The Knights of Columbus escort a family during the presentation of the gifts at the Independence Day Mass at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish July 4. (Jeff Grant/CATHOLIC SUN)

More than 600 worshippers, led by Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares, lifted their hearts and voices to God, seeking the nation’s return to the natural and divine principles that have protected her through more than 240 years during the Diocese of Phoenix’s seventh annual Mass and Rosary for America July 4.

“Sometimes today, it seems some no longer know what is good and what is evil. There is no longer objective truth; your truth is good for you, and my truth is good for me. No one is going to impose upon me a moral code nor authority. Are we not living in that kind of a situation?” Bishop Nevares asked the congregation assembled at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in his homily.

Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares delivers his homily during the Independence Day Mass at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish July 4. (Jeff Grant/CATHOLIC SUN)

“I think what will make America great again,” the bishop continued, referring to President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan, “is rediscovering the underpinning of our nation; one nation under God.”

Reflecting on the Old Testament passage for the day, “Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord Almighty will be with you … Hate evil, love good” (Am 5:14-15), Bishop Nevares addressed a societal departure from God and His precepts.

“Statistics tell us atheism is on the rise; more people deny God’s existence. Science will solve our problems. Science is now becoming our God,” he said, pointing to such issues as gender-shifting and marriage outside those between one man and one woman.

To cue up the homily, jump to the 1:42 mark

“Through science, they might cut off organs, but our sexual identity is in each one of our cells because of our chromosomes. But let us never believe cutting off our organs will change one’s sexual identity.”

The bishop also urged observance of all Ten Commandments, citing problems caused by lying politicians, the undercutting of the family through pornography and ignorance of God’s admonition against murder.

“Every week can hardly go by without some kind of horrific incident where innocent people get shot and killed. Why? We’re not following God’s law,” he said.

Immediately following the recessional hymn, “God Bless America,” the bishop changed his vestments and returned to join the congregation in praying the Rosary after a brief introduction by its designer, Manny Yrique.

A parishioner at St. Theresa in Phoenix and a Cursillista, Yrique said he was directed by the Blessed Mother to design the Rosary in response to his prayers early one morning in 2009. While on duty for Adoration during a Cursillo in May of that year, Yrique found himself troubled by the nasty and sometimes violent debate over Arizona’s then-proposed SB1070 anti-immigrant law.

Rosary for America designer Manny Yrique addresses the congregation just before at the beginning of the Rosary the service at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish July 4. (Jeff Grant/CATHOLIC SUN)

“I felt compelled to ask the Lord, what’s happening with my nation? We’re turning on one another. And I heard my Lord say, ‘Take it to my Mother.’ So, I pulled out my Rosary and started praying, It occurred to me we had five decades; 50 beads; let’s pray for each state.”

“We’re hoping to let people know you can be a good Catholic and you can be a good citizen. They go hand-in-hand,” he said.

A look back

History of ‘Rosary for the United States of America’

Order your rosary

Recital of each of the Rosary’s five decades was led by a representative from the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the Knights of Columbus, the Cursillo Movement, the Phoenix Fire Department and a Gulf War veteran — a collection Yrique said reflected social and religious aspects of the faith as well as government, first responders and the U.S. military.

“We need prayer desperately in these times … that God keeps blessing this beautiful country and that we remain free,” said Geoff Williams of St. Paul Parish who attended with his wife, Allyson. “With all the loss of hope and faith in God, and people believing more in themselves, abortion on demand, shootings, mass terrorism, it shows we are in a Godless society. Praying the Rosary brings down special graces from God through our Blessed Mother.”

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“The way things are going in this country, we need to pray,” said Bill Navarro of St. Theresa Parish, who attended with his wife, Carmen, on their 57th anniversary. He said he appreciated the bishop’s message. “We need to bring God into our lives daily and care for each other. This turnout is a testament to that.”