Zeal • Courage • Gallantry • Humility • Loyalty
These five virtues substitute for the traditional mysteries in a rosary specially envisioned for men, called the “Men of Virtue Rosary,” a collaborative work by a faith-filled parishioner, a priest and the Holy Spirit.
The idea for the new interpretation of the Catholic prayer was conceived in January 2016 while strolling through the peaceful wooded surroundings at the Malvern Retreat House in Malvern, Pa.
Michael “Mike” Skinner, a parishioner at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore, and the Cathedral’s associate pastor, Fr. Andrew DeFusco, were on retreat with the Cathedral’s Men’s Club (Men of Mary Our Queen), walking the grounds together and reflecting on favorite moments of Christ’s life. The deeper the conversation delved, the more the pair realized that each moment had something in common: a virtuous example that men should emulate in their daily lives.
As co-founders of the Men’s Club, both Skinner and DeFusco felt that these moments would be perfect to develop further into a written format, which they could eventually present to the group to reflect upon together. After scribbling down notes while still on retreat, then expanding on those initial thoughts for a few weeks at home, Skinner developed a document that he then shared with the Men’s Club. The club members liked it; the problem, however, was that the document was too text-heavy.
By this point the document contained the five virtues, and, given the connection between both the rosary and the Cathedral to Mary, formatting Skinner’s document around the prayer seemed ideal.
“I knew I wanted to build it around the rosary,” Skinner said, “but I just looked at this Word document and said, ‘Well this isn’t something that people would naturally pick up because it’s a little overwhelming.’ Too many words.”
The next step in the new rosary’s journey was to condense the document and make it more appealing. After searching for a professional designer to help take on the task, Skinner eventually found one in Chandra Guglik, owner of Guglik Designs based in Baltimore. After a tour of the Cathedral for inspiration, Guglik created a beautiful design to complement the Rosary’s virtues. Within just a few weeks, by May 2016, a booklet was produced. (Read about Guglik’s design process for the booklet here.)
The booklet’s cover features the five virtues that Skinner and DeFusco originally selected, each paired with a scene from various stained-glass windows from the Cathedral that visually represents the virtue. Following a brief introduction describing Jesus Christ as “the perfect model to live our lives,” each virtue has two pages that include a scripture passage, in which Jesus exemplifies the virtue in his life, followed by a second example of a saint who lived out the virtue in his own life, to serve as inspiration.
The main “Meditation” for each virtue is prominently highlighted:
- Zeal – Blessed is the zealous man, he who has given his life to something greater than himself.
- Courage – Blessed is the courageous man, he who is unafraid to speak truth to power.
- Gallantry – Blessed is the gallant man, he who protects and defends the honor of women.
- Humility – Blessed is the humble man, he who leads with selflessness, confidence and composure.
- Loyalty – Blessed is the loyal man, upon whom others can rely, depend and trust.
Having received positive feedback from the Men’s Club after presenting the new booklet, Skinner and DeFusco planned a recitation of the new rosary for the parish at the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary on Oct. 7, 2016. The celebration was well attended by parishioners, members of the Catholic Men’s Fellowship of Maryland and the Catholic Review. (Read the Catholic Review’s coverage of the recitation here.)
After the new rosary’s public introduction at the feast day recitation, “things really started to pick up some steam,” Skinner says.
One parishioner at the Cathedral, Christina Lawrence, was so inspired by the new rosary that she approached Skinner with the idea to develop the prayer into an audio podcast, with each virtue’s meditation and reflections vocalized, which could be listened to and prayed while on the go. Lawrence and her husband, Jon, have produced the podcast, which is available for download on iTunes.*
On Feb. 16, Skinner and the Men of Virtue Rosary debuted on the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) program “At Home with Jim and Joy” to discuss its origin and inspiration. On March 25, Skinner, DeFusco and several members of the Cathedral’s Men’s Club will present and discuss the rosary at the Catholic Men’s Fellowship of Maryland’s Annual Conference in Baltimore.
Skinner acknowledges that thanks in part to DeFusco’s advocacy as the Cathedral’s associate pastor, both the Cathedral’s rector, Monsignor Richard Woy, and Archbishop William Lori have been fully supportive of their efforts for the Men of Virtue Rosary.
Prior to the retreat at Malvern, Skinner had undergone a personal spiritual journey, consecrating himself to Mary and serving in the prison ministry in Baltimore. While in this ministry, Skinner recognized the lack of positive male role models in the lives of the prisoners. At the same time, a few other parishioners, DeFusco and he were forming the Cathedral’s Men’s Club.
Wanting to offer a hopeful path for men in the community to follow, Skinner thought, “We’ve got to figure out: how do we bring people closer to Christ; men having a model in Christ so that they can be better?”
Thus, the mission for the Men’s Club, and eventually the purpose for the Rosary, was born.
“There has never been a greater need for good men,” Skinner states. He felt, that given the life of Jesus Christ, what better role model for men could there be than the one “true God and true man?”
Skinner and DeFusco stress that the Rosary is intended for women just as much as it is intended for men.
Referencing Pope St. John Paul II’s quote, “The future of humanity passes by way of the family,” Skinner adds that “the family can’t be all that it is intended to be unless the father is strong. If the father’s not around, then the mother can’t be all that she’s supposed to be.”
“Women are very, very important in terms of influencing men,” he continued. “They should demand that the men in their lives exhibit these qualities [the Rosary’s virtues]. Why wouldn’t you?”
Christina Lawrence concurs, “Whether you are married or not, whether you are a father or not, they are virtues that, quite frankly, every person should have, and certainly every man. This is what women should want in men.”
As far as the future for the Men of Virtue Rosary, Skinner and DeFusco say they will continue to pursue opportunities as they present themselves. With a Spanish translation already written, they are even considering sending a copy of the Rosary booklet to Pope Francis himself.
“I will go and take this wherever there is interest, wherever there can be value, wherever there is some receptivity to hearing the message,” Skinner expressed. “I really believe that there is something here for everyone.”
“I feel like the Holy Spirit has been at work from the very beginning and continues to find opportunities for us to get this out there.”
Follow the “Men of Virtue Rosary” on Twitter using the handle, @_MenofVirtue
*The podcast is divided into chapters for each Meditation. Suggested iPhone podcast app: Overcast:Podcast Player (turn off SmartSpeed and Voice Boost).