Written by Bishop Edward M. Rice
David Carollo, Executive Director of the World Apostolate of Fatima USA, recorded an increase in rosary sales since The Atlantic magazine published an article in August that attempted to link the rosary to violent, right-wing extremism in the United States. After a frenzy of grave concern of what many considered anti-Catholic sentiment, the magazine changed its headline from “How the Rosary Became an Extremist Symbol” to “How Extremist Gun Culture is Trying to Co-Op the Rosary.”
The article said, “These armed radical traditionalists have taken up a spiritual notion that the rosary can be a weapon in the fight against evil and turned it into something dangerously literal.” Well, I don’t know about that. I do know that I’ve been carrying and praying the rosary since seventh grade. Does that make me a threat to others?
The article also shows the ignorance of the author because until the not-too-recent past, rosaries were issued to Catholics in the military. And the imagery of “war” and “battle” are part of the history of the Church. All you have to do is pray the prayer to St. Michael, “St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle …” And maybe not as popular as in days gone by, we do speak of the three divisions of the Church as the Church Triumphant in heaven, the Church Suffering in purgatory, and the Church Militant on earth, i.e., we who are fighting the battle of faith. Have I offended somebody because I used the word “battle?”
I can only assume that this man has never heard of the prayer to St. Michael or the recent tradition of army-issued rosaries. It is also a reality that those of us of a certain age were confirmed with a little tap on the cheek to remind us that we were to be tough in the battle of faith, as we were confirmed “soldiers for Christ.” If the enemy attacks, we counterattack, we always move forward, we never retreat in the battle of faith. Now to be fair, the author recognizes the concept of the “Church Militant in the tradition of regarding the rosary as a weapon against Satan.” The author even refers to a 2020 quote of Pope Francis, “There is no path to holiness … without spiritual combat.”
There is also a recent tradition of rosaries made out of fishing line and sinkers. They are sturdy and long-lasting and will certainly appeal to the outdoor person. I hope all those who like to fish are not extremists! My personal preference is for a simple black rosary that is small enough for me to carry in my pocket. I think of the many times over the years that I have gathered with others to pray the rosary. Sometimes those moments were in a church, sometimes in an outdoor grotto and sometimes in front of an abortion clinic. To say that “battle beads” permit radical – traditional Catholics to demonize others is erroneous. Again, to quote from David Carollo, “We don’t pray against people, we pray for people. That’s what the rosary is all about.”
I do have my favorite quotes on the rosary:
“The rosary is the weapon for these times.” – St. Padre Pio
“Give me an army saying the Rosary and I will conquer the world.” – Pope Pius IX
“The rosary is a powerful weapon.” – St. Josémaria Escriva
“The rosary is a powerful weapon to put the demons to flight and to keep oneself from sin.” – Pope Pius XI
The chapel in O’Reilly Catholic Student Center, on the campus of Missouri State University, Springfield, is dedicated to the Claretian Martyrs. As you enter the chapel, if you turn around and look above you, you will see an artistic rendering of bullet holes, highlighting the execution of the martyrs. During the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) violent religious persecution resulted in the murder of priests, nuns, and Catholic lay leaders throughout Spain. Among them were 51 priests and seminarians that belong to the Claretian Order. The seminarians were in their last years of theological studies, on the road ordination to the priesthood. On July 20, 1936, the seminary was overrun by soldiers and the priests and seminarians were arrested and accused of harboring weapons. Hearing the accusation, the superior of the seminary took the rosary from his pocket and raised it up for all to see saying, “This is the only weapon we have.”
In addition to being Respect Life Month, October is the Month of the Rosary. The Feast of the holy rosary is Oct. 13, marking the sixth apparition of Our Lady of Fatima and the miracle the sun. Most recently, Pope St. John Paul II (whose Optional Memorial we may celebrate Oct. 22), and Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis have all recommended the rosary as a powerful tool. Let’s get out our rosaries and continue to battle.