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Praying up a Storm

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By Marc Massery (Nov 16, 2019)
This past summer, Gina Loehr and her family were at a county fair near their dairy farm in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, when all of a sudden a tornado warning sounded. "All of the kids hopped into the van, and we were driving home as a tornado was chasing behind us," Gina said. Her children instantly started praying Hail Marys over and over. "I was scared, but I was also moved to tears about Mary being my mother in that moment."

By the grace of God, they escaped the tornado unharmed. Gina felt good about how her children reacted in the midst of danger. "We thought, 'OK we're doing something right here. We're teaching our children that when you're in distress, when you're scared, you turn to your mother, and not just this one up front behind the wheel, but the one who is up in Heaven really helping to steer everything.'"

Gina was not always an evangelist of Marian devotion. "I was never into Marian apparitions," she said. "I was always very skeptical, even as a faithful Catholic, even as a master's degree student at the Franciscan University of Steubenville."

After she graduated, she had an opportunity to go on a free pilgrimage to Fatima. Her time spent at Fatima convinced her of the authenticity of the 1917 apparitions. "It made me realize, 'These things have actually happened. This is historically true,'" she said. The stories from the three shepherd children who witnessed the visions of Our Lady of Fatima affected her. There she learned about how the authorities interrogated the three shepherd children and threatened to put one of them in a boiling pot of oil if they didn't repudiate their claims. "But [they] wouldn't lie. [They] wouldn't give up the story," Gina said.

Gina thought that for a 9-year-old child to have had that kind of conviction, the apparitions must have been authentic. "That was my intellectual conversion that proved that this stuff is real," she said.

Then Gina was graced with an inspiration that helped set her career in motion as a Catholic author and speaker. "While I was at Fatima and praying in the chapel there, that is where I got the idea for my first book. I had never intended to write or speak or anything. But when I was there, I think it was through Our Lady's intercession that I got the idea for The Four Teresas, which is this book I wrote about these four women [saints] and how they help us love the great commandment. I totally trace it all back to Fatima," she said.

The four Teresas about whom Gina was inspired to write are St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Teresa of Calcutta, and St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein).

"When I was in Fatima praying about this, I thought, 'OK, what are we supposed to do as Christians? We're supposed to live the great commandment to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.' Each one of these Teresas lined up so well with those commands. To love with the whole heart is Thérèse, the passionate romantic, spiritual 'Little Flower.' To love with our whole mind is Edith Stein, the philosopher and convert from atheism. To love with the whole soul is Teresa of Avila, who wrote about the interior castle, how the soul is the dwelling place of the King. And Mother Teresa is loving our neighbors as ourselves — her service to the poor. So that was the idea, and I totally trace that back to Fatima," she said.

Gina said that the message of Fatima gives her a greater sense of sorrow for sin, "Not just for ourselves but for others, not just worrying about our own salvation, but asking Our Lady to intercede for the salvation of a sinful and fallen world," she said. "Certainly, there are many

people who can't pray for themselves because they don't even realize they're in need of it. The message of Fatima reminds us to take them into our hearts and prayers and lead them to Our Lady."

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