the rosary as a weapon similar to an assault rifle shows total ignorance of the topic. To his point, we certainly do not want the rosary to be associated with violence. The rosary is just the opposite: it is a weapon for peace.
As an example of encouraging people to rise up and become Church Militants, the author of the article goes on to slam pious phrases like “Deus Vult” (“God wills it”). What would the author say about Our Lady’s response to the Angel Gabriel, “Let it be done unto me?” Does that imply some sort of insurrection as well?
We are the Church Militant, fighting the good fight of faith. That’s not a new image: it comes from St. Paul who said in 1 Timothy 6: 12, “Fight the good fight of faith.” The Church on earth is referred to as the Church Militant; as the Church in heaven is referred to as the Church Triumphant; and the Church Suffering references purgatory. These are older terms, but still valid. Our Lord Himself used military references, especially about going to battle.
I’ve shared many times and all of you who are my age and older remember being confirmed as a “soldier for Christ,” in His army. The motto of Cardinal Ritter, who served as Archbishop of St. Louis from 1946 to 1967, was “Miles Christi Sum (“I am a soldier of Christ”). This imagery is nothing new, it is not radical, nor is it extreme. It is used in a spiritual sense of fighting the battle of faith while immersed in the world.
The author even takes a swipe at the Swiss Guard, when in 2016, it accepted a donation of what is called “combat rosaries,” having the head of the Swiss Guard say that the rosary is “the most powerful weapon that exists on the market.” I guess the author does not know that in the past, the United States government commissioned and issued—upon request—rosaries to soldiers serving in the first World War and WWII. Finally, the article criticized the Swiss Guard for wearing uniforms. That is like criticizing our own military for wearing fatigues. It’s what they wear!
Of course, one of the main reasons the rosary is criticized is because of the Catholic Church’s opposition to abortion. The rosary is often prayed in front of abortion clinics, and as citizens of this country, we are free to do so. That is why abortionists will often carry signs that read, “Keep your rosaries off our ovaries.” The battle continues! Am I being too sensitive? Should I lighten up a bit?
A Jan. 23, 2023, article in The New York Post cited nearly 300 attacks on US Catholic churches since May of 2020: 118 of which occurred since May of 2022, when the Supreme Court Dobbs decision was leaked to the public. These attacks rarely get any coverage in the media. Churches have been vandalized, statues destroyed, front doors of churches spray-painted with vulgarities, tabernacles destroyed, and the Blessed Sacrament desecrated. The FBI and various branches of the judicial system have been slow to investigate these acts. Along with attacking churches, some 60 pregnancy resource centers have been firebombed. Why would people destroy a pregnancy resource center? Is it because these women have chosen life? Or do people really not know what a pregnancy resource center is? If the pro-choice side is truly “pro-choice,” then shouldn’t they support the woman who chooses to have her child? But they don’t. Their “pro-choice” position is a lie and one of manipulation. They are pro-abortion, make no mistake. To add insult to injury, the Justice Department has recommended no jail time for an abortion activist that recently painted obscenities and destroyed property at Saint Louise Catholic Church, Bellevue, WA. The local police said it was an anti-Catholic hate crime, but the Department of Justice put forward a plea agreement—three years probation and no jail time!
It seems as if even the FBI is against us. A recently-leaked FBI memo has targeted Catholics with surveillance which would violate First Amendment rights. Their concern for “radical traditionalist Catholics,” puts Catholics in the company with violent nationalists and supremacists. It seems that if you are pro-life, you now belong to a group that holds a violent extremist position. Even worse, if you carry a rosary! And of course, the ultimate extremist, radicalistic view is to respect life and traditional marriage. Are we extremists for protecting the sanctity of human life or is the abortion movement violent for killing the unborn child? It seems that the FBI is backtracking on its position for now, but what was their motive? They wanted to investigate those who seemed to be dangerous because of how they pray and their fidelity to certain traditional views on sex and marriage? The House Judiciary Chair, Jim Jordan, issued subpoenas to the FBI on April 10, demanding information about the agency’s targeting of Catholic churches. We’ll see where it goes. So far, it has gone nowhere!
Now for the craziest of all issues— Are you ready for this? On May 3—as I write this, just last week—the Saint Francis Health System, a Catholic hospital in Oklahoma, was told by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), that they must extinguish the tabernacle candle in their hospital chapels or lose accreditation. Saint Francis Health System has five hospitals in eastern Oklahoma, treating almost 400,000 patients per year and has provided over $650 million in free medical care over the last five years. The candle, encased in a thick glass globe, within another glass globe, covered by a bronze top, symbolizes the sacramental presence of Christ in the Chapel tabernacle. It has been burning in that Chapel for 15 years. At their main hospital campus, Yale, the largest hospital in the state of Oklahoma, a candle has been burning for 63 years, reminding all who come to the Chapel that Christ is present in the tabernacle, and upon extension, in the hospital. On Fri., May 5, the First Friday of the month, dedicated to the Sacred Heart, HHS backed down and the hospital is now free to keep the sanctuary candle lit! Yes, this is the same HHS that the Little Sisters of the Poor had to sue over the contraceptive mandate. They are certainly not faith-friendly, and I dare say that the HHS is outright hostile to the Catholic Church.
More and more, faithful Catholics will be closed to various positions in government, politics, universities, civil leadership, and health care. Am I beginning to sound paranoid or extreme? Remember the Connecticut school administrator that said he would not hire Catholics or conservatives? This, along with the recent memo-leak from the FBI, coupled with attacks on churches and pregnancy care centers, and even attacks on the rosary itself, when put all together, makes for a perfect storm of outright prejudice against Catholics. Anti-Catholic bigotry is alive and well in our country. It doesn’t get the same press coverage as other current social issues, but it is there: Let’s not forget it.
I remember celebrating a Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock, Ireland. The presiding priest was as old as St. Patrick himself. He looked as if he had one foot in the grave. But when he came up to preach the homily, he was emboldened by the Holy Spirit. He reminded the people of the days of British occupation. He told of how, in his own little village, the British took over the church as a stable for their horses. He posed the question, “What has always seen us through persecutions?” His answer was precious: devotion to Our Lady and the Eucharist. So, let me be clear that this is the best time to be Catholic! Let there be no doubt that we are in a battle. Let there be no doubt that we have the necessary weapons to fight the battle: We have nothing to fear because we have the rosary and the Eucharist. Let us not be afraid!
Published in the May 12, 2023 issue of The Mirror.