Why pray the Rosary every day for a year?

Each time the Blessed Virgin has appeared-- whether it be to Saint Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes; to Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco at Fatima; or to Mariette Beco at Banneux-- she has asserted the importance, saving grace, and power of praying the Holy Rosary on a daily basis. Based upon her words, the Rosary is penance and conversion for sinners, a pathway to peace, an end to war, and a powerful act of faith in Jesus Christ. Pope Paul VI presented the Rosary as a powerful means to reach Christ "not merely with Mary but indeed, insofar as this is possible to us, in the same way as Mary, who is certainly the one who thought about Him more than anyone else has ever done."

To show us how this is done, perhaps no one has been more eloquent than the great Cardinal Newman, who wrote: "The great power of the Rosary consists in the fact that it translates the Creed into Prayer. Of course, the Creed is already in a certain sense a prayer and a great act of homage towards God, but the Rosary brings us to meditate again on the great truth of His life and death, and brings this truth close to our hearts. Even Christians, although they know God, usually fear rather than love Him. The strength of the Rosary lies in the particular manner in which it considers these mysteries, since all our thinking about Christ is intertwined with the thought of His Mother, in the relations between Mother and Son; the Holy Family is presented to us, the home in which God lived His infinite love."

As Mary said at Fatima, "Jesus wants to use you to make Me known and loved. He wishes to establish the devotion to My Immaculate Heart throughout the world. I promise salvation to whoever embraces it; these souls will be dear to God, like flowers put by Me to adorn his throne."

July 23, 2013: Saint Phocas the Gardener

Posted by Jacob

Today, July 23, we celebrate the feast day of Saint Phocas the Gardener of Sinope (died 303), Martyr for the faith. Saint Phocas is considered the patron saint of gardeners, as despite being quite poor himself, spent his time growing crops to feed those who were hungry. His charity and care for others—even the soldiers who were dispatched to execute him—remind us of our call to social justice, service, and care for our fellow man.

Saint Phocas was a Christian gardener, who lived at Sinope on the Black Sea, in Paphiagonia (modern-day Turkey). He earned his living by cultivating a garden near the city gate, where he spent his days in quiet prayer and contemplation while he tilled his soil and created a beautiful green space. Despite his own poverty, he shared whatever he grew with those who were poorer than he, and opened his home to poor travelers who had no place to stay. Over time, through his quiet witness, he became known readily as a pious Christian man, and attracted the attention of the pagan Roman authorities during the persecution of Christians under Emperor Diocletian.

Roman soldiers were dispatched to find and arrest him. Having traveled a long way, the solders arrived in Sinope tired and hungry, and found themselves at the door of a kindly man who offered them food and lodging. Unaware this was the man they were charged with capturing, they accepted his gracious offer, speaking throughout dinner of the mission they were on. Once his soon-to-be-captors were asleep, Phocas spent the evening in prayer, outside the home, while digging his own grave.

In the morning, after feeding the soldiers breakfast, Phocas led them to his grave and confirmed his identity. When they were aghast and hesitated to execute him as ordered, he encouraged them to complete their task and behead him. Eventually, the soldiers did as commanded, and Saint Phocas was beheaded, earning the golden crown of the Martyrs.

The soldiers, with deep respect, buried the holy martyr Phocas in the grave that he had prepared in the garden. The place of his burial was glorified by miracles, and later a church was built there. Saint Phocas is venerated as a patron saint of both gardeners and mariners. Phocas is the Greek word for "seal,” which may explain his patronage of sailors and mariners. A sailors' custom was to serve Phocas a portion of every meal; this was called "the portion of Saint Phocas." This portion was bought by one of the voyagers and the price was deposited in the hands of the captain. When the ship came into port, the money was distributed among the poor, in thanksgiving to their benefactor for their successful voyage.

Saint Phocas remains a reminder of our duty as Christians to espouse virtuous charity: complete selfless concern for the good of others, regardless of whether we like them or not, and regardless of what we will get in return. We pray today for the strength and obedience to live loving and charitable lives.

Keep me, O God, from pettiness; let me be large in thought, in word, in deed. Let me be done with fault-finding and self-seeking. May I put away all pretense and meet everyone face to face without self-pity and without prejudice. May I never be hasty in judgment and always generous. Let me take time for all things. Make me grow calm, serene and gentle. Teach me to put into action my better impulses, straightforward and unafraid. Grant that I may realize it is the little things of life that create differences and that in the big things of life we are one. And, O Lord God, let me not forget to be kind! Amen.


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