Lately I have been consumed by thoughts of how our world is being dragged down by trends toward to godlessness and corruption. Religious devotion and faith in God are being replaced by immorality, lawlessness, corruption and error. The anxiety I feel is becoming unbearable. How can we lift ourselves up and out of this awful maelstrom?
Sixteen years ago, my wife and I took a trip to Europe for our 25th wedding anniversary. I was especially intrigued by the religious sites in France. We stayed several nights in the town of Lisieux where a famous Catholic saint, St. Therese, lived her short life back in the late 1800’s. There is an impressive basilica there built in her honor; and it dominates the hillside, to put it mildly. We learned about her “little way” to heaven that she outlined in her autobiography, “The Story of a Soul,” and for which she is afforded the title “Doctor of the Church." In Paris, we learned about St. Catherine Laboure, who also lived in the 1800’s and who had visions of the Blessed Mother. At the Blessed Mother’s request, a medal was struck and it has come to be known as the Miraculous Medal. I have worn this medal around my neck every day since my visit there. On the front of the medal, we read the inscription requested by the Mother of God: “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.” We viewed her body, which is incorrupt.
And, of course, there is the story of St. Bernadette, whose body is also incorrupt, and who also had the well-known visions of the Blessed Mother near Lourdes, France, in 1858. Who has not heard of the miraculous healing of many pilgrims to Lourdes who have bathed in the water from a spring that bubbled up out of the ground upon Bernadette’s answering Blessed Mother's request to dig and has since become a flowing river? And we visited the site, in Rouen, of the martyrdom of St. Joan of Arc, who, at the direction of saints whose voices she heard, led an army that saved France from the British in the 1400’s. And yet, with all of this rich Catholic history of heavenly miracles, France is in as much in decline in godliness as any country of the world.
My French friends are our allies in our struggle today. We have the way of faith and grace in performing St. Therese’s little things as we live our lives. We have the promise of “great graces” if we wear the St. Catherine’s miraculous medal around our necks. We have the promise of great miracles from the Blessed Mother’s intercession if we pray and have faith according to the Lourdes message. And we have the evidence of heavenly intervention in political affairs from the life of St. Joan of Arc.
Our Blessed Mother has said that the answer is prayer. I am praying hard for the grace of God in these troubled times. I am praying for the intercession of our special French saints. I invite you to join me. Amen.