July 03, 2011
Our Lady of America
Let me begin with some thoughts about the Roman Empire – the glory that was Rome, we say. It was a very powerful and successful empire in the ancient world. Nobody thought it would collapse. But when its citizens achieved a certain level of comfort and prosperity, they began to focus their attention on the pursuit of pleasure, vices and various unproductive and even immoral activities and behavior. At a certain point in time, the Romans got tired and burdened with their worldly and selfish lifestyle, and they fell into the worst kind of slavery: they became slaves of the evil spirits of lust, pride and excess. Consequently, they stopped having children. The Emperor Augustus passed a series of laws trying to encourage its citizens to have more children. These had little effect and Rome continued its demographic decline. The collapse and fall of this great empire has become imminent.
But just when everything seemed lost, a ray of hope came. The Incarnate Son of God was born in one part of this vast empire, and offered his life on the cross. His followers were ridiculed, mocked and martyred by the Romans. But this did not stop them from multiplying and spreading the faith, and even succeeded in establishing the seat of Christianity in the very heart of the empire, in the city of Rome. Then in the year 313 AD, Emperor Constantine, being converted to the faith, declared Christianity as the official religion of the entire empire. The unthinkable happened. Rome, formerly the seat of sin and decay, the supreme persecutor of Christians, has become the seat of Christianity from which spread throughout the world the good news of salvation.
Like the ancient Roman Empire, the United States of America is powerful and successful. But how long will its greatness remain? The ominous cracks and signs of weakness are beginning to show as it struggles to handle the huge debts and deficits, high unemployment rate, serious threats of terrorism and other severe social problems. Behind all these is the crumbling of spiritual and moral values in society and the rapid disintegration of marriage and the family. Divorce has wrecked millions of families. Abortion has killed more than 40 million of its population since 1973. And now, we see the rapidly dropping rate of catholic marriages. In 1972 there were 8.6 marriages per 1,000 Catholics. In 2010, it dropped to only 2.6. This dramatic drop of over 300% in a period of only 40 years clearly means that many Catholic families now have little regard for the spiritual and moral values of the Christian faith. And we know for sure that when the moral fiber of families weakens, society itself weakens, as what happened to the once mighty Roman Empire.
However, behind these dark clouds appear some silver linings of hope. Unknown to many, a sublime mission for this great country as beacon of hope for the world is unfolding. From 1954 to 1959, the Blessed Mother appeared to a religious nun, Sister Mary Ephrem in Ohio. The Blessed Mother’s appearances and her messages through this visionary have been granted official approval by the competent ecclesiastical authorities. On the eve of the Feast of the North American Martyrs, September 25, 1956, she appeared clothed in white robe and mantle, showing her Immaculate Heart and holding a white lily, the symbol of purity, in her right hand. She gave this message: “I am Our Lady of America. I desire that my children honor me, especially by the purity of their lives.” A few hours later, she said, “My child, I entrust you with this message that you must make known to my children in America. I wish it to be the country dedicated to my purity. The wonders I will work will be the wonders of the Soul. They must have faith and believe firmly in my love for them. I desire that they be the children of my Pure Heart. I desire, through my children of America, to further the cause of faith and purity among peoples and nations.” Two days later, she said, “I desire to make the whole of America my shrine by making every heart accessible to the love of my Son.” (For more information, go to www.ourladyofamerica.org).
This, then, is the mission of America – to be the shrine of Our Lady in the world “to further the cause of faith and purity among peoples and nations.” But how can this be fulfilled? Tomorrow is July 4th, Independence Day of America. But the Gospel this Sunday is clearly not about independence from God. Jesus invites us: “Come to me all you who are weary, and I will give you rest.” Who among us is not tired and weary of all life’s troubles and difficulties? And yet, how many are willing to heed this loving invitation of the Lord? Instead, most people have no time to listen to Him and would even prefer to turn away from Him. We want to be independent from Him.
The only key to true greatness and meaningful success of any human endeavor is God. Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches; apart from me, you can do nothing.” The United States of America may still be great as of today, but with the current trend of drifting away from God, this status may soon disappear. Hence, Our Lady of America implores all her children, “Let them come to me with confidence and simplicity, and I, their Mother, will teach them to become pure like my Heart that their own hearts may be more pleasing to the Heart of my Son.”
Hence, she calls for a return to the Lord in penance, purity and holiness: “Unless my children reform their lives, they will suffer great persecution. If man himself will not take upon himself the penance necessary to atone for his sins and those of others, God in His justice will have to send upon him the punishment necessary to atone for his transgressions.” Her call to conversion and purity of heart echoes the Lord’s teaching on becoming like little children. It is through our life of purity and humble simplicity as shown in the example of a little child that we will be able to discover the mysteries of the kingdom of God. Only then will this nation be truly great for ages to come.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Teresa Church
141 Henry Street
New York, NY 10002