Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Rosary at the Mass Rock for Life and Faith in Ireland

Photo of a contemporary mass celebrated at the Mass Rock, Glenside Road, Belfast
Mass celebrated at the Mass Rock at Glenside Road in Belfast. Photo: Cliff Donaldson via The Irish News

On March 18, at 2:30pm (Irish local time) faithful Catholics in Ireland will be gathering at the historic Mass Rocks, Mass Houses, monastic ruins, and at the Papal Cross in Phoenix Park (Dublin) for the celebration of the Holy Mass, to pray the Rosary, and to appeal to the Irish saints for life and faith in Ireland.

It is another initiative by the same Catholic laity who successfully organized the Rosary on the Coast for Life and Faith last November that surrounded Ireland with a human Rosary of 30,000 participants at over 300 locations on the Solemnity of Christ the King.

In this next phase in the battle for life and faith in Ireland, the organizers during this Lenten season have turned to Our Lady of Fatima's requests: repentance; reparation; prayer and sacrifice for the conversion of sinners; and the daily recitation of the Rosary. 

By gathering at the many Mass Rocks (and other locations) scattered throughout the Irish landscape, organizers seek to encourage the faithful to emulate their ancestors who not only drew strength from the Rosary, but courageously risked their lives to attend Mass at the hands of "hunted priests" at these clandestine locations during a very dark period in Ireland's history of persecution against Catholics.

As the title of this national prayer effort suggests, life and faith are threatened in Ireland and have been for quite some time. The lives of the unborn are particularly threatened: a national referendum will be held in late May, on whether or not to repeal the Eighth Amendment, Ireland's pro-life clause in the constitution.

Secularization has also taken its toll on the population; there is a noticeable waning and loss of faith. This did not just happen over night, but over several decades, highlighting in the process how over a few generations, those who consider themselves members of the Mystical Body of Christ are today a smaller percentage of faithful Catholics.

Google map image of confirmed locations for Rosary at the Mass Rock
Confirmed locations as of February 27, 2017. Image:
Google Maps via Coastal Rosary Ireland
If we look to Ireland's history from the last century up until and including recent decades, it will not be difficult to ascertain how the forces of darkness (the Evil One and his demons) have been waging a war to usher in moral disorder that includes a Culture of Death: contraception (devices and birth control pills) has been available for decades; the 1992 referendum resulted in the option for women to travel to another country (England) in order to have an abortion, as well as the availability of information regarding abortion "services" in other countries; divorce was no longer banned as a result of the 1995 referendum; and most recently the referendum of 2015, ushered in "same-sex marriage."

In 2016, the Irish government set up a "Citizens' Assembly" to "consider" the future of the Eight Amendment, which arrived at the conclusion in April 2017, that the Eight Amendment should be repealed. They voted overwhelmingly for abortion to be permitted on the grounds of a mental or physical threat to the life of the mother, in cases of disability, and for socio-economic reasons.

The Eighth Amendment was approved by 67% of the Irish population in a referendum on September 7, 1983. It came into effect on October 7, 1983, the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary and states, “The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.” 

This national prayer effort seeks to draw Divine Intervention upon Ireland to prevent what abortion proponents hope will be a "positive" result in the upcoming Eight Amendment appeal referendum. For all Catholics in Ireland, the referendum will be an opportunity to respond positively, once again, to St. John Paul's homily of October 1, 1979, in Limerick:
And so I say to all, have an absolute and holy respect for the sacredness of human life from the first moment of its conception. Abortion, as the Vatican Council stated, is one of the "abominable crimes" (Gaudium et Spes, 51). To attack unborn life at any moment from its conception is to undermine the whole moral order which is the true guardian of the well-being of man. The defence of the absolute inviolability of unborn life is part of the defence of human rights and human dignity. May Ireland never weaken in her witness, before Europe and before the whole world, to the dignity and sacredness of all human life, from conception until death. (6)  
Saving the Eighth Amendment is absolutely essential in the battle for life and faith in Ireland; one that is primarily a spiritual battle that must be fought with spiritual weapons.

In addition to the Mass, the selection of the Rosary to fight this spiritual battle is not without its special significance. In the Secret of the Rosary, at the Forty-Sixth Rose: Group RecitationSaint Louis De Montfort wrote that not only is group recitation of the Rosary the method of prayer that the devil fears the most, but "...[I]t is far more formidable to the devil than one said privately, because in this public prayer it is an army that is attacking him." (98)

By selecting the Rosary to fight the good fight, this national effort follows a long-held tradition in the Catholic Church that began in 1214, when the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St. Dominic, the founder of the Order of Preachers, and gave him (and the entire Church) the Rosary. In addition to its many benefits—including the conversion of sinners—the Rosary is an effective weapon against the Evil One and his demons.

In his encyclical Supremi Apostolatus OfficioPope Leo XIII wrote about devotion to the Rosary and its efficaciousness as a remedy for the many evils of society. Pope Leo XIII stated, "It has always been the habit of Catholics in danger and in troublous times to fly for refuge to Mary, and to seek for peace in her maternal goodness; showing that the Catholic Church has always, and with justice, put all her hope and trust in the Mother of God." (2)

Written in 1883, Pope Leo XIII's encyclical not only encouraged devotion to the Rosary, but spotlighted how important it has been in the history of the Catholic Church when faced with several threats; namely, the violence of heresy, intolerable moral corruption, and aggressive Islamic attacks by the Ottoman Turks.

A photo of the Mass Rock at Letterkenny, Donegal, Ireland
Mass Rock ("Carraig an Aifrinn" in Gaelic) at Letterkenny, Donegal, Ireland. Photo: We Love Donegal/Mass Rocks

The Mass Rocks located throughout the Irish landscape were specifically chosen for their historical significance: a period in Ireland when Catholics were legally persecuted by the British Crown and the state-sponsored, Church of Ireland for almost 300 years. As a result of that persecution, faithful Catholics had to clandestinely attend Mass at various locations throughout Ireland where natural flat rock formations became altars and other rocks (some taken from damaged monasteries and churches) had been formed into crosses and altars for midnight-Mass celebrations.

In his homily at Phoenix Park in Dublin during his Apostolic Journey to Ireland in the Fall 1979, Saint John Paul II had mentioned the Mass Rocks in stressing how important the Mass has always been for Ireland:
As I stand here, in the company of so many hundreds of thousands of Irish men and women, I am thinking of how many times, across how many centuries, the Eucharist has been celebrated in this land. How many and how varied the places where Mass has been offered—in stately mediaeval and in splendid modern cathedrals; in early monastic and in modern churches; at Mass rocks in the glens and forests by "hunted priests", and in poor thatch-covered chapels, for a people poor in worldly goods but rich in the things of the spirit, in "wake-houses" or "station houses", or at great open-air hostings of faithful—on the top of Croagh Patrick and at Lough Derg. Small matter where the Mass was offered; for the Irish, it was always the Mass that mattered. (1)
In her email to supporters, Kathy Sinnott, who heads the group organizing this national prayer effort stated, "Our Mass Rocks and monastic ruins tell an important story of commitment to life and faith that we must never forget. They remind us that life and faith are treasures worth the greatest sacrifice." As to why March 18, was chosen as the date for this national prayer event, Sinnott explained:
  • It bridges the feasts of our two great saints: March 17, St Patrick, the Patron and Protector of Ireland and March 19,  St Joseph, the Patron and Protector of the Family and of the Universal Church who visited the Irish in Knock in a special manifestation of his care.
  • It is the Fifth Sunday of Lent (in the extraordinary form known as Passion Sunday) when we through the liturgy begin the ascent to Calvary.
  • It marks the 145 Anniversary of the Consecration of Ireland to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Passion Sunday 1873
  • It falls on the Feast of Our Lady of Mercy (Savona) where Our Lady called for fasting and conversion of life so that we will be shown "Mercy not Justice." This devotion was especially highlighted by Pope Benedict XVI.
  • It is the feast of Blessed Christian O'Conarchy, the first Cistercian abbot in Ireland 1100s, Bishop of Lismore and a model of Irish monastic devotion.
  • It precedes a series of referenda which seek to legalize abortion (Article 40.3.3), blasphemy (Article, no fault divorce (Article 41.3) and to remove recognition from the home carer (Article 41.2.1)

Sinnott also stated that St. John Paul II and the "Rosary Priest" Venerable Patrick Peyton will be asked to bless the Rosary at the Mass Rocks and all who take part.

This group at
 is a shining example of how the laity can effectively put faith into action on a national level.

When I was first informed about Rosary at the Mass Rock, I was not only pleased to read about this next phase in the continued effort for life and faith in Ireland, but it also brought to mind Saint John Paul II's Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici, on the vocation and mission of the lay faithful in the Church and in the world. At eighty-four pages, it thoroughly details and explains that vocation and mission, and was written with the intention to stir the laity to a deeper awareness of the gift and responsibility they share, both as a group and as individuals, in the communion and mission of the Church.

Christifideles Laici is perhaps more relevant today than when it was first released on December 30, 1988, on the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Saint John Paul II stated, "A new state of affairs today both in the Church and in social, economic, political and cultural life, calls with a particular urgency for the action of the lay faithful. If lack of commitment is always unacceptable, the present time renders it even more so. It is not permissible for anyone to remain idle." (3)

In today's state of affairs in the Church and in the world, there is an ever increasing need for the laity to get involved and boldly take up the challenges of living the Catholic faith in the twenty-first century as part of the Church's evangelical mission. Kathy Sinnott, her fellow organizers, and all participants have certainly demonstrating this in a most admirable way last Fall—not to mention the planning, prayer, fasting, and effort it takes to organize such a national event—and will be doing so again in less than three weeks from today.

May Catholics in Ireland and those throughout the Universal Catholic Church be united in prayer on March 18; that it may draw God's Divine Intervention and mercy upon Ireland, "save the eighth," and uproot and remove the moral disorder from the landscape and restore Ireland to a Culture of Life.

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