Children from across the Archdiocese of Louisville have been bringing the rosary to life annually during the Living Rosary for decades, most recently on Oct. 10 on the grounds of St. Teresa of Calcutta Church.
But when the first Living Rosary was prayed on April 27, 1952, members of the Knights of St. John and priests from the archdiocese stood in as the cross and beads that form the rosary, said Anthony Tabler, who has been a member of the Knights of St. John since 1979.
Tabler said Ed Williams, who was the president of the Knights in 1952, had a special devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. In March of 1952, Williams wrote a letter to Archbishop John A. Floersh, seeking his permission to begin the tradition. The Living Rosary would “honor that one so highly honored by our Lord himself,” the letter said.
The Marian Committee of the Archdiocese of Louisville currently hosts the living rosary.
Laying down clothesline rope and paper plates — 10-inch plates representing the Our Father and 8-inch plates representing the beads of the decades — a group of Knights fashioned the layout for the first living rosary in Parkway Field, which was a popular ballpark south of Eastern Parkway.
According to the Knights historical records, the Living Rosary was held at the Kentucky State Fair Grounds in 1957, when chairs replaced the paper plates for the rosary layout.
Besides the fairgrounds, the event has been held in many venues, including the old Louisville Gardens on West Muhammad Ali Boulevard, Bellarmine College (now Bellarmine University), according to the records, as well as local Catholic high schools in recent years. The Knights remained dedicated to hosting the living rosary for several decades. Tabler said five years ago, the Knights presented one of its members, James Macpherson, with a plaque for “perfect attendance.” Macpherson, who died shortly after he was honored, had attended 65 living rosary events.
Tabler recalled being present at one of the events hosted at the Louisville Gardens, which he described as a “beautiful ceremony,” filled with candlelight and Marian hymns.
Tabler said only about 30 Knights of St. John remain in the archdiocese and only about five, including himself, are still healthy enough to attend meetings.
“We’ve fallen on hard times because of (dwindling) membership, but I’m proud of the work we’ve done,” said Tabler.
To learn more about the Marian Committee, the Living Rosary and other Marian devotions, visit archloumarian.org.