by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
This past summer, I had the opportunity to lead a pilgrimage to the International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec City. Throughout the year, I hope to share with you some of the experiences and graces of that pilgrimage.
During the congress, we heard talks and testimonies of Catholics from every continent, sharing their experiences of living our Catholic faith in the unique circumstances of their country and culture. One such testimony was given by Marguerite Barankitse, who has devoted her life to rescuing victims of the civil war and ethnic violence in her native land, Burundi. In 1994, Marguerite founded Maison Shalom (House of Peace) which, since its inception, has cared for over 50,000 victims (mostly children) of war.
She related an incident when she was attempting to protect members of a particular tribe who were being massacred by a rival ethnic group. A young man with an automatic weapon entered the place where she was sheltering those fleeing the conflict. This young “soldier” was a member of the tribe perpetrating the violence.
Marguerite stood between him and those he was seeking to harm. He told her to move and turn over the refugees. She noticed that he was wearing a rosary like a necklace around his neck.
She asked him if he was a Catholic. He ignored her inquiry and motioned again for her to move. She asked him what was it that hung around his neck. He grasped his rosary. She told him to kneel down and to pray the rosary with her.
Thankfully, he complied and in the midst of the absurd violence around them, they prayed the rosary together. After praying the rosary, this young man discarded his weapon, let his would-be victims go and became a co-worker with Marguerite in rescuing other potential victims of violence in Burundi.
What a powerful illustration of the power of the rosary, particularly as a prayer for peace in our troubled world. I wish to conclude this series of columns on the rosary where I began, urging every member of the archdiocese to pray the rosary daily and to include as one of your intentions — peace. Pray for peace in your family, peace in your local community, peace in our country, peace in the Holy Land, peace in Iraq and Afghanistan, peace in our world.
I am convinced that families who pray the rosary together will experience a greater peace in their relationships. Spending these few minutes in prayer together can place in perspective and heal some of the misunderstandings and wounds that may have occurred during the day.
Contemplating the face of Jesus with Mary, together as a family, serves to make each member aware of the Lord’s presence in the midst of the ordinary events of daily life. Recalling the incarnation, the birth, the childhood, the ministry, the passion, the death and the resurrection of Jesus, not only makes us conscious of the greatness of God’s love for us, but of the dignity of the members of the family who carry the life of Jesus within them.
Sometimes our world situation seems so hopeless. It is easy to despair of finding peaceful resolutions to the conflicts that plague so many parts of the world, especially those in the Middle East.
It is interesting that there is a great respect for Mary in the Islamic world. She is the second most prominent woman in the Koran. One of Mohammed’s daughters was named Fatima — the name also of the place where Mary appeared to the Portuguese children, using them to relay her request that we pray the rosary for peace in the world.
As we approach the close of October, a month especially designated in the church to foster devotion to Mary, particularly through the praying of the rosary, I encourage you to do yourself a favor and make time daily to contemplate the face of Jesus with Mary. The rosary brings peace to the hearts of those who pray it with sincerity and devotion.
There is no more powerful way to pray for peace in our world than by engaging Mary, the Queen of Peace, to intercede with her son, Jesus — the Prince of Peace — to touch and change hearts with his merciful grace. Remember the change of heart that praying the rosary effected in at least one Burundi soldier!
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