Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Conclusion: The Letter of '71

“I am the Queen of Heaven, who prays for the conversion of sinners, and I wish you to do the same. You received Holy Communion this morning, and that is well. But you must do more. Make a general confession, and offer Communion for the conversion of sinners. If they do not convert and do penance, my Son will be obliged to punish them.”

-Our Lady of Good Help, October 9, 1859

To briefly recap what has been addressed up to this point in this series of posts:

In 1859, exactly twelve years before the great Peshtigo fire, Our Lady of Good Help said of herself that she is “the Queen of Heaven who prays for the conversion of sinners.” She instructed Adele Brise of Robinsonville (or Champion), Wisconsin to do the same. But that wasn’t enough, she continued: “Make a general confession, and offer Communion for the conversion of sinners. If they do not convert and do penance, my Son will be obliged to punish them.”

The part I wish to emphasize is Our Lady’s call to offer spiritual sacrifices and to do penance for the express purpose of converting sinners. Several decades later, she would reiterate the same request to little Lucia, one of three seers at Fatima. Years later, in 1971, Sister Lucia wrote a letter to her nephew, Fr. Valinho, explaining why there was such turmoil and disorientation in their day. Indeed, she insisted that many were “allowing themselves to be dominated by the diabolical wave that is enveloping the world.”

Previously, the explanation was given why the Catholic Church in the twentieth century let down her defenses in the late 1960's. While Christianity in the West seemed to be prospering in the 40's, 50's and early 60's, the Culture of Death had overflowed- as if beneath the surface -from the concentration camps of the Third Reich and the gulags of the Soviet Union to the abortion clinics and public institutions of America and Europe in the late 1960’s. The result, of course, was that the Church was caught off guard and was made vulnerable to forces hostile to her. Again, Sister Lucia assigned a cause behind what seemed to be a perfect storm. And that cause was an abandonment of prayer which is our way of totally relying on God.

In the letter she said that prayer is the instrument through which God gives light, strength, and grace. And a great lesson for the leaders and teachers of the Church,
both clergy and laity (many of whom regard academic distinctions or book knowledge as being the most important qualification for God's work), is “that in prayer you will find more science, more light, more strength, more grace and virtue than you could ever achieve by reading many books, or by great studies.” Indeed, through prayer we come to realize our own limitations and that "it is God who works in us and through us, to accomplish His work." Sister Lucia goes so far as to say that we should tell God about our affairs before we tell others. By doing this, we put him first. She further adds, “Let time be lacking for everything else but never for prayer, and you will accomplish a lot in a short period of time.”

This cannot be stressed enough: "Let time be lacking for everything else but never prayer." Busybodies who fall back on prayer at the end of the day do not accomplish half as much as those who take a sufficient amount of time throughout the day to life up their hearts to the Lord in prayer.

In the absence of prayer, therefore, confusion and fatigue abounds. This is why Pope Benedict XVI could say in 1970, “[T]he Church is becoming extinguished in men’s souls, and Christian communities are crumbling.” Communities, as with individual souls, make themselves a prey to the flesh, the world and the devil when prayer is relaxed or seen as an obstacle to progress. In fact, Sister Lucia writes that the “devil is very smart and watches for our weak points so he can attack us. If we are not careful and attentive in obtaining the strength from God we will fall, because our times are very bad and we are weak.” This is exactly what he did in the late 1960's. Satan ceased the opportunity to lay seige to the Catholic Church when her defenses were relaxed. Hence, in 1972 Pope Paul VI had reason to believe that the "smoke of Satan" had entered the Church.

The good news is that Sr. Lucia identifies the problem which burdens the mission of Church, which is a falling away from the habit of putting prayer first. Failing to unite ourselves with God through prayer is not the only problem, to be sure, but it is the principal one.

Sister Adele and Sister Lucia, two seers of historic Marian apparitions, would further convey to the world that the Mother of Jesus Christ is also our mother and one who prayers earnestly for our conversion. Under her mantle, the children of God find their refuge and protection from the firestorm of our time. Hence, I believe, that even though Peshtigo fire in 1871 was the greatest natural disaster in American history- claiming the lives of several hundred –the miraculous intervention of God on our Lady’s behalf in sparing the lives of Sister Adele and companions is the key historical lesson to take away from all of this. Indeed, just as the devastation might have been a portent of the "diabolic wave" Sister Lucia referred to in the Letter of ’71, it is equally plausible that the lives spared from the gulf of flames is a sign of hope; that through the intercession of Our Lady of Good Help countless souls in our own day will be led to Jesus Christ, her Son.

I leave you with the words of Pope St. Pius X, who, in his encyclical on the Immaculate Conception, was reminiscing about a time in Europe when whole nations celebrated God’s greatest work- the Mother of God. Indeed, he expressed a burning desire and a great hope that this veneration might be rekindled in the modern world. In fact, he said that the “desire of Ours is especially stimulated by a sort of secret instinct which leads Us to regard as not far distant the fulfillment of those great hopes.” This great pope wrote these words of promise approximately a hundred years ago. Hence, when he profers that the fulfillment of those great hopes, is not far distant, let's pray he's right!


To read Sister Lucia’s letter in full, please click on “The Letter of 71” in the right hand column.