The Feast (Memorial) of Our Lady of Sorrows came on a Thursday this year and I celebrated Mass that day at St. Ursula church, one of the five Catholic churches in Chatham, Ontario that I serve, along with two other priests and a very dedicated staff. Not long before this Mass I came across an article that caught my attention. It was entitled “Priest inspires thousands to sign up for novena to defeat ‘right to abortion’ in Michigan.” The article describes how Fr. Gordon Reigle, a parish priest in East Lansing, Michigan, was praying one evening as he very concerned about a vote coming up on November 8th on a proposed state constitutional amendment named Reproductive Freedom for All. This initiative seeks to ensure access to abortion up to, and including, the day of birth across the state of Michigan along with other disturbing provisions.1
As Fr. Reigle entered into prayer, the idea of a 54-day rosary novena, that is, six consecutive rosary novenas each lasting nine days, arose in his mind. Of these six novenas, three focus on petitioning God and three focus on thanking Him. The origins of the 54-day novena go back to the 19th century and the miraculous healing of a young Italian woman, Fortuna Agrelli, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary.2
The Bishop of the Diocese of Lansing, Earl Boyea, approved of Fr. Riegle’s idea to promote the 54-day rosary novena as a means of praying that Reproductive Freedom for All would not pass. As further confirmation that his idea is of the Holy Spirit, Fr. Riegle discovered that when he counted back 54 days from the night before the vote on the proposed amendment, the novena needed to start on September 15th – the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows!3
I incorporated Fr. Riegle’s promotion of the 54-day rosary novena into my Mass homily on September 15th. Moreover, I mentioned that Bishop Boyea urged people to “fight like heaven” by praying that a pro-life outcome would prevail on November 8th. He said this in response to the governor of Michigan’s comments that she would “fight like hell” to ensure abortion is a fundamental right in Michigan’s state constitution.4 I encouraged people at Mass that day to “fight like heaven” and pray the 54-day rosary novena; I am praying this novena and for you reading this article it is not too late to join in!
As we enter into the month of October let us recall this is the month dedicated to the Holy Rosary. Along with the aforementioned urgent matter facing the people of Michigan, we know we have many things to pray for in our world, our country, the province of Ontario, and within our local communities. It may be tempting to become anxious or discouraged at times when we read or hear about troubles surrounding us, but it is crucial that we hold fast to the Lord and not doubt the power of prayer. Thus, let us go forth and “fight like heaven” and pray the rosary, trusting that this age-old devotion can transform the world, one soul at a time. Christus Vincit!
1 Source: : https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/252286/priest-inspires-thousands-to-sign-up-for-novena-to-defeat-right-to-abortion-in-michigan (Retrieved September 26th, 2022).
4Source: https://www.dioceseoflansing.org/fight-like-heaven (Retrieved September 26, 2022).