One hundred years ago, the Blessed Mother came to three shepherd children in Portugal in a series of apparitions we call by the name of the town in which she appeared: Fatima. At the time of these apparitions, fifteen hundred miles away in the heart of the Church, St. Maximilian Kolbe was studying in Rome to become a Franciscan priest. On October 16, 1917, while still a seminarian, he founded his “Militia Immaculatae” to, “win the world for Christ” through Mary. After ordination, Fr. Kolbe headed back to Poland where he would build this engine of evangelization, the Militia Immaculatae. Living in Poland at the same time as Fr. Kolbe were a young Karol Wojtyla, whom we now know as St. John Paul II and a young Helena Kowalska whom we now know as St. Faustina. This little trinity of souls seems to be a prophetic symbol of the great Trinitarian movement of the Holy Spirit we are currently on the verge of: Marian Consecration, Living the Divine Mercy, and Baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Most people of goodwill today concede that the world is in a bad state. Many also get the feeling that something is coming, something big. Depending on their spirituality or even political leanings they may see this “something” as an environmental disaster or series of disasters, a world war, a socio-political-economic collapse, or a Divine chastisement the likes of which has not been seen since Noah. When looking at the local, regional, national and world news, one cannot avoid the truth that things are changing at a rapid pace and not for the better. However, alongside this dark reality, for some people a sense of hope and joy is bubbling up. This is happening among people who believe that, though the changes coming and upon us are difficult and painful, a new dawn may be about to arise amidst the ashes. These people are religious, spiritual, or simply live with an entrenched, habitual optimism. As a Catholic Christian, I feel this hope, I concur with this contradictory feeling of joy. I feel less like despairing and more like the Holy Spirit is saying, “Ready, Set, GO!”
Marian Consecration – READY
One hundred years ago, Fr. Kolbe initiated the second greatest movement of consecration to Jesus through our greatest advocate, Mary. Catholics with an eye for history believe this was a great grace in preparation for World War II, the coming of Communism and all that the world would suffer because of these two terrible events. Today, under the guidance of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, with Lighthouse Catholic Media as the foot soldiers in disseminating materials to the masses, the Holy Spirit has brought about the greatest movement of individual Marian Consecration (to Jesus, through Mary) in the history of the Church. This gives one pause. If the second greatest movement of Marian Consecration was in preparation for World War II and Communism, what in the world is the Holy Spirit preparing us for now?
There are many ways to make the Marian Consecration, but the most widely used today, and also the simplest, is through the book, 33 Days to Morning Glory by Father Michael Gaitley, MIC. This book came out after I had already used the traditional book, Preparation for Total Consecration According to St. Louis Marie de Montfort for my own initial consecration. Having now used both books (and there are others as well) it seems that the choice of books/methods is more a matter of temperament and prayer style than anything else. I appreciate the depth of meditation afforded by the litanies and prayers in St. Louis’ book, but I also value the simplicity and modern relevance of 33 Days. The point is to place oneself utterly under the Blessed Mother’s care, trusting her to lead directly to Jesus’ Sacred Heart. It is often said that there are no short-cuts in the spiritual life. Paraphrasing St. Louis, I would offer that there is one and that is “to Jesus through Mary.” Mary “readies” us for whatever the Holy Spirit has in store next.
Living Divine Mercy: SET
Anyone who has ever heard Fr. Michael Gaitley speak knows the answer to his oft repeated question, “What time is it?” It is the Time of Mercy! Speaking to St. Faustina, Jesus said:
Speak to the world about My mercy; let all mankind recognize My unfathomable mercy. It is a sign for the end times; after it will come the day of justice. … You will prepare the world for My final coming (Diary, 848 and 429).
As Jesus’ “Secretary of Divine Mercy,” Sr. Maria Faustina was to write down all of the conversations, visions, and instructions our Lord granted her over the years of her religious life. These can be summed up in the following quotes from Jesus in her diary:
Let the greatest sinners place their trust in My mercy. They have the right before others to trust in the abyss of My mercy. … Souls that make an appeal to My mercy delight Me. To such souls I grant even more graces than they ask (Diary, 1146).
Today I am sending you with My mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My merciful Heart. I use punishment when they themselves force me to do so; My hand is reluctant to take hold of the sword of justice. Before the Day of Justice, I am sending the Day of Mercy. … I am prolonging the time of mercy for the sake of [sinners]. But woe to them if they do not recognize this time of My visitation (Diary, 1588 and 1160).
In addition to telling us, through St. Faustina, about His boundless “ocean” of mercy, Jesus gave us this marker of the times:
Write this: Before I come as the just Judge, I am coming first as the King of Mercy. Before the day of justice arrives, there will be given to people a sign in the heavens of this sort:
All light in the heavens will be extinguished, and there will be great darkness over the whole earth. Then the sign of the cross will be seen in the sky, and from the openings where the hands and the feet of the Savior were nailed will come forth great lights which will light up the earth for a period of time. This will take place shortly before the last day (Diary, 83).
The time of mercy continues until this sign occurs. We are living in the “time of mercy”! What time, place and people could possibly be more in need of mercy than ours? God’s generous mercy is evidenced by the level of sin in our world contrasted against the fact that Jesus has not yet returned. But He also said, “Woe to them if they do not recognize this time.” How do we avoid this most terrible woe? By diving into His ocean of mercy. While the Sacrament of Reconciliation is that font of mercy which ever flows, I believe we are called to live His mercy now in an additional and deeper way, through “living the Divine Mercy”. The Marians of the Immaculate Conception offer this list of the seven ways we can live the Divine Mercy in our lives:
1) Celebrating the Feast of Divine Mercy Sunday (Sunday after Easter)
2) Venerating the Image of the Divine Mercy
3) Praying the Divine Mercy Novena (from Good Friday through Divine Mercy Sunday)
4) Entering into, in some way, the Hour of Great Mercy (3 PM)
5) Praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy daily
6) Devotion to the Sacraments, especially Reconciliation and Eucharist
7) Living out, daily, the Spiritual and Corporal works of Mercy.
While this may seem a heavy load for a life of mercy, on the contrary, entering into this mercy lifestyle is as natural and life giving as breath itself. As Mary “readies” us for the life the Holy Spirit wants to live through us, living the Divine Mercy “sets” us in the right position of life habits for that work to naturally occur.
Baptism in the Holy Spirit: GO!
Of the three souls in this little trinity, only one lived a long life. St. Maximilian died in a starvation bunker in Auschwitz in 1941, having offered his life in exchange for one last soul. St. Faustina died in 1938 at the age of 33, having penned her diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul, which has been a great gift for all mankind. But Karol Wojtyla lived right into our current century, and served as our pope for 27 years, reminding us at every turn to “Be Not Afraid”. Wherever he traveled in the world he was a beacon of hope, joy, and love in the Holy Spirit.
There are many movements we think of when we think of the teachings of St. John Paul II, but the Charismatic Renewal and Baptism in the Holy Spirit may not be at the top of that list. However, in 1979 when speaking to a group of international Renewal leaders, our newly elected Pope John Paul II said, “I am convinced that this movement is a very important component of the entire renewal of the Church.” He further noted that since age 11 he had said a daily prayer to the Holy Spirit and added, “This was my own spiritual initiation, so I can understand all these charisms. They are all part of the richness of the Lord. I am convinced that this movement is a sign of his action.” Those blessed enough to be present for his personal prayer time, speak of the “groanings” this saint made in supplication for the whole world.
This was, no doubt, a truly “charismatic” man. And what is the one message that this prophetic voice for our times uttered over and over again? Be not afraid! When confronted with the daily onslaught of bad news and worse predictions, we must say, “Jesus, I Trust in You” and choose not to be afraid.
In addition to so many other momentous historic anniversaries, 2017 is also the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Golden Jubilee. Fifty years ago at a weekend retreat, a group of Duquesne University students experienced Baptism in the Holy Spirit in what is now recognized as the birth of the Charismatic Renewal in the Catholic Church. This year our Holy Father Francis celebrated the Pentecost Vigil Mass, not in St. Peter’s Square as usual, but in the Roman Coliseum with a special gathering of the international members of the CCR. At this Spirit filled Mass he said:
Today we are here, as in an open-air Cenacle, because we are not afraid: in the open air, and also with a heart open to the promise of the Father. We are gathered, “all believers”, all those who profess that Jesus is the Lord. Many have come from different parts of the world and the Holy Spirit has gathered us to establish bonds of fraternal friendship that encourage us on the path to unity, unity for the mission: not to be static, no! for the mission, to proclaim that Jesus is the Lord – Jesús es el Señor – to announce together the love of the Father for all His children! To announce the Good News to all peoples!
Reiterating St. John Paul II’s call to fearless love and evangelization, Pope Francis clearly continues the charism of primary font of the Holy Spirit for our Church and our world. But we are all called to be fonts of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Father has repeatedly asked priests and lay people to give the “Life in the Spirit” Seminar which, for over 40 years, has led millions of Catholics and other Christians into a life of deeper, on-fire-faith through Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Find a LITS seminar in your area. If there isn’t one, chip in with some friends and do-it-yourself with this DVD series produced by the original author of the seminar, Ralph Martin. If that’s not an option, find a Charismatic prayer group and start attending their meetings. Alongside these efforts start praying a daily prayer to the Holy Spirit, the most powerful arguably being the “Veni Creator”. Invite the Holy Spirit in and look out. He will prepare you for what is to come: works, trials, joys and all. He will shoot the starting gun and off you will GO!
The urgency of these times means it is time for us to not just stop at our own personal salvation. It is time, while it’s still day, for us to go out and work those fields. The laborers are few. While I cannot speak for everyone, I can speak about the holy souls around me who I see pursuing Jesus and pursuing holiness with everything they’ve got. A spiritual movement with a Trinitarian pattern has emerged: Marian Consecration (to Jesus through Mary), Living Divine Mercy and Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Those living this little Ready-Set-GO! life are feeling, not dread and despair at each new, horrible revelation in the news, but hope and even excitement at the “New Springtime of Evangelization” that St. John Paul II prophesied decades ago. Let us shake off the energy draining dread the enemy wants us to submit to and choose instead to use the tools the Holy Spirit has given us through the Church to be Ready, to Get set and to GO! In His Holy Name!