• Memorare Media

The Atlantic, the Rosary, and the intercession of Cardinal O'Connor

"It was not courage, not arms, not leaders,

but Mary of the Rosary that made us victors."

-Venetian Senators after the Battle of Lepanto

By J. Basil Dannebohm

On the eve of the Solemnity of the Assumption, The Atlantic published an article entitled, “How the Rosary Became an Extremist Symbol.” (Though the author later changed the title to: "How Extremist Gun Culture Is Trying to Co-Opt the Rosary." A confusing revision that was perhaps intended to soften the backlash a bit.)

The article stated: “Just as the AR-15 rifle has become a sacred object for Christian nationalists in general, the rosary has acquired a militaristic meaning for radical-traditional (or “rad trad”) Catholics.”

In the hours after the article was published, it received plenty of criticism, correction, and insight from both Catholic and secular media alike. Hence there really isn't a need for me to offer any additional commentary. One thing I will point out, however, is that overnight, the article made the Rosary into something of a mainstream curiosity. Social media was abuzz with non-Catholics wondering what these beads are, and why it is that they frighten those with sinister motives.

I, for one, hope that my rosary scares the hell out of the enemies of the Immaculata — quite literally.

Mine is a heavy gold rosary some 30” in diameter. The “hammered” beads are 20-karat gold. The rosary’s centerpiece is a deliberately imperfect forged heart also made of 20-karat gold. I had the rosary created by a young man from Lansing, Michigan, who was diagnosed with stage III spinal cancer, which rendered him paralyzed from the waist down. The reason I had the rosary created and why it's so massive in size was so that it would complement its 14-karat gold Crucifix that was once the pectoral cross of His Eminence Cardinal John O'Connor.

His Eminence was a vocal opponent of abortion rights for women, human cloning, capital punishment, human trafficking, and unjust war.

On a visit to the remains of a Nazi concentration camp, Cardinal O'Connor placed his hands inside a crematoria oven where he felt the ashes of Jews and Christians. His Eminence said, "Good God, how could human beings do this to other human beings?"

A few years later, he began the foundations of a new religious community, which would be dedicated to the promotion of anti-abortion causes, specifically working for an end to abortion and euthanasia. The community would come to be known as the Sisters of Life.

In 1999, O'Connor wrote a letter to the Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S., and to Pope John Paul II. The letter pertained to an investigation against then Archbishop Theodore McCarrick of Newark. At the time, McCarrick was being considered for appointment as the Archbishop of Washington.

O'Connor summarized the charges against McCarrick, especially his repeatedly arranging for seminarians and other men to share his bed. His Eminence concluded: "I regret that I would have to recommend very strongly against such promotion."

O'Connor died in the archbishop's residence on May 3rd, 2000.

In August 2000, several months after O'Connor's death, McCarrick learned about this letter from his contacts in the Curia. He then wrote a rebuttal that convinced Pope John Paul II to appoint him archbishop of Washington.

The legacy of Theodore McCarrick will be one of disgust, distrust, and disgrace.

As for the legacy of Cardinal O'Connor, he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and was posthumously awarded the Jackie Robinson Empire State Medal of Freedom by New York Governor George Pataki.

The New York Times heralded O'Connor as "a familiar and towering presence, a leader whose views and personality were forcefully injected into the great civic debates of his time, a man who considered himself a conciliator, but who never hesitated to be a combatant", and one of the Catholic Church's "most powerful symbols on moral and political issues."

Every day when I offer my rosary, I am privileged to reflect on the life and legacy of Cardinal John O'Connor. With each bead, I pray for his intercession.

As a pro-life Catholic, I pray that His Eminence will intercede in the abolishment of abortion.

As a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a priest, I pray that His Eminence will watch over victims and intercede for justice.

As a American, I pray that His Eminence will guard this nation from attacks on Christian values and religious freedom.

Most Catholics have a rosary that has some sort of sentimental value. Perhaps it was passed down from generation to generation. Maybe it was blessed by the Holy Father or a special priest. It could be that it was a handmade gift from a friend.

In the words of St. Padre Pio, I like to think my “Rosary is the weapon for these times.”

For Catholics, the article published in The Atlantic should not be a source of shame. Rather, it should be a source of profound assurance that we indeed possess a very powerful weapon that stirs up fear in the enemies of God and His Church.

Like Cardinal O'Connor, may we strive to be men and women who consider ourselves conciliators, but who "never hesitate to be combatants.” Like the example of His Eminence, may we consider our rosaries to be "one of the Catholic Church's most powerful symbols on moral and political issues."

The rosary likely played a large part in the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court. Thus, the enemies of the Immaculata are beginning to run scared. If the rosary can restore the sanctity of life, what else can it do for our Church and our nation?

The enemies of the Truth know the power that is in our hands -- but do we?

Sister Lucia of Fatima said, "There is no problem, I tell you, no matter how difficult it is, that we cannot resolve by the prayer of the Holy Rosary."

May we never take for granted the simple, yet powerful beads we possess as Catholics. Do not wear them, or hang them from your rear-view mirror, but instead pray them -- and pray them often.

Let us therefore take up arms in the form of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. For it is indeed, a very powerful weapon.


"After the Sacred Liturgy of the Eucharist, the Rosary is what unites us the most to God through the richness of the prayers which compose it, all coming from Heaven, dictated by the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost." -- Sister Lucia of Fatima