The Public Square Rosary campaign began with a discussion about commemorating the ninetieth anniversary of Our Lady performing the miracle of the sun in Fatima. The organizers thought of ways to make this anniversary very special and relevant.
The idea of holding a Rosary in a public place seemed like a natural response to the Fatima call for conversion, penance, prayer and the recitation of the Rosary. It would serve also as a response to a culture that banishes displays of faith increasingly from the public square.
Thus, the Public Square Rosary was born, and the idea spread like wildfire. Six months of intensive planning followed. Grassroots organizers set up local rallies. When October 13, 2007 arrived, the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) and its America Needs Fatima campaign could announce that well over 2,000 Public Square Rosary Rallies were held across the United States.
Rallies with a Purpose
The rallies had the purpose to ask Our Lady for the conversion of America, for the end of sins that offend public morality, and for the Blessed Mother’s triumph promised at Fatima.
“It’s time to take the message of Fatima and our faith in the Good News of Jesus Christ to the streets,” one Rally Captain in Massachusetts remarked, “and stop hiding behind our church doors afraid of the ACLU. Our very life and that of our children depend on it.”1
A Massive Response
In John Haffert’s book, Meet the Witnesses, the Catholic writer affirms that an estimated 70,000 to 100,000 people came to Fatima on October 13, 1917 to witness the miracle of the sun, and on October 13, 2007, an estimated 70,000 to 100,000 Catholics went out to the Public Square Rosary Rallies in America.
With over 2,000 Rosary Captains committed to organizing these events, the mere scope of these rallies was mind-boggling.
With the help of the campaign’s central office near Topeka, Kan., Rally Captains received all that was necessary to organize their own events. Posters and programs were downloaded from the Internet. News of the rallies spread quickly and to such an extent that there were rallies in every major city.
Rally locations were published on TFP’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. Organizers were also pleasantly surprised to find visitors from other states join their ranks on the streets.
The public squares chosen by Rally Captains were often some of the most symbolic places across the country.
One Public Square Rosary Rally took place on Fifth Avenue in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. Nearly 500 people bore public witness to the Fatima message and even knelt on the crowded sidewalks of one of the world’s most famous avenues. However, that rally alone did not represent the huge city. There were an estimated 100 Public Square Rosary Rallies scheduled within a fifty-mile radius of the Fifth Avenue event.
Another symbolic place was Lafayette Park right across from the White House. Nearly 120 people attended a rally in this park that has long heard the chants of pacifist and ecologist protesters, but now heard prayerful entreaties to Heaven. Congresswoman Mary Fallin (R-OK) joined the rally and prayed the Rosary.
Similarly, seventy-five participants braved intermittent rain at the Gateway Arch in St. Louis and another group stationed itself in the middle of Jackson Square in New Orleans.
Hollywood and Las Vegas
A rally held on Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame was particularly symbolic since Hollywood has proven so corrosive to morality. The Rosary Captain there reported, “The Rosary Rally in Hollywood was held in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre at noon. Ten zealous souls showed up. This wasn’t bad at all considering I just decided to lead the rally a week ago.” The group prayed the Rosary and gave out Catholic literature. They also exchanged contact information and agreed to come back to Hollywood regularly to distribute Rosaries and literature.
In a similar vein, about 900 people attended the twelve Public Square Rosary Rallies in the Las Vegas area, with several of them in front of casinos. In some, the Knights of Columbus participated in full regalia. The area’s Mater Dei Chapel had a special pre-Public Square Rosary Rally service that was filled to capacity. It included Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, a talk about the Fatima history and Benediction. The people then proceeded to the Public Square Rosary Rallies all over the city.
Early reports seemed to suggest a fewer-than-expected turnout. However, as reports started flooding in from across the country, it was evident that many large rallies occurred.
The flood continued with messages like these.
Throughout the day, success stories were abundant. Many Rosary Captains sent reports manifesting their joy and enthusiasm at honoring the Blessed Mother:
The size of the rally made little difference. Even at smaller rallies, participants were big in enthusiasm:
Proud To Be Catholic
Organizing a rally was not easy. The participants faced obstacles and problems. Many felt inhibited to appear in public. False rumors circulated about the rallies. Weather conditions were often far from ideal.
Organizers and attendees overcame these obstacles, often with heroic persistence. They demonstrated a refreshing seriousness, determination and inventiveness that stemmed from their love and devotion to Our Lady.
Far from fearing to pray in public, many gloried in finding the busiest spot to appear in public and pray:
Rallies amid Adversity
Not all rallies went smoothly. Some were plagued by bad weather and adversity. Far from discouraging participants, it only strengthened their resolve.
Others reported winds so intense that their banners were shredded into pieces, according to a Rosary Captain in Oklahoma: “The devil did all he could to attack this public honoring of Our Blessed Lady. Near forty-mile-per-hour winds eventually ripped our banner to pieces except for the image of Our Lady, which was unharmed and was carried in the front of our column as we walked around the public paths. All of these events confirmed this must have been a noble work for Our Lady, she who will crush his head.”
Graces of the Day
One of the most impressive aspects of the Public Square Rosaries was the graces Our Lady gave on that day. Everyone sensed her special protection. All felt fortified to do what needed to be done and were effusive in giving thanks to the Blessed Mother for the opportunity to honor her:
One parish priest in Pennsylvania commented, “I know Our Lady will bless us here for our small efforts. God bless you. I was happy to be one of over 2,000 Rally Captains.”
In front of City Hall in Plainview, Minn., the consensus of the fourteen participants was unanimous: “It was such a grace to be able to participate in the rally in our small town and we were all blessed. Thank you for providing the opportunity to take part in this movement of the Holy Spirit.”
In Niles, Ill., the cool temperature and gray skies did not dampen the group’s enthusiasm. When it was over one woman was overheard saying, “It’s over too soon.”
In Kouts, Ind., someone counted sixty people praying the Rosary: “It was a wonderful experience and great response from the attendees; they don’t want to stop these Public Rosaries to honor Mary so we will be organizing them periodically from now on.”
“Thank you so much for the Rosary Rallies!” wrote the Captain from Cullman, Ala. “So exciting and powerful! It seems there must have been close to 100,000 people involved! Hope you will consider doing this again in the future!”
From Buda, Texas, came this report: “It was an amazing experience . . . thank you for the honor of being a Rally Captain. It was a pleasure. The program went so well . . . and the day was just beautiful. Even the wind felt heavenly.”
Over twenty Oklahoma State University Student Knights of Columbus Council, friends and family were led in the recitation of the Most Holy Rosary: “Our Public Square Rosary was a call to live Our Lady’s Fatima message and spread it across America. I feel Her Immaculate Heart was gladdened!”
At Thomas Square in Honolulu, Hawaii, the leader of an impressive crowd of more than 200 said, “It was indeed a truly spirit-filled afternoon and brought out Holy Boldness in us. A one-of-a-kind experience we would not have experienced without your inspiration. The event makes us want to repeat this yearly or even quarterly whenever it be in Our Lord’s Plan.”
Man’s efforts are insignificant in themselves. But 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.
“To the eyes of earth, nothing dramatic happened today,” wrote one Captain in Connecticut. “Thirty-five people gathered in the parking lot of St. Sebastian’s Church, talked and laughed, then processed back and forth on Washington Street between Broad Street and Main Street praying, singing, and answering a few questions from passersby.
“The two hours went very quickly—some of us commented on feeling Our Lady’s peaceful presence and we hope to repeat the Public Rosary Rally next month. . . . It is a privilege to be part of a fellowship that unites a joyful spirit ‘in the light of eternity’ with a realistic approach to the spiritual warfare that is a huge element of all human history. Our prayers and devotion to Saint Michael surely played a part, not only in the outward peacefulness of the day, but in victories which we may never know or imagine.”
Perhaps the event can best be summarized by this Captain’s observation: “We came, we saw, she conquered!”
Footnotes1. Gail Besse, “Bishop to lead Rosary for peace,” The Catholic Free Press, http://www.catholicfreep ress.org /04.07.06 /10.12.07/10.12_news.html. [back]