Joseph Pronechen is staff writer with the National Catholic Register since 2005. His articles have appeared in a number of national publications including Columbia magazine, Soul, Faith and Family, Catholic Digest, and Marian Helper. His religion features have also appeared in Fairfield County Catholic and in one of Connecticut’s largest news dailies. He holds an MS degree and formerly taught English and courses in film study that he developed at a Catholic high school in Connecticut. Joseph and his wife Mary reside on the East Coast.
There are 54 days from August 15, the Feast of the Assumption, to October 7, the Feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary — 54 days that can bring change to the morality and healing to our country.
The way? Through the “Novena for Our Nation,” a 54 Day Rosary Novena that begins on August 15, the Feast of the Assumption. For the second year in a row, Father Richard Heilman is urging everyone to join with thousands of others concerned about the welfare of America in praying this novena.
“Last year we did it with the sense that something was coming. So many felt the need for prayer,” says Father Heilman, the pastor of St. Mary’s of Pine Bluff Church in Cross Plains, Wisconsin. He’s also founder and president of the national Holy League sponsoring the effort and endorsed by their spiritual head, Cardinal Raymond Burke. “The email list of those joining the novena grew to over 20,000 people very rapidly.” Soon nearly 30,000 signed up for the emails about the novena.
This year Father Heilman hopes for at least 50,000 participants since we continue what he called the country’s “Nineveh moment” as radical secularism continues to blanket the country.
There is even more urgency now, and a heavenly reminder.
Last year “we were about to enter into the Centennial Year of the apparitions at Fatima. Many people thought this an important time to pray,” he says. “This year we’re in the womb of the apparitions — May 13 through October 13,” says Father Heilman, who has written why 100 years of Fatima matters.
“There’s a real heightened sense in people’s hearts, minds, and souls that this is a very important time to pray and fast. It’s not only the Centennial Year at Fatima, but as they look around at the condition of the world right now, many, many people feel we need to call out to God and ask him to heal our land.”
It’s also a year with other anniversaries in opposition to Fatima. The 500th anniversary of Protest Revolution, the 300th of Freemasonry, 100th of Communist revolution, 100th of Planned Parenthood.
Father Heilman paints the picture of the extraordinary times we are living in. The Church and family are assaulted constantly. “The world is filled with immorality, debauchery. So many have left the Church and fallen away from the faith, not heeding the call of the Blessed Mother.”
He emphasizes the great importance of this moment because while “No one knows the day or the hour, would y let a thief come into your house?” That’s Scripture. “So you’ve got to be prepared.”
“Nineveh prayed and fasted,” he reminds, “and God relented.”
In this centennial year of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, we’ve got a clear message and reminder to help turn our country back to God. Back then she gave us the solution — pray the Rosary.
Why a 54 Day Rosary Novena
By tradition, a novena is nine days. A 54 Day Rosary Novena joins several novenas together for a particular purpose. It had its origins from heaven — more on this in a moment.
A 54-day novena consists of five decades of the Rosary prayed daily for 27 days in petition; then directly five decades daily for 27 days in thanksgiving, whether or not the request has been granted yet. (See the Novena for our Nation explanation for the simple rotation of the mysteries for this novena).
Where did this kind of novena originate? It began in 1884, the same year Pope Leo XIII wrote the prayer to St. Michael. In Italy, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to a young girl named Fortuna Agrelli and gave her this 54-day Rosary Novena. It was first for herself, then to pass along to others. Because Fortuna had three different incurable diseases, doctors gave her up as a hopeless case. As the girl and her family turned praying the Rosary specifically to Our Lady as Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, Fortuna received apparitions. During one Our Lady told her, Whoever desires to obtain favors from Me should make three novenas of the prayers of the Rosary, and three novenas in thanksgiving.
The girl obeyed and was fully healed. This novena and her healing even impressed Leo XIII who wrote 17 encyclicals on the Rosary.
If this sounds too simple, remember Naaman the leper was angry when the Prophet Elisha told him to bathe in the Jordan seven times for his cure (2 Kings 5). Naaman jeered but when his servant convinced him to listen to Elisha, and he did, Naaman was cured and left in perfect health.
Plenty of Precedence
Once we get to the New Testament, tradition and today, we have this unimaginable gift of the Blessed Mother and the Rosary in God’s design and will.
Remember just one major example of this powerful prayer to Jesus through her — the battle of Lepanto on October 7, 1571, from which the Feast of the Most Holy Rosary derives. St. Pius V told beleaguered Christian Europe to pray the Rosary. The well-known victory at the Battle of Lepanto was spurred on by the believers of Christian Europe praying the Rosary. The victories credited the Rosary for saving European Christian civilization then.
Following the example of Lepanto, this “Novena for Our Nation” can help rescue our nation and return it to holiness now if people join together praying for the United States in this powerful 54 Day Rosary Novena from the Feast of the Assumption on August 15 to the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary on October 7. Not coincidentally, the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary on October 7commemorates 1571 victory at Lepanto.
In this day the battle “is not against human forces but against the principalities and powers, the rulers of this world of darkness, the evil spirits in the heavens” (Ephesians 6: 10-12). Because this is a spiritual battle, the strongest weapon for fighting it and being victorious is the Rosary.
The Christians engaged in the Battle of Lepanto wouldn’t think of going into the conflict without their weapons in hand. Neither must we because the Rosary is the strongest of spiritual weapons for this spiritual battle. Padre Pio called it “The Weapon.” At Fatima Mary showed the way to win was through the Rosary.
Hopes Are High
“I happen to be one of those Catholic priests who believe in miracles,” says Father Heilman. “So I do believe these prayers absolutely matter. When we call upon God, he answers us. Imagine 40,000 to 50,000 people calling out to God.”
Looking back to last year’s novena, he says although he does not want to get political about this, it stumped people to see how some things went shortly after the 54 Day Novena concluded, from the election to the one new Supreme Court justice who seems to favor what God favors. He notes enthusiastically that at the same time participants reported receiving miracles and answers to prayers during this Rosary campaign.
“I just love the 54-day Rosary novena,” he says. “I’ve seen many, many stories of answered prayers. It’s a very powerful prayer to do especially with 40,000 to 50,000 people.”
The First Plus. “This year too we’re going to conclude with a Marian consecration,” Father Heilman says. Mary asked at Fatima for consecration to her Immaculate Heart. “We’re going to use St. Maximillian Kolbe’s consecration. We adopted him as patron saint for this ‘Novena for the Nation’ because of his push for consecration.” (St. Maximillian Kolbe’s act of consecration to Mary).
“We’ll be doing the consecration and everyone is invited to do it,” Father Heilman adds. People can pray the consecration prayer from wherever they’re located.
Father Heilman brings out another striking fact in connection with the convergence of anniversaries. This year also marks the 100th anniversary of Kolbe starting the Militia of the Immaculata, now an international organization.
This great Marian saint founded it on October 16, 1917, just three days after the last apparition of Our Lady at Fatima and the Miracle of the Sun — of which he had no knowledge at that time.
Father Heilman and the Holy League also adopted Kolbe as the patron saint of this 54 Day Novena because of his use of the most modern media of the time to evangelize and counter the messages coming out of radical secularism. This 54 Day Novena effort is trying to do the same.
The Second Plus. Father Heilman describes it as “Basic Training in Holiness.” Together with praying the Rosary, everyone can do the basics which are small one or two minute reflections on the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit, the works of mercy — “all that helps us grow in our holiness.” Everyone can receive these very short reflections from the Catechism, Bible and quotes from saints sent to them each day via email (Sign up on NovenaforourNation.com), or posted on the Novena website. Or join the “Novena for Our Nation” Facebook group to receive the daily reflections.
Or as Father Heilman notes how lots of people like to do their praying away from the computer, they can get the daily reflections in book form, 54 Day Basic Training in Holiness. The 54 Day Rosary Novena prayers are included. (Bulk for groups too.)
“This is very doable,” he advises.
Big plans are ready for October 7, the last day of the novena, with a National Rosary Rally. “We’re asking people if they are able to join us on Day 54 in Washington, D.C.,” says Father Heilman, adding it is not intended to be a political event. Speakers at the event will include Msgr. Charles Pope, Father Frank Pavone, Doug Barry, and Jim and Joy Pinto.
Those across the country who can’t make it to Washington for the rally are encouraged to have a Rosary Rally in their parish church, or by some government facility or Planned Parenthood business, for example.
No one should feel left out if they miss starting the novena on August 15. As Father Heilman clarifies, “Last year several thousand jumped in after it started. Don’t feel you’re not a part of it if you started after August 15.” The main thing is to join the campaign.
The more that join, the better. Remember that although in this spiritual battle the wicked opponent might look like a Goliath, the Rosary can and will win the victory of a return to Christian morality through the powerful intercession of the Blessed Mother — if we only use it.