On March 3, 1884, a young girl named Fortuna Agrelli was graced with an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary and given this special devotion which she passed onto others.
At the time, young Fortuna was ill with 3 separate incurable diseases and her doctors had given up on her case saying it was hopeless. In desperation, the young girl and her family began a novena of Rosaries.
Our Lady appeared to the girl, sitting upon a high throne, surrounded by luminous figures, holding the Divine Child on Her lap, and in Her hand a Rosary.
The sick girl greeted the Blessed Virgin with the following words: “Queen of the Holy Rosary, be gracious to me, restore me to health! I have already prayed to Thee in a novena, O Mary, but have not yet experienced Thy aid. I am so anxious to be cured!”
“Child,” responded the Blessed Virgin, “you have invoked Me by various titles and have always obtained favors from Me. Now, since you have called Me by that title so pleasing to Me, ‘Queen of the Most Holy Rosary’, I can no longer refuse the favor you petition; for this name is most precious and dear to Me. Make three novenas, and you shall obtain all.”
Once more, the Queen of the Holy Rosary appeared to the young girl and said, “Whoever desires to obtain favors from Me should make three novenas of the prayers of the Rosary, and three novenas in thanksgiving.”
Obeying Our Lady’s instructions, the young girl was healed and restored to perfect health.
Traditionally a novena is nine days. Thus, Our Lady’s words to young Fortuna, “make three novenas of the prayers of the Rosary in petition, and three novenas in thanksgiving.”The novena consists of five decades of the Rosary (one set of mysteries) each day for twenty-seven days in petition; then immediately five decades each day for an additional twenty-seven days in thanksgiving, regardless of whether or not the request has been granted yet.
So began six novenas of Rosaries, which became known as the 54-day Rosary Novena. To do the novena properly one must pray the Rosary for 54 consecutive days, without missing a day, and must pray the particular Mystery indicated for that day following the correct sequence.
That is, the first day of the novena always begins with the Joyful Mysteries (regardless of what day of the week the novena is started); the second day, the Sorrowful Mysteries are prayed; and the third day of the novena, the Glorious Mysteries are prayed. The fourth day of the novena begins again with the Joyful Mysteries and continues on in that sequence throughout the 54 days of the novena. People have asked over time about the Luminous Mysteries — this novena was given by Our Lady as noted above in 1884 and only allows for the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries.
It has been reported that the miracle of young Fortuna’s cure upon praying the 54-day Rosary Novena, made a deep impression on Pope Leo XIII. He wrote 17 encyclicals on the Rosary and urged all Christians to love the Rosary and pray it fervently.