3 Times in History When Prayer Overcame a Plague

We are living in interesting times. Times you typically only read about in history books. And as we work together to contain the spread of COVID-19, we can turn to history for inspiration and hope during this time of uncertainty. As medical experts and healthcare professionals use their gifts and knowledge to treat the sick and find a cure, there can be a sense of powerlessness for the rest of society. But if we look to history we can feel empowered – because the power of prayer can make a real difference.

In fact, there are several instances in history when prayer and acts of faithful devotion were credited with ending a plague or outbreak. Learn more about them below, and stay to the end to learn how you can respond to this pandemic with the power of prayer.

St. Gregory the Great
In the 6th century, the people of Rome were struck by a plague that was so vicious it killed entire families. St. Gregory the Great prayed to the Blessed Mother for an end to the plague, and during the Easter celebrations he carried the image of Our Lady, now called the Salus Populi Romani (translated: Health of the Roman People), in a procession through the streets of Rome.

When the procession arrived at Hadrian’s Mausoleum (now called Castel Sant’Angelo) an angelic choir was heard singing the Regina Coeli and an angel, believed to be St. Michael, was seen placing his sword back into his scabbard, ending the scourge of the plague over the city. Pope Francis has a special devotion to the Salus Populi Romani image, and recently visited the image at St. Mary Major Basilica to pray for an end to COVID-19.

Emperor Leopold I
In the 17th century, a plague struck Vienna, Austria and other nearby regions. It is believed that the plague was a recurrence of the Bubonic Plague (which killed about 1/3 of the population of Europe in the 14th century) and this new occurrence of plague killed more than 75,000 in Vienna. Before fleeing the city, Habsburg emperor Leopold I prayed for an end to the plague, and vowed to erect a memorial column if the plague ended. In the same year, a wooden column was erected showing the Holy Trinity and nine angels, to give the people faith and hope.

The plague ended, and the ‘Plague Column’ (or Trinity Column) was erected in Vienna. It remains one of the most well-known and prominent pieces of art in the city today.

The Crucifix of San Marcello
Pope Francis also recently made a pilgrimage to the church of San Marcello al Corso, which houses a miraculous crucifix that is credited with ending a plague that scourged Rome in the 16th century. The crucifix had already survived a fire in the church it was originally in, and three years after that the plague broke out in Rome. Remembering the crucifix being miraculously untouched by the flames, the friars of the order of the Servants of Mary decided to make a penitential procession from the church of San Marcello to St. Peter’s Basilica.

It is believed that the procession lasted 16 days, and when the crucifix entered a neighborhood the plague receded. Residents tried to hold back the sacred image in their neighborhoods, as it seemed to be the most effective way of eliminating the plague. When the crucifix returned to San Marcello the plague had completely ceased and Rome had once again been saved.

When we look to history we see that pandemics and plagues have happened many times before. Now that pandemic has struck our time, how will you respond? Here at Relevant Radio® we believe in the power of prayer, and we are asking you to join us in our prayer campaign to end COVID-19. Check out the details of our Faith & Facts, Not Fear campaign below, and then join our movement today!

  • Special Rosary Novena:  Tune in for a special edition of the Family Rosary Across America®, as Fr. Rocky, Executive Director of Relevant Radio, leads a nine-day rosary novena to pray for the end to the coronavirus and for the health and safety of all.  The rosary will be prayed Live from our Chapel of the Nativity in Green Bay, WI, and Fr. Rocky will be taking your prayer requests. This special rosary will be broadcast each evening from March 19 through March 27 at 8pm ET / 5pm PT on your local station, on the Relevant Radio App, at RelevantRadio.com, or on the Father Rocky Facebook page.
  • Live Mass:  Fr. Rocky will continue to offer a daily Mass at Noon CT /10am PT, for those unable to attend due to the many Mass cancellations.  If you would like to participate, tune in to your local station or go to RelevantRadio.com, the Relevant Radio App, or the Father Rocky Facebook page.  The Mass will also be rebroadcast each evening at 8:30pm ET /5:30pm PT.
  • Stations of the Cross: Walk the road to Calvary with Our Lord by praying the Stations of the Cross with us each Friday at 4:35pm ET/ 1:35pm PT.
  • Litany of the Saints: Archbishop Bernard Hebda of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis is praying the ‘Litany in Time of Need’ each day, invoking the powerful intercession of the saints for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic and all those affected by it. Hear the Litany in Time of Need each day at noon ET / 9am PT.
  • Divine Mercy Chaplet:  Drew Mariani continues to offer the chaplet for your intentions every weekday at 4pm ET/1pm PT, with a special intention for the end to the coronavirus.
  • Live Shows:  Our live shows continue to provide the latest information on the COVID-19 pandemic, with experts in every field sharing the facts you need to know to keep you and your loved ones safe and informed from a Catholic perspective.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us! Our Lady of Good Health, pray for us!

Stephanie Foley serves as a Digital Media Producer at Relevant Radio®. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she studied journalism, and she has worked in Catholic radio for 12 years. Stephanie is a wife, a mother of three boys, and in her free time she enjoys reading, running, and really good coffee. You can find more of Stephanie’s writing at relevantradio.com and on the free Relevant Radio mobile app.