Dominicans pray nine-month novena ahead of September rosary pilgrimage

St. Dominic rosary The Blessed Mother gives the rosary to St. Dominic in the 18th-century painting by Andrea Barbiani of the Madonna with St. Dominic and St. Catherine of Siena in the Basilica di Santa Maria del Porto in Ravenna, Italy. | Credit: Renata Sedmakova/Shutterstock

As the feast day of St. Dominic de Guzman is celebrated Tuesday, Aug. 8, members of the Dominican order and thousands of Catholic laity are continuing a nine-month novena before heading to Washington, D.C., for a rosary pilgrimage in September.

The novena was organized by the Dominican Friars of the Province of St. Joseph and will culminate in a national pilgrimage to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 30 for those who can attend. 

Even though the novena began in January, the organizers are encouraging the faithful to join them in praying the novena any time. For those who cannot attend the full-day event, the organizers will provide a livestream on their website.

Participants in the novena are asked to recite the novena prayer on the 30th of each month but are also welcome to pray the novena more frequently and to pray five decades of the rosary along with the novena.

“At Pentecost you poured out the Holy Spirit upon Our Lady and the apostles while they were at prayer,” the novena prayer reads in part.

“Pour out that same Holy Spirit upon us as we meditate upon the mysteries of Christ contained in the Most Holy Rosary,” the novena continues. “Enlighten our faith, strengthen our hope, and set us ablaze with love for you and our neighbor.”

Father Patrick Briscoe, OP, one of the organizers, told CNA that “the reaction has been substantial” and that there has been “a lot of excitement” about the monthly prayer and the pilgrimage. He said they have already shared about 500,000 prayer cards for people to participate and the goal is to have 10,000 people attend the pilgrimage. 

Although the Dominicans have not organized a similar pilgrimage in Washington, D.C., before, Briscoe said: “We felt very strongly that the moment was calling for it.” He added that it is an important time to “pray for our country and to express our great love for our Catholic faith.” 

Allison Wadowski, who is praying the novena and the rosary daily with her husband of 26 years, told CNA the experience has “been super fulfilling” and that “many graces are coming from it for sure.” She said she has encouraged others to participate and plans to travel from Connecticut to Washington, D.C., for the pilgrimage. 

“It has been a great opportunity,” she said. “We see the graces that we’re receiving in our marriage.”

Wadowski added that she is excited for “all of us praying together” at the pilgrimage and “how much that’s going to mean to our Blessed Mother.”

To join the novena, individuals can sign up on the Dominican Rosary Pilgrimage’s website to get the novena emailed to them, which will also lead them to a form with which they can request physical copies of the prayer card mailed to them. Parishes and ministries can also sign up as a group and request a large number of prayer cards using a separate form.

The pilgrimage is free to attend and individuals can mark that they plan to participate in the pilgrimage through the signup form. However, prior registration will not be required to attend in person.

Pilgrims will need to arrange their own lodging and food.

The Sept. 30 pilgrimage

For those who attend the Sept. 30 pilgrimage or view the livestream, the doors will open at 9 a.m. and there will be a conference on “The Virgin Mary, Our Refuge in Heaven” at 10 a.m. led by Father Gregory Pine, OP. From 11 a.m. until 1:45 p.m., there will be an exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and eucharistic adoration, which will finish with Benediction. Priests will also hear confessions during adoration.

At 2 p.m. there will be a conference on “The Holy Rosary, Our Recourse on Earth,” which will also be led by Pine. At 3 p.m., Father Lawrence Lew will give a talk on the rosary. Attendees will recite the rosary at 3:30 p.m. and a vigil Mass will be held at 4:30 p.m.

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Briscoe said that “a lot of people don’t have opportunities for retreats” but that “there’s a lot to be said for the show of faith.” 

“This pilgrimage is really an opportunity for everyone to come,” he added. 

St. Dominic and the rosary

On Aug. 8 the Church celebrates the feast of St. Dominic, who founded the Dominican order. According to legend, St. Dominic received a vision of the Blessed Mother, who gave him the rosary and instructed him to pray it and teach it.

St. Dominic was born on Aug. 8, 1170, and died on Aug. 6, 1221. 

“The rosary was given to St. Dominic by the Virgin Mary and St. Dominic certainly had a great devotion to Our Lady,” Briscoe said. 

The legend of St. Dominic receiving the rosary from the Blessed Mother cannot be confirmed by historical record. However, 15th-century Dominican theologian Alan de la Roche, who is credited with reviving the rosary and spreading it throughout Catholic Europe, connected St. Dominic to the rosary based on “tradition and from the testimony of writers,” according to the Rosary Center. 

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De la Roche established the Rosary Confraternity in 1470, which popularized the rosary throughout Europe, and the Dominican order has preached the rosary ever since and has been its strongest proponent.

“[The rosary] is in fact a powerhouse of grace that is waiting to be unleashed,” Briscoe said.

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