A man prays the rosary during a daylong event on Sept. 30, 2023, in Washington, D.C., focused on praying and reflecting on the rosary to conclude a nine-month rosary novena. Credit: George Goss

Tyler Arnold
Catholic News Agency

A few thousand Catholics joined Dominican priests and sisters on Saturday for a daylong event in Washington, D.C., focused on praying and reflecting on the rosary to conclude a nine-month rosary novena.

The Sept. 30 Dominican Rosary Pilgrimage, which was held at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, included talks by Dominican priests, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, confession, and a vigil Mass. The pilgrimage was held one day before the start of the month of the rosary in October.

“I find it very spiritually enriching,” Jane Degnan, who traveled from Narragansett, Rhode Island, to partake in the pilgrimage, told CNA.

“The atmosphere here at the basilica really helps us to appreciate and grow in our devotion to the Blessed Mother and the rosary, [which enriches] our relationship with the Lord Jesus,” said Degnan, who added that her attachment to the Dominicans stems from having an uncle who is a Dominican priest and a cousin who is a Dominican nun.

The event began with a talk by Father Gregory Pine, a Dominican priest, on the Virgin Mary, which was followed by exposition and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the upper church while confessions were heard in the various Marian shrines in the lower church. Nearly 20 priests heard confessions throughout the late morning and early afternoon.

Adoration concluded with Benediction, which was followed by another talk from Pine, this one focused on the rosary.

“The rosary imports to us a kind of contemplative stance toward the mysteries [of Christ] in union with Mary,” Pine said during his talk.

Pine explained how “all Christians are called to be contemplative.” He said our experiences in the present are meant to be carried into the next life, where we “couldn’t even imagine looking away” from God: “Heaven is contemplative.”

“It is precisely for this purpose you have been baptized and confirmed and commissioned for a life in this modern world,” Pine said.

Rather than attaching ourselves to material desires, the rosary “puts our minds and hearts in motion” and attaches us to something “that can truly satisfy [us],” Pine continued. “We can’t hang our hearts on anything less,” he said, adding that “apart from [Christ], we can do nothing.”

After Pine’s second talk, the Dominicans led pilgrims in praying the rosary. This was followed by a brief talk on the rosary by Father Lawrence Lew, another Dominican priest. The pilgrimage ended with a Vigil Mass.

Father John Paul Kern, the executive director of the Dominican Friars Foundation, told CNA that the pilgrimage was a good way to lead into the month of the rosary. He said “people were very excited” to partake in the pilgrimage and added that it serves as part of the Dominican “heritage of continuing to preach the rosary,” which has been an important part of the order’s mission for more than 500 years.

Kern, who said he was “very pleased with the turnout” for the pilgrimage, referenced the “powerful” depiction in the basilica of the Pentecost event, which shows the Blessed Mother with the apostles when Christ breathed the Holy Spirit onto them. He said that while praying the holy rosary, “we are gathered with Our Lady like the apostles.”

Prior to the pilgrimage, participants were encouraged to take part in a nine-month novena, which included praying the rosary on the 30th of each month and reciting a novena, which asks God to “pour out [the] Holy Spirit upon us as we meditate upon the mysteries of Christ contained in the most holy rosary.”

Kern said the Dominicans mailed out about 500,000 novena prayer cards to entities and about 100,000 at the request of parishes and individuals. He said he estimates there were at least 100,000 participants in the monthly novena.

One participant, Kyle Grimes, told CNA that the nine-month novena preceding the pilgrimage was a good reminder that helped serve in the preparation for the pilgrimage. He added that he was glad the Dominicans held an event like this.

“It’s hard to find a lot of events like this, especially [ones] that are just Dominican in nature,” said Grimes, who traveled from Baltimore for the pilgrimage.

The Dominican Rosary Pilgrimage was the first event of its kind held by the Dominicans at the basilica, but the organizers intend to make it an annual event.