Fr. Jeff Eirvin, director of vocations for the Archdiocese of Portland, and Archbishop Alexander Sample sing toward the end of the rosary session at the Rosary Bowl NW. The crowd, perhaps 300 strong, had thinned out in the sanctuary as people visited the sponsoring organizations’ tables and the hall. (Kristen Hannum/Catholic Sentinel)
Fr. Jeff Eirvin, director of vocations for the Archdiocese of Portland, and Archbishop Alexander Sample sing toward the end of the rosary session at the Rosary Bowl NW. The crowd, perhaps 300 strong, had thinned out in the sanctuary as people visited the sponsoring organizations’ tables and the hall. (Kristen Hannum/Catholic Sentinel)
KEIZER — While the rosary is inseparably associated with Mary, Archbishop Alexander Sample, in his homily at the 2021 Rosary Bowl NW, asked the crowd to consider the importance of the guardian angels, whose Oct. 2 feast day it was.

He noted that if a Catholic is asked, “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?” the answer should be a resounding “Yes.”

“Today I’ll ask you a different question,” he said. “Do you have a personal relationship with your guardian angel?”

Archbishop Sample told the crowd that twice congregants have approached him after he celebrated a Mass to tell him they had witnessed his guardian angel hovering over him.

He knew both individuals and is certain they were credible witnesses.

It wasn’t surprising, said the archbishop, that Lucifer, the brightest of all the angels and filled with pride, had refused to worship the son of God made flesh — humanity being a lower order than the angels.

Lucifer would not do that — so he was cast down and tempted Eve.

“But we have the angels who did not fall,” said Archbishop Sample. “We call upon the saints for intercession, to draw them to us,” he said. “We don’t do that with our angel because they’re always right there. God has given them to us to protect us.”

Archbishop Sample said there was a strong connection between the rosary and angels. Angels play a role in many of the mysteries of the rosary, beginning with the Annunciation.

“And we can only imagine angels escorting Mary to heaven, to be named queen of the angels,” he said.

Other highlights of the Rosary Bowl NW included Father Jeff Eirvin, director of vocations for the archdiocese, leading the rosary and afterward reflecting upon it, and Father Theodore Lange, state chaplain for the Oregon Knights, giving an inspirational talk “bathing you in the truth,” as he put it, after new Knights of Columbus were inducted into the group.

Supporting organizations, including the Knights, set up tables outside the church with literature for attendees.

“The rosary is important for all Catholics,” said Alex Paul, public relations chair for the Knights. “We get so busy in our lives and it can feel hard to find the time to pray. The Rosary Bowl is a great inspiration for prayer, and that’s why the Knights are here.”

Paul noted that every new Knight is presented with a rosary. “Mary is our protector and the rosary is important to us.”

“The Knights are the core of our volunteer support,” said Dina Marie Hale, organizer and emcee.

“I’ve been coming to the Rosary Bowl every year,” said Maria Teresa Porras, who also attends rosary events at Holy Rosary Church in Crooked Finger-Scotts Mills.

This year Porras waited until the crowd thinned out around Archbishop Sample after the rosary. She had a special request to make of him, on behalf of one of her grandchildren.

The archbishop leaned close to listen as she shared her worries, then blessed her and promised to pray for her grandchild.

“I thank him,” she said afterward.

Hale was enthusiastic. “I’m thrilled to see the families,” she said, quickly adding that she also loved the older people in attendance. “But the young people are the future of the church,” she said.

She was pleased with the hundreds of people who came.

“We didn’t let COVID make us take a break,” she said.

The first Rosary Bowl NW, in 2007, was also in Keizer, at Volcanoes Stadium with 2,000 in attendance. It was inspired by the Pasadena Rosary Bowl. Bishop Kenneth Steiner, now retired, led the rosary.

Since then the event has often been held in Salem.

The rosary included meditations written by Franciscan Father Dolindo Ruotolo. Father Eirvin began with his words from the surrender novena:

“Jesus to the soul: If you want to live a holy life, cultivate devotion to Mary in your family. Gather your children in prayer and in the recitation of the holy rosary. In a manner of a loving parent, help the children feel the beauty of family prayer. Never be anxious and severe, my child, because that will not inspire but confuse them. Peace and sweetness achieve much more than impatience and outbursts. You can easily become anxious and discouraged, but do not, my child. Have faith in me, and everything will be all right. I bless you.”

In his reflections after the rosary, Father Eirvin asked, “When did you first welcome Mary into your home?”

He was in second grade when his family did so. His two brothers and parents began praying the rosary together, taking turns, the boys sometimes stumbling over the words.

He remembers how when he was a “disruptive” high school student, staying out until morning hours with his friends, his mother waited for him, rosary in hand. “So Mary continued to be in our home,” he said.

When the family moved to Oregon he inexplicably went with his parents to the eucharistic adoration at St. Matthew in Hillsboro. He urged them to go home when no one came to carry on the adoration, and now counts that as the beginning of his vocation to the priesthood.

He was in front of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe when he seemed to hear the words, “Jeff, look at my son.”

“I looked at the Blessed Sacrament,” he said. “I felt his loving presence and fell to my knees.”

One of the things Father Eirvin loves to do on his days off is visit his parents, who are now retired and devoted to praying the rosary.

“I join them,” he said. “Mother, father and son, praying for the church. It’s really beautiful.

“So when have you allowed Mary into your home?”