Prayer by the masses

LEXINGTON – More than 700 people from throughout the state prayed, processed and listened to Marian music and spiritual talks during the diocesan-sponsored Rosary Celebration at Corpus Christi Church on Sunday, Oct. 5. In response to Pope John Paul II’s appeal for the rediscovery and promotion of the rosary, Bishop Robert J. Baker made a special invitation to the faithful of the Diocese of Charleston to attend as an appropriate way to conclude the Year of the Rosary, designated last year by the Holy Father in his apostolic letter, “Rosarium Virginis.” Bishop Baker stated three intentions for this rosary: for all human life, for family life, and for world peace. The new luminous mysteries chosen for the day were accompanied by corresponding scriptural passages which were read in Spanish, Vietnamese, Latin, Filipino and Polish before each mystery. “Having the mysteries (Scriptures) said in different languages really touched me,” said Jerome Remkiewicz. “It drove home the point that the Blessed Mother is everyone’s heavenly mother, our universal mother.” Remkiewicz processed with an image of Our Lady of Czestochowa, patroness of Poland. Nester Reyes and his son came to the celebration from St. John of the Cross Church in Batesburg and transported their Marian platform used during the procession.

“Mexicans see Mary as their spiritual mother, and we pray the rosary as a family. Today was special because we were a part of a bigger community,” said Reyes.

Father Steven Brovey, vicar for divine worship and sacraments, organized the celebration. He said the highlight of the day for him was the outdoor procession because it brought back memories of reciting the rosary in Lourdes, France.

Another colorful expression was the Vietnamese flower dance, performed by a group of Vietnamese Catholic youths in their native dress. For their finale, the girls held up their fans, spelling out “Mary, Mother of God, pray for us” to spontaneous applause from the crowd.

“I was happy to be part of the celebration, especially to be given an opportunity to dance for God and Mary,” said Thanh Phan.

Choirs from Corpus Christi and St. Joseph Church blended as one under the direction of Charles Renick, who also served on the planning committee. He was assisted by Teresa Riley.

Bishop Baker dedicated the Our Lady of South Carolina icon and once again consecrated the Diocese of Charleston to Mary, mother of Christ and mother of the church.

The commissioned artist, Father Larry Lossing of the Diocese of Orlando, also attended the ceremony. As an iconographer, he did the traditional prayer and fasting while “writing” the icon, using the design ideas of Father Stan Smolenski, co-director of the Office of Volunteers. Lossing has done hundreds of other icons, most recently completing a 67-foot-by-24-foot icon for a church in New York.

The first speaker of the day was Dominican Father Giles Dimock from the Dominican House of Studies, who spoke on the history, theology and practical application of the rosary.

“I like to tell people I am a convert to the Blessed Mother,” said Dimock. He grew up praying the rosary with his family, but distanced himself from the devotion and did not wear the rosary which is part of the Dominican’s habit.

“After Vatican II, some said that we were paying too much attention to Mary and we were slighting Jesus,” said Father Dimock. He accepted this line of thinking, but with time, and with the aid of the strong and courageous image of Our Lady of Vladamir, he began to rediscover his love for the Mother of God, a woman who bravely stood at the foot of the cross. While on a visit to Lourdes, he realized he had been suffering from the sin of spiritual pride.

“God had given me this spiritual mother, and I rejected her,” remembered Father Dimock. Upon that discovery, he went to confession and bathed in the spring at Lourdes, a healing experience.

He gave a brief history on the rosary, showing the similarities between the struggles of today and those faced by the church in the 12th century. St. Dominic was given the rosary from the Blessed Mother to fight the Albigensian heresy that claimed everything spiritual was from God and everything material was evil.

“The Albigensians spoke against marriage, promoted free sex without having children, and encouraged assisted suicide. Does this sound familiar?” he asked, and suggested that everyone use the rosary to preach truth and contemplate the life of Christ with Mary.

The second speaker was editor and author Mike Dubruiel from Our Sunday Visitor Publishing, who recently published his own reflections on the luminous mysteries of the rosary. He walked his listeners through each new mystery, showing how it calls for reform, starting with the individual.

Dubruiel said that the first mystery, the Baptism of Our Lord, has a lesson of humility, repeating the words of John the Baptist, “I must decrease so that Christ can increase.” The second mystery shows the human need for God’s help and guidance.

“When there was no wine, Mary turned in faith to Jesus and said (to the servants), ‘Do whatever he tells you,’ ” he said.

In the Proclamation of the Kingdom mystery, he pointed out the need to search for God, summed up in the biblical quote, “Our hearts are restless until we rest in the Lord.”

Thanking God at all times is illustrated in the fourth luminous mystery, the Transfiguration. “Even in the darkness, Jesus radiates hope, and we can experience a transfiguration in times of difficulty,” Dubruiel said.

The last luminous mystery is the Institution of the Eucharist; the faithful are invited to receive Jesus. “Do not keep yourself from the table of the Lord, and do whatever is necessary, to return to the sacrament,” Dubruiel urged.

After the rosary and prior to the Benediction, three men gave personal testimonies of the power of prayer. They were Umberdo Anunfo, Joseph Roddy and Frank Lucas from Our Lady of Hope Community at the St. Vincent de Paul Farm in St. Augustine, Fla.

Each of the men had fallen into an addictive lifestyle that led them to near destruction. These desperate young men found new life and transformation through the prayers of their parents and the help of Comunita Cenacolo, a community founded in Italy in 1983 by Sister Elvira Petrozzi that helps troubled youth establish a relationship with God.

“Sometimes for young people the problem starts in our hearts, so our healing must begin through prayer,” said Anunfo. He said he was once spoiled, wanting to “satisfy any kind of pleasure” but still felt dead inside.

“My mother never stopped praying for me. When I was completely destroyed, she proposed Comunita Cenacolo, and I entered the community,” said the young man. He now helps within the community. “Any moment of the day we should remember God and Mary and give thanks.”

Bishop Baker was actually instrumental in finding help for Joseph Roddy, who was also a troubled young adult.

His parents contacted Bishop Baker and Roddy was placed in the community, where he said his problems were supplanted with a foundation of prayer. He is now happily married and living successfully outside of the community.

The last speaker, Frank Lucas, gave the most remarkable conversion story. His father was an alcoholic and his mother worked two jobs to support the family. Lucas said he had too much time on his hands and soon found trouble. He was shot during a fight and refused to sign the medical papers so the doctors could operate and save his life.

“I wanted to die so I could stop feeling so empty inside,” he said. “I used to think the Eucharist was just a piece of bread, but I now know different. Through prayer, I understand, and I can receive the Eucharist with a clean heart.”

Lucas also shared how his father, through prayer, hasn’t had alcohol for 15 years, is a eucharistic minister and is studying for the permanent diaconate.

“The rosary was my salvation,” he said. “At first I found it difficult to pray, but once I became open to it, everything just flowed abundantly. Just give it time.”