Some of you may know about Holy Rosary, a nearly 100 year-old landmark Catholic church in Tacoma, my closest big city. The Gothic-style church built by immigrants, faces a tentative future after the immediate past Archbishop of Seattle decreed it to be “closed and razed.” For now, it’s surrounded by a six-foot-high chain link fence. keeping worshipers out.
I regard Holy Rosary as the parish of my heart, even though I’m not a member, because my business is singularly devoted to promoting the rosary through fresh flowers. I’ve done flowers for weddings here. Also our son, Joseph, was confirmed here. But mostly, this is the parish of, “Our Lady of the Holy Rosary.” It’s a local historic landmark named for the Rosary. I can’t not care!
In the wee hours of Thursday, August 29, an idea came in my sleep. Make a 20-decade rosary of fresh roses, and give it to the people of the parish, so they may use it to pray all 20 decades of the rosary, carrying it in procession around the church. (OK, later I thought, “Seven times around, blowing trumpets!” like Joshua and the battle of Jericho — and imagined the chain-link fence tumbling down! But that might be overkill.)
The Feast of the Nativity of Mary was fast approaching. How about a birthday party for Mary?
There are two things wrong with this idea. The birthday is coming too soon. And who am I to foist this on a parish community other than my own?
That afternoon I called Susan, a friend who belongs to the parish. She “got chills” hearing the idea, promised to pray, and encouraged me to pursue it.
This same evening a meeting of “Save Tacoma’s Landmark Church” would be held at Holy Rosary. I wanted to come and show support. So I called another friend, Suzanne, who would certainly be there, and I relayed my crazy idea. She LOVED it! And she promised to tell Shelly, a woman on the parish council who was also part of the effort to save the church.
After the standing-room-only meeting, I connected with a few friends about the crazy idea. They pointed out Shelly to me, so I squeezed in for a quick introduction. To my great surprise, Shelly thanked me profoundly, and said she would handle every detail, and that the Blessed Mother’s birthday would be perfect timing for this event.
And that’s as complicated as it got.
As for “who was I,” to the community of Holy Rosary — they already knew about our fresh rosaries. Heather, a friend and parishioner, ordered one for their beloved pastor’s funeral in May of last year. It played heavily in providing comfort to their community, because Fr. Michael Wagner loved the rosary, and had deep personal devotion to Our Lady through her powerful rosary.
All I needed to do was procure 203 red roses in healthy condition, make the rosary, and arrive on time for the two o’clock p.m. “Outdoor Rosary Prayer” event.
When I pulled up at 1:30, at least a dozen people were already there, along with a banner, and a display of potted chrysanthemums, and a lovely statue of Our Lady of Fatima, brought by my friend, Jackie, who “felt inspired” to put the beautiful statue in her car. All these were configured gracefully in front of the church steps — and the chain link fence. A buffet with party food spread beneath a couple of pop-up tents, and rosary handouts were ready to go.
“These people are serious!” I thought.
The crowd of around fifty gathered and prayer began. Twenty or so people carried the rosary together, making their way around the church. By the 10th decade we were spiritually laboring together. The weather went from sunny, to windy, to sprinkling, to clearing, to sunny again. I felt as though our blessed Lord gave us all four seasons of weather as a symbol of completeness. By the fifteenth decade, I was a crying mess. The “rosary lady” couldn’t contain her composure. After the twentieth decade, members of The Holy League led the concluding prayers, adding the Saint Michael prayer for spiritual warfare, and a beautiful litany.
To crown the prayers, some present began to sing a sweet hymn called Father Michael’s Song. They harmonized so beautifully. Now I was a complete mess. I could hardly carry the tune to, “Happy Birthday, Blessed Mother,” that spontaneously followed.
Equally spontaneous, those who prayed and processed with the fresh rosary began to carefully fasten it to that (horrible!) chain link fence. And then, group by group, family pictures were taken in front of the display.
Although the Seahawks won in a nail-biter on Sunday, September 8th, during the exact time of this event, it was the people of God who carried the ball past the goal line, creating a rich, spiritually fulfilling afternoon, which will be remembered for a long time. At the same time, these beautiful souls laid a foundation of prayer for the resurrection of this landmark church.
For the Greater Glory of God.
You can experience the entire rosary yourself, here at Rosary Live, hosted by Kelley Masterson, who accompanied us in prayer, and captured it all on video.
Here are some of the inspiring photos taken by my dear friend, Kellie. She’s the same Kellie in this blog post that tells the story of where FreshRosary.com came from in the first place.