The archdiocesan Office for the New Evangelization is responding to the coronavirus with its own form of containment strategy: the rosary.
From March 13 to 24, director Meghan Cokeley and guests will lead a nightly recitation of the rosary at 8 p.m. online and via telephone, enabling participants to pray in solidarity while respecting public health measures to curtail large gatherings.
“When I sent out Archbishop Pérez’s announcement about the dispensation from the Sunday Mass obligation, I received some responses from people asking for an intentional prayer effort to respond to the pandemic and turn back the tide,” said Coakley. “And what better prayer than the rosary?”
The devotion will also provide some much-needed calm amid growing panic, she added.
“As I have been watching the news, the image I have been having in my mind is that there is this fog of darkness spreading over our communities,” she said. “It struck me that we absolutely have the spiritual weapons to push back against this encroachment.”
Cokeley noted the rosary has historically been prayed in times of disasters and distress. The feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, observed on Oct. 7, commemorates one dramatic example.
On that day in 1571, the Ottoman Empire threated to overwhelm the “Holy League,” comprised of the armed forces of the papacy and several Italian states, in western Greece’s Gulf of Patras. Pope Pius V had ordered Rome’s churches to be kept open for continuous prayer, and urged the faithful to invoke Mary’s intercession through the rosary.
The Holy League’s triumph at what became known as the Battle of Lepanto prompted Pope Pius V to declare Oct. 7 a Marian feast that his successor, Pope Gregory XIII, renamed “Our Lady of the Rosary.”
Cokeley cited a more recent endorsement of the rosary’s effectiveness: Servant of God Sister Lucia dos Santos, one of the visionaries at the Marian apparition site of Fatima in Portugal.
“Sister Lucia said that ‘there is no problem that cannot be resolved by praying the rosary, no matter how difficult it is,’” Cokeley said. “It occurred to me that this is exactly the prayer that we can wield right now to ask God to bring an end to this trial.”
Cokeley will host the rosary via the online meeting platform Zoom, which allows participants to join in using their computer, mobile device or telephone. The prayer meeting can be found at zoom.us/j/494480541. Participants are asked to click on the link at least five to 10 minutes prior to the rosary to allow any software downloads required by their devices.
Those joining by telephone can dial 646-558-8656 and enter the webinar identification number 494 480 541 when prompted.
The campaign will culminate with the Virtual Rosary Rally for Vocations on March 25, the Solemnity of the Annunciation, at 7 p.m. Sponsored by the Vocation Office for the Diocesan Priesthood, the event – entitled “Celebrating Mary’s Yes” — will unite faithful throughout the archdiocese to simultaneously pray the rosary for an increase in vocations.
Cokeley says that the coronavirus – named for the crown-like points on the disease’s molecule – will ultimately reveal who’s really in charge.
“We’ll ask Our Lady to bring an end to this pandemic,” she said. “I have no doubt that she will do it.”
For more information on the Rosary Campaign for the End of the Coronavirus, visit phillyevang.org/rosary. For more information on the Virtual Rosary Rally for Vocations, visit heedthecall.org/rosaryrally
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