Seeds of the Word - The story of a grandson who prayed the rosary with his grandparents

Photo: Ellen Bollard Photo: Ellen Bollard
It is at home where we learn to pray the rosary and to love Mary

On Oct. 7, 1571, Christians defeated the Turks in a sea battle at Lepanto. Losing this battle would have put our religion at risk. Pope St. Pius V asked the church to pray the rosary for the Christian fleet. A few days later, messengers announced the triumph. The pope instituted the feast of Our Lady of Victory on Oct. 7.

The following year, Gregory XIII changed its name to the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. This feast would be celebrated the first Sunday of October, the day the Christian fleet won the battle. Nowadays, we celebrate the feast of the Holy Rosary on Oct. 7 — and October is called the “month of the rosary.”

The rosary is the family prayer par excellence. We all learn to pray hearing the prayers from the lips of our mother. She teaches us to make the sign of the cross, to pray the Our Father, and usually it is she who makes us pray the rosary with her.

If it is not our mom, it is our grandmother then. My grandma had a drawer full of rosaries. Every evening, at 6 o’clock, my grandparents would stop whatever they were doing to pray the rosary. They did it in their bedroom, before a picture my grandma painted reproducing Raphael’s La Belle Jardinière, the beautiful portrait of the Madonna and her Child with John the Baptist, displayed in the Louvre, in France.

Every time we visited our grandparents, we had to pray the rosary with them. I always led the Litany of Loreto at the end. My sisters and I loved when grandma opened her drawer for us to pick a rosary out of her collection. I promised myself that when I grew up, I would have a drawer full of rosaries like grandma. And I do, keeping rosaries I have collected from each basilica and shrine I have visited in a pilgrimage. My very favorite is a blue rosary I purchased at the Vatican, which Pope Benedict XVI blessed for me.

One of those pilgrimages would take me to the cell where St. Maximilian Kolbe was killed in the concentration camp in Auschwitz. That visit changed my life. I knew about Maximilian’s profound love for the Immaculata and how this Conventual Franciscan had given up his life in exchange for a man who was sentenced to be starved to death with others, in retaliation for the escape of another prisoner. Maximilian did not die of hunger, but of a lethal injection. After several days without food and water, the Nazis grew tired and decided to put an end to his life.

I remained static at the gate of the cell. A chill overwhelmed my soul as I imagined Maximilian Kolbe extending one arm to the soldier who injected the poisonous substance while he extended his other arm to the Immaculata, who held his hand and carried him into heaven.

The following day, at Niepokalanów, the Franciscan convent built by Maximilian, I was struck by a powerful call to consecrate my life to the Immaculata and join the Militia Immaculatae founded by Maximilian Kolbe in Rome, on Oct. 16, 1917 — we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of our foundation!

One of the ministries of the Militia Immaculatae is evangelization through the mass media. For this reason, a significant amount of my apostolic activity is done through the press, radio and the internet. When I was invited to collaborate as the editor of the Spanish section of Northwest Catholic, it was a great surprise seeing the image of St. Maximilian Kolbe hanging from the wall behind the table where I proofread our copy every month. He is always there, interceding for our work!

May our rosary prayer this month and the reading of this magazine you hold in your hands be all — as was always St. Maximilian Kolbe’s purpose — “for the maximum glory of God.”

Be passionate about our faith!

Read the Spanish version of this column.

Northwest Catholic - October 2017

Mauricio I. Pérez, a member of St. Monica Parish on Mercer Island, is a Catholic journalist. His website is