Our Lord warned us that crises and judgment can come like a thief in the night. And that is exactly what has happened with this COVID-19 pandemic event. On one level, it doesn’t matter the nature or gravity of the actual virus because the hysteria it has caused around the globe, especially the United States has led to a global lockdown. Fear, panic, apocalyptic sentiments (coronapocalypse), etc., fill everyone’s mind. Some have been preparing for a moment like this, but many haven’t and this is a decisive moment in the history of the modern world.
I just met with a decent-sized group of local men, most of whom are Catholic (fellow parishioners) and heads of families. I was deeply moved by their sense of watching out for each other — and most are all living with financial difficulty. We know we are all being tested in one way or another by this crisis. It will reveal much to each of us of what is truly in our hearts. This will test marriages and families. It will reveal who are true friends are and whether charity really reigns in our hearts to help our neighbor in a spirit of sacrificial love . . . or if we are just about ourselves. As Fulton Sheen reminds us about true giving: “The measure in our giving is not how much we give, but in how much that is left.” Sheen lived those words. From his telecasts and books, Fulton Sheen made what would be equivalent to $100,000,000 in today’s earnings. ALL of those proceeds went to the poor in the missions and to those in need whom he met throughout his life. May God inspire a true spirit of generosity with those of great means to help those who are struggling because everything they have received is God’s gift to them.
No matter what is going on behind the veil of this virus and how it is being used by both forces of evil and forces of good, God IS using this pandemic to bring about a needed pause and silence to a world that has forgotten God and our responsibilities to Him. This crisis puts the spotlight on many facets of modern life, but the most important is the spiritual vacuum that has increased throughout the world over the past century. How do we respond to this wake up call?
Fulton Sheen provides the spiritual guidance we need as he saw this coming 80 years ago. He says to us what he said to Americans then: “A great burden is thrust upon men who call themselves religious. In this fatal hour, all of their energies should be spent recalling man to his spiritual destiny and summoning him to invoke the God Who made him . . . . Let those who call themselves Catholics, or Protestants or Jews recall that the function of their religion is to intensify the spiritual life of man and not to empty the vials of bitterness into hearts, stirring up one against another.”
Sheen fulfilled this through his radio and television broadcasts spanning 50 years as he worked tirelessly to reorient America back to a Christian philosophy of life and steer them away from the alternative of Godless communism, which is the effect of an egocentric culture. But more importantly, it was how he personally anchored his daily spiritual life in two fundamental ways that gave him both peace of soul and real power to change the world around him. Those two anchors were his unbroken commitment to a daily holy hour before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and his daily living out his consecration to Mary, especially through his fidelity to praying the Holy Rosary daily and encouraging every household to do the same.
Fulton Sheen’s commitment to the daily holy hour was also a way he expressed his sacrificial love for Jesus for the sake of making reparation for all the evil in the world. The Eucharist IS Jesus Christ and the extension of the mystery of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ in the Mass. So, the holy hour was for Sheen an intense active participation in the redemption of the whole world. He was so dedicated to the daily holy hour that when he couldn’t find his way into a church (when he was traveling), he would walk alongside the alley or wall next to where the Blessed Sacrament was kept. How much we need this committed Eucharistic devotion at this critical moment in history!
What is extremely interesting is that the pillars of Sheen’s spiritual life for peace, holiness, reparation and power was the exact prescription that Our Lady of Fatima gave the world to save it from its increasing Godlessness in 1917. And she warned that if mankind did not return to God through her Immaculate Heart, the world would get even worse than in was, as it was still in the heart of World War I. And within a year of her final apparition at Fatima in October 1917, the Spanish flu pandemic hit that afflicted 500 million people around the world (one third of the global population at the time).
The extent of and what will come of the present global pandemic 100 years after Fatima is yet unknown. But we were reminded in 2017, when the world revisited the message of Fatima that the two pillars that will save the world’s soul, which is what matters most, are a deeply Eucharistic life and making and living a total consecration of oneself to Mary’s Immaculate Heart — the exact formula that Fulton Sheen lived that made him the hero, prophet and saint he was, and who now is calling us to the same if we wish to find peace amidst this storm. It was his sacrificial love and his fidelity to Mary, the rosary and the daily holy hour that helped Sheen endure betrayal and ten years of intense betrayal and persecution from 1957-1967. During his first year of that experience he wrote one of his greatest works, The Life of Christ, that has inspired millions around the world and led them back to Christ.
Let us follow his example which was a living icon of following Mary’s prescription of Fatima, who said: “Pray the rosary for peace and an end to the war.” Well, this virus pandemic is a war against humanity and we are not called to fear, but to battle. We battle an invisible enemy with the power of invisible faith in the power of Mary who demonstrated her power over the invisible atom during her great miracle of the sun at Fatima.
So, let us take consolation and without hesitation heed our loving Mother’s words to us on June 13, 1917 — months before the Spanish flu pandemic started: “My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God.” Eight German Jesuits lived this message of Fatima and prayed the Holy Rosary every day in their home. And when the atomic bomb was dropped over their residence, eight city blocks from ground zero, they walked away from hell unharmed. Mary takes care of her own. But, first she wants our hearts because our ultimate refuge is in heaven, paradise WITHOUT END.
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