The History of the Rosary Congress began in Poland in May 1979, when the Polish people prayed through Mary’s intercession for the coming of Pope John Paul II to his beloved homeland. The Rosary Congress has also been attributed as the fulfillment of John Bosco’s dream of the Two Pillars, bringing the Church into the safe haven of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady under the direction of our Holy Father.
ST. JOHN BOSCO’S DREAM OF THE TWO PILLARS
“Imagine yourself to be with me on the seashore, or better, on an isolated rock and not to see any patch of land other than that under your feet. On the whole of that vast sheet of water you see an innumerable fleet of ships in battle array. The prows of the ships are formed into sharp, spear-like points so that wherever they are thrust they pierce and completely destroy. These ships are armed with cannons, with lots of rifles, with incendiary materials, with other firearms of all kinds, and also with books, and advance against a ship very much bigger and higher than themselves and try to dash against it with the prows or burn it or in some way to do it every possible harm.
“As escorts to that majestic fully equipped ship, there are many smaller ships, which receive commands by signal from it and carry out movements to defend themselves from the opposing fleet.
“In the midst of the immense expanse of sea, two mighty columns of great height arise a little distance the one from the other. On the top of one, there is the statue of the Immaculate Virgin, from whose feet hangs a large placard with this inscription: Auxilium Christianorum – “Help of Christians”; on the other, which is much higher and bigger, stands a Host of great size proportionate to the column and beneath is another placard with the words: Salus Credentium – Salvation of the Faithful (Believers).
“The supreme commander of the big ship is the Sovereign Pontiff. He, seeing the fury of the enemies and the evils among which his faithful find themselves, determines to summon around himself the captains of the smaller ships to hold a council and decide what is to be done.
“All the captains come aboard and gather around the Pope. They hold a meeting, but meantime the wind and the waves gather in storm, so they are sent back to control their own ships. There comes a short lull; for a second time the Pope gathers the captains around him, while the flag-ship goes on its course. But the frightful storm returns. The Pope stands at the helm and all his energies are directed to steering the ship towards those two columns from whose summits hang many anchors and strong hooks linked to chains.
“All the enemy ships move to attack it, and they try in every way to stop it and to sink it: some with books and writings or inflammable materials, of which they are full; others with firearms, with rifles and with rams. The battle rages ever more relentlessly. The enemy prows thrust violently, but their efforts and impact prove useless. They make attempts in vain and waste all their labor and ammunition; the big ship goes safely and smoothly on its way. Sometimes it happens that, struck by formidable blows, it gets large, deep gaps in its sides; but no sooner is the harm done that a gentle breeze blows from the two columns and the cracks close up and the gaps are stopped immediately.
“Meanwhile, the guns of the assailants are blown up, the rifles and other arms and prows are broken; many ships are shattered and sink into the sea. Then, the frenzied enemies strive to fight hand to hand, with fists, with blows, with blasphemy and with curses.
“Suddenly the Pope falls gravely wounded. Immediately, those who are with him run to help him and they lift him up. A second time the Pope is struck, he falls again and dies. A shout of victory and joy rings out amongst the enemies; from their ships an unspeakable mockery arises.
“But hardly is the Pontiff dead than another takes his place. The pilots, having met together, have elected the Pope so promptly that the news of the death of the Pope coincides with the news of the election of the successor. The adversaries begin to lose courage.
“The new Pope, putting the enemy to rout and overcoming every obstacle, guides the ship right up to the two columns and comes to rest between them; he makes it fast with a light chain that hangs from the bow to an anchor of the column on which stands the Host; and with another light chain which hangs from the stern, he fastens it at the opposite end to another anchor hanging from the column on which stands the Immaculate Virgin.
“At this point, a great convulsion takes place. All the ships that until then had fought against the Pope’s ship are scattered; they flee away, collide and break to pieces one against another. Some sink and try to sink others. Several small ships that had fought gallantly for the Pope race to be the first to bind themselves to those two columns. Many other ships, having retreated through fear of the battle, cautiously watch from far away; the wrecks of the broken ships having been scattered in the whirlpools of the sea, they in their turn sail in good earnest to those two columns, and having reached them, they make themselves fast to the hooks hanging down from them and there they remain safe, together with the principal ship, on which is the Pope. Over the sea their reigns a great calm.”
THE FIRST ROSARY CONGRESS IN POLAND
The “Pillars of Victory” are thus clearly made known to us – Jesus in the Eucharist and true devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Rosary Congress is a gift from Our Lady for the pivotal work of establishing everywhere the Pillars of Victory prophesied by Don Bosco.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
In 1978, our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, requested permission to visit Poland. The government would permit him to enter Poland if he would visit only those places predetermined by the government. The Holy Father desired to visit other places. Permission was not granted; the trip to his homeland seemed to be in jeopardy.
On December 8, 1978, through a private revelation, Our Lady requested seven days and nights of continuous Rosaries to be said from May 1 – 7, 1979, at the shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa. The prayers were to be offered for a resolution of the impasse preventing the papal pilgrimage. On the same day (Dec. 8), Our Lady’s request was relayed to Bishop Zbigniew Kraszewski, a member of the Polish episcopate’s Marian Commission. He said, “It is good to pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament. It is good to say the Rosary for the intentions of the Pope. It is good to pray at Jasna Gora. Do it!” The next day, the late Bishop Stefan Barela, Ordinary of Czestochowa and president of the bishops’ Marian Commission was approached. He was pleased with the idea of seven days of prayer and encouraged it. However, he advised that it not be called a congress, for he feared possible repercussions from governmental authorities. “If you do not call it a congress, it will be easier for you to organize,” he said.
SIEGE OF JERICHO The seven-day prayer vigil or Rosary Congress began as requested on May 1. It was soon popularly referred to as the “Siege of Jericho”, reminiscent of the Old Testament battle, because participants believed they “were destroying the walls of satanic darkness … overcoming the gates of hell … fighting the princes and rulers of darkness. Such was the form of our prayers and meditations,” said one organizer and participant.
AROUND THE CLOCK PRAYER That first congress featured 15 conferences on the Rosary in Jasna Gora’s Rosary Chapel. From 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. there was a continuous sequence of Masses, Rosaries and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the Sacred Heart Chapel. From 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Rosaries were prayed before the miraculous icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa.
As the Rosary Congress was beginning, Bishop Kraszewski was informed again by Polish Communist authorities on May 2 that the Pope would be permitted to visit Poland, but with a limited itinerary. The bishop reportedly answered that the governmental restrictions would bring shame on the nation in the year marking the 1000th anniversary of Polish Christianity. The Pope would not come to Poland with such restrictions, he said.
A TRIUMPH FOR OUR LADY On May 7, the last day of the Rosary Congress at Jasna Gora, the government unexpectedly relented and removed the major obstacles to the papal visit. The Polish people credit the Rosary Congress, or “Siege of Jericho”, with clearing the path for the Pope’s visit. Since that time, whenever Pope John Paul II made any apostolic journey outside of Rome, somewhere in Poland there was a Rosary Congress offered for his intentions and protection.
THE ROSARY CONGRESS IN THE U.S.
In 1988, one of the original participants of the Rosary Congress in Poland came to America to bring the gift from Our Lady to us. He found a small group of faithful people on the east coast who grasped the spirit of the congresses and began to organize. The First National Rosary Congress was held in Washington, D.C., in 1988, at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, now a Basilica. Over the next five years the National Rosary Congress drew as many as 500 people who came from all over the country as well as outside of the country, who stayed at Catholic University during the week of prayer and adoration. There were many activities and conferences during those Congresses to encourage and strengthen the faithful, and to educate them in True Devotion to Mary and other practices such as wearing the Brown Scapular, praying the Liturgy of the Hours, and holding candlelight processions.
One of the goals of the organizing group was to help participants bring the Rosary Congress back to their own dioceses. That happened in a few instances. In Fort Worth, TX, a woman ran a Rosary Congress in her diocese from 1990-2010, until she was unable to continue due to sickness. In New Orleans, there has been a Rosary Congress every year since 1990. They have just held their 26th, in October 2016. Next year they will be holding their 27th Congress from October 7-13, 2017. The Greater New Orleans Area has experienced numerous graces due to their Rosary Congresses. The very last day of their very first Congress in 1990, the largest abortion clinic closed its doors. At this time they now have 41 seminarians in their diocese. After the last day of their last Rosary Congress in 2016, another abortion clinic closed its doors. Imagine the numerous graces our country would receive if many more dioceses held a Rosary Congress. And how powerful that would be if they were all held at the same time to honor Our Lady of Fatima on the 100th Anniversary of her final appearance in Portugal.
ROSARY CONGRESS TODAY
Rosary Congresses are being planned across the country to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima, from October 7 – October 13, 2017. This is an effort to make reparation for the great sins committed in our country and by our country. This is an effort to ask God for the grace to rebuild the family and lift the cloud of darkness that covers the hearts and minds of our young people. This is an effort to bring our families, our dioceses, our cities, our states and our country into the safe haven of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
The Rosary Congress today can be as simple as providing 2 adorers to pray the rosary before the Blessed Sacrament every hour, day and night, from October 7-13. Or it can be as complex as providing the same adoration and rosary schedule adding to it daily Mass, a special evening Mass each day, Eucharistic processions, guided meditations on the mysteries of our Faith, confessions throughout the week, a literature table where people can find good resources for how to pray the rosary, consecrate their family to the Immaculate and Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, or simply to live in the heart of the Church.
If you wish to begin your own Rosary Congress, go to the Start Your Own section of this website.
THE POWER OF THE ROSARY
After the official prayer of the Church, the Liturgy of the Hours, the Rosary is the most powerful form of prayer. It is said that in 1214, the Blessed Virgin told St. Dominic that the principal weapon the Holy Trinity relies upon to reform the world is the Rosary. Throughout history there are numerous examples showing the power of Our Lady when humanity turns to her intercession through the Rosary. A few instances worth recalling:
In 1571, the Rosary crusade of Pope St. Pius V is credited with saving Christian Europe from the invading Turks. The Catholic forces won a decisive victory over the formidable Turkish armada at Lepanto.
In August 1945, the Russians mysteriously withdrew their forces from occupied Austria after a mere 10% of the Austrian people pledged to say the Rosary daily.
In Brazil, devout praying of the Rosary prevented an attempted communist takeover in 1954.
In our own day, the power of the Rosary is credited with the peaceful revolution in the Philippines. According to a public statement made by Jaime Cardinal Sin of Manila, Our Lady personally intervened to protect her children from a military attack.
As previously stated, the Rosary Congress is a cenacle of prayer that hastens the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This truly spiritual experience is a foretaste of how beautiful the world will be when humanity returns to the love and service of God. It will be that period of peace foretold by Our Lady of Fatima wherein the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus will be the center of our lives and the Holy Spirit will fill our hearts with the fire of His love to renew the face of the earth.
The Cenacle or upper room in which the Eucharist was instituted at the Last Supper was also the scene of the first novena in preparation for the descent of the Holy Spirit. At His Ascension Jesus had asked His disciples to return to Jerusalem and await there the Gift He would send them at Pentecost. So they gathered in the cenacle around the Holy Mother in continuous prayer. Now, Our Lady invites us to gather with her again in cenacles of prayer and fraternity to await the second Pentecost.
In that spirit, a Rosary Congress desires to be nothing but a continuous cenacle. Following the Polish example much time is spent in Eucharistic adoration while meditating on the central mysteries of our Faith in the prayer of the holy Rosary; conferences help to enlighten and strengthen our Faith; and all is enveloped in a spirit of penance and reparation for our sins and for the sins of humanity in order to call down God’s mercy upon our the whole world.
Finally, but far from least in importance, it is to be remembered that every Rosary Congress has the explicit desire and intention to be united with Our Holy Father, and to pray for his protection.