2013_rosary_plazaBy Gibbons Cooney

On Saturday October 12, San Francisco Catholics celebrated the third annual SF Rosary rally. The rally began with the annual Hispanic Day Mass at a packed St. Mary’s Cathedral. Mass was celebrated by San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone.  After Mass the faithful, led by a bier with a statue of Our Lady, followed immediately by the Knights of Columbus and the archbishop, processed the one mile to United Nations Plaza. The San Francisco police department had blocked off one lane of busy Van Ness Avenue, and the faithful filled the lane as well as the sidewalk. An attendee told CalCatholic that the procession was about two city blocks long and ten people abreast. The procession was accompanied by a sound truck leading the people in the Joyful Mysteries (in Spanish) as well as in hymns. Volunteers were passing out bottles of water to anyone who was thirsty. The crowd at that point was still mostly Hispanic—coming from the Mass– and our source told us that it was filled with people of all ages and had lots of babies in strollers. At around noon the procession entered the plaza.

2013_rosary_processionAt the plaza a second group of the faithful had also been praying the joyful mysteries as they awaited the procession’s arrival. The procession was welcomed by archdiocesan vicar for administration Monsignor James Tarantino.   Frances Peterson led the crowd in “Hail Holy Queen.” The two groups then joined as one in praying the luminous mysteries of the Rosary with the first, third, and fifth mysteries in Spanish and the second and fourth in English. Peterson then sang the “Ave Maria.”

The crowd was quite a mix. Both auxiliary bishops of San Francisco Bishop William Justice and Bishop Robert McElroy were there, as was Father Moises Agudo, vicar for Spanish-speaking, and Father Lawrence Goode, chaplain of the Legion of Mary. The Missionaries of Charity and other religious sisters were there. Particularly heartening was the presence of a lot of students from Riordan and Marin Catholic high schools. School faculty came as well, including Riordan’s president, Joseph Conti, and principal, Vittorio Anastasio, and at least one of Riordan’s teachers of religion, John Ahlbach. Buses had brought the faithful from various parishes around the archdiocese, and young men from St. Patrick’s Seminary were in attendance, some of whom helped lead in praying the mysteries. In a new wrinkle, confessions were heard in the plaza by the 91-year old pro-life hero Father Francis Filice, co-founder of San Francisco’s United for Life.

Following the “Ave Maria,” organizers had another new outreach—volunteers had made sandwiches which the students distributed to the hungry. The U.N. Plaza is a gathering place for homeless in San Francisco.  The students took up a collection to offset the costs of the rally. The hymn “Santa Maria del Camino” was sung, and then Monsignor Tarantino introduced Archbishop Cordileone: “God asks us not to necessarily be popular but to be courageous and brave witnesses to his word. To be an authentic member of His Church today is not an easy thing to accomplish. To be a member of the Church leadership is even more difficult today. Let us praise God for the leadership of Pope Francis, God bless him! And God bless also the grace that has brought us our new Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone! He speaks and, though it is not popular, he speaks nonetheless as the voice of the Church, the voice of mercy, the voice of compassion, but the voice also of the Truth!

Archbishop Cordileone began “Praise be Jesus Christ!” and then added another new outreach: “I can announce a special gift to you so that we can be better connected and that I can better communicate with you, the people of God in the archdiocese of San Francisco: Text to 84576 and enter the keyword Francisco and you will be able to regularly receive my messages.” The archbishop’s gave a history of the Rosary rallies, starting with Father Patrick Peyton’s first one in 1948, and noted that Father Peyton knew that “in all the darkest moments of human life we turn to prayer, and especially praying the Rosary asking the intercession of the greatest member of our race.” The archbishop cited the example of Austria, occupied by the Soviet Army after WWII. “The Austrian bishops implored the faithful to pray the Rosary and after six months, for no stated reason, the Soviets left.” He listed all the threats today: to life, to marriage and family, to the raising of children without a mother or a father, to the Church itself. “We bishops are asking you to pray the Rosary now before the darkness is upon us. We must implore the Lord for mercy, so that in all we do and say we may proclaim him Father, Son and Holy Spirit as the one true God, in our home, in our workplaces and in public places, so that we may live according to His truth and not be duped by false promises of self-indulgent pleasure.”

The archbishop closed with a passionate plea to the faithful: “Do not underestimate the power of the Rosary…it is as powerful now as it has been in every generation. ‘Every generation shall call me blessed’ –so proclaimed the Blessed Mother to Elizabeth…and we too proclaim her blessed every time we pray the Rosary. So I ask you, I implore you, I plead with you: pray the Rosary every day. Pray it together with your family every day, as we reclaim the power of the Rosary for peace here in the city of the saint of peace, our beloved patron St. Francis of Assisi.”

Although the crowd had not noticeably grown in size from the previous year’s rally, the new efforts and approaches by the archdiocese indicate a new level of commitment. The presence of the high schools and more importantly, of their faculty, are surely planting the seeds to make the Rosary rally a significant event in the city of St. Francis.