Thursday, May 10, 2018

Australia's Coast to Coast Rosary: For Protection, the Future and its Youth

A photo of the Observatory Point and Lookout in Esperance, Western Australia
Observatory Point and Lookout in Esperance, Western Australia. Photo: Australia's Guide/Observatory Point and Lookout

With May being the "Month of Mary," it seemed only fitting to publish today's post on another national Rosary prayer event: the Coast to Coast Rosary for Australia's Protection, Future and the Youth, given the official title, Oz Rosary #53.

In only a few days time on Sunday, May 13, faithful Catholics throughout Australia will be gathering at the coasts for group recitation of the Rosary, surrounding Australia in prayer to draw upon God's Divine Intervention and Mercy through the intercession of Mary. Those that cannot make it to the coasts will be praying the Rosary within churches, at parks, lookouts and farms. There is even one group from Canberra praying at Black Mountain National Park in Queensland.

This national prayer event is drawing participation from many clergy, religious and laity including: the Legion of Mary in Perth; the Sisters of Mount Schoenstadt in Mulgoa; the Missionary Sisters of Charity in Fortitude Valley; the Sisters of Mercy in Alma and Camperdown; St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Parramatta; Cardinal Gilroy Retirement Village Merrylands; schools and pilgrimage centers; and a long list of parishes that continues to grow each day as Sunday draws near.

One cannot help but sense that we are witnessing the beginnings of a global Rosary movement. What started out in Poland as a national Rosary prayer event in the Fall 2017, was followed by similar national events in Italy, Ireland, and the British Isles. Soon it will be Australia's turn and there is also an American national Rosary event set for October 7, 2018.

Jane Chifley, who heads the Australian effort, has acknowledged the special significance of the origins of this "global movement": Poland, the homeland of St. John Paul II, whose love for Mary permeated his entire life and pontificate and who admitted, scarcely two weeks after his election to the See of Peter, that "The Rosary is my favourite prayer."

As for the selected date of May 13, Mother's Day in Australia—also the first day of the Marian apparitions to the children of Fatima in 1917—Chifley explained that it seemed appropriate since Mary is our Mother. With this national prayer event falling on a Sunday, it fits well into the schedules of many parishes who have planned group recitation of the Rosary and a Consecration Prayer to Mary either before or after Mass.

Part of this national initiative's online effort began a few months ago on November 3, 2017, with the initial Facebook post, which reads, "On Sunday May 13th, 2018 (Fatima Feast Day) let's pray the rosary across Australia for our nation, in 53 locations across the nation for the protection and consecration of our nation to Mary." 

The number "fifty-three" represents the Hail Marys of the Rosary and as of the publishing of this post, there are 211 confirmed locations participating in this national event. Although the vast majority of participants will be praying at the east and west coasts there are many other locations that deserve to be mentioned: Gantheaume Point in the north-west of Western Australia; Lee Point Beach, the northernmost group of participants in the Northern Territory; Sacred Heart Church on Thursday Island, the northernmost point in Queensland; Good Shepherd Parish in Mount Isa, Queensland; and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.

An aerial photo of Thursday Island, in the Torres Strait, Queensland.
Aerial photo of Thursday Island, in the Torres Strait, Queensland. Photo: Island Girl Discovery/More About Me

Also worthy of mention are nine locations in Tasmania: Lulworth Boat Ramp and Weymouth on the northern coast; St. Anne's Catholic Church in Lilydale; Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church and Lagoon Beach in George Town; St. Brigid's Catholic Church in Wynyard; St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Riverside; St. Therese of Lisieux in Moonah; and St. Mary's Catholic Cathedral in Hobart.

The fact that Chifley has chosen to follow in the footsteps of other national Rosary prayer events speaks volumes about her faith in God and trust in Our Lady's intercession, as well as to her understanding that the battle for Australia's protection, future and the youth is primarily a spiritual battle that must be fought with spiritual weapons. And the most effective way to fight the good fight is by group recitation of the Rosary.

Saint Louis De Montfort in his book, The Secret of the Rosary, at the Forty-Sixth Rose: Group Recitation, wrote that not only is the group recitation of the Rosary the method of prayer that the Evil One fears the most, but "...[I]t is far more formidable to the devil than one said privately, because in this public prayer it is an army that is attacking him." (98)

Utilizing the Rosary as a spiritual weapon in times of great need has been a long-held tradition in the Church since its origin when Saint Dominic (Founder of the Order of Preachers) received the Rosary from the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1214, as an efficacious method and powerful means to convert the Albigensians and other sinners.

That long-held tradition was given much attention by Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical Supremi Apostolatus Officio—the first of many documents issued on the importance of the Rosary—on devotion to the Rosary as an efficacious remedy for the many evils afflicting society. In that encyclical's first page Pope Leo XIII wrote, "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." (2) Written in 1883, Pope Leo XIII's encyclical not only encouraged devotion to the Rosary, but spotlighted how important it has been in the history of the Catholic Church when faced with several threats; namely, the violence of heresy, intolerable moral corruption, and aggressive Islamic attacks by the Ottoman Turks.

An aerial photo of Gantheaume Point Lighthouse, Western Australia.
Gantheaume Point Lighthouse, Western Australia. Photo: Trip Advisor Australia/Gantheaume Point Lighthouse

Saint John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, also noted the particular efficacy of the Rosary in most difficult times when Christianity itself was threatened:
The Church has always attributed particular efficacy to this prayer, entrusting to the Rosary, to its choral recitation and to its constant practice, the most difficult problems. At times when Christianity itself seemed under threat, its deliverance was attributed to the power of this prayer, and Our Lady of the Rosary was acclaimed as the one whose intercession brought salvation. (39)
The Rosary is much more than a protective prayer; as a compendium of the Gospel it is a genuine path of contemplation on the life of Jesus and Mary, and the Gospel lessons contained within each mystery. As St. John Paul II put it in the aforementioned apostolic letter the Rosary is, "...[A] prayer of great significance, destined to bring forth a harvest of holiness." (1) A little further on he wrote, "With the Rosary, the Christian people sits at the school of Mary and is led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love. Through the Rosary the faithful receive abundant grace, as though from the very hands of the Mother of the Redeemer." (1)

The Rosary is important for our salvation: the primary goal in life! The Rosary is an opportunity to draw closer to Jesus and Mary; an invitation from Our Mother who loves Her children and wants them to be sanctified and saved. Saint Louis De Montfort in the same aforementioned book lists, in chapter Twenty Seventh Rose: Benefits, how this can be accomplished by those who pray the Rosary: it gradually brings us a perfect knowledge of Jesus Christ; it purifies our souls from sin; it gives us victory over all our enemies; it makes the practice of virtue easy; it sets us on fire with the love of our Lord; it enriches us with graces and merits; it supplies us with what is needed to pay all our debts to God and to our fellowmen; and finally, it obtains all kinds of graces from God. (65)

A photo of St. Mary's Cathedral, Hobart, Tasmania
St. Mary's Cathedral, Hobart, Tasmania. Photo: Martin Pot (Martybugs at en.wikipedia) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], from Wikimedia Commons

As part of the spiritual preparation and protection for this coming Sunday's national prayer event, organizers have encouraged participants to daily recite the St. Michael the Archangel Prayer.

Organizers are also hoping that participants will recite the dedicated Act of Consecration, at the end of their Rosary recitations on Sunday, in an effort to consecrate Australia to Mary! Here is that very prayer to the Patroness of Australia, Our Lady of Help of Christians:
O Mary Help of Christians, Patroness of Australia, Mother of Mercy, Queen of Heaven and earth, refuge of sinners, we consecrate ourselves to your Immaculate Heart.

To you we consecrate our country, our families, our hearts, and souls and all that we have.

And in order that this consecration may be truly effective and lasting, we renew today the promises of our Baptism and Confirmation; and we undertake to live as good Christians - faithful to God, the Church and the Holy Father. We desire to pray the Rosary, partake in the Holy Eucharist, attach special importance to the first Saturday of the month and to work for the conversion of sinners.

Furthermore we promise, O most holy Virgin, that we will zealously spread devotion to you, so that through our consecration to your Immaculate Heart and through your own intercession the coming of the Kingdom of Christ in the world may be hastened.

Participants have also been encouraged to pray to the three patrons of "Oz Rosary #53": St. John Paul II; St. Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio), who recited several Rosaries each day; and to St. Mary MacKillop, the Australian nun who co-founded Australia's first religious order in 1866, the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart. 

Chifley has informed me that participants are also praying to Eileen O'Connor, co-founder of Our Lady's Nurses for the Poor; a saint in waiting whose incorrupt body is in chapel near Coogee Beach, New South Wales, where Chifley will be reciting her Rosary on Sunday.

No spiritual preparation would be complete without fasting; the other "spiritual weapon" that perfectly combines with prayer in the fight against the Evil One and his demons, which Our Lady Queen of Peace in Medjugorje has been encouraging since the early 80's; just one of Her "little stones."

An image of Oz Rosary #53 Facebook post encouraging participants of this national prayer event to fast.
Facebook post encouraging participants to fast in preparation for this national event. Image: Facebook/OZ Rosary #53

Organizers are keenly aware of the importance of fasting and have expressed their hope that participants will fast to fight the good fight. When we fast, we pray better and our fight becomes more efficacious as some demons only respond to fasting! (Mark 9:29)

The organizing effort and spiritual preparations put forth for this national prayer event are certainly in keeping with Australia's Catholic heritage: a nation that was discovered in 1606, by a devout Catholic and Portuguese navigator, Pedro Fernandes de Queirós, who declared Australia as "the Southern Land of the Holy Spirit." In fact, Australia is Latin meaning "the nation in the south" or "the southern land." 

In one of the manuscript records Pedro Fernandes de Queirós' proclamation reads, "In the name of the Most Holy Trinity, the Catholic Church, the Order of St Francis and the Order of Blessed John of God and of the Holy Spirit and of His Majesty ... I take possession of these lands and all the parts thereof, in the name of John of God and all the professed brothers of his Order." Another manuscript record further reveals Pedro Fernandes de Queirós' faith and devotion:
Let the heavens, the earth, the waters with all their creatures and all those here present witness that I, Captain Pedro Fernandez de Quiros, in these hitherto unknown parts, in the name of Jesus Christ, Son of the Eternal Father and of the Virgin Mary, God and true man, hoist this emblem of the Holy Cross on which His person was crucified and whereon He gave His life for the ransom and remedy of all the human race, being present as witnesses all the land and sea-going officers; on this Day of Pentecost, 14th May 1606.
Oz Rosary #53 has the support of many clergy, including the Bishop Emeritus David Cremin, the Irish-born retired bishop of Sydney, who has officially endorsed this national prayer event.

As Sunday, May 13, is rapidly approaching, may Catholics around the world show their support by uniting their Rosary prayers to those faithful Catholics in Australia.


Friday, April 27, 2018

Our Lady of Montserrat

A mountain view of the Benedictine Monastery and basilica at Montserrat, Catalonia, Spain
The Benedictine Monastery at Montserrat, Catalonia, Spain. Photo: Miriadna/Monastery at Montserrat

With today being the Feast of Our Lady of Montserrat, I thought it fitting to publish today's post in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

I first discovered Our Lady of Montserrat many years ago from Michael H. Brown's devotional book, Seven Days With Mary, which some of you may recall from my previous posts on Our Lady of Prompt Succor and Our Lady of Good Counsel. In total, there are seven Marian devotions with the remaining four being: Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, and Our Lady of Saragossa; all of which have been officially recognized and sanctioned by the Church.

Montserrat is an impressive, towering mountain in Catalonia, Spain whose majestic height peaks at 4,055 ft, and at approximately two-thirds of the way up (2,846 ft) is the sanctuary: the Benedictine Abbey of Santa Maria de Montserrat and the basilica where the slender statue (Black Madonna) of Mary is located. Brown describes Montserrat as, "...[O]ne of the world's most holiest and august sanctuaries." (16)

Of the ten pages about Our Lady of Montserrat, Brown dedicated the first five pages—the remaining pages consisted of meditations and prayers—to the sharing of his pilgrimage experience at Montserrat, which also included: a brief historical note on the origin of this devotion; the significance of Mary's apparitions and intercession over the centuries; and the importance of miraculous images and statues in the history of the Church.

Citing the example of the Apostle Luke's painting or carving of Our Lady, Brown went on to note that such images are important ways for Heaven to communicate with humans. Accompanying these images have been special graces, heavenly blessings, and Mary's intercession; the statue at the sanctuary in Montserrat is another example of Heaven's communication with us.

A photo of the basilica and monastery at Montserrat.
The basilica and monastery at Montserrat. Photo: Torero from nl [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

The statue in the basilica at Montserrat is known as "Little Dark Lady of Montserrat" or "La Jerosolimitana" (Native of Jerusalem). It is located in an alcove high above the altar where pilgrims are granted access to it by a narrow stairway, allowing each individual to get close to the statue.

At this majestic setting, Brown shared that the time he spent within the "incredible gold-gilded basilica" was one in which he received tangible graces from a statue that is only three feet tall. Describing the statue as Romanesque in style, with a dark Byzantine look of Mary's face, Brown wrote that being in its presence leaves pilgrims in "reverential awe."

The exact origin of the statue is not known, but what is known is that as far back as 718, the statue was hidden in a cave from Arab invaders, where it remained undiscovered for two centuries. In 890, local boys spotted a strange light coming from the eastern part of the mountain, where upon their investigation they heard the sound of music and canticles. The boys informed a local priest in the village of Monistrol, who did not believe them at first, but upon visiting the location, he too experienced the same light and inexplicable music. The priest informed the local bishop in Manresa who headed for the site together with a procession of villagers.

The statue of the Black Madonna in Montserrat, Catalonia, Spain
The Black Madonna in Montserrat. Photo:
Feel the Planet/Montserrat, Catalonia, Spain
Upon arrival at the entrance of the cave, and after having experienced the canticles, lights, and fragrant aroma, the bishop ordered the entry into the cave where the image was discovered. That discovery prompted the bishop to have it placed in the cathedral in Manresa, but when those carrying the statue could no longer move where the basilica and monastery currently exist, it was understood to be a sign for the sanctuary to be built on that very spot.

Among some of the pilgrims who have gone to Montserrat have been: Jaime 1 (El Conquistador), St. Vincent Ferrer, King Louis IV, and St. Ignatius Loyola, who after his time at the sanctuary divested his cloths, gave them to a poor man, and proceeded to spend time alone in a cave near Manresa where he wrote his well known spiritual exercises.

Accompanying Christopher Columbus' voyage to the New World was one of Montserrat's hermits, and after having reached his destination, Columbus dedicated one of the first churches to the Virgin of Montserrat, where today in the Carribean there is an island that bears the same name.

One of the Benedictine abbots from Montserrat, Giuliano ella Rovere, eventually became pope; "the" pope who hired Michaelangelo. 

Brown quoted the Emperor Carlos V who stated, "A certain divinity which I cannot explain flows from the sanctuary of Montserrat all over the mountain." (18) From his own personal experience Brown wrote, "I cannot more highly recommend a sanctuary than Montserrat. I was truly surprised by the strength of its effect. I was impressed by the atmosphere of holiness way up that unique mountain and what it taught me about praying in solitude." (19)

Meditating and praying with Seven Days With Mary, is essentially a time of Divine Intimacy: a personal retreat where one enjoys a constant feeling of peace and receives an abundance of graces. It is an opportunity to draw closer to Mary, to open ourselves and allow Our Lady, in an ever increasing way, to be our light to Christ and show us the path to Jesus.

This is precisely what Mary's role has been and continues to be: to spiritually prepare Her children for Heaven. To do so, Mary wants to have a personal relationship with each one of us, so as to lead us to have a more personal relationship with Jesus. As Brown points out, Mary has something to give each one of us personally, and he expressed his hope that through Seven Days With Mary, each one of us will receive it. To that end Brown suggests, "Meditate on each major appearance that is reviewed in this book and apply the lessons to your own lives. There are hidden meanings. There are hidden lessons...This is a book of how to apply all that we have learned about Mary to our own personal lives." (vii)

A mountain view of Santa Cova, where the Black Madonna statue was found in Monserrat
Santa Cova in the mountains at Montserrat
where the Black Madonna was found. Photo:
Hello Jetlag/Montserrat Monastery and Mountains:

An Easy Day Trip From Barcelona
Brown recommends meditating and praying for seven consecutive days to receive the maximum benefit. As to which particular devotion to begin and end with, it doesn't matter so long as each day is dedicated to only one devotion.

To aid each individual's effort to meditate upon Mary's role, and walk with Her to find our way through the current darkness, Brown arranged it so that each day includes: meditations, litanies, and other prayers related to the individual devotions; an additional brief meditation, contemplation, and ejaculation; and the suggestion to pray the Rosary, especially the Scriptural Rosary. In the chapter dedicated to Our Lady of Montserrat, Brown also included two consecration prayers. Here is a contemplation that Brown provided from that chapter, which spotlights the richness of this devotional book, "However much the world tempts us, we know that it is a passing place and that if we do good, if we help others—most of all, if we are reverential, if love and serve Christ, and if we are humble, hidden as the Virgin's statue was hidden—we will resurface, as at Montserrat, in glory." (23)

The added benefit of this devotional book is the opportunity to seek the aid of Mary for our families, friends, and others that we care about, our respective countries, and the world as a whole.

We don't need to expend a great deal of energy to recognize how the world is in great need of God's Divine Intervention, for which the Church has historically appealed to Mary's intercession. Pope Leo III in his encyclical Supremi Apostolatus Officio wrote about that appeal to Mary, and how the Rosary is instrumental to remedy the many evils of society: the violence of heresy, intolerable moral corruption, and aggressive Islamic attacks by the Ottoman Turks.

Immorality, materialism, and greed have always existed, but as Brown noted in the Preface, our time is an "unusual and special time," one in which "...[T]he level to which our very institutions have fallen gives great pause and recalls corrupt times like those back during the fall of Rome or during the Middle Ages." (vi)

Today's moral disorder has ushered in a Culture of Death: abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide; contraception; in vitro fertilization; and the desensitization of all threats (including the death penalty in some countries) to the value and inviolability of human life, creating in the process a deep crisis of conscience. We also see the effects of the global sexual revolution: pornography and pornovision; sexually explicit advertising; the LGBTQ agenda; gender mainstreaming; the indoctrination of children and our youth in the education system with sexual immorality, and the list goes on.

But no matter how long that list may be or become, we always have recourse to Mary. From the history of the Catholic Church, we know of Mary's purpose at Her many apparitions: to identify and expose the demonic influence upon people and regions in various parts of the world, to dispel them from both, and lead each individual back to Jesus. 

So numerous are Mary's apparitions—estimated to be in the thousands—in countries like Italy, France, and Spain that today there are literally hundreds of sanctuaries, shrines, monuments, and churches built at those sites in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In a world that seems increasingly evil and indifferent to it, we need to pray (especially the Rosary, the most powerful prayer) to Our Lady that through Her intercession God's Divine Intervention will uproot and remove the moral disorder in our respective countries and restore them to, as St. John Paul II put it, a "Culture of Life."

We should also seek the comfort of Mary's protective mantle, and implore Her to generously dispense an abundance of graces upon us.

Our Lady of Montserrat, pray for us.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Rosary on the Coast For Faith, Life and Peace in the British Isles

An image of the rugged north coast of Scotland near Durness and Cape Wrath.
The rugged north coast of Scotland. Photo: Scotland Info Guide/Durness and Cape Wrath.

On Sunday, April 29, at 3:00pm faithful Catholics in the British Isles will gather at the coast to recite the Rosary as part of a national day of prayer and pilgrimage for faith, life, and peace. This lay initiative, Rosary on the Coast for Faith, Life and Peace in the British Isles, is another national Rosary prayer event that follows in the footsteps of similar events in Poland, Italy, and Ireland. 

In addition to those on the coasts of England, Scotland, and Wales, the Orkney and Shetland Islands, the Isle of Man, the Inner and Outer Hebrides, the Isle of Wight, the Scilly Islands, Lundy Island, the Channel Islands and many other smaller islands, others will gather at cathedrals, churches and shrines inspired by the words of Jesus, "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them." (Matt 18:20) 

The date of Rosary on the Coast is not without its special significance: Sunday, April 29, is not only the fifth Sunday of Easter, but also the Feast of Our Lady of Faith and Saint Catherine of Sienna, both of whom are co-patrons of Europe. As the organizers point out, "This frames our initiative in the wider context of re-Christianising our great continent."

Rosary on the Coast has received support from many bishops and other members of the clergy: Bishop Alan Hopes of the Diocese of East Anglia; Welsh Bishop Tom Burns; Monsignor John Armitage, Rector of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham; Father Jeremy Milne, Vicar Episcopal for Marriage and Families within the Archdiocese of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh; and Bishop Philip Egan of the Diocese of Portsmouth. 

Words of encouragement and support have also come from the Sisters of the Gospel of Life in Glasgow, Scotland who will be actively participating in this national prayer event on the coast, and invite others to join their group.

In a wonderful show of solidarity with fellow Catholics in the British Isles, Kathy Sinnott, who headed the Rosary at the Coast for Life and Faith in Ireland, has also expressed her support and encouragement.

It would be remiss of me not to include the support of Bishop John Keenan from the Diocese of Paisley, Scotland, who first caught my attention back in November 2017, when he expressed his desire that Scotland should follow in the example of Poland, Italy, and Ireland with a national Rosary prayer event.

A screen shot taken from the Rosary on the Coast's Facebook page of Bishop Keenan's daily spiritual preparation post.
Bishop Keenan's daily spiritual preparation Facebook post.
Image: Rosary on the Coast Facebook page.
To help strengthen and ensure the efficaciousness of the Rosary on the Coast, Bishop Keenan initiated a 40 Day Spiritual Preparation—which started on March 19 and will end on April 27—that includes a variety of daily guidelines: recitation of the Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet, Stations of the Cross, and other prayers, Mass attendance, fasting, scriptural reading, sacrifices, and acts of mercy, kindness, and forgiveness. Each day's guidelines are posted on Facebook by Bishop Keenan, which are then shared at the Rosary on the Coast Facebook page. Participants are also permitted to freely choose from other guidelines as prompted by the Holy Spirit. At the end of the forty days, organizers are encouraging everyone to receive Sacrament of Reconciliation or Confession, on April 28, as part of further spiritual preparation for the following day when Catholics will attend Mass in the morning and then gather at the coasts.

Bishop Keenan has also released a YouTube video in support of Rosary on the Coast, referring to it as "a courageous initiative by the lay faithful," and a call for Catholics to get to the coast and pray the Rosary to implore Our Lady's help to "arouse a great renewal of our Christian faith." It is through Our Lady, the bishop stressed, that the "scourge of abortion" will come to an end, and the Blessed Mother will usher in, "a new era of peace for all of our nations."

As more and more people join the Rosary on the Coast, it is Bishop Keenan's hope that the various groups will form a "ring of grace" around the British Isles. To date there are 141 locations and that number is growing with each passing week.

In the aforementioned YouTube video, Bishop Keenan characterized the times as a "...[D]ark and turbulent storm of aggressive secularism that's threatening ever more the dignity of the human person, the sanctity of life, and the joy of authentic relationships." Continuing further on this point he stated, "It wants to outlaw religion from public life and thinks it can solve all the serious problems of the world by ever more draconian political encroaches into ordinary peoples' lives."

With tensions rising and hopes fading, Bishop Keenan emphasized that, "...[T]he world is crying out for new solutions and these will only come from a renewal in the Church, that is strong again in faith. Our gospel can dispel the present confusion and lead us into a welcome era of peace and light."

Drawing from history, the bishop highlighted that God has demonstrated throughout the bible that renewal is "...[L]iterally around the corner when nations confess our sins, ask His forgiveness and mercy, and trust in His supernatural power to make everything new."

After encouraging the faithful to trust in Our Lady's intercession, Bishop Keenan imparted his blessing upon the Rosary on the Coast, "May God bless this important venture and begin the conversion and reconciliation of our isles."

As the organizers of this national prayer event point out on their website's Inspiration page under the subheading, Context of Prayer for a re flourishing of Faith across the British Isles, the Rosary on the Coast is:
...[A]n opportunity to pray for a re-flourishing of faith across the British Isles as a means of preparing for a New Spring Time within the Church, so that we Christians of these lands might spread the Gospel in its fullness in a renewed and joyous way. We hope that Rosary on the Coast will bring from heaven the grace of renewed evangelistic outreach and zeal as we further the work of the New Evangelisation.
Organizers have also included a statement under the subheading, Context of Prayer for the Sanctity of the Human Person, in which they not only spotlight the deplorable Abortion Act—that came into effect in April 27, 1968—that has ushered in a Culture of Death, but they have also identified the deep crisis of conscience in which citizens are, "...[U]nable to fathom and grasp the enormity of this wound to our society."

And following that statement, at the Context of Prayer for Peace in our National life and for peace among Nations subheading, organizers highlighted the troubled times we all live in evidenced by the "incessant litany of bad news" and the great need of hope that can be awakened through prayer.

The response by the organizers speaks volumes about their trust in Our Lady's intercession, as well as to the understanding that the battle for the British Isles is primarily a spiritual battle that must be fought with spiritual weapons. And the most effective way to fight the good fight is by group recitation of the Rosary.

Saint Louis De Montfort in his book, The Secret of the Rosary, at the Forty-Sixth Rose: Group Recitation, stated that not only is the group recitation of the Rosary the method of prayer that the Evil One fears the most, but "...[I]t is far more formidable to the devil than one said privately, because in this public prayer it is an army that is attacking him." (98)

A screen shot of Mgr. John Armitage's message of supprt for the Rosary on the Coast.
Monsignor John Armitage, Rector of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. Image:
Rosary on the Coast/Message of support from Mgr. John Armitage
As Monsignor John Armitage stated in his video message in support of this national day of prayer and pilgrimage, "The Rosary is the most powerful prayer, quite simply because the Rosary is the compendium of the Gospel."
Utilizing the Rosary as a spiritual weapon has been a long-held tradition in the Church since its origin when Saint Dominic (Founder of the Order of Preachers) received the Rosary from Our Blessed Mother in 1214, as an efficacious method and powerful means to convert the Albigensians and other sinners.

The long-held tradition of praying the Rosary in times of great need was given much attention by Pope Leo XIII—who wrote extensively on the subject matter—most notably in his encyclical Supremi Apostolatus Officio, on devotion to the Rosary and its efficaciousness as a remedy for the many evils of society. In that encyclical, the pope stated, "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." (2) Written in 1883, Pope Leo XIII's encyclical not only encouraged devotion to the Rosary, but spotlighted how important it has been in the history of the Catholic Church when faced with several threats; namely, the violence of heresy, intolerable moral corruption, and aggressive Islamic attacks by the Ottoman Turks.

In the British Isles, like so many other parts of the world, a struggle has been under way for decades: the struggle to understand the meaning of the human person. That struggle has been the human dilemma of late modernity; one that drove the philosophical work and pontificate of St. John Paul II, and one that Bishop Keenan has been keen to point out in his message, posted on the Rosary on the Coast website:
Our world is engaged in a fraught struggle over the meaning of the human person. Aggressively secular anthropologies insist that nothing is really true or given in human nature, and the only lasting good for each human person comes about when they can choose everything about their identity from its very source. It brings a radically new meaning to the idea of pro-choice because it seeks to lay hold on the very prerogatives of Creation itself. Against this our Christian anthropology battles on proposing that God, in His loving plan of Creation, has already given us a nature that is best for us, so that our meaning and happiness are integrally linked to discovering, rather than inventing, the truth of who we are, and so entering its path to real dignity, freedom and peace. Since this task is now, in our times, an adventure of evangelisation we need God’s supernatural assistance in grace and mercy, which the laity are beginning to cry out for in initiatives like the Rosary on the Coast, asking the Woman who was content to be the handmaid of God’s plan to be their intercessor and guide.
Group recitation of the Rosary on a national level can draw God's Divine Intervention and Mercy upon a nation; organizers, supporters, and participants of Rosary on the Coast are seeking to do just that.

Writing about this national prayer event, I cannot help but think of Saint John Paul II's Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici, on the vocation and mission of the lay faithful in the Church and in the world in which he stated, "A new state of affairs today both in the Church and in social, economic, political and cultural life, calls with a particular urgency for the action of the lay faithful. If lack of commitment is always unacceptable, the present time renders it even more so. It is not permissible for anyone to remain idle." (3) It was released on December 30, 1988, on the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph; considering the current state of affairs in the Church and in the world, how much more relevant is Christifideles Laici today.

The example of the faithful in the British Isles is a source of inspiration for us all throughout the Universal Catholic Church. Hopefully many will be encouraged to seriously consider embarking on a similar venture, including on this side of the pond, here in Canada, where we are in desperate need of a national Rosary prayer event. 

May Catholics in the British Isles and throughout the world be united in prayer on April 29, at 3:00pm.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Rerum Novarum: Pope Leo XIII's Encyclical on Capital and Labour

A photomontage of Pope Leo XIII and his encyclical "Rerum Novarum"
Pope Leo XIII and the encyclical Rerum Novarum.

Having recently read Pope Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum, it is not surprising that this encyclical has been given much attention over the many decades since its release in 1891. It not only highlights the intelligence and wisdom of Pope Leo XIII, but also illustrates the great effort he put forth to detail and explain the condition of the working classes. In doing so, Pope Leo XIII identified the many issues and problems of late nineteenth century's economic and political life, to which he responded with guidelines and solutions based on the principles of truth and justice as proposed by the Church.

Many know of Pope Leo XIII as the "Rosary Pope"—due to his many writings on devotion to the Rosary and its efficaciousness as a remedy to the evils of the world—or from the fact that the Church received the St. Michael the Archangel prayer through a vision he had after having celebrated Mass. What may not be so well known is the fact that it was during Pope Leo XIII's papacy (1878-1903) that the Church made a transition from Counter-Reformation Catholicism to Evangelical Catholicism.

During his papacy Pope Leo XIII set out to create the conditions for a new Catholic engagement with modern culture in the political, economic, and social life; the launching of the Church's modern social doctrine in Rerum Novarumas its title ("new things") suggests, was part of that engagement with modernity.

Rerum Novarum continues to remain relevant today as a valuable resource to draw from especially in those parts of the world where the condition of the working classes mirrors those during Pope Leo XIII's time: the exploitation of workers who, due to their vulnerability, are subjected to conditions that reflect a lack of respect for the dignity of the human person.

Pope Leo XIII characterized the times he was living in as one of "revolutionary change," where the "elements of conflict" were raging: the vast expansion of industrial pursuits; marvellous discoveries of science; a noticeable change in the relationship between masters and workman; enormous fortunes had accumulated in the hands of a few leaving the masses in utter poverty; increased self reliance; the closer, mutual combination of the working classes; and a prevailing moral degeneracy had taken root in society. (1)

At thirty pages, Pope Leo XIII provided a thorough analysis that included: the realities that brought misery and wretchedness upon the working classes; a lengthy critique of socialism's false solutions; the inviolability of private property to alleviate the condition of the masses; that no practical solution can be found apart from the intervention of religion and the Church; human society can only be healed by a return to Christian life and Christian institutions; the responsibilities of the State; the importance of man's spiritual dimension and how it relates to work; putting God first in any association or organization; and the need to re-establish Christian morals to destroy every evil at its root.

Part of what brought on the "misery and wretchedness" upon the working classes was the fact that workingmen's guilds had been abolished in the previous century with no other protective replacement, and public institutions and laws had discarded religion. Pope Leo XIII noted that as a result working men, who had become isolated and helpless, were in effect "surrendered" to hard-hearted employers. Making matters worse was the greed of unchecked competition, the increase in "rapacious usury," and the hiring of labour controlled by the "hands of comparatively few." The pope referred to such conditions as being slightly better than slavery.

Making the point that socialism was not the answer to society's problems, Pope Leo XIII dedicated several sections (four to fifteen) to dismantling the "solutions" of socialism—which at its core sought to do away with private property as individual possessions would become the common property of all—in which he noted that if ever the "solutions" of socialism were to be implemented, the working man would be the first to suffer. Moreover, he stated that the contentions of socialism are, "...[E]mphatically unjust, for they would rob the lawful possessor, distort the functions of the State, and create utter confusion in the community." (4)

The solutions needed to remedy the "misery and wretchedness" of the working classes—to which the overwhelming majority of people belong—must include the opportunity to own private property. The "inviolability of private property" the pope argued is the first and foremost fundamental principal to alleviate the condition of the masses. From section sixteen until the end of the encyclical, Pope Leo XIII detailed the Church's proposal on how that remedy is to be found.

If there was going to be any practical solution to the problems of his times, Pope Leo XIII made it clear that it can only be achieved through the intervention of religion and the Church:
But We affirm without hesitation that all the striving of men will be vain if they leave out the Church. It is the Church that insists, on the authority of the Gospel, upon those teachings whereby the conflict can be brought to an end, or rendered, at least, far less bitter; the Church uses her efforts not only to enlighten the mind, but to direct by her precepts the life and conduct of each and all; the Church improves and betters the condition of the working man by means of numerous organizations; does her best to enlist the services of all classes in discussing and endeavoring to further in the most practical way, the interests of the working classes; and considers that for this purpose recourse should be had, in due measure and degree, to the intervention of the law and of State authority. (16) 
The pope went on to state that when it came to the need of an intermediary between the rich and the working class, there is none more powerful than the Church to remind each of its duties to the other and of the obligations of justice. (19) Of the many duties of workers, Pope Leo XIII stated: 
Of these duties, the following bind the proletarian and the worker: fully and faithfully to perform the work which has been freely and equitably agreed upon; never to injure the property, nor to outrage the person, of an employer; never to resort to violence in defending their own cause, nor to engage in riot or disorder; and to have nothing to do with men of evil principles, who work upon the people with artful promises of great results, and excite foolish hopes which usually end in useless regrets and grievous loss. (20)
As to the duties of the wealthy and employers, Pope Leo XIII stated: 
The following duties bind the wealthy owner and the employer: not to look upon their work people as their bondsmen, but to respect in every man his dignity as a person ennobled by Christian character. They are reminded that, according to natural reason and Christian philosophy, working for gain is creditable, not shameful, to a man, since it enables him to earn an honorable livelihood; but to misuse men as though they were things in the pursuit of gain, or to value them solely for their physical powers - that is truly shameful and inhuman. Again justice demands that, in dealing with the working man, religion and the good of his soul must be kept in mind. Hence, the employer is bound to see that the worker has time for his religious duties; that he be not exposed to corrupting influences and dangerous occasions; and that he be not led away to neglect his home and family, or to squander his earnings. (20) 
Citing from scripture Pope Leo XIII provided a stern warning to the wealthy and employers with regard to the defrauding of anyone's wages, that such is a "great crime" which cries to Heaven for vengeance (James 5:4).

In another warning to whom "fortune favors," Pope Leo XIII stated that, "...[R]iches do not bring freedom from sorrow and are of no avail for eternal happiness, but rather are obstacles; that the rich should tremble at the threatenings of Jesus Christ..." (22)

Private ownership, Pope Leo XIII contends, is a natural right of man, and for man to exercise that right is not only lawful, but necessary for his existence. Reinforcing this point the pope referred to St. Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologica, " 'It is lawful,' says St. Thomas Aquinas, 'for a man to hold private property; and it is also necessary for the carrying on of human existence.' " (22) As to what should be the proper understanding of man's possessions and their use, Pope Leo XIII again cited from Summa Theologica, "But if the question be asked: How must one's possessions be used? - the Church replies without hesitation in the words of the same holy Doctor: 'Man should not consider his material possessions as his own, but as common to all, so as to share them without hesitation when others are in need.' " (22)

Regarding man's true worth, Pope Leo XIII pointed out that it is not based on his material possession, but in his moral qualities; that is, in virtue which is the common inheritance of men, "...[E]qually within the reach of high and low, rich and poor; and that virtue, and virtue alone, wherever found, will be followed by the rewards of everlasting happiness." (24)

At section twenty-six, Pope Leo XIII stated that the Church is not content with simply pointing out the remedies for the working classes, but with their implementation as well. Part of that implementation comes in the form of the training and education of men so they will diffuse the teachings of the Church to everyone; striving to influence the hearts and minds of all, formed and guided by the commandments of God.

Drawing upon history, Pope Leo XIII emphasized that it was through the Church and its institutions that the human race was "renovated," strengthened, and renewed. If human society is to be healed it can only happen, as the pope stated, by a return to Christian life and through the help of Christian institutions. (27)

Pope Leo XIII emphasized that the Church is not only concerned with the spiritual dimension of man's existence, but his temporal and earthly interests; and especially the poor, that they rise above their poverty to a better condition in life. Calling men to live a virtuous life encourages that rise:
Christian morality, when adequately and completely practiced, leads of itself to temporal prosperity, for it merits the blessing of that God who is the source of all blessings; it powerfully restrains the greed of possession and the thirst for pleasure-twin plagues, which too often make a man who is void of self-restraint miserable in the midst of abundance; it makes men supply for the lack of means through economy, teaching them to be content with frugal living, and further, keeping them out of the reach of those vices which devour not small incomes merely, but large fortunes, and dissipate many a goodly inheritance. (28)
The responsibilities of the State was given much attention in Rerum Novarum, to which Pope Leo XIII dedicated several sections. The foremost duty of the State, as the pope pointed out was to, "...[M]ake sure that the laws and institutions, the general character and administration of the commonwealth, shall be such as of themselves to realize public well-being and private prosperity." (32) Moreover, he stated that a State prospers and thrives, "...[T]hrough moral rule, well-regulated family life, respect for religion and justice, the moderation and fair imposing of public taxes, the progress of the arts and of trade, the abundant yield of the land-through everything, in fact, which makes the citizens better and happier." (32)

Pope Leo XIII stressed that there was something deeper that "must not be lost sight of": the State should consider the interests of all as equal, and since the majority are the working class, it is incumbent upon the State to provide for their welfare and comfort. To do otherwise as the pope pointed out, would violate the law of justice. (33)

The State's primary responsibility is to ensure the safety and security of the citizenry. Pope Leo XIII emphasized this very point, "Rulers should, nevertheless, anxiously safeguard the community and all its members; the community, because the conservation thereof is so emphatically the business of the supreme power, that the safety of the commonwealth is not only the first law, but it is a government's whole reason of existence..." (35) 

At section thirty-six, addressing the threats to the general interest or the suffering of any particular class, Pope Leo XIII wrote that it is the duty of the public authority to intervene should it be a matter that cannot be met and prevented

As for the establishment of peace and good order—which is in the interest of the community and the individual—Pope Leo XIII stressed that it should be done in accordance with God's laws and those of nature. Elaborating on the specifics, he stated: 
...[T]he discipline of family life should be observed and that religion should be obeyed; that a high standard of morality should prevail, both in public and private life; that justice should be held sacred and that no one should injure another with impunity; that the members of the commonwealth should grow up to man's estate strong and robust, and capable, if need be, of guarding and defending their country. If by a strike of workers or concerted interruption of work there should be imminent danger of disturbance to the public peace; or if circumstances were such as that among the working class the ties of family life were relaxed; if religion were found to suffer through the workers not having time and opportunity afforded them to practice its duties; if in workshops and factories there were danger to morals through the mixing of the sexes or from other harmful occasions of evil; or if employers laid burdens upon their workmen which were unjust, or degraded them with conditions repugnant to their dignity as human beings; finally, if health were endangered by excessive labor, or by work unsuited to sex or age - in such cases, there can be no question but that, within certain limits, it would be right to invoke the aid and authority of the law. The limits must be determined by the nature of the occasion which calls for the law's interference - the principle being that the law must not undertake more, nor proceed further, than is required for the remedy of the evil or the removal of the mischief. (36)
In the interests of the working man's soul, Pope Leo XIII dedicated section forty-one to the importance of keeping the Lord's Day holy. Work as he went on to write should not be performed on Sundays and certain holy days. Sundays the pope emphasized are not just days of rest, but rest that is hallowed by religion: rest together with religious observances disposes a man to forget about the concerns of everyday life and turn his attention to heavenly things. (41) 

At section forty-two, Pope Leo XIII warned against greed and the exploitation of women and children. He also highlighted the need for proper rest so that men are not ground down with excessive labour that will stupefy their minds and wear out their bodies. 

On the subject of wages, Pope Leo XIII dedicated sections forty-three to forty-six, in which he wrote about the free consent between employers and workers and how injustice would result if employers failed to pay the full amount of wages or if workmen did not complete assigned work. Under such circumstances, the pope considered it necessary for the "public authority" to intervene, so as to ensure that each party "obtains his due."

There are two considerations of man's labour that Pope Leo XIII highlighted, "First of all, it is personal, inasmuch as the force which acts is bound up with the personality and is the exclusive property of him who acts, and, further, was given to him for his advantage. Secondly, man's labor is necessary; for without the result of labor a man cannot live, and self-preservation is a law of nature, which it is wrong to disobey." (44)

With respect to the agreements between employers and workers, Pope Leo XIII stressed that due consideration should be given to workers so that "...[W]ages ought not to be insufficient to support a frugal and well-behaved wage-earner." (45) 

Pope Leo XIII warned that if workers—through necessity or fear—were subjected to miserable working conditions and if employers refused to alleviate that misery, workers would rightly be considered victims of force and injustice.

To help ensure the safeguarding and interests of wage-earners, Pope Leo XIII recommended the establishment of "societies or boards" that would deal with proper hours of labour, sanitary precautions in factories and workshops, and other matters pertaining to working conditions as a way to supersede "undue interference on the part of the State." (45) 

As workmen build up savings from wages that afford them to comfortably provide for themselves and their families, Pope Leo XIII emphasized that the law should favour, "...[O]wnership, and its policy should be to induce as many as possible of the people to become owners." (46)

Ownership of property Pope Leo XIII argued, will lead to many "excellent results." First, property will become more equitably divided as more and more workman acquire it; thus, reducing the "wide chasm" separating the wealthy and the working classes. As a direct result the two classes will be brought nearer to one another. Second, ownership will encourage and result in the "great abundance of the fruits of the earth." Elaborating on this second point, Pope Leo XIII stated:
Men always work harder and more readily when they work on that which belongs to them; nay, they learn to love the very soil that yields in response to the labor of their hands, not only food to eat, but an abundance of good things for themselves and those that are dear to them. That such a spirit of willing labor would add to the produce of the earth and to the wealth of the community is self evident. (47)
A third advantage of ownership of property is that men that own land will for the most part remain in their country. As Pope Leo XIII noted, "...[N]o one would exchange his country for a foreign land if his own afforded him the means of living a decent and happy life." (47)

The three excellent results would be dependent upon the State's duty and responsibility not to burden the working classes with excessive taxation:
These three important benefits, however, can be reckoned on only provided that a man's means be not drained and exhausted by excessive taxation. The right to possess private property is derived from nature, not from man; and the State has the right to control its use in the interests of the public good alone, but by no means to absorb it altogether. The State would therefore be unjust and cruel if under the name of taxation it were to deprive the private owner of more than is fair. (47)
Pope Leo XIII went on to write about the support for the working classes that can be acquired through associations, organizations, and unions to which he dedicated sections forty-eight and forty-nine.

Most noteworthy was section fifty, where Pope Leo XIII emphasized that man needs help and he is not alone in seeking it. Quoting from two scriptural passages he wrote, " 'It is better that two should be together than one; for they have the advantage of their society. If one fall he shall be supported by the other. Woe to him that is alone, for when he falleth he hath none to lift him up' [Eccle 4:9-10]...A brother that is helped by his brother is like a strong city' [Prov 18:19]." (50) Pope Leo XIII went on to mention and elaborate on the options of "private societies," confraternities, religious orders, and organizations that help to ensure that man is not alone. 

Solutions to the condition of the working classes, as the pope went on to point out, can be easily provided and implemented if Christian working men form associations, select wise individuals, and follow the path of previous generations that was advantageous to the common good. With respect to the integrity of associations and putting God first, Pope Leo XIII provided details on the specifics of the "general and lasting law":
To sum up, then, We may lay it down as a general and lasting law that working men's associations should be so organized and governed as to furnish the best and most suitable means for attaining what is aimed at, that is to say, for helping each individual member to better his condition to the utmost in body, soul, and property. It is clear that they must pay special and chief attention to the duties of religion and morality, and that social betterment should have this chiefly in view; otherwise they would lose wholly their special character, and end by becoming little better than those societies which take no account whatever of religion. What advantage can it be to a working man to obtain by means of a society material well-being, if he endangers his soul for lack of spiritual food? "What doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul?"(39)This, as our Lord teaches, is the mark or character that distinguishes the Christian from the heathen. "After all these things do the heathen seek . . . Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His justice: and all these things shall be added unto you."(40)Let our associations, then, look first and before all things to God; let religious instruction have therein the foremost place, each one being carefully taught what is his duty to God, what he has to believe, what to hope for, and how he is to work out his salvation; and let all be warned and strengthened with special care against wrong principles and false teaching. Let the working man be urged and led to the worship of God, to the earnest practice of religion, and, among other things, to the keeping holy of Sundays and holy days. Let him learn to reverence and love holy Church, the common Mother of us all; and hence to obey the precepts of the Church, and to frequent the sacraments, since they are the means ordained by God for obtaining forgiveness of sin and fox leading a holy life. (57)
Near the end of the encyclical at section sixty, the pope reiterated that the condition of the working classes is the pressing matter of the time and that, "...[N]othing can be of higher interest to all classes of the State than that it should be rightly and reasonably settled." (60) It was a reiteration from a point he made at the beginning of the encyclical that set the tone for its reading, "But in the present letter, the responsibility of the apostolic office urges Us to treat the question of set purpose [the condition of the working classes] and in detail, in order that no misapprehension may exist as to the principles which truth and justice dictate for its settlement." (2)

It is at the very end of this encyclical that Pope Leo XIII reminded both the wealthy and the working classes of doing their part to ensure the remedies to the condition of the working classes can and will be implemented, "Every one should put his hand to the work which falls to his share, and that at once and straightway, lest the evil which is already so great become through delay absolutely beyond remedy." (62) Addressing the evil in society, Pope Leo XIII made it crystal clear that it is religion alone that can destroy evil at its root, and as such, "...[A]ll men should rest persuaded that main thing needed is to re-establish Christian morals, apart which all the plans and devices of the wisest will prove of little avail." (62)

Rerum Novarum is one of many of Pope Leo XIII's writings that are available at the Vatican's dedicated Pope Leo XIII page. I hope that today's post will encourage you to visit that page: doing so will be time well spent.