What have Dominican friars done in the past to respond to pandemics? Fr. Lawrence Lew, OP, the Promoter General of the Rosary of the Dominican Order, found himself asking this question as he began to search for a way to respond to our current health crisis.
During a 17th-century plague, an Italian friar, John Ricciardi d’Altamura, began the tradition of perpetual Rosaries. He organized a group of lay faithful to pray the Rosary at particular hours of the day, arranging their hours such that each hour had someone praying the Rosary. In this way the dying would be covered in prayer by the continuous recitation of the Rosary. To this day, monasteries of Dominican nuns observe similar patterns of prayer, often praying the Rosary in front of the Blessed Sacrament.
It should be no surprise then, that Dominican nuns encouraged Fr. Lawrence to organize an international effort for the entire Dominican Order to pray the Rosary for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fr. Lawrence warmly attests, “We have something Providential in this, so we’re gesturing toward the perpetual Rosary, hoping that it might be the start of something.” The suggestion came as a result of his recent visit to the monastery of Dominican nuns at Fatima.
The plan consists of inviting the members and friends of the Dominican Order throughout the world (laity, sisters, and friars) to pray the Rosary on April 29 at 9 p.m. their local time. If possible such recitations of the Rosary should be livestreamed or otherwise shared on social media. “If we all pray it at our local time,” Fr. Lawrence says, “there will be a rolling effect of the Dominican family at prayer. If they livestream their prayer, we will see a wave of videos of the Dominican family praying across the web.”
Why choose April 29? April 29 is the feast of the Dominican Catherine of Siena. Fr. Lawrence points out, “She’s a Doctor of the Church, a patroness of Italy and Europe, patroness of nurses; I thought in the midst of our present crisis that she would have a universal appeal.”
And why the Rosary? The Rosary is a particular patrimony of the Dominican Order. Fr. Lawrence explains, “It seems that the Dominican Order is the first to group recitations of Aves into mysteries. That organization was not accidental, the Rosary is very theological. It’s a compendium of theology; it’s the essence of the Gospel.” To pray the Rosary is to enter deeply into the Dominican way of life.
The Rosary, however, is not a prayer for trained theologians alone. Fr. Lawrence insists, “I caution people against over-intellectualizing the Rosary. One thing I learned from the children of Fatima is that the Rosary is simple enough for children and strong enough for Doctors of the Church!” He continued, “Our Mother has prescribed this prayer Out of love for her, then, we should persevere in it. If we respond to her request it will be very pleasing to her.”
The Master General of the Dominican Order, Fr. Gerard Timoner, O.P., has said, “I exhort the whole Dominican Family—friars, nuns, sisters, laity, secular institutes, priestly fraternities, and youth—throughout the world to pray the Rosary together according to this plan.”
Join the Dominican Order on April 29 in entrusting the world to the care of the Blessed Mother by praying together the Holy Rosary, begging for an end to the COVID-19 health crisis.
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