Have you been praying for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Have you been praying for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Most of us have, for more than a year now.

However, there is a monthlong effort underway this May to storm heaven with prayers for just that petition. The global initiative, spearheaded by Pope Francis, started on May 1.

The Vatican’s press release on April 21 noted that Pope Francis desires a prayer marathon “dedicated to the theme, ‘From the entire church an unceasing prayer rises to God,'” said the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization.

The idea of a prayer marathon, the council explained, isn’t new, but is based on life in the early church. In the Acts of the Apostles (12:1-12), the apostle Peter was imprisoned by King Herod’s order after Herod had killed James, who led the church in Jerusalem. The church then gathered in prayer for Peter’s release. “(P)rayer by the church was fervently being made to God on his behalf” (12:5). In response, God sent an angel to free Peter.

In the same way, the church today can pray fervently for a specific cause. The COVID-19 pandemic is a specific cause, and a real danger from which we need release. COVID-19 has killed more than 3 million people worldwide. 

Likewise, May is a month the church has specially dedicated to the Blessed Mother. Just a few of her special feast days in the month include Our Lady of Fatima (May 13), Our Lady, Help of Christians (May 24) and the feast of the Visitation (May 31).

Remembering the many feast days honoring the Blessed Mother, the Vatican’s prayer marathon includes Marian shrines around the world. Each day in May features a livestream from one of 30 Marian shrines to guide the prayer, broadcast each day at 6 p.m. Rome time (11 a.m. CDT) on all Vatican media platforms, including the Vatican news site at vaticannews.va. For example, May 3’s shrine was Our Lady of Czestochowa in Poland. The feast day of Our Lady of Czestochowa was May 3. 

While any prayer reaches God, during this month, the rosary has special focus. It is a prayer form linked to the Blessed Mother, offering reflections on the life of Jesus and on Mary herself. So the pope has asked for special rosaries to be offered during this prayer marathon. Also, since some of you will read this issue before its May 7 publication date, it might be nice to remember this intention if you take part in the National Day of Prayer on May 6, which dates back to 1952.

If you haven’t started praying in the pope’s global effort, it’s not too late. Nor is it too late to visit a Marian shrine. We have several in Wisconsin, including the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, the Basilica and National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians (Holy Hill) in Hubertus and the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in our own diocese in Champion.

“To Jesus through Mary” is a phrase many have used to describe how Mary takes all of our prayers into her own heart and presents them to her son’s heart. The phrase is often attributed to St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, who is considered one of the great saints of Mariology. He was devoted to the rosary and his feast day was April 28.

St. Louis-Marie said, “The rosary is the most powerful weapon to touch the heart of Jesus our Redeemer, who loves his mother.” On the cross, Jesus entrusted us to his mother and we trust that when we pray for her assistance, she will take everything to him.

So it’s never too late to start praying. This month offers a good way to get into a regular habit of prayer.