On October 13, 2018, there were 21,145 Public Square Rosary Rallies all across America. This special outreach of the America Needs Fatima campaign seeks to beseech God’s blessings on a sinful America by praying in a conspicuous public place.
I have participated in many of these rallies over the years. Each time, I have been impressed by how Our Lady of Fatima blesses the rallies and everything around them. I am usually edified by those who look with favor on our public prayer and even join us in prayer.
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This year, however, it was different.
The Rally of Hostility
I experienced what I call a “rally of hostility.” We were not welcome at our public square. There was something oddly un-American about the whole affair since the public opposed our public religious expression. It was also very contrary to the ways of New York City sidewalk crowds. They generally accept just about any activity on the street. Here, the public was hostile as tension filled the air.
Of course, our public square was not just any public square. It was clearly in enemy territory. We had decided to turn our event into a public square protest as well as rally. The object of our protest was the blasphemous “Heavenly Bodies” exhibit that had just finished showing. The place was in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Fifth Avenue, in New York City, where the exhibition had been displayed for five terrible months.
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This was also not your rosary-praying public. The people at the Met were a mix of liberal art lovers, tourists and well-heeled sightseers. They were aghast at seeing a group of rosary-wielding prayer warriors on their turf. That is not to say there were no Catholics who secretly mouthed a quick Hail Mary or two when passing by. However, the pressure to hide religious convictions was overwhelming. Our group of less than a hundred faced thousands that passed by or sat upon the museum’s huge entrance staircase that formed a Coliseum-like amphitheater.
A Battlefield in the Culture War
Ours was a very orderly rally, as everyone was lined up behind the barriers erected by police in anticipation of our presence. We had flags, standards, placards and banners for maximum impact. A brass band and bagpipes livened up the mix and irritated those who disagreed with our public act of love and reparation. The Rosary was prayed in loud voices punctuated with Marian hymns. A large statue of Our Lady of Fatima flanked by an escort in TFP ceremonial attire was the centerpiece of the rally.
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The first indication that this was not going to be a smooth rally were the comments from passersby. They had seen our signs that explained our prayers of reparation for the sins of the nation, which included abortion, same-sex “marriage” and blasphemy. This seemed to enrage them.
What had begun as a peaceful rally quickly became a battlefield in the Culture War. However, there were no loud debates since most of these people did not want to argue about the morality of abortion or any other issue. Their minds were closed to any arguments. Theirs were drive-by remarks peppered with foul language and insults as they quickly moved away, continuing their itinerary.
The Intolerance of Those who Cry Tolerance
I was impressed by their hostile intolerance. These passersby would roll their eyes, make snide comments and try to discourage those praying. Others would harass those praying by taking excessive pictures. They would decry our intolerance while showing none themselves for us. They would take a flyer and rip it up without even reading a line.
I was particularly impressed by the scene of a family who passed by. The mother stopped and took out a rosary and prayed with us. The other family members walked away ashamed. Then I saw the daughter come and plead with the mother to stop praying but to no avail. When she left, the son approached and very rudely insisted she leave our protest-rally. He also walked away when he saw it was to no avail. Finally, the husband arrived on the scene and tried to persuade her to leave, but she held her ground and stayed to the end. In leaving, she said: “I needed to pray for my son. He has become a homosexual.”
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The pressures to abandon Our Lady are indeed great. However, the example of this courageous lady served to show that resisting this pressure can be done.
Hated for His Namesake
Finally, our rally was the target of hate. It wasn’t pleasant to face. Indeed, Our Lord tells us in the Gospel to expect hatred. He was hated, and we will be “hated for His namesake.” However, experiencing this hatred is different from its mere expectation.
The prayer rally was motivated by a love of God and country. TFP and its America Needs Fatima campaign have always insisted that they harbor no hatred toward any person or persons. Their fight is strictly in the realm of principles and Christian morals. They follow Saint Augustine’s teaching to “hate the sin, but love the sinner.”
Nevertheless, several passersby angrily expressed their hatred for us by their words, gestures and actions, all the while calling us haters. Some would shout out their hatred; others manifested it more discreetly. True, most of those walking by did not hate us, but the intensity of those who did created a climate of hostility that could not be ignored on that brisk October afternoon in New York City.
Thanking Our Lady
Meanwhile, all across the nation, 21,145 rosary rallies took place. Fortunately, most of them were not rallies of hostility. Many people were overjoyed by the graces and blessings that Our Lady showered upon them on this occasion. Passersby honked and expressed their enthusiastic support for the rallies. And we must thank Our Lady when she rewards our efforts with these blessings and consolations.
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However, not all rallies can be consoling and encouraging in this sinful world. There will also be rallies of hostility and hatred. This is to be expected since in Fatima Our Lady spoke of sin and persecution. The shock of such hostility is a reminder of the world we live in and the legal and peaceful fight in which we must be engaged.
That is why we must thank Our Lady for these rallies of hostility as well. Indeed, we are privileged to share in Our Lady’s suffering and to be hated for her sake.