By Katie Yoder
WASHINGTON — The Dominicans are inviting Catholics nationwide to participate in a nine-month novena that will culminate with a day-long rosary pilgrimage this fall in the nation’s capital.
“The purpose of the Dominican Rosary Pilgrimage and nine-month novena prayer is to gather Catholics in the U.S. together to draw close to Jesus through Mary in the Holy Rosary, so that we may be set on fire with a burning love for God and zeal for the salvation of souls,” Dominican Father John Paul Kern said.
“This is something I think people are really hungry for and which we need today,” added Father Kern, a Dominican friar of the Province of St. Joseph and the director of the Rosary Shrine of St. Jude and Dominican Friars Foundation.
To participate in the novena, Catholics are asked to recite a prayer nine times over the course of nine months — on the 30th of each month, from Jan. 30 to Sept. 30. People can say the prayer more frequently if they wish, and pray the rosary too.
While the novena began on January 30, the faithful can join at any time.
At the end of the nine months, a pilgrimage will take place to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington on Sept. 30, the vigil of Rosary Sunday. The free event includes talks, adoration, confession, Mass, and, of course, praying the rosary.
Those who are unable to travel to Washington that day can watch a livestream on the Dominican Rosary Pilgrimage website.
While the pilgrimage physically takes place on Sept. 30, it begins now, spiritually, with the novena, Father Kern said. He explained why this novena lasts for nine months, rather than the typical nine days.
“Just as Jesus was conceived and Mary pondered him in her heart for nine months before he was born, we turn to Jesus and ponder him in prayer together with Mary during the nine-month novena,” he said, “to prepare for a beautiful manifestation of the mystical body of Christ, the church, gathered together with Our Lady in the Rosary and united in the Eucharistic Body of Christ at the event in D.C.”
He described the event as a new initiative led by the Dominican Friars of the Province of St. Joseph together with Dominican friars, nuns, sisters and laity throughout the U.S. The Dominicans have a special relationship with the rosary: according to tradition, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St. Dominic, entrusting the rosary’s promotion to the order’s founder.
For this event, Father Kern said, they took their inspiration from the annual Rosary Pilgrimage in Lourdes, France, that has continued for more than 100 years.
“We hope that the Lord will pour out similar graces through Our Lady, the Rosary, and this pilgrimage here in our country,” he said.
Catholics can find out more about the event on the pilgrimage website, where they can sign up to have the novena prayer card — with the prayer’s text — mailed and emailed to them. If they sign up, they will also receive updates, videos and articles about the rosary.
Father Kern said that parishes and other ministries can also request a box of prayer cards for their community to join in the novena.
The prayer, composed by a Dominican friar, “expresses our hopes regarding the fruits of the Dominican Rosary Pilgrimage, which we ask for God to graciously grant us,” Father Kern said.
He revealed that it has already changed one person’s life.
“We have already heard of at least one man who has experienced a reversion to practicing his faith after reciting the novena prayer, and we hope that the novena and pilgrimage in D.C. strengthen the faith of many people and set our souls on fire,” he said.