On a recent Saturday evening, my wife Sandy left me behind and went with her friend Lorraine to a prayer service at Our Lady of Pompeii Church in East Haven to pray for world peace in response to a plea by Pope Francis for a day of fasting and prayer on the vigil of the Blessed Mother’s birthday.
I still remember reading a message from the Blessed Mother, the Queen of Peace, during a reported apparition, that said prayer and fasting are so powerful, they can avert wars.
I wanted to go but I was suffering from bad allergy attacks, so I tried to do my part from home.
A few hours later when they returned, Sandy was excited because of the great crowd. She said there was a large group of young people and many others who are tired after so many years of war – from Vietnam to Iraq to Afghanistan and now the atrocities in Syria.
When they were entering the church, a TV reporter interviewed her and Lorraine about their beliefs.
“What did you tell them?” I asked. “What did you say?”
“I didn’t have time to think, but I hope I said what the Holy Spirit wanted me to,” she told me. “I said prayer is the most powerful force in the world, more powerful than armies and militaries, and that it’s our only hope if we want true world peace.”
My former newspaperman mentality immediately went into overdrive, and I wondered why she hadn’t mentioned the congressional vote on Syria. Why hadn’t she mentioned the United Nations? Why ...” There were a lot of whys. I also wondered what our neighbors and friends would think, especially the journalists, when they heard her say prayer is the most powerful force for good in the world.
The truth is that I believe the same thing. Yes, the rosary is more powerful than Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad and the collection of world leaders and tyrants and madmen who bring us to the precipice of global disaster every few weeks.
While the great minds of America were wrangling over the future of Syria and their own political futures, my wife was talking about prayer. To the secular intellectual, I’m sure that sounded like the views of someone who is politically naive – the views of a rosary-carrying religious fanatic. After they saw that TV interview, everyone would probably conclude we were the kind of people who have a statue of the Blessed Mother on our front lawn. (We do. Guilty as charged.)
No, I wasn’t embarrassed. I was proud because I believe prayer, especially the rosary, can stop wars and can bring peace. And I was reminded of the many stories of its spiritual power, particularly the one about a group of German Jesuits who prayed the rosary every day in a house eight blocks from where the atomic bomb was detonated in Hiroshima. Even though there was widespread devastation, they were spared and sustained only minor injuries.
There have been many other accounts throughout history. Many believe that because Pope Benedict XV added the title of “Queen of Peace” to the Litany of Loreto in 1917, the horror of World War I came to an end shortly afterward.
And Saint Pio often called the rosary “The Weapon,” which, unlike Tomahawk missiles, is a spiritual weapon that disrupts the malevolent plans of men and Satan.
It was Father Patrick Peyton, founder of the Holy Cross Family Ministries and a priest committed to a national rosary crusade back in the 1950s, who coined the phrase “The family that prays together stays together.” I’m convinced he was right and that his insight is especially relevant during the Internet age when cyberporn and online sex have destroyed many marriages.
Just look at the statistics for broken homes in America during the modern era, when cyber-adultery and pornography are rampant. These are factors that contribute to the breakup of marriages and the destruction of the family, which Fulton Sheen once said was a foundational cause of world strife, ultimately leading to war.
Borrowing a page from Father Peyton, we all should turn off our computers, our smartphones and TV sets, and buy rosary beads and start praying as families – for ourselves and for the world. Only then will peace come.
The sad reality is that all the political bobbleheads and world leaders have done nothing to secure world peace. You could make a good argument that they’re responsible for the deplorable state of the world. They’ve done nothing, so let’s give God a chance and start praying.
J.F. Pisani is a writer who lives with his family in the New Haven area.