All across the country, tens of thousands of Catholics would be gathering at 9,077 public places and praying for our nation in these troubled times. This was an historic event and I wanted to be part of it.
What made my rally particularly exciting was that I was going to one of America’s premier public places — Fifth Avenue. We were situated in a small square in front of Rockefeller Center and across from St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The place was so full of foreign tourists that we can say that it is really the world’s public square. We could not have asked for a busier and more representative place to pray the rosary.
What I like about Public Square Rosary Rallies is that they have impact. If you pray a Rosary inside a church, no one is especially surprised. But when you are at a busy intersection or on Fifth Avenue, people are shocked, intrigued, edified or consoled. No one expects to see two hundred people standing — some even kneeling — on the sidewalk affirming our Catholic Faith. Thousands of people are impacted by the spectacle. Many leave the scene changed.
Of course, we want to cause impact. Rosary Rally Captains are encouraged to be conspicuous. At our rally, I could sense the maximum impact caused by our banners, signs and bagpipes as tens of thousands passed by. Our voices were loud as we proudly prayed and sang hymns to Our Lady, which echoed off the glass and concrete canyons of midtown Manhattan. The sight of people praying for the nation in face of abortion, same-sex “marriage,” blasphemy and so many other ills is very strong.
What is impressive is that few think it strange that we are out there. Many think it is logical that we pray since the state of the nation is such that it merits prayer. The dramatic circumstances of our times demand that we do something of this nature. So compelling are the reasons for prayer that some people actually came up and joined us. I saw several others praying rather timidly from afar but who gradually made their way to the prayerful crowd and became part of our rally. Still others prayed a few Hail Marys at a distance. Some dared not even pray, but took out their cameras, cell phones and iPads, snapping plenty of pictures which found their way into the social media.
I cannot say that everyone was edified by our appearance there. There were definitely people who did not like it. I saw the smirks, the patronizing looks and the scowls of the enlightened ones who despise religion. Nor is this surprising, since as faithful followers of Our Lady, we can expect the scorn of the world.
These poor figures acted as if our prayers were hopelessly out of time and place as they watched our invasion of “their” world. They feigned a disregard for our action but in the back of their heads, we shook their certainties. You could tell that that we disturbed their smug complacency by our lively, proud and public witness to the Faith. Who knows? Maybe we planted a seed of grace in their souls that might sprout in the future.
There were also those who were indifferent. For them, our presence on the street was an inconvenience. We got in their way as they jogged down the street. We hardly existed to others inside their cyber-cocoons tethered to their electronic devices.
The most important part of the Public Square Rosary Rallies for me was the fact that Our Lady was queen at all 9,077 locations for a full hour. Even the police were there to protect our right to proclaim her as queen. It was truly an historic event. We do not know how many people were reached by the rallies. We cannot gauge the immense impact these rallies had on souls. We do know that the pleas of faithful Catholics across America and the world were heard by God in Heaven. We can be consoled by the fact that we heeded the requests of Our Lady at Fatima to pray the Rosary for the conversion of sinners and in reparation for the sins of man.
I can only give the impressions for my rally, but I suspect from speaking with others that similar considerations apply to all the rallies. Nine thousand points of light dared to pierce the moral darkness of our days. This veritable flood of light was invisible to the media but not to God who looked down upon us. All sensed the blessing of Our Lady who took comfort to see literally hundreds of thousands of her children honoring her on this special day, the 95th anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima.
Many years hence, when the present confusion in men’s minds is dispelled, history will record that there were those who braved the scorn of men and gathered in public squares to pray for our nation. While others went about their affairs, I can say that I was there, making history on the public square. And I would have it no other way.