Editor’s note: The following is a guest article about the diocesan Rosary Congress celebrated at the Shrine of Our Lady of South Carolina – Our Lady of Joyful Hope, by Father Stanley Smolenski.
KINGSTREE—In 1979, the first Rosary Congress was held as a way to break the obstinacy of the Communist government in Poland, which was forbidding the visit of Pope St. John Paul II.
A Rosary Congress is the fulfillment of the requests made by Mary during her apparitions at Fatima 100 years ago. Based on her wishes, the Rosary Congress in Poland consisted of seven days of continuous Eucharistic adoration and the hourly recitation of the rosary at the national Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa. On the last day, the Communist government relented and allowed the pope’s visit, granting more time and places than the original request.
That brought to mind the Siege of Jericho, recorded in Joshua 6:1-27, when the Hebrews marched seven times for seven days around the walls of that city with the priests carrying their sacred Ark of the Covenant. The walls collapsed at the sound of the holy trumpets on the seventh day. Historians now assess that papal visit as awakening the people’s courage to confront the Communist government which eventually collapsed.
This Marian Eucharistic emphasis also recalls the vision of St. John Bosco in which he saw a ship, symbolizing the Church, endangered by enemy boats in a turbulent sea. Two pillars arose from the water; one was surmounted by the Eucharist and the other with Our Lady. The pope steered the ship between the pillars, to which he chained the ship and calm was restored.
In the icon of Our Lady of South Carolina – Our Lady of Joyful Hope, she is portrayed in a straight robe resembling a pillar. This honors her title of Tower of David, which was Jerusalem’s fort and security in time of battle. The Song of Solomon 6.:10 declares, “Who is this appearing … awesome as an army in battle array”. The Eucharist and Our Lady are portrayed in that icon as essential elements of its charism and message.
The Rosary Congress developed into frequent observances of the same Siege format throughout other countries, including the United States. The Diocese of Charleston added a Rosary Congress to its Bicentennial Celebration from Oct. 7, the Feast of the Holy Rosary, to Oct. 13, the anniversary of the miracle of Fatima.
Because Our Lady asked that the original Rosary Congress in 1979 take place at a shrine and, since the Kingstree shrine is not structured like a parish, it was decided that our diocesan shrine would have a unique participation by offering seven days of prayer for the sanctification of the Diocese of Charleston.
Providentially, it happened that at a visit to Mepkin Abbey its gift shop had a figurine of Hebrew priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant, with a priest carrying a censer and another with a trumpet. It was featured at the shrine and will remain before the pulpit for the remainder of the Bicentennial Year.
The Kingstree shrine program consisted of a two-hour prayer service with a rosary, holy Mass with an extended homily since conferences were interspersed in the original celebration, followed by a half-hour of Eucharistic adoration and benediction.
Participants came from various parts of the diocese representing religious, prayer groups, lay third orders, and other organizations. They represented everyone in the diocese, especially those present with us in spirit. Blessings received during the week extended as far as Georgia and North Carolina. Included was the October Image Award presented to the shrine by the Williamsburg Hometown Chamber for improvements to our outdoor signage and landscaping.
To emphasize the Marian dimension of the Holy Siege, a Votive Mass of Our Lady was celebrated each day except Sunday, and the homily was on the theme of the Mass. The gospel for the Sunday Mass allowed a Marian homily.
These were the daily themes:
Monday: Our Lady of the Rosary
Tuesday: Mother of Mercy
Wednesday: Mother of the Church
Thursday: Woman of the Eucharist
Friday: Pillar of Faith
Saturday: Teacher of the Spirit
Sunday: Immaculate Heart of Mary
Father Stanley Smolenski, director of the Shrine of Our Lady of South Carolina – Our Lady of Joyful Hope