Meet Marian Scholar: Dr. Johann Roten, S.M.
To learn about the history of the 54 Day Rosary Novena we turned to an authority on this subject, Fr. Johann Roten, SM of the International Marian Research Institute at the University of Dayton. Dr Roten is an internationally recognized scholar and authority on Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. He was head of the International Marian Research Institute for 15 years. Born in Switzerland, he speaks English, French, German, Swiss-German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Latin and Greek. He also ministers in Polish, Hungarian and Lithuanian in the ethnic churches of Dayton.
What is the 54 day Rosary Novena and how did it get started?
When asked to explain this unusual rosary novena, Fr. Roten explained it this way:
Q: What is the 54 Day Rosary Novena?
A: We are dealing with a combination of several novenas, some of petition, others of thanksgiving. For 27 days (3 x 9 days, or three novenas) the devotee will recite every day five decades of the Rosary to petition from Our Lady the special favor sought. These days are immediately followed by another 27 days of thanksgiving whether or not the request has been granted. The modalities of the prayer may vary. They normally follow the sequence of Jesus and Mary’s stations in life as presented in the classical mysteries of the Rosary. This laborious novena wants to be a novena of love and attachment to Our Lady, more so than simply a prayer of petition.
This novena originated at a time of great fervor to pray the Rosary. We are referring to the end of the 19th century which was marked by the Rosary encyclicals of Leo XIII, and on a popular level—by the great influence of Our Lady of Pompeii, by her apparition and the worldwide movement that developed from it. Our Lady of the Rosary showed her special favor to the daughter of Commander Agrelli of Naples. It is to her, according to tradition, that Mary revealed the 54 day rosary novena. The girl had been suffering for a long time of dreadful and tortuous cramps. The girl directed her prayer to Mary, Queen of the Holy Rosary. Moved by the girl’s prayer and the title given to her, Mary promised her healing if she made three novenas. In a further apparition, so tradition, Mary specified that whoever desired to obtain favors from her should make three novenas of the prayers of the Rosary in petition, and three novenas in thanksgiving. This occurred in 1884 in Naples, Italy. The girl obtained healing.
MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE UNIVERSITY OF DAYTON’S MARY CENTER
There is more information about the University in an article written in the Catholic Sentinel, the oldest Catholic newspaper on the West Coast. The newspaper was established in 1870, published by Oregon Catholic Press, and is the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Portland.
The excerpt below is from an article published on December 24, 2019 which explains more about the University of Dayton’s Mary Center, with the focus on its world renown crèche collection. In this article Fr. Roten had something very important – and incredibly timely – to say about the Holy Family.
“Each culture, if not every home, has its own unique rendition of the Nativity. The Christ child may lay on a manger made from materials as diverse as wax, blown glass, yarn, papier-mache and terra cotta. Mary might don the dress of a first-century peasant or Renaissance royalty.
The ubiquitous manger scene makes the perfect illustration of enculturation, that is, adapting the principles of faith to a specific cultural setting. The Incarnation, the moment God becomes human, allows the nations to envision Christ as one of their own.
“Enculturation is a step further from the Incarnation,” said Marianist Father Johann Roten, a scholar at the University of Dayton and expert on cultural interpretations of the Nativity.
“The Incarnation is the son of God becoming human and enculturation will then be, he becomes not only human, but he becomes Afghani or he is Persian or he is German or French,” Father Roten told Catholic News Service.
The University of Dayton, which is a Catholic and Marianist institution, has amassed what curators believe is the largest collection of Nativity sets in North America. The archives contain about 3,600 creches from around 100 different countries.
“They’re really important examples of popular devotion,” said Sarah Cahalan, director of the Marian Library at the university, which houses the Nativity sets.
“We have pretty comprehensive coverage for Europe and North America,” she said, “so we’re really excited these days to get donations of materials from the African continent, from Asia. We have a great deal of materials from Latin America.”
Each December the university publicly displays around 100 curated sets. Read the full article here.
UNIVERSITY OF DAYTON IS SERIOUS ABOUT ITS MARIAN STUDIES
“The International Marian Research Institute at the University of Dayton, in collaboration with the Marianum in Rome, awarded two doctoral degrees and three licentiate degrees in December, bringing IMRI’s total graduates to 36 for the Licentiate in Sacred Theology and 39 for the Doctorate of Sacred Theology. These pontifically recognized degrees license the graduates to teach theology in Catholic seminaries and to work in Catholic institutions.” Read the full article here.