Five years ago, Father Justine John Dyikuk promised to always pray the 20 decades of the rosary (all four sets of mysteries) every day for the rest of his life. This was after experiencing what the Nigerian priest described as a divine encounter that changed his life for good.

While serving as parish priest of St. Mary’s Jimpi Parish of the Diocese of Bauchi in northeastern Nigeria, Dyikuk faced opposition and threats from a member of the pastoral team of the parish. But then he witnessed the man’s conversion. 

Parishioners at St. Mary's Jimpi Parish had accused the man of engaging in witchcraft and immoral activities. Dyikuk’s counsel, appealing to the man to abandon his ways, was only met with what the priest described as “resistance and vendetta,” a situation that quickly escalated into threats.

When Dyikuk could no longer endure the threats, he started having special Eucharistic celebrations for the man’s conversion, accompanied by 20 decades of the rosary and novena prayers. 

“Three days into the novena, I heard a knock on the door. Guess who was at the rectory? The same man and his wife,” Dyikuk told ACI Africa, CNA’s news partner in Africa, in a June 24 interview.

“As soon as I opened the door, they prostrated on the floor,” he continued.
“While I was busy urging them to get up, [the man] said to me without looking up, ‘Father, I am deeply sorry for what I did to you. We could not sleep in our house yesterday. We saw a bright light and a voice told me that if I did not come to apologize to you, I would die.’”

“I assumed he had a divine visitation,” said Dyikuk, who is now based in the U.K.

“It was from that day that I [made] the decision that I would say 20 decades of the rosary every day for the rest of my life. And it is now five years [later], and I have not defaulted,” he said. 

“I am not in any way insinuating that I am holy; of course, we all aspire to be holy. Nonetheless, I can assure you that since then, a lot has changed in my life. I thank God for this experience. Without it, I may have been way out in the woods spiritually,” he shared. 

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It is this experience that inspired Dyikuk to promote the devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The first thing he did was to construct a grotto at the parish, which he dedicated to Mary. He also animatedly encouraged the daily rosary prayers among different groups of the parish. 

‘Me and My Rosary’

Two years ago Dyikuk, a doctoral student in journalism, media, and communication at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland, started writing a book: “Me and My Rosary: Theological Insights, Moving Testimonies.”

The book provides his personal testimonies about the power of the rosary and details how, with the prayers of the rosary, his family members reconciled with one another after engaging in a fight.

The book also features testimonies of victims of Islamist attacks who said they escaped death by praying the rosary. 

Also in the book is the testimony of Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme of the Diocese of Maiduguri in Nigeria, which used to be the epicenter of Boko Haram attacks. Doeme is a renowned visionary who, in his encounter with Jesus Christ, is said to have been given a message that Boko Haram would be dislodged through praying the rosary. 

In his interview with ACI Africa following the launch of his book in Glasgow earlier this month, Dyikuk, whose research focuses on outsmarting Boko Haram, said the book seeks to introduce fresh perspectives about the rosary.

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“My hope is that readers can get fresh perspectives in praying the rosary so that it is not just a mechanical exercise for them,” he said.

“Are we able to identify something joyful in our lives when we meditate on the joyful mysteries?” he questioned. “And are we able to share the same joy with our brothers and sisters? When tragedy strikes, how does it impact our faith? Do we help others unite their pain with that of Jesus when we meditate on the sorrowful mysteries?”

“How do we respond to the invitation to be disciples of Jesus when we pray the glorious mysteries? And when we meditate on the luminous mysteries, do we reflect on the day of our baptism and our call to be missionaries?” he further posed.

Sharing about his conversion when he started praying 20 decades of the rosary daily, Dyikuk, who survived a Boko Haram attack in 2011, said: “I prayed the rosary daily, but I wasn’t as conscious of it as I am now. I have seen numerous fruits in my life from the time I started setting aside one hour every day to pray the rosary.”

“Praying the rosary slows down one’s will in committing sin,” he said. “The rosary connects you to the mysteries of Christ and through it, Our Lady reminds us to do the will of her son.”

The ‘poetry of the Mass’

Dyikuk’s nine-chapter book provides the history of the rosary, reflecting on what the Holy Fathers have said about devotion to the prayer. The book encourages observing the months of May and October that are set aside for devotion to the rosary and revisits the apparition of Fatima to assure world peace through Mary’s intercession. 

The book also provides a relationship between the rosary prayer and Mass. In Chapters 3–6, the priest reflects on the different mysteries of the rosary, arguing that each decade of the rosary must be connected to one’s daily experiences and the experiences of those around them. 

Chapter 7 is where he provides his testimonies about the power of the rosary. In Chapter 8, he provides testimonies of others who have had divine encounters from praying the rosary. 

In Chapter 9, Dyikuk provides recommendations to boost Marian devotion especially through praying the rosary. He recommends, among other sets of proposals, that Catholic communities promote online rosaries “to sanitize the social media spaces that are full of negative content.”

The book “aspires to contribute to the already established Mariology or Marian theology,” the author told ACI Africa.

In Chapter 2, titled “The Rosary and Holy Mass: In Search of Drama, Prose, and Poetry,” Dyikuk deploys three genres of literature — drama, prose, and poetry — to explain that the Mass is “drama” while the rosary is the “poetry of the Mass.”

Drama because “Jesus, who is the victim, the priest and lamb of sacrifice, offers himself as a living sacrifice,” he says in the book. “We, unworthy active participants in the liturgy, become beneficiaries.”  

Dyikuk argues that the rosary is the “poetry” of the Mass because “it X-rays the joyful, sorrowful, glorious, and luminous mysteries of Christ, which invites Christians to connect their daily experiences with these mysteries for profound spiritual benefits.”

In a note shared with ACI Africa on June 24, Dyikuk’s book committee chair, Helen Border, said the events of the book launch were organized to promote praying the rosary, “which is dear to Dyikuk’s heart,” to mark his 15th priestly anniversary, and to raise funds to support the priest’s final-year tuition for his doctoral studies, “since he is a self-funded student.”  

In the June 24 interview, Dyikuk told ACI Africa that the book would “soon be on Amazon,” adding that hundreds of copies have already been purchased in the U.K.

This story was first published by ACI Africa, CNA’s news partner in Africa, and has been adapted by CNA.