OUR FAITH IS under attack. We must take stock of our spiritual arsenal to combat the onslaught. The Legionaries, especially, are called upon as an army set in battle array, to come together and pray for the conversion of sinners all over the world. On the successful heels of the Continental Mission Year (CMY) Conference in Malang, Indonesia, I join the delegates in Pope Francis’ exhortation to carry out in our world, a testimony to give. We the baptized are especially called to be “a message that the Holy Spirit takes from the riches of Jesus Christ and gives to His people”. For this reason, I would like you to ask yourselves this question: What is the word that the Lord wants to speak through our life to all those whom we meet? What “step forward” is He asking of our family, my family, today? Everyone should ask this. Stop and listen. Let yourselves be changed by Him, so that you, too, can change the world and make it “home” for all those who need to feel welcomed and accepted, for all those who need to encounter Christ, and to know that they are loved. We need to live with our eyes raised to heaven.
As a humble contribution to this call, may I share this timely homily of Rev. Fr. Joseph Aytona, CPM, last Thursday, July 7, on EWTN.
“A young girl, Adele Brice by name, had a great love for our Lord, through our Lady. During her first communion, she promised her that, when she grows up, she will fulfill her dream of being a religious sister teaching children. Years passed and there was a famine in Belgium. Her parents prayed about it and discerned to move to the US, in Wisconsin, where Adele thought her dream might not come true.
After a few years, as she was going to Mass, a woman in dazzling white with a gold sash and 12 12 stars above her head appeared to her. She said no word. Adele told her parents about it and asked them what she should do. They said maybe it’s a soul in purgatory asking for her prayers so she prayed for her.
A few days passed and she is at Mass when the woman appears again. Adele received communion and told the priest about the woman in white. He told her to ask her who she is and what she wants of her. Adele walks back home and the woman appears to her again. She asked her according to what the priest advised her. The woman replied that she is the Queen of heaven who prays for the conversion of sinners and wished her to do the same. She further said that communion is well but she should do more, take a general confession, and offer communion for the conversion of sinners. If they do not, her Son will be obliged to punish them. Two other women were with Adele and they didn’t see the Lady and asked her what was happening. The Lady asked Adele what she was doing in idleness while the workers were busy in the vineyard of her Son. So Adele asked her what more can she do. The Lady replied for her to gather the children in this wild country and teach them what they should do for their salvation, like catechism, the sign of the Cross, how to approach the Sacraments, and go and fear nothing for she will help her. And the Lady disappeared.
Adele obeyed. In the frigid atmosphere of Wisconsin, by foot, she went to different housholds and asked permission fom parents if she can help with their chores so she can teach their children catechism. She was vey successful until, eventually, where the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared, she started a convent of the Third Order of Franciscan community, a school, and a chapel in the Lady’s honor. Twelve years later, there was a huge fire called the Peshtigo fire, the biggest in the US, as big as the State of Rhode Island, which killed an estimated 2,400 people. It was headed toward the spot where the BVM appeared but it completely missed and went around where Adele was praying with the people she gathered around the area. They lived!
One hundred fifty-one years (October 9, 1859) after the Lady’s last apparition, the Diocesan Bishop of Greenbay, Wisconsin formally approved the apparition as the only apparition site in all of USA. In 2016, the Episcopal Conference declared it the National Shrine of our Lady of Good Help. Fr. Aytona recommended Greenbay as a pilgrimage site while saying that private revelation does not add to the deposit of faith but it can benefit us growing in it. He said that he was just appointed director of the shrine, approved on December 8, the Lady’s Solemnity, by its Rector, the Fathers of Mercy of the Immaculate Conception of our Lady in 2010, shortly after his ordination.
He said one of the greatest threats of Catholicism is ignorance, people not knowing their faith. In the 50s or 60s, a lot of people were uncatechized, and now, generations upon generations do not know the 10 Commandments, the Our Father or the Hail Mary. They never heard that the rosary exists. The message is valid: we continue to teach not only children but parents, too. We cannot love someone we do not know was one of the messages of the Lady.
This portion of his sermon left an indelible mark in my mind. A lot of people don’t know how to offer communion, the greatest Sacrament, in the highest sacrifice which is the Mass, so it would be remiss of him not to explain how.
When the priest offers the Host and says “Let us pray,” he pauses then prays the Collect (which aptly collects all the intentions of people at Mass). The pause gives us the opportunity to mentally offer our intentions (for sinners, especially, or someone we wish to change or get better). The Lectio Divina (Divine Reading) is the disposition (the holy ability to conform to God’s will our actions, deeds, words, thoughts, prayers) to offer (or renew) the intentions at a time when the Host and Chalice are offered. After communion, when Jesus is in us, a most intimate moment, Satan tempts us, so we close our eyes, pray, listen to the choir, because we’re a living tabenacle, and keep offering our intentions, until Satan gives up and leaves us alone.
And, he counsels, before anyone says Mass is boring, ask him what he put into it. If he knows, then he also knows God. Then he is ready to love Him. And continue thanking Him long after the Mass is finished.