Take Courage and Work!

Feeling helpless

It was the second year of King Darius’ reign. The remnant of Israel had just returned from 70 years of exile. The Lord spoke to His people through the prophet Haggai saying, “Take courage, all you people of the land…and work!” (Hag 2:4)

Work! Maybe we are not in the position to make a direct impact on world events. Maybe we do not have the power to negotiate peace between warring nations, or maybe we are not one of the select few to sit at round tables in Rome and have our voices heard. So, what can we do in these uncertain times? Work!

As men and women consecrated to Mary, we can “take courage and work”. One of the essential aspects of marianizing our lives is having a deep-rooted confidence in Mary’s concern for her children and her powerful intercession on their behalf. She wants to help, but she also wants us to help her. How she worked at Cana is how she still works today, reserving to the workers what is properly theirs. At Cana she saw a need. She appealed to Christ. But she entrusted the work to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.”

Getting to work

The work that is ours to do is above all spiritual. As I mentioned earlier, maybe we do not have the means or responsibility to be on the ground in Eastern Europe or the Middle East negotiating peace; or maybe we do not have the social influence to immediately make an impact on the national or international stage. Hope and courage will grow within us and around us the more we focus on what we can do than on what we cannot.

At just 13 years old, St. José Luís Sanchez del Río found himself growing up in the midst of the Cristero War in Mexico. He wanted to join the Cristeros in defending the Church against the oppressive and unjust forces of President Calles. Joselito’s mother was not on board. He was too young! José knew, however, that God was calling him to act. Love for Christ the King and for Our Lady of Guadalupe stirred him to generosity. So he told his mother, “Mom, there has never been a better time than now to get to heaven.”

Like Joselito we too should focus on the opportunity in front of us and chose to act on what we can do, now. Saints do not live in a bubble. Saints live in the present moment. They embrace the present moment. They sink their teeth into the reality of the present moment and they get to work!

Works of Prayer, Penance and Evangelization

Our first spiritual workis prayer. There has never been a better time than now to increase our efforts of prayer. Opening our eyes to the circumstances of history we should recognize that we are living in the month of October. It’s the month of the Holy Rosary. As we mentioned in our last post, we should not only pray the Rosary more, but also pray it better. Safeguarding the contemplative nature of the Rosary is the key to praying it better. We also pray the Rosary better the more we pray it for specific intentions. Certainly, at this moment in history we can pray the Rosary for the intention of peace. Like several other Marian saints who have gone before us, we can reaffirm that our weapon of choice in the struggle for peace is the Rosary.

Our second spiritual work is penance. As the general spirit of secular world around us is one of protests and pleasures, we should work to leave our mark as “marianized” Christians through silence and penance. Penance is the tried-and-true companion to prayer. Downcast by their ineffectiveness over the forces of evil, one day the disciples asked Our Lord why they were powerless. He responded, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting”(Mk 9:29).

Convinced that prayer and fasting would effect a change in the struggle to defend life is what motivated the late John Cardinal O’Connor to found the Sisters of Life in New York. Cardinal O’Connor was not a politician. He was not a media “influencer”. But he was a man of faith. He put his faith in the Lord’s words and made an appeal to women to dedicate their lives to building the culture of life through prayer and fasting.

Fasting is just one form of penance. It dates back to the days of the patriarchs and prophets. Our Lord did not start His public ministry until He had given Himself to a period of fasting. But fasting is not the only form of penance. Any act of self-denial that we make to deprive ourselves of something good and necessary is penitential. Reducing the amount of sleep, taking short cold showers, or even intentionally parking farther away from the office or grocery store to force yourself to walk more and leave the closer spot to others are all forms of penance.

Traditionally, the triune framework of penance is: self-denial, cutting out the necessary (and not merely the superfluous), and being inspired by charity. Without the first there’s no mortification. Without the second there’s only abstinence. Without the third, there’s the tendency to self-love and vanity.

Our third and final work is evangelization. It’s not just a spiritual work, but also a personal one. If we heed the words of Our Mother to “do whatever He tells you” (Jn 2:5), then we must act on the last thing He told us: “Go” (Mt 28:19). “Go and make disciples of all nations.”

There has never been a better time than now to evangelize. The state of ecclesiastical and world events cries out for the light of truth. That light of truth has been handed on to the Church and through her to every member of the Body of Christ.

Bishops and priests need to evangelize through the written and spoken word, especially from the pulpit.

Fathers and mothers need to evangelize at the dinner table, in the car on the way to school, at night before going to bed. In other words, “go and make disciples” of their children. Not just telling them to find Christ, but showing them how to find Christ. If in America young people are losing their faith when they go off to college, then there is something to say about the solidity of the Christian foundation beneath them. Strong foundations do not succumb to the winds and the rain; only weak ones do.

All the Christian lay faithful need to evangelize through word and witness right where they are now. If “the boundaries of states, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization and development”[1] are going to open their doors to Christ, then the Christian laity must be the ones to open them. There is nothing within the Church’s hierarchical structure that is holding the lay faithful back from being credible witnesses to the Gospel. The greatest obstacle just might be their lack of faith.

And so that readers won’t think I’m being too hard on the laity, I will say the same for bishops, my brother priests, and fellow religious. Ours is the primary responsibility of adhering “strictly to divine truthand “translat[ing] it into living attitudes of obedience in harmony with reason.”[2] In other words, fidelity to Christ and His saving truth begins with us. Just as our fidelity and enthusiasm for the truth inspires fidelity and enthusiasm, so also our infidelity and neglect breeds infidelity and neglect.

“Take courage and work!” Prayer, penance and evangelization.

Mary’s Triumph

St. Louis de Montfort foresaw that one day the children and faithful servants of Mary would seem little and helpless before the evil and error. He did not panic; for he also foresaw a triumph. I leave you with the saint’s own words.

The power of Mary over all the devils will especially break out in the latter times, when Satan will lay his snares against her heel; that is to say, her humble slaves and her poor children, whom she will raise up to make war against him. They shall be little and poor in the world’s esteem, and abased before all, like the heel, trodden underfoot and persecuted as the heel is by the other members of the body. But in return for this, they shall be rich in the grace of God, which Mary shall distribute to them abundantly. They shall be great and exalted before God in sanctity, superior to all other creatures by their animated zeal, and leaning so strongly on the divine succour, that, with the humility of their heel, in union with Mary, they shall crush the head of the devil, and cause Jesus Christ to triumph.[3]

Hail Mary, and let’s get to work!

[1] St. John Paul II, Homily for the Inauguration of His Pontificate, 22 October 1978, https://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/homilies/1978/documents/hf_jp-ii_hom_19781022_inizio-pontificato.html.

[2] St. John Paul II, Redemptor Hominis, 19, https://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_04031979_redemptor-hominis.html.

[3] St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary, 54.