Celebration of Mary's name in Austria: "Under your protection we take refuge..."

The annual celebration of the Name of Mary: a strong witness to the Austrian faith. Since 1958, the "Community of Prayer for the Church and the World" has organized the "Celebration of the Name of Mary" for two days around September 12.

Fritz Brunthaler-September 19, 2022-Reading time: 5 minutes
Maria Namen-Feier

Text of the article in German here

The year is 1683, September 12. A mighty Turkish army of 200,000 men is at the gates of Vienna. More than 150 years ago, in 1529, Sultan Suleyman I had failed in his attempt to conquer the imperial city, the center of the Habsburg empire. But now, given his military superiority, nothing seems to stand in the way of Kara Mustafa's success.

Trusting in his name

It is true that a supporting army was formed to liberate Vienna: imperial troops, Bavarians, Saxons, and above all Poles, under the command of King Jan III Sobieski, but... what are these 65,000 men against a force three times greater? But the Viennese trusted in God's help and in the intercession of their Mother: on September 12, Blessed Marco d'Aviano implored the protection of the Almighty at Holy Mass celebrated on Mount Kahlenberg, which rises above the city in the north. Then, with the banner of the Virgin protecting with her mantle at its head, the attack on the besiegers' positions takes place from above and down the slopes. Despite their numerical superiority, the latter are so surprised that they flee in haste and leave behind many pieces of their equipment, among them the cannons from which the "Pummerin", the largest bell in Austria, which hangs in the temple of St. Stephen, the cathedral of Vienna, will later be cast. In thanksgiving to Mary, Pope Innocent introduces for the whole Church the feast of the Name of Mary on the Sunday after the Nativity of Our Lady. Pope Pius moved it to September 12. In Austria, the feast of the Name of Mary is truly celebrated with great festivity.

The "Rosary Reparation Crusade": for world peace

It is the year 1947, and it is February 2: what almost 300 years ago, in keeping with the times, was believed and prayed for in war and battle against an unbelieving enemy, now, on the ruins of the Second World War, will serve only for peace. Otto Pavlicek, born in Innsbruck in 1902, who had grown up far from God and for some time abandoned the Church, underwent his conversion in 1937: at the age of 35 he entered the Franciscan Order and received the religious name of Petrus.

In 1941 he was ordained a priest. He had to enlist in the army and became a doctor. One year after the end of the war, he gives thanks in Mariazell She prayed for her happy return home and prayed for Austria, her homeland, with deep concern. Then he had an inner inspiration: he heard the words spoken by Our Lady at Fatima: "Do whatever I tell you and you will have peace". Peter Pavlicek founded on February 2, 1947 the "Rosary Reparation Crusade", a community of people who pray the rosary: prayer for the conversion of people and for peace in the world.

But Austria's freedom from the four victorious powers that have occupied Austria since the end of World War II is also at stake. This is why senior Austrian politicians, such as the then Federal Chancellor Leopold Figl and his successor Julius Raab, are also joining the prayer community.

The number of members increased rapidly, the community received support from the Archdiocese of Vienna: in 1950 there were 200,000 members, in 1955 more than half a million. Fr. Peter also called on the people to take part in atonement processions, which were now organized every year around September 12, the feast of the Name of Mary, and again many of the faithful came: in 1953 there were 50,000, in 1954 there were 80,000 participants.

When Russia gave its consent, against all odds, to the State Agreement in 1955 and thus approved Austria's freedom, many saw in this the fulfillment of their petitions to Our Lady. The then Federal Chancellor, Julius Raab, expressed himself thus: "If so much prayer had not been said, if so many hands in Austria had not been folded in prayer, we probably would not have succeeded".

The Feast of the Name of Mary

In order to continue praying together with confidence in the Name of Mary, the "Rosary Reparation Crusade" - today also called "Community of Prayer for the Church and the World" - has been organizing the "Celebration of the Name of Mary" for two days around September 12 since 1958.

Every year, thousands of believers and dozens of priests and bishops gather in Vienna's "Stadthalle" - a venue for major events, e.g. music concerts and the like - to pray together, give witness to the faith and to celebrate Holy Mass. Since 2011, the celebration has taken place in the Vienna Cathedral. The Pope sends his greetings and blessings to the participants from Rome.

Each year the celebration has a different theme: in 2020, the year of the pandemic, it was called "On the Way to Jesus"; in 2021 it was about the synodality of the Church. After the Eucharistic celebration, the statue of Fatima is carried in procession through the center of Vienna to the courtyard in front of the official residence of the Federal President of Austria for the final blessing.

In the jubilee year of the 75th anniversary of the Rosary Reparation Crusade, the guest preachers at the celebration of the Name of Mary, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna, and Franz Lackner, Archbishop of Salzburg and "Primas Germaniae" according to tradition, asked themselves, "Is it of any use to pray? And what do we hope for today, as people who pray?" also in connection with the war in Ukraine.

The unanimous response was: prayer for peace is as necessary today as it was 75 years ago! Cardinal Schönborn encouraged the faithful present: "Let us not worry, even if there are fewer of us. For the power of God's reality is stronger than our human weakness".

The task of the prayerful, he said, is therefore to "get down to work" for one's neighbor and for the world. "Even if modern man has forgotten that he has forgotten God," Archbishop Lackner said, nevertheless the response must not be resignation, but firm hope that man's longing for redemption and justice is stronger than indifference. "Even though it may seem that we are powerless with our rosaries, it will grow where there is longing for God. When we let the plight of the suffering affect us and bring it before God, our prayer will be heard."

In the 1960s the Rosary Reparation Crusade spread outside Austria, at first mainly in Germany. Today, some 700,000 people in 132 countries belong to it. The Rosary Reparation Crusade wants to promote a deeper devotion to Mary, based on Holy Scripture, because Mary is a sure way to Christ.

The "Mother of believers" places the Rosary in their hands as a help. We must also keep alive the idea of vicarious atonement, which, according to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, is a "primordial fact of biblical witness".

The Rosary Reparation Crusade also wants to move to prayer and sacrifice for the conversion of sinners. The members of the Community of Prayer should pray daily at least one mystery of the Rosary and, as a fruit of the Rosary, do the work conscientiously, be helpful and bear sufferings and sorrows with patience, also in a spirit of vicarious expiation.

Fr. Petrus Pavlicek died in 1982. The diocesan phase of his beatification process was closed in 2001 in the Archdiocese of Vienna, and has been continuing in Rome ever since.

The authorFritz Brunthaler


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