The Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary ~ Br. Shawn Gisewhite


Gospel:  Luke 10:17-24

In the Name of God; +Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

On October 7th, 1571, Pope Saint Pious V sent a coalition of Christian forces to rescue the Christian outposts in Cyprus that were taken by the Muslims.  This small group faced almost certain death when compared to the large Muslin Navy.   In response, the Pope called for all of Europe to pray the Rosary for their victory and led a Rosary procession in Rome.  After about 5 hours of intense sea battle, the Christian forces were able to stop the Ottoman Navy and prevent the Sultan from invading and capturing Rome.  This great victory was attributed to the Virgin Mary.  October 7th became the Feast of Our Lady of Victory, now known as Our Lady of the Rosary.

Although a simple string of beads used to help us count our prayers, the Rosary has long been a weapon against the forces of darkness and a shield of protection from harm.

The following inspiring episode from World War II, written by Sr. Mary Sheila O’Neil and reported in the October-December, 1979 issue of Garabandal Magazine illustrates the power of the Rosary:

It was a busy day in March. As a teacher-principal in the 1950’s, I had to make sure that each day provided the time for the two separate roles. On that March fourth, an incident between a teacher and a parent had kept me out of my class for almost an hour that morning, so for the rest of the day, I was desperately trying to make up class time. Hence, the knock on my door at 2:00 p.m. was not welcome.

With relief, I found it was only a salesman who needed my signature and even produced his pen. As he did so, his Rosary had caught onto the pen’s clip and came out as well. I signed as I said indifferently, “So, you are a Catholic.” “Oh no,” he said, “but a lot of us owe our lives to Our Lady, and I promised Her I would always keep my Rosary with me and say it every day.”

Twenty minutes later, I was still at the door listening, fascinated, to the account of one of the wonderful experiences a group of airmen had had with Our Lady. My visitor hesitated to start, for he had noticed my “non welcome” opening of the door. But eager now to hear his story, I assured him that the class was doing an exercise, and I begged him to proceed. He continued:

It was May, 1940, and we had joined the Air Force in late September. At Halifax, we were given an intensive training course, because they needed us overseas, and to us young lads, the whole program was exciting.

We were grouped into squadrons, each of which consisted of six to ten planes, and each was trained to maneuver as a unit. Therefore about thirty to fifty men made up a squadron, along with the squadron leader who gave all the orders and kept the group functioning in unity.

In May, our squadron was told we were going overseas and would be in action at once. We would work on nightly missions over enemy territory until the war was over. We were waiting for our new squadron leader, due to arrive in two days on a 9:00 p.m. air-force flight. Being an officer, he would, we thought, go at once to the officers’ quarters.

We watched the plane, glimpsed him from the distance, and resigned ourselves to waiting until the next day to “size him up.” A couple of hours later, this squadron leader, Stan Fulton, in full uniform, entered our bunk house.

“Well men, we’re going to spend some dangerous hours together, but let’s hope we all meet back here when it’s over. Ah, there’s a free bunk and I am tired! I’ll meet each of you tomorrow.”

With that, he threw his bag on an upper bunk. Our squadron leader, an officer, sleeping here with us! We liked him at once and our liking and our admiration grew each day.

That first night he knelt on the floor and prayed his Rosary in silence. Astounded, we were struck dumb. When he finished, he looked at us with his friendly smile and said, “I hope you guys don’t mind a fellow saying some prayers because where we’re going, we’re going to need them.”

The next day our maneuver practice, under his command, assured us that Fulton was not just our military leader, but our friend. He was one of us; he never tried to intimidate us with his rank.

That night, he repeated his prayer session. Although our group had trained together for six months at least, I had never seen anyone kneel in prayer, and had no idea that any of our group was Catholic; but the third night three of our companions joined Fulton in saying the Rosary. The rest of us did not understand but we kept a respectful silence.

A few nights later — we were quick learners — we all answered the Hail Marys and Our Fathers. Fulton looked pleased, and thus we ended each day in prayer.

On June 1, 1940, we were to leave Halifax to begin a series of night raids from England over Germany. The evening before, Fulton gave each of us a Rosary.

“We shall be in some tight situations, but then, if you agree, we’ll say the Rosary. If you will promise to keep the Rosary with you always throughout your life and to say it, I can promise you that Our Lady will bring you all back safe to Canada.”

We answered, “Sure thing.” Little did we dream we would be in action for four years, many times in dreadful danger with fire all around us. At such times, Fulton’s voice would ring through each plane, “Hail Mary…” How reverently and sincerely did we respond! How many hundreds of Rosaries we must have said.

After two years, it was noted that ours was the only squadron that had not lost a plane nor a single life. We said nothing, but we knew.

Finally, the terrible war was over. During those years, we lost all sense of excitement and adventure. All that concerned us was survival! We did survive, too. All returned to Canada in 1945, fully convinced that Our Lady had taken care of us.

So I never forget to keep my Rosary with me and say it every day although I am not a Catholic. When I change my trousers, the first thing I transfer, even before my wallet, is my rosary.

This Feast day is a special one for me as a Dominican.  Tradition holds that the Virgin Mary gave the Rosary to St. Dominic.  As a Dominican, my devotion to both Our Lady and the Rosary helps shape who I am as a Christian.

Today as I stand before you a newly ordained Priest in the Church of God, I can’t help but think of all I’ve been through. The hurdles that I had to jump. The mountains I had to climb. The fights I had to fight.  Life has not been easy up to this point and I suspect it won’t become any easier now that I have been set apart for service in the Church.

I first felt a call to ordained ministry as a small child…..a calling that I have strived to answer throughout most of my life.  No easy task!  A Bishop once told me that the closer I get to serving God and serving the Church, the more Satan will up his attacks on me.  At first I thought he was a little crazy, but it’s very true indeed.  Life has presented me with many challenges.  Challenges that most people would not be able to deal with.  How did I deal emotionally and spiritually with these many challenges?  Where did I turn for a spiritual booster shot?  To the Rosary!  Well, to my set of Anglican Prayer Beads to be exact, but don’t hold that against me.  LOL

Raised Anabaptist, worship aids such as prayer beads were seen as Romish and evil.  Prayers to Mary were idol worship.  I don’t know why, but I was always drawn to the use of prayer beads and to a deeper relationship with our Heavenly Queen.  I explain it as I did not choose her, rather she chose me!  Somehow she spoke to me.  Spoke to my heart in a way I can not begin to describe.  For the longest time, just like the pilot in the story earlier, all I did was carry those beads around with me.  I didn’t know how to use them for prayer.  I was too afraid to search how to pray the Rosary online for fear that my uber Protestant parents would spaz on me!  Although I never used them for prayer, those beads provided me with strength and with comfort.  It was as if the love of Mary and of her Son Jesus were in those beads and every time I clutched them in my hand it was as if I was being held in their loving embrace.

After my mother passed in 2011, my relationship with our Holy Mother grew stronger.  It was at that time I actually began to use my Rosary with the assigned prayers.  And oh what joy it brought to my soul!  Whenever I was sad, downtrodden, scared, stressed, worried, or lonely I turned to my Rosary for comfort and encouragement.  Through life’s many battles, this little string of beads helped me to win the victory; just as the Christian forces over the Muslim Navy.

In today’s Gospel the Lord tells his disciples that He has given them the power of the enemy.  I say this is true in the power of the Rosary.  A gift….a spiritual weapon against the forces of evil….given to us by the Mother of God.  Through our faith in Jesus, through the intercession of the most blessed Virgin Mary, through the power of the Rosary, we have power and dominion over the forces of darkness.

Amen.

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