Deal W. Hudson
October 7, 2008
“I would exhort people to say the rosary every day for life and for the success of the election.” These are the words of Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua, the retired archbishop of Philadelphia. When I spoke to him yesterday, the cardinal emphasized that he neither spoke officially for the archdiocese nor was he endorsing any specific candidate.
“I am speaking as an individual person, an individual cardinal, who believes very strongly in the importance of praying for the good of our Church and our people in this election.” Cardinal Bevilacqua told me it was a mistake, in his opinion, for any priest to endorse a candidate because people will always identify that priest with the Catholic Church. “This I cannot do – we have to respect the separation of Church and state.”
Cardinal Bevilacqua and I spoke on the eve of the Feast of the Holy Rosary. St. Pius V introduced this observance after the defeat of the Turks at the Battle of Lepanto on October 7, 1571. That day in St. Peter’s Square, a rosary procession was held on behalf of the Holy League’s fleet, which was facing Muslim invasion in the Gulf of Patras off the western coast of Greece. The Holy League’s victory saved Europe from subjugation to Muslim power.
As the cardinal puts it, “This feast brings back the power of the rosary and how the Church has strongly advocated its use for any good cause, whether personal, national, or international.” For centuries the rosary has been identified with the military victory at Lepanto, but it has now become identified with the pro-life movement. “Once the rosary was used for Lepanto, today we must emphasize its use for protecting life. Many times when I have marched in groups on abortion clinics, we have prayed the rosary along the way – when people think of life, they should think of the rosary,” he said.
Other Catholic leaders have asked that Catholics pray the rosary daily before the election, which is now less than a month away. Rev. Thomas Euteneuer, president of Human Life International, writes about the rosary as a “spiritual weapon” that “batters the gates of hell.” Rev. Frank Pavone, president of Priests for Life, explained it this way:
The rosary has been a powerful tool for the victory of good throughout the centuries. It has defeated heresies and paved the way for a civilization of love based on the Gospel. This is precisely the struggle that this election represents, and the rosary is precisely the right tool. By praying it, believers can awaken the consciences of voters to realize that everything, including the voting booth, is under God’s dominion.
Cardinal Bevilacqua made the same point: “We can turn the people against abortion and for life by prayer. People have come into the pro-life cause because of the rosary.” He added that the rosary also strengthens those who work to defend life: “Many times people are mocked and abused for taking a position that is not very popular. It requires courage to defend life, and the rosary strengthens those people.”
At the conclusion of his recent pastoral letter, Bishop Joseph Francis Martino of Scranton wrote about the importance of seeking strength from the rosary:
October is traditionally the month of the rosary. Let us pray the rosary for the strength and fortitude to uphold the truths of our faith and the requirements of our law to all who deny them.
And, let us ask Our Lady to bless our nation and the weakest among us. May Mary, the mother of Jesus, the Lord of Life, pray for us.