On Saturday, October 11, faithful from San Francisco and the Bay Area will gather in the city’s United Nations Plaza for the fourth annual San Francisco Rosary rally. On August 25, San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone sent a letter to the all the pastors of the archdiocese urging them to attend. He wrote, “For a long time popular devotions have been a part of Catholic spirituality and tradition, and are ways in which we can be a reminder of the presence of God in the community.”

“Pope Francis has repeatedly encouraged Catholics to participate in popular devotions. He himself has participated in several acts of popular devotion since becoming Pope. In his recent apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, the Pope tells us, ‘In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples (cf. Mt 28:19). All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization’ (#120).” A similar letter went to the principals of all the Catholic high schools of the archdiocese. Last year’s rally showed a significant presence from two Catholic high schools, Marin Catholic and Riordan.

San Francisco’s Rosary rally is held on the Saturday following the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, observed on October 7. The feast was established by Pope Pius V in 1571 to commemorate the victory of the Christian naval forces over the numerically superior Muslim armada at Lepanto.  Wikipedia writes “Knowing that the Christian forces were at a distinct material disadvantage, the holy pontiff, Pope Pius V called for all of Europe to pray the Rosary for victory, and led a rosary procession in Rome.”

Michael Novak writes “As news of the great victory of October 7 reached shore, church bells rang all over the cities and countryside of Europe. For months, Pius V had urged Catholics to say the daily rosary on behalf of the morale and good fortune of the Christian forces and, above all, for a successful outcome to the highly risky preemptive strike against the Turkish fleets. Thereafter, he declared that October 7 would be celebrated as the Feast of “Mary, Queen of Victory.”

The Christian victory is considered one of the most decisive and significant naval battles in history, and ended Muslim supremacy in the Mediterranean. That is not the only victory given through the praying of the Rosary. In his speech at the 2013 Rosary rally, Archbishop Cordileone recalled that throughout history the faithful have turned to the Rosary when all seemed darkest. “Immediately after the (second world) war, the Soviet Union occupied the nation of Austria: it was a very tense political time, when, so it seemed, Austria would not be able to wrest itself free from Soviet control without further bloodshed, if at all. So the Austrian bishops implored their people to pray the rosary, and pray the rosary the Austrian Catholics did. After six months, for no stated reason, the Soviet Union quietly withdrew from Austria.”

The Rosary rally coincides with the archdiocesan Hispanic Ministry Day. The day begins with a 9:00 a.m. Mass in Spanish at St. Mary’s Cathedral. Following the Mass, the archbishop will lead the procession to UN Plaza. At the plaza, another group of Catholics, led by seminarians from St. Patrick’s Seminary, will already be praying the rosary in preparation for the arrival of the pilgrims from the cathedral. During the rally, which begins at noon, priests will be on hand to offer the sacrament of Confession, and the rally will be completed and crowned with adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and benediction.

This year’s rally master of ceremonies will be Father Joseph Illo, pastor of the newly-formed Oratory of St. Philip Neri at San Francisco’s Star of the Sea Church. Archbishop Cordileone will speak in both English and Spanish, and Father Andrew Apostoli, CFR, will give the keynote address. Buses will bring Catholics from parishes outside of San Francisco.

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