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The Catholic Moment: It’s time to pray the rosary

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

By Father Earl Fernandes

It’s October, the month of the rosary. My parents and two oldest brothers came to America from India in 1970. By December 1973, they were proud parents of five boys. My mother told us that since we didn’t have family here, we would have to rely on our faith. Often she would quote Father Patrick Peyton: “The family that prays together stays together.”

We prayed the rosary every night as a family. Typically, my mother would say, “It’s time to pray the rosary,” during our favorite television program. The TV would be turned off. We would kneel on our living room floor and pray — as quickly as possible. I am sure we came close to setting the world record for saying the fastest Our Fathers and Hail Marys, but we “prayed” every night. I said my Hail Marys, but my attention and devotion left something to be desired.

One day when I was about eight years old, I was on the playground during recess. A little girl came up to me and said, “Earl, you look like a gorilla. Your hair is black just like a gorilla’s. Your face is dark, just like a gorilla’s. Your nose is flat, just like a gorilla’s. You must be a gorilla.”

I took her remarks as racially motivated, and I experienced both humiliation and anger. I did what any little boy would do; I began chasing her all over the playground with the intent of giving her a black eye. I chased her and chased her. Just as I was about to catch her, I broke off my chase and ran up the ramp into church. I could feel tears rolling down my face as I went into pray. As I knelt down, I pulled my plastic rosary out of pocket. I prayed the I Believe and the Our Father. When it came time to pray the Hail Mary, I clutched my beads and prayed one Hail Mary. This time I prayed it slowly. I just held my rosary and looked up at the statue of the Virgin and really prayed. Suddenly, a great spirit of consolation and peace came over me. Again and again, I looked at my beads. I looked at the Virgin, and she looked at me. I realized that my parents had been trying to teach me the power of this prayer. They wanted me to know that I had a mother in heaven who loved me, who was looking out for me and whose Son could bring me what I could not find on that playground — peace.

The rosary is a powerful prayer. How moving it is to see pilgrims on Good Friday ascend the great stairs leading to Immaculata Church at the top of Mt. Adams in Cincinnati. They pray the rosary, some offer a Hail Mary on each step, and they count on the Mother of God to show them the “blessed fruit” of her womb — Jesus. Some haven’t been to church in a while, but they sort through their spiritual turbulence on those steps.
The rosary has the power to change hearts. The rosary has the power to turn back a fleet of invaders as it did at Lepanto in 1570. The rosary, prayed at abortion clinics around the country, has the power to turn a “no” into a “yes” to life. The rosary has the power to assure even little children that they have a mother in heaven who prays for them.

As I grow older, just as parents worry about their children, I worry about my nephews and nieces and the culture and world which they will inherit. My brothers, their wives and children visit my parents, who are now unable to kneel. My mother still says, “It’s time to pray the rosary.” We all kneel, but now it is the voices of the little ones that call out Our Father and Hail Mary, and I know that in Mary’s hands everything will be okay. It’s October. It’s time to pray the rosary.

Father Fernandes is an assistant professor of moral theology and dean of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary. 

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