MERRIMACK, N.H. (CNS) — Given the challenges facing the Catholic Church and the faithful in the world today, the rosary “is our true weapon, which heaven gave us for our time,” said Auxiliary Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Astana, Kazakhstan.
During an outdoor Mass Oct. 7 at Thomas More College in Merrimack, Bishop Schneider likened the five mysteries prayed in each decade of the rosary to the five stones David used to take down Goliath.
“God has chosen and is choosing always the simple ones … this is the method of God,” he said in his homily during a pontifical Mass he celebrated on the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.
Addressing students directly, he told them that they are the ones who are “preparing the soil for the renewal of the church.” In closing, he exhorted all present to live with confidence, trust and joy.
Bishop Schneider was invited to New Hampshire as a guest of Sophia Institute Press, a nonprofit publishing company based in Nashua. It publishes Catholic books, the online opinion journal Crisis Magazine, the website CatholicExchange.com and catechetical materials for teachers.
Massgoers included William Edmund Fahey, president of the four-year private Catholic liberal arts college in the Manchester Diocese; members of the college’s board of trustees; the student body, faculty and staff; and members of the Sophia Institute Press community.
Concelebrating the Mass were Father John Brancich and Father Edward Brodsky of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. Father Brancich is pastor of St. Stanislaus Church in Nashua and Father Brodsky is assistant pastor.
In his homily, the bishop also reflected on the Christian victory at the Battle of Lepanto Oct. 7, 1571, which is credited with saving Western Europe.
The battle was a naval engagement that took place when a fleet of the Holy League, a coalition of Catholic states arranged by Pope Pius V and comprising Spain and most of Italy inflicted a major defeat on the fleet of the Ottoman Empire in the Gulf of Patras.
After the Mass, Bishop Schneider mingled with members of the community, ate lunch in the student cafeteria and was present for the college’s traditional recitation of G.K. Chesterton’s epic poem “Lepanto” by three Thomas More students.
Fahey said the school was honored that Bishop Schneider “chose to offer a pontifical Mass on the feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary. The students had a rare opportunity to hear one of the most prophetic and forthright voices of our age.”
He said he also was pleased the bishop drew attention to the day being the 450th anniversary of the Battle of Lepanto.
“His sermon on the feast day, with its impassioned reminder of the significance of Lepanto, and the decisive role that prayer by small groups of Catholics played was extremely moving,” Fahey said.
“His highlighting of our own college’s place in current struggles and spiritual battles was inspiring,” Fahey added.
Charlie McKinney, president of Sophia Institute Press, thanked Thomas More College for partnering with the institute or the event and making the bishop and other institute guests “feel very welcome.”
“Hospitality and festivity are hallmarks” of the college, he said. “It made for a solemn and joyful anchor to this important moment and this great feast day.”
Bishop Schneider, 60, was appointed auxiliary bishop of Astana, Kazakhstan, since 2011. He also is the general secretary of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Kazakhstan.
He was born in the Soviet Union in what is now Kyrgyzstan. As a child, the future bishop and his family were imprisoned in the gulag. After their release, they were members of the underground church. The family emigrated to West Germany in 1973.
A member of the Canons Regular of the Holy Cross of Coimbra, Bishop Schneider was ordained a priest in 1990. He speaks German, Russian, Portuguese, Spanish, English, French and Italian.