At intersections, town halls, city parks and other public places, they came in the tens of thousands as Catholics gathered to pray Public Square Rosaries on October 11 at as many as 3,500 locations across the nation. Participants from all walks of life and all ages made this special effort to be public witnesses to the Fatima Message. Their basic message was: “We’re praying that God save America…”
The rallies were the crowning achievement of six months of intensive planning. When October 11 arrived, the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) and its America Needs Fatima campaign could proudly announce that – thanks be to God – well over 3,000 rallies were held across the United States. At the same time across the ocean in Portugal, volunteers placed 3,500 roses – each representing a rally captain — at the sanctuary of Our Lady at Fatima.
Rallies with a Purpose
The rallies had a simple purpose: to ask God, through Our Lady’s rosary, to save America from its current moral, spiritual, financial and political crisis. It is evident that human solutions will not suffice. Divine assistance is necessary. Thus, the idea of public prayer seems to have captured the imagination of many American Catholics as a solution to the problems the nation faces.
“America is in such a desperate situation, I just know God heard our prayers. The Virgin Mary offered our rosaries to God on Saturday,” said one rally captain from Pennsylvania, “God will not refuse our petition in our time of suffering and uncertainty.”
A Massive Response
In John Haffert’s book, Meet the Witnesses, he estimated that 70,000 to 100,000 people went to Fatima on October 13, 1917 to see the Miracle of the Sun. On October 11, 2008, an estimated 120,000 Catholics went out to the Public Square Rosary Rallies in America.
With 3,500 Rosary Captains committed to organizing these events, the mere scope of these rallies was incredible. With the help of the campaign’s central office near Topeka, Kan., Rally Captains received all that was necessary to organize their own events – a banner, organizing kit and nametags. Posters and programs were downloadable from the Internet. News of the rallies spread quickly and to such an extent that there were rallies in every major city and all fifty states.
Rally locations were published on America Needs Fatima’s web site so that participants could find the one nearest to them. An impressive network was formed in which local organizers would meet nearby Catholics where they thought none existed. Some rallies were only blocks apart. Participants from last year’s rallies became Rally Captains this year, which often increased the number of rallies in a single city. There were, for example, some half a dozen rallies in the city of Hazleton, Pa. In York, Pa, there were two rallies, one with more than 50 participants. In Topeka, Kansas, there were four rallies within blocks of each other. It is estimated that there were seventy rallies just in the Miami metropolitan area alone.
In this respect, one Rally Captain in Miami wrote: “On Saturday, October 11, 2008, 30 people prayed the Rosary publicly at Bird Road. Our rally was one of five on Bird Road, one of 50 in Dade County, and one of 3,500 prayed at the same time all across America at 12 noon. We prayed to God and to Our Holy Mother for their intercession to put an end to the bad things that are happening in our nation and in the world, politically, economically, the lack of morality, ethics and principles, plus abortions and outright blasphemy.”
Before a Higher Supreme Court
Members of the American TFP gathered in front of the Supreme Court in Washington D.C. for a Rosary Rally in one of the nation’s most symbolic places. The event was graced with a statue of Our Lady of Fatima with an escort of TFP members in ceremonial garb. The program included the rosary, hymns, bagpipe music and other prayers.
America Needs Fatima director Robert Ritchie reminded the participants that the prayers of 3,500 rallies were being presented before yet a higher court – the throne of God. Mr. Ritchie especially mentioned the need for reparation for the videos showing Host desecration now on YouTube and which has been the target of a special TFP campaign.
While the rally reports are just starting to come in, there are some that already stand out. One of the largest rallies was in Austin, Tex., where according to News 8 Austin, “more than 1,000 Christians participated in a prayer rally at the Capitol Saturday,” three hundred of which paraded on the Capitol steps. There was also a large group at the Capitol Building in Harrisburg, Pa. Another group stationed itself in the middle of Jackson Square in New Orleans.
Over 100 people gathered in Cincinnati’s Fountain Square where the rosary was led by a local priest while another gave a short homily. The well-organized event also featured a sound system on Fountain Square to play various renderings of “Ave Maria” and a 60-slide Power Point presentation that looped through the entire vigil that was displayed on a 20-foot high screen on top of the building immediately behind the podium and speakers. The event was blessed with the wonderful weather as the Captain noted, “Our Lady must truly know the weatherman”
“We thought our family was going to be the only people there,” said one young participant at the rally in Marysville, Calif. However, in the middle of the first rosary, another family came who had come the past year. Then, others arrived including one mother with the youngest participant: her two-month-old baby. Two of the young boys played music like “God Bless America” on their trumpets to add to the enthusiasm of the rally. One man watched for a distance. He said he was a veteran of World War II and that he was not a praying man, but the crisis that the nation is facing today, is the worse crisis that the nation has ever faced, and that the only answer is prayer. He said that he was glad that there are Americans all over the country taking to the streets, and praying in town squares.
At this same rally, pedestrians came and started praying while others came up and kissed the picture of Our Lady on the banner. During the whole rally, there were honks, waves, and thumbs up in approval. Many cars slowed down to read our banner, and others who had slowed down, came back around to re-read it. As the rally ended, a lady and her friends spontaneously began singing traditional Mexican songs of praise to Our Lady.
One of the rosary rallies in St. Louis, Mo., had some 50 participants led by the parish pastor. Children as young as one joined seniors assembled at the corner where they began the Rosary prayers. The singing of songs to Our Lady was led by the choir director and the event ended with a blessing from the pastor. There were numerous honks, thumbs up and shouts of encouragement… and a small dose of cowardly obscene gestures and scowls. All of the attendees were exhilarated by the Rally and the shared conversations on the sidewalk lasted long after the Rally was over. The pastor expressed disappointment that this was ‘only’ done once a year, and has already planned a second rally for November 1.
There were nearly 15 people at the Public Square Rosary Rally in Stockholm – Sweden that is. The event started at a church in the center of Stockholm where they lit a candle and prayed before starting off on a pilgrimage while walking through the city’s center. The group walked through the central square of Stockholm’s‘ King’s Garden, passed in front of the Royal Palace, then through the quays and finally ended at the Cathedral were they celebrated St Bridget’s feast day. “This Pilgrims’ Way seems nothing to some,” reported the Rally Captain, “but for those who know Sweden, it is unbelievable. I want to thank you in the name of Sweden!” The group reported that they have been trying for twenty years to do such a rosary and took courage from the over 3,000 rallies in America.
As reports started flooding in from across the country, it was evident that Rally Captains and participants felt a great joy in praying the Rosary and honor Our Lady in public. The intensity of their commitment and their willingness to overcome obstacles is extremely edifying.
Like last year, participants in the rallies faced all sorts of obstacles ranging from discouragement from friends to inclement weather.
In South Beach, Fla., for example, over 100 people participated in the rosary rally. This beachfront community is known for its large hotels with tourists from all over the world. The Rally Captain reported a large number of these tourists got a different sight on Saturday morning as many stopped to take pictures of the event. She noted that she had been discouraged from organizing the rally from those who said that she would never get a permit for such a “liberal” area. She got the permit and, full of energy and devotion to Our Lady, held the rally.
In New Mexico, a Rally Captain reported on her successful rally: “The wind was terrible and tore my banner to pieces, sparing Our Lady’s face (glad for that).” Twenty-five people were at the rally during which the Captain made some very good friends in Christ. She effusively thanked America Needs Fatima for coordinating the event.
One participant from Albuquerque, N.M. found Satan hard at work in preventing her at every turn from coming to the rallies including a problem reading the web site with the rally locations. Thankfully she found a very public and original rally on the catwalk over I-40 at Coors. “My best friend and I went and what a blessing! It was windy and spitting drops of rain ‘holy water’ as one lovely lady called it, but just as we finished praying the sun came out. I have no doubt that Our Lady was with us. It was wonderful, to the have the cars and trucks honking as they went by. I just know that 2009 will be more successful than 2007, and that 2009 even more.”
At the Roseville, Calif. Rosary Rally, twelve brave souls ventured out in the high winds to pray the Rosary and bear witness for the Fatima Message. The high winds made it impossible to attach the banner to any tree or post but they were able to wrap the banner around a large public utility maintenance box that faced the busy intersection. “The winds were high but the prayer warriors were spirited and the incense rose to heaven to honor our Lord through his Blessed Mother.”
The Public Square Rosary Rally in Butte, Montana faced an even great obstacle: it snowed. A severe snowstorm and strong winds, the Rally Captain noted, helped supply the penance part of the Fatima Message. Twenty people braved the elements and came. Last year, some 65 had attended in beautiful weather.
One rally participant in Hialeah, Fla., did not know that the rally location had changed and thus could not make it to the place of the rally in time. As it started to get late, she pulled up at a shopping center, and said to herself: “It’s already 12:20 and I am not going to miss this.” She then parked her car, unrolled the banner, and started praying the rosary. “I prayed the rosary, said the litanies and consecration by myself and as I did this a refreshing breeze cooled the area on this typically hot day. As I prayed, I also felt confident, secured a happy strength, knowing that thousands of rosaries were being prayed at the same time all over the United States.”
At Oxnard, Calif., the weather was not cooperative for the rally. The wind was blowing harder and harder while the 13 brave souls were praying the rosary. Several noticed that the vase of roses was knocked down and then as if an unseen hand came to prop it again. Despite everything, the Captain hopes the weather will be better next year.
Another aspect of the rallies is the great joy of the participants in going public with the rosary. They derived a special pleasure in standing up for Our Lady and made special efforts to be visible.
From Mondovi Wisconsin came the new of a noontime rally of 25 people on the sidewalk of a busy highway. Motorist passed by and read the banner. The Rally Captain quoted The Secret of the Rosary by Saint Louis de Montfort which states: “Public prayer is far more powerful than private prayer to appease the anger of God and call down His mercy and Holy Mother Church, guided by the Holy Ghost, has always advocated public prayer in times of public tragedy and suffering.” He reported general excitement in the group and interest in starting other rallies next year in other places since he believed “there is hunger for more of this in the small towns of our area.”
On short notice, one Rally Captain in Woodstock, Ga., arranged the whole event with the help of his parish pastor in just four days. About 80 people started in the center of a local park saying the Consecration prayers together before moving to the sidewalk where we could be more visible to the traffic. Many drivers offered their support or questioned what we were praying for. The event was so blessed that the parish priest asked if another Public Square Rosary Rally could be held in early November.
In Tucson, Ariz., the rosary rally was held with the local pro-life group in front of an abortion clinic. Many passersby showed support while a few loud people voiced their disapproved. It was a windy day and participants had to hold on tight to the banner.
In Omaha, Neb., a small group of Catholics felt honored to process down the street. “We must have seen hundreds of cars go by. I loved to see drivers look at us as they passed. Most responses were positive, and we were already conveniently praying for the people who responded negatively.”
More People and More Often
Many Rally Captains reported more participants than last year. Others want to have the rallies more often. Most are looking forward to next year.
The Rally Captain in Pecos, Texas reported that this rally had four times more people than the 2007 rally. Sixty participants were at the event in front of a nearby county courthouse with a good amount of exposure to traffic.
In Monticello, N.Y., about 140 people took part in a nearly four-block-long Marian procession led by the local Knights of Columbus Council Color Guard to the steps of the county courthouse where the rosary was recited in English and in Spanish. The procession was followed by a Holy Hour back at the parish church. Inspired by his parish priest, the Captain reported that all are “so looking forward to next year!”
At the county courthouse in Hays, Kans., 22 people gathered to pray the rosary for America. It began at noon as the church bells were ringing a block away. The banner was tied and taped to the wooden fence used for decoration in front of the courthouse. People waved as they drove by and read the banner. After the prayer rally some people asked if this was going to be done more often and that they would attend if more were planned.
“Last year our corner had only four people praying the Rosary, this year there were close to 25!” wrote one veteran Rosary Captain. “Our poor country is in deep trouble and our only hope is going to come from heaven.”
From Mission, Texas, the Rosary Captain reported that his rally had gone well and that the Blessed Mother had touched their hearts because “all felt that this should be done every month instead of yearly to steer this great nation in the right direction.”
“We had a very successful Public Square Rosary Crusade with great attendance compared to last year and by next year I expect to triple the number of attendees,” wrote yet another Rosary Captain. Another Captain reported 40 participants in Kalispell Montana up from 12 last year.
The reports only give a small sampling of the many graces at the rallies and the intense commitment of those involved to organize this great public effort to call upon God’s blessing for the nation.
One person happened to find the rally by chance. He put up this account on his blog: “I looked out the window and saw a group of people setting up statues of Our Lady. I wandered over to the little square…and saw that I was just in time to join in America Needs Fatima’s Rosary Rally… Curiously enough, this past week a friend was reminding me that it is times like this in which we must turn to Our Lady with our fears and concerns; she also remarked that we ought to make a conscious effort to consecrate our nation to Our Lady.”
The Rally Captain from Saint John’s, Michigan (population 7,485) reported 207 people present at this rally. He said he wished he could have done more to get even more to attend.
On short notice, one Rosary Captain in Chambersburg, Pa., did not even have time to receive an organizer’s kit. However, fifteen people came to his rally and he is ready to do another one in December.
Although the major media remained silent on the rallies, local media, church bulletins, blogs and newsletters carried extensive and favorable coverage of the events. A sampling of the stores gives an idea of the coverage.
The Corsicana Daily of Texas, for example, reported that seventy members of Corsicana’s Catholic community joined together for its first rosary prayer rally at Community Park. “Deacon Lewis and I were pleased with the turnout at the first rally,” said Angie Sanchez, team captain for the rally. “Attendees expressed enthusiasm, whereby a larger rally is planned for next year. ”
The Republican Herald of Shenandoah, Pa., reported that group of over forty people took a prayerful request to the public square in the downtown area to ask God to “return to America.” The report gave a full and accurate report on the Fatima apparitions including the miracle of the sun and noted the great interest of passersby and car traffic.
Connecticut’s Milford Mirror reported that about 150 people gathered for a “Public Square Rosary Crusade,” to pray to God to save America. Attendees came from many area churches. There were retired people, families, teens and children. “America is mired in problems — problems in leadership, public scandal and sin, bad economy, terrorism, ” states literature that teenagers distributed in the church parking lot. “Men cannot resolve them. God can. But He has been cast out. It’s time to beg God, ‘Return to America.’”
Confiding in Providence
The main theme of the rosary rallies was “pray for America,” which fit into the headlines of bad news in the economy and elsewhere.
Man’s efforts are insignificant in themselves. However, with the aid of Providence, a simple witness became a massive and beautiful event reinforcing the belief that God can intervene and hear the prayers of the faithful. These prayers and future public prayers may not have immediate consequences, but they might weigh heavily for the future of the nation.
These 3,500 rallies were seen by hundreds of thousands of people, which is good and even necessary to help spread the Fatima message and save souls. Above all, they were a fervent plea made up of hundreds of thousands of rosaries offered by Our Blessed Mother to beg God to return to America.