If you put one book on your must read list for October, I recommend that you select the new treasure Champions of the Rosary: The History and Heroes of a Spiritual Weapon by Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC. As a devotee of The Secret of the Rosary by St. Louis de Montfort, I’ve long wished for an update to the classic that would deliver the beauty of the Rosary to new generations in a way that was dramatic, compelling and accessible.
Fr. Calloway has given us this gift with a book that is part devotional, part historical reference, part instruction, part pep talk and part art gallery. If you’re looking for a “one stop” way to fall in love with the Rosary, to learn why it is so powerful, or to renew your love for your favorite devotion, look no further.
Today, I’m happy to share my recent interview with Fr. Calloway. I hope that you will act today to bring this amazing book into your home and your life.
Fr. Donald H. Calloway, MIC
Q: Please briefly introduce yourself and your community to our readers.
My name is Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC and I am a member of the Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception. I currently reside in Steubenville, Ohio and serve as the Provincial Vicar for the Marian Fathers in the United States and Argentina. My religious community is very devoted to Our Lady, prays the rosary every day, and spreads the Divine Mercy message and devotion. Before I converted to Catholicism twenty-three years ago, I was a high school dropout who had been kicked out of a foreign country, institutionalized twice, and thrown in jail multiple times. After my conversion, I studied for ten years to be a priest and am now the Vocation Director for my community and the author of nine books. My latest book is titled Champions of the Rosary: The History and Heroes of a Spiritual Weapon.
Q: Tell us about what motivated this book and your discernment process in writing it.
I was motivated to write Champions of the Rosary because of a desire to have a book that contained everything there is to know about the rosary. A one-stop shop on the rosary, containing the origin, history, developments, champions, miracles, and victories associated with this devotion. Essentially, I wanted something similar to The Secret of the Rosary by St. Louis de Montfort but an updated version that contained all the many things that have taken place since St. Louis de Montfort wrote his rosary masterpiece in the early 18th century. Not finding such a book, I decided that I better write it myself before someone else attempts it and does a poor job.
Q: What will readers discover between the covers of this book?
Archbishop Augustine Di Noia, OP, the Assistant Secretary at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican, has stated that this is probably the most comprehensive book ever written on the rosary. With such an endorsement, I knew I had to put his words on the back cover! It took me over two years to do the research and writing necessary for the project and it really is a treasure trove of information. Most people are unaware of this, but there wasn’t a day that went by that I neglected to ask Our Lady to kiss every page and bless every single word in the manuscript. I also took the entire completed manuscript to Bologna, Italy, and touched it to the tomb of St. Dominic before it went to press. Of the 30 bishops, 4 cardinals, and numerous Dominican provincials and theologians who have now endorsed it, many of them have stated that it is an encyclopedia, as well as an historical and theological summa on the rosary. At 448 pages, there really isn’t any other book like it in the entire world.
As for the contents of the book, it has three sections and an appendix. The first section covers the entire history of the rosary. This was the hardest part to write and required so many revisions that I feel like a professional editor now! The second section offers a presentation of twenty-six of the greatest champions of the rosary over the last 800 years. The third section gives the practical aspects of how to actually pray the rosary (and how not to pray it), as well as insights on how to become a champion of the rosary and gain the indulgences offered by the church for those who use this devotion. In the appendix there is contained an absolutely beautiful 32-page color section of the rosary in art. I can’t begin to describe the work and effort that went into obtaining the needed permissions from museums and private collections around the world for these images to appear in the book. The art section is the crown jewel of the book.
Q: What were some of the remarkable things you learned in researching and writing this book?
One of the things that really astonished me was the number of times the rosary was used by popes, saints, and the laity to defend Catholicism against the threats and attacks of radical Islamic forces. Many people are familiar with the battle of Lepanto in 1571, but I discovered so many other instances where the rosary saved entire nations and peoples from being taken over by Islam. For me, it’s no coincidence that the Hail Mary prayer began to take shape during the exact same timeframe that Islam was being founded in the 7th century. The Hail Mary, and the rosary in particular, is heaven’s response to Islam. I’m convinced, as was Venerable Fulton J. Sheen, that it is the Blessed Virgin Mary and her rosary that will ultimately bring Muslims to Jesus Christ and Catholicism.
There were a lot of other things I discovered too. For example, I think the readers are going to be in awe of how many times the members of the church used the sacred mysteries of Christ in the rosary to overcome political ideologies, tyrannical leaders, and atheistic movements around the world. It’s simply staggering!
Q: For busy mothers, how can the rosary be a blessing to their prayer lives and their families?
The fact that the rosary is a mobile prayer makes it a great blessing to busy mothers. The rosary is the Bible on a set of beads. A mother doesn’t need to be kneeling or even at church to pray it. The rosary can be said while working, ironing, watching a child’s soccer game, cooking, driving, or even while changing a diaper. Such things as rosary rings and rosary CDs help a busy mom to be able to pray the rosary practically anywhere. In the book, I give many examples of saintly and heroic women – wives, mothers, nuns, and heroic young virgins – who loved the rosary and made it part of their daily spiritual routine.
Q: How can we overcome distractions when praying the rosary?
Everyone gets distracted while praying the rosary. It’s normal. I doubt any of us have ever prayed a “perfect” rosary. The human mind wanders. God understands that. Saint Louis de Montfort once said that when we find our minds wandering away from the mysteries, it pleases Jesus and Mary very much when we bring our heart and mind back to the mystery at hand. The reason this pleases Jesus and Mary so much is due to the fact that refocusing our mind and heart on the mystery requires us to use our will. This shows Jesus and Mary that our love for them is real and not simply grounded in whether or not our rosary “feels” good. Feelings come and go, just like thoughts come and go. For most people, distractions are going to happen all throughout their rosary, but this is never a reason to stop praying the rosary. When we keep refocusing our mind and heart on Jesus and Mary, we are like children who give butterfly kisses to the ones they love. Jesus and Mary will take all the butterfly kisses they can get!
I should mention, though, that some people have found that praying an “illustrated” rosary greatly reduces the number of their distractions. Praying the rosary this way means that a person has a small visual image of the mystery in front of them and looks at it while praying each decade. Today, there are many such tiny pamphlets that offer this visual method.
Q: Do you have a favorite go-to “champion” of the rosary?
While I love every champion, I am especially drawn to Blessed Bartolo Longo. His story is so incredible that it just boggles the mind. Here’s what I mean: When Bartolo was a university student in Naples during the late 19th century, he completely fell away from his Catholic faith and became involved in the occult. He started attending séances and eventually became an ordained Satanic priest! His involvement in the occult led him to suffer bouts of anxiety, extreme depression, hallucinations, nightmares, and a sense of hopelessness (at one point, he even contemplated suicide). But all of this changed when he talked to a Dominican priest and learned about the tremendous life-changing power of the rosary. As a result, Bartolo renounced the occult, became a Third Order Dominican, founded orphanages, schools, and rosary confraternities, and began constructing the world’s most famous shrine dedicated to the rosary: The Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompeii, Italy. His life and conversion story offer strong witness to the power of the rosary and its ability to bring back a soul from the brink of hell and turn him into a saint.
In addition to Bl. Bartolo Longo, some of my other favorite champions are St. Anthony Mary Claret, Pope Leo XIII, Blessed James Alberione, and the Servants of God Frank Duff, Fr. Joseph Kentenich, and Fr. Patrick Peyton. All of these champions are prominently featured in the book.
Q: What do you hope readers will learn from their experience with this book?
It is my greatest desire that readers come to appreciate the gift that heaven has given us in the spiritual sword of the rosary. I really believe that if people become aware of the origin, purpose, and power of this weapon, they will be inspired to take up Our Lady’s blessed beads and use it daily in their spiritual journey. The world needs the rosary more than ever today. If, after having read this book, only one person takes up the rosary and begins to pray it, all my research and writing have fulfilled their purpose.
Q: What’s next for you personally and in your ministry?
As the Vocation Director for my community, I hope to continue in this ministry for another decade or so. We are booming with vocations and have 31 seminarians right now! I love helping men discern their call and enter our community. I’ll most likely continue writing books and leading pilgrimages, too. For the past several years, I’ve been leading 2 to 3 pilgrimages a year to the Holy Land and Marian shrines like Fatima, Lourdes, Guadalupe, and Czestochowa. I absolutely love this ministry and find myself so renewed and blessed when I visit the places where Jesus, Mary, and the saints are so loved and venerated.
Q: Are there any additional thoughts or comments you would like to share with our readers?
Yes! In addition to the new book on the rosary, my religious community has also designed t-shirts that have the incredible shield-crest on them from the cover of the book. The shirts are so eye-catching that people are buying them like crazy! Also, an image that I had commissioned for the book and titled “The 26 Champions of the Rosary” is now available as canvas art. It is absolutely beautiful and being sold very cheap. In the image, Our Lady is holding a fierce-looking sword, surrounded by her 26 rosary champions. All of these items, as well as the new book and the pilgrimages I lead, can be found on my website: www.fathercalloway.com
Copyright 2016 Lisa M. Hendey
Images Copyright Fr. Donald H. Calloway, MIC, used with permission