October 13, 2017

A powerful prayer: Devotion to the rosary offers strength and peace for people on their journey of faith

A rosary being prayerfully held. (File photo by Natalie Hoefer)

A rosary being prayerfully held. (File photo by Natalie Hoefer)

(Editor’s note: 100 years ago, the Blessed Mother appeared to three children in Fatima, Portugal, instructing them to spread the word about the importance of praying the rosary for peace in the world, for peace in people’s hearts. In honor of the Blessed Mother’s request, and since October is the month of the Holy Rosary, The Criterion has invited readers to share their stories of how praying the rosary has made a difference in their lives. Here are some of their stories.)

By John Shaughnessy

First of three parts

When Jean Milharcic talks about “the grace of God’s generosity” that flows from praying the rosary, she quickly shares a life-and-death situation in her family.

“I personally believe the praying of the rosary was the very thing that brought my daughter-in-law and my grandson through his very difficult birth that almost killed both of them,” says Milharcic, a member of St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis.

“When our grandson was born, our daughter-in-law Kristen always had a rosary in her hand. She would pray the rosary as much as possible during her pregnancy. It just so happened that at 32 weeks, she hemorrhaged. Somehow, she got herself to the hospital. She lost way too much blood, and Nathan was in trauma.”

An ambulance rushed Nathan to a children’s hospital while Kristen was treated at the hospital where she initially arrived.

Mother and son both survived.

“I really believe if it had not been for Our Lady being in such close contact with our daughter-in-law during her pregnancy, we wouldn’t have either one of them survive,” Milharcic says.

“Next to praying in a very personal way to Jesus, the rosary is the most powerful prayer than can be prayed. I have asked Our Lady for guidance so very much during my life, and she always comes through in giving me peace and help.”

‘Wow, God, you do answer prayers’

When Charles Waltermann was diagnosed with cancer, doctors told him he had to have surgery and chemotherapy. So to pass the two hours of his chemo treatments, he prayed the rosary.

“Not only for myself, but for all of those others undergoing the same treatment,” says Waltermann, a member of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Richmond.

During the chemotherapy sessions, Waltermann often had to stay in the hospital. He especially appreciated the care he received during one stay from a nurse, who also was Catholic.

As she stopped in to say goodbye to him one day, she shared that she and her husband were planning to bale hay that evening. Waltermann, who had been watching the Weather Channel, told her that he hoped they finished before the rain storm that was predicted for the area.

“As soon as she left, I got out my rosary and prayed that she and her husband could get the hay in before any rain fell,” he says. “When it was my turn to get another series of chemo at the hospital, my curiosity got the better of me. So I looked her up and asked her how the haying went.

“She replied that it was so strange. It rained all around them, but they only got a drop or two. Not only that, they baled 200 bales of hay when her husband had estimated they would only do 100. Silently, I said to myself, ‘Wow, God, you really do answer prayers.’ ”

Waltermann has had his own prayers answered, too.

Seven years after the chemotherapy treatments, his doctor told him he was “cured.” Now, 17 years after his initial diagnosis, he is still cancer-free.

“I am grateful to God for the people that he put in my life at that time.”

‘The most powerful prayer I have’

Geraldine Wade grew up in a time when Holy Cross Father Patrick Peyton told his radio audience, “The family who prays together, stays together.”

So her parents decided to pray the rosary every evening after dinner. And the prayer became such a part of Wade’s life that she began making rosaries as a child. She even remembers the first one she ever made—a gift for her mother which she created with green beads because that was her mom’s favorite color.

Her mother is also central to one of the most poignant memories that Wade associates with the rosary.

“When my mom was a heart patient at St. Anthony Hospital in Louisville, the doctor came to Dad and us girls in the waiting room,” recalls Wade, a member of St. John Paul II Parish in Sellersburg.

“He told us that Mom wanted to disconnect the tubes and other life support attached to her. He said she told him that she wouldn’t need them after the 13th. My dad tried explaining to the doctor about his and Mom’s devotion to Mary, and how the 13th of each month was a recalling of her visit to the children of Fatima. [The Blessed Mother first appeared to the shepherd children on May 13, 1917. She made her last appearance to them on Oct. 13, 1917.]”

On the morning of May 13, 1984, Wade, her dad and her sisters were waiting for visiting hours to begin in the intensive care unit. Just then, the hospital’s public address system blared out a “code blue”—a call for the staff to respond quickly to a patient in a critical, life-threatening situation.

Wade recalls her dad saying, “Well, the Blessed Mother has come to take your mother home to heaven this morning. So let us pray for her pleasant journey.”

She adds, “And pulling out our rosaries, we prayed as we cried for our loss.”

After her mother’s death, her father continued to turn the radio dial every evening to the station where the rosary was prayed. When Wade could leave work in time, she drove to her dad’s house and joined him in praying for world peace—“just as Our Lady of Fatima instructed.”

“Today, at the age of 80, I am still making and giving rosaries,” Wade notes. “I also have the privilege of leading the rosary before our 11:15 Mass at least one Sunday of every month. The rosary is the most powerful prayer I have in my life besides the Eucharist.”

The beauty of the rosary

At 25, Michael Ware views the rosary as his “go-to prayer”—a prayer that has deepened his faith and helped him through the struggles in his life.

“To give you a few quick examples, I really didn’t know much about my faith as a Catholic teen,” says Ware, the director of religious education and youth ministry at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Bedford. “The rosary helped deepen it. I struggled with purity and chastity. The rosary was the chain that yanked me back to God.

“When my grandfather had bouts of illness, I used the rosary and prayed for his health, and later the repose of his soul. When I was struggling as a college student, the rosary gave me stability. It helped me fall in love with St. John Paul the Great and his teachings on Theology of the Body.

“I’ve used the rosary before major exams and prospective job interviews. If I have to sum up what I feel about the rosary, it’s my go-to prayer with all I struggle with, and it’s a prayer I know works.”

One of the beauties of the rosary for Ware is its simplicity.

“You don’t need a theology degree to appreciate it. The prayers themselves, along with solid meditations, can take you to a new relationship with the Blessed Mother and Christ you never had before.

“As a ‘twenty something,’ it’s a prayer that gives me solace. Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati called the rosary ‘a testament in my pocket’ that he always carried with him. I encourage my brothers to do the same. For all Christians, especially men, it’s a weapon we all need.” †

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