Catholic Martyrs | Polish | Irish | Mexican | American
Are we in the days of Martyrs?
We have been editing Documentaries, we taped in Poland and Mexico for airing on EWTN beginning April 4th. The parallels between the two countries cannot be ignored. At the Warsaw Monument to the 300,000 Jews that were taken from there to Concentration Camps and to nightmare, torture and death, we read a sign: "Those who ignore History are doomed to repeat it." Like the Word and Christ Himself, this is not Ancient History. This has always been and always will be.
What makes a people, through persecution after persecution, bounce back? What makes them willing to die for their Church? What we discovered was the word Solidarity. In Poland, this was their cry - Solidarity! In Mexico the workers too, in the 1940's, had a cry - Solidarity! How did they fight off the atheistic god of Communism that unions often extol? They had one thing in common - Solidarity! Only their Solidarity was in the hands of the Mother they loved, Mary Most Holy.
As we were preparing our programs on Mexico and the Martyrs, we discovered that the constitution of Mexico forbids unions to participate in matters of politics and religion. Therefore, it was impossible for the workers to have Christian unions. Although they were not allowed to be associated with the Church, they were exposed to atheism ( a false religion), the anti-Christ teaching of the Stalin influence in their unions.
But Our Lord comes to the rescue! Papal Encyclicals came down from the Vatican, clearly stating that whereas the workers were required to follow secular rules dictated by the unions, the workers were to seek Spiritual food through membership in some sodality or other Christian association. Like Judas and Satan before him, fallen man has always used the gift of Free Will to say "I will not serve!" The workers had sold their souls to the unions and their promises. They had traded in the God, they had learned of on their mother's knee, for the false god of economy and expedience.
Christian Sodalities offered spiritual food to the workers. Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, always an integral part of the life of a Mexican, was rejected by the workers. [Now, Mexicans love to wear the huge Scapular of the Franciscans because through this outer sign they can proclaim proudly the inner truth within their heart. With the Scapular, they become soldiers of Mary wearing her breastplate. Likewise, in Poland, kings and knights for generations, and soldiers in Poland today, wear the breastplate of Our Lady of Czestochowa as they set out to defend their Faith and country.] Third orders like the Franciscans were offered. And yet, the workers rejected the Franciscans and the Scapular! Marian Sodalities did not receive a warmer reception.
Then someone had a thought! Our Lady of Guadalupe!
[In 1895, the Coronation of Our Lady of Guadalupe started a tradition of Pilgrimages to Our Lady of Guadalupe which has lasted till today, the faithful processing from as far away as hundreds of miles.]
It looked as if the workers would continue to reject not only the sodalities offered by the Church, but the Church, itself. It was 1931. The people were suffering terrible persecution, once more. Some workers came up with the idea - Let's go to Tepeyac Hill on Pilgrimage for the anniversary of the Coronation of Our Lady of Guadalupe! I wonder if the thought did not come from the Holy Spirit, the One Who came from the Father and Son, descended upon the Apostles on Pentecost, and they were never the same. Had He, once more, come to the rescue of the Church through the Mother of the Church - the Mother of God. What do you think?
The idea spread from one union to another, from one state to another, and before the government and the union leaders could stop it, thousands of workers were coming by foot, carrying the Crucifix and an Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. God has a sense of humor! Not only were they carrying the Crucifix and Our Lady's banner, still very much the communists, they were also carrying red and black flags of communism.
This was the beginning of yearly Pilgrimages that grew from 7,000 the first year to 750,000 each year, within a short time. By the time, the government and the unions tried to put a stop to the Pilgrimages, they couldn't. The soul of the Mexican which is nourished by their Heavenly Mother their Guadalupana, from birth, had been awakened, and the government could take away their freedom, their very lives, but no more would they rob them of their Lady of Guadalupe.
You cannot stop the human heart from beating, when it beholds the most beautiful Lady in the world - Our Queen, Our Regina! And you cannot stop the children of Mary from placing Her in a prominent place in their hearts, in their lives. [At one time, she adorned the national flag of Mexico.] The workers began placing altars of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the factories and office buildings, praying and consecrating themselves to her before starting their day. They bring their Mother flowers at these altars, till today. There is a candle burning perpetually. They honor Our Mother! Naturally, She would bring them to Her Son - There is a weekly Mass celebrated, in factories, in office buildings, even for the workers in hotels. We have never taken a taxicab or had a touring bus which did not have an Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe plainly visible on the visor or flowing down from the driver's rear-view mirror. Separation of Church and State? What can the children of Mary not do, when they allow their Mother to lead them to Her Son Jesus?
As with the Poles, the Priests of Mexico never left their side, ministering to them often at the cost of their own lives. We have the 25 Martyrs recently beatified by His Holiness Pope John Paul II, and the Martyr Padre Pro who represented 100s of thousands who died with "Viva Cristo Rey y Nuestra Se¤ora de Guadalupe" ("Long live Christ the King and Our Lady of Guadalupe.") on their lips, a Crucifix in one hand and a Rosary in the other, forgiving their executioners. They died rather than run away from Jesus as He once more walked the Way of the Cross.
In Poland, the communists in power forbade Pilgrimages to Our Lady of Czestochowa, saying She was the most dangerous revolutionary of all. A Priest died a Martyr because he would not leave his people to pilgrimage alone to the Shrine of Jasna Gora - Our Lady of Czestochowa. Father Jerzy Popieluszko was the Spiritual Director of millions of workers. He said yes to Jesus and Mary. He was kidnapped by two officials from the government and he was later found in the river, horribly beaten before he died.
The enemies of God thought they could terrorize the Faithful into denying the Lord and His Church. It didn't work during the Penal times in Ireland. It didn't work in Mexico. It didn't stop the Faithful in Poland. And so, as the Israelites before them, the Red Sea made red by the blood of Martyrs, opened up and the New Jerusalem, the Church was set free!
What is God saying to us - to the Church in the United States - to our country which was consecrated to the Mother of God The Immaculate Conception?
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