The Rosary’s Power

Two courageous women of deep, heroic faith have recently inspired the Church and the world.

The first is Immaculée Ilibagiza, caught in the middle of the vicious genocide that slew her family and her country of Rwanda last decade.

Immaculée was one of seven other women hidden by her pastor in a cramped latrine for 91 days. Those eight women—almost all of whom, like Immaculée, had seen their families butchered—turned that toilet into a catacomb, and for three months they prayed, encouraged one another and kept hope alive.

Now she has devoted her life to speaking of the horror of genocide, but also urging reconciliation, forgiveness and peace. Her moving book, "Life to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust," has become a best-seller, and her personal apostolate of speaking about her ordeal is bringing her all over the world.

The second prophetic woman is Ingrid Betancourt. A senator and presidential candidate in Colombia, she spoke out against corruption and the drug trade. Tragically, she was captured by rebels and held for six years, only to be released a little over a year ago.

Both of these courageous women tenderly speak of their reliance upon another woman, who also knew trial, sorrow, exile and witnessed the torture and death of her son: Mary, the Mother of Jesus.

Both especially described their devotion to the Rosary, and how it kept them focused, hopeful and connected. Senator Betancourt was so grateful to our Blessed Mother that, soon after her release, she traveled to Lourdes to thank Our Lady personally at that renowned shrine.

October is the month of the Rosary.

We also have our trials. While nowhere near the tragedy of Immaculée’s or Ingrid’s, we do worry about tons of problems. Sometimes we’re even tempted to wonder if Jesus has reneged on His promise to be with us "all days, even to the end of the world," but we of course know better. He never lets us down.

Like Ingrid and Immaculée, we turn to His Mother, our Mother, the Church’s Mother.

Early on, it dawned on me that people I loved and respected very much were attached to the Rosary. I remember seeing the beads on the bedstand at both of my grandmas’ homes; as dad would empty his pockets when he would come home from work, there it was again; the priests I looked up to would often be reciting the Rosary outside of church; and the Irish nuns would tell us how loyalty to the Rosary helped the faith in Ireland survive when Mass and the sacraments were outlawed. When I met Mother Teresa, she had a rosary in her hand; when I concelebrated Mass in the Holy Father’s chapel, there it was in his kneeler. On almost every Communion call as a parish priest, I knew the sick person would have one close by; and, planning the wake of a kindergarten girl who was killed by a car while riding her bike, all the grieving parents requested was the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary; a few years ago, when my 11-year-old niece, Shannon—who had bone cancer—came back from Lourdes, she beamed as she told me she got to lead a decade at the grotto. So you see, from early on I got the message that the Rosary was a beloved, effective prayer. I would never let a day pass without saying it.

Think of the value of this prayer: it is simple, it is biblical, it is Jesus-centered, it can be prayed anywhere, it is communal in that at any given time thousands of others somewhere in the world are praying it, and, best of all, it is prayed in union with the Mother of Jesus.

Do yourself a favor: look in your drawers, your jewelry boxes, your storage closets, and find your old rosary. Teach it to your kids, start saying it again yourself. It never fails to bring us closer to Jesus and His Mother. It is indeed a source of "life, sweetness and hope."