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Marian Helpers, Let's Head to Higher Ground

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By Fr. Joseph, MIC (Feb 25, 2019)
My dear Marian Helpers, the world needs us.

Specifically, the world needs us to become the people Christ calls us to be.

By virtue of our Baptism, each of us — clergy and laity — has a vocation to holiness. By virtue of being Marian Helpers, we have a specific calling to conversion, to model ourselves after the Blessed Virgin Mary, who said "yes" to the Lord.

As the Association of Marian Helpers marks its 75th anniversary this year, this Lent presents a fitting occasion to renew ourselves as Marian Helpers and as people of God.

I propose that this Lent, which begins March 6, we endeavor to deepen our "yes" to the Lord, thereby becoming His honed instruments to bring about a civilization of love, beginning in our homes and extending into our communities and beyond.

I make this proposal with a sense of urgency. Why? Because we stand at a critical moment in the history of our Church and our world. In troubling times throughout history, God has raised up great saints. Today, I believe we Marian Fathers and Marian Helpers are called to be those great saints.

We are called to be saints like Stanislaus Papczynski (1631-1701), Founder of the Marian Fathers, who in the midst of a violent age said "yes" to the Lord. He declared, "Supreme honor shown to God is to worship and imitate Him. You imitate him if you are devout; you worship Him if you are merciful" (The Mystical Temple of God, page 136).

Saints like Maria Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938), the Secretary of Divine Mercy, who at the dawn of our own age — a time of spiritual, social, and political collapse — said "yes" to the Lord and recorded His urgent message of mercy. Jesus told her, "In the Old Covenant I sent prophets wielding thunderbolts to My people. Today I am sending you with My mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My merciful Heart" (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 1588).

While the Holy Father and bishops around the world look to forge a path forward from the current Church crisis (see page 17), you and I can surmise what we have to do as members of the Body of Christ, and specifically as Marian Helpers.

The very core of our mission as Marian Helpers is to bring ourselves and others to eternal life with God in Heaven. We do so by committing ourselves to know, love, and serve God. By our lives — by our thoughts, words, and actions, motivated by love for God and love for His creation — we are to reveal Him to a world that either doesn't know Him or that turns away out of fear, indifference, unbelief, or grave misunderstanding.

We are a people dedicated to Christ and devoted to the mystery of the Immaculate Conception and the souls in Purgatory. By deed, by word, and by prayer, we follow St. John Paul II's specific call to the Marian Fathers to be "apostles of Divine Mercy under the maternal and loving guidance of Mary." Our spirituality forms us as a people, a citizenry, and a family: humble, joyful, practical, and merciful. The world hungers for such qualities. We must satisfy that hunger.

But how?

The way forward
In her brilliance and beauty, the Church spells out for us the Lenten call. Specifically, the Ash Wednesday Scriptural readings that usher us into Lent speak of return to the merciful Lord. They speak of gathering and assembling, of humbling our hearts, turning from sin, and being faithful to the Gospel (see Joel 2:12-18).

They speak of our role as righteous ambassadors of Christ, working together through the grace of God to save souls (see 2 Cor 5:20-6:2).

They speak of the proper way to pray, fast, and give alms so as to call attention to the Merciful Father rather than to ourselves (see Mt 6:1-6, 16-18).

With Ash Wednesday, we Marian Helpers — several hundred thousand strong — embark upon a 40-day journey, a retreat, knowing there's strength in numbers, that we have the power through our prayers and sacrifices to bring down an abundance of God's graces upon ourselves and upon the world.

In Lenten retreat, we step back to unite our divided selves to God so that we may step forth again into the world having reaffirmed in our own hearts that which Mary stated at the Annunciation: "May it be done to me according to your word" (Lk 1:38).

Retreat is the optimal word. In this moment — with so much suffering and sinfulness, so much division and indirection — we shouldn't rush to cleave the word "retreat" from its military connotations. Indeed, much like an army regrouping, we must briefly withdraw to the higher ground of Lent to regroup and recommit ourselves to who we are and what we need to do.

Our retreat should begin with pointed questions and then proceed to Christian service employing the armaments of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving (see sidebar, left).

The pointed questions should be self-directed: Who or what sits on the throne of my heart? Material things? Personal ambition? Or God?

When the priest marks your forehead with ashes, he recites the words "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." Or he says, "Repent, and believe in the Gospel."

The ash harkens back to the Book of Genesis (3:19), to God's words to Adam and Eve when they sinned, having sought fulfillment outside of God. Without God, we are dust. Without God, we lapse into the sorts of behavior that put this world into its current fix. We gossip. We wound each other. We lust after false idols: power, money, and sex. We destroy the spiritual life, the moral life, the physical life, the beautiful life.

A fresh perspective
From this higher ground of Lent, we cry out to the Father because we can see clearly the path of self-destruction — the effects of humanity's envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride, sloth, and wrath. We can hear the demanding and sometimes discomforting words of Scripture, how "If [one] part [of the church] suffers, all the parts suffer with it" (1 Cor 12:26).

From this higher ground of Lent, we can confidently orient ourselves back to the road of salvation, a path prepared by Christ who came to the earth and died for us because He knows we cannot do any of this on our own. We take our Lord at His word when He says to St. Faustina that "no soul that has called upon My mercy has been disappointed or brought to shame" (Diary, 1541).

From this higher ground of Lent, we relearn how to pattern our lives on His commandments and prepare to inspire others to do so as well. We are a missionary Church, after all, engaged with society and called to play an active role in the redemption of the world. We have the Blessed Mother and the saints in our corner, allies to whom we can prayerfully turn for coaching and courage.

From this higher ground of Lent, we can see clearly how the world needs Marian Helpers.

Come Easter and Divine Mercy Sunday, may we fully claim our birthright as Christians, tasked to do great good in a world that needs us to be Christlike, to be true Marian Helpers.

Become a Marian Helper.

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