Pope Francis recently said, and I paraphrase, “If you want to encounter Christ you need to put your hands into His wounds, through service to the poor.”
When I heard these words, I began viewing my own apostolate in a very different light. I began seeing the people whom I encountered with much more compassion, realizing the great love that Jesus has for each one of them. Though I knock on the doors of people that I do not know personally, I understand that God knows them and that He loves each one of them infinitely. Because of this, I can cooperate more readily with God in bringing His message of love and peace to all of them. I can live the joy of the Gospel, while letting God lead me to the people He desires for me to meet, through the inspirations of the Holy Spirit and accompanied by Mary, His Holy Mother.
Quoting Pope Francis again, “A true missionary, who never ceases to be a disciple, knows that Jesus walks with him, speaks to him, breathes with him, works with him. He senses Jesus alive with him in the midst of the missionary enterprise. Unless we see him present at the heart of our missionary commitment, our enthusiasm soon wanes and we are no longer sure of what it is that we are handing on; we lack vigor and passion. A person who is not convinced, enthusiastic, certain and in love, will convince nobody.”
As Pilgrims of St. Michael, part of our ministry consists in a door-to-door apostolate of evangelization to bring the Rosary into the homes. Though this idea may seem foreign to us as Catholics here in America, it is not a new idea. The Pilgrims of St. Michael in Canada have been visiting families in this way for the past forty-six years. In the beginning, most families were already praying the Rosary, or were at least familiar with this devotion. The purpose of the visit, therefore, was to encourage families to continue in this practice, or to begin praying the Rosary, if they were not already doing so. Our Blessed Lady at Fatima, Portugal in 1917, had warned, “You must recite the Rosary every day in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war for only she can obtain this.”
The Rosary Crusade has become a very special means of “reaching out” to our brothers and sisters. This visit of the Pilgrims of St. Michael into the homes is a part of the New Evangelization as spoken of by Pope St. John Paul II. It offers an opportunity to individuals to know about God’s great love for them and, though the methods for doing this apostolate have changed over the years, the end result is a return to the faith for many. The mission of reaching out to our brothers and sisters was given to all Christians by Christ Himself. Just before ascending into Heaven on Ascension Thursday when He said to those gathered with Him, “…Go ye into the whole world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15)
In a recent door-to-door experience, I had the pleasure of working with the editor of our Spanish edition of the MICHAELMagazine, San Miguel. Because Carlos Reyes is fluent in Spanish, we chose to work in a section of our area where there are many Hispanic families. For the most part, these beautiful people are “Catholic by culture”, which is to say that, sadly enough, many have never been well catechized in the Faith. For the most part though, they are familiar with many of the beautiful Catholic Marian devotions and therefore it was not difficult for them to accept to pray with us. We recited a decade of the Rosary in almost every home that we visited on that day and they were all overjoyed with our visit, and so happy to pray with us. Carlos was able to explain to them our work and it was in speaking with them that we soon realized that many of them (and almost all of their children), had never received the sacrament of Baptism. This was, therefore, an opportunity to explain to them the importance of this Sacrament.
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read, “The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation. He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them. Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament.”
This teaching was new to them but they accepted it wholeheartedly. We also introduced them into a local Catholic parish and found someone to begin catechizing the adults in their own language in preparation for baptism. The children too, were enrolled in the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) program and recently, only a few months since our visit to them, we had the great privilege and joy of assisting at the baptism of thirteen of their children. Now, on their own, they come together to pray the Rosary and are continuing in their preparation to receive the gift of Baptism. Receiving Baptism will open up to all of them all the other Sacraments as well.
This is only a small example, but also a very rewarding one, of some of the many miracles which take place in our area through this door-to-door evangelization.
Pope Francis invites us as a church, to “…step outside of ourselves…go to the outskirts…wherever that may be…to be ready for encounter…Encounter with others.” “A Christian’s whole life is an encounter with Jesus: in prayer, when we go to Mass, when we do good works, when we visit the sick, when we help the poor, when we think of others, when we’re not self-centered, when we are amiable… We always encounter Christ in these things and the journey of life is exactly this: walking to encounter Jesus.” I can not help but think of the many people that we have encountered in our apostolate of door-to-door over the years and who, by the grace of God, have been helped to come to walk to encounter Jesus through this unique mission of our Rosary Crusade.
And Pope Francis continues, “with our faith we must create a ‘culture of encounter’, a culture of friendship, a culture in which we find brothers and sisters, in which we can also speak with those who think differently, as well as those who hold other beliefs, who do not have the same faith. They all have something in common with us: they are images of God, they are children of God. Going out to meet everyone, without losing sight of our own position.”
Pope Francis uses this expression, encounter with Christ, over and over, as a continuous reminder, it would seem, of the importance of reaching out to the materially and spiritually poor of the world. In fact, this is a daily reminder with him, “…(to) acknowledge that the majority of the men and women of our time continue to live daily in situations of insecurity, with dire consequences.” In his Lenten message of February 4, 2014, he stated, “We Christians are called to confront the poverty of our brothers and sisters, to touch it, to make it our own and to take practical steps to alleviate it.”
Although it is true that here in North America we do not have the poverty that we hear about in the third-world countries — the masses of people who are actually starving from lack of food — there does exist here another form of poverty of a very serious kind. It is a spiritual poverty; a kind of spiritual starvation. We might even call it a first-world poverty, which Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI refers to as “the tyranny of relativism”.
Many no longer attend church services, or have never heard of the Rosary, and what is worse, they have never been baptized or have never even said a prayer before in their lives. The sad realization is that these people are suffering and, more often than not, they do not know why — their poverty is great; they are starving for God! —
In our apostolate, when we go into the homes, we meet with many individuals who are occupied full-time in just making ends meet — oftentimes working two and three jobs — and they tell us that they have no time for God. People are working long, hard hours in order to meet their many financial obligations, then they seek after entertainment and relaxation in order to relieve the stress brought about by such a hectic lifestyle. And unfortunately, people are not always making Godly choices when it comes to their entertainment. This is a poverty which, as Christians, we have an obligation to address. We need to “…confront, to touch, to make our own and to take practical steps to alleviate…” this form of poverty.
It is Pope Francis who again, says that,“… our challenge is not so much atheism as the need to respond adequately to many people’s thirst for God, lest they try to satisfy it with alienating solutions… Unless these people find in the Church a spirituality which can offer healing and liberation, and fill them with life and peace, while at the same time summoning them to fraternal communion and missionary fruitfulness, they will end up by being taken in by solutions which neither make life truly human nor give glory to God.”
In our beautiful Catholic Faith, we have everything that we need in order to respond to this thirst for God. The Sacraments give us the grace, strength and courage in order to carry out this mission successfully. Jesus said, “…the poor you have always with you: and when so ever you will, you may do them good…” (Mark 14:7) This is why the words of Pope Francis, which were spoken to all Christians desiring to alleviate poverty in the world, are applicable in a very specific way towards those who suffer, not only from material poverty, but from spiritual poverty as well: “The proclamation of the Gospel is destined for the poor…, for all those who all too often lack what they need in order to live a dignified life. (…) Go to the poor first of all: this is the priority…‘to go toward the outskirts’ …All the peripheries, all the crossroads on the way: go there. And sow there the seed of the Gospel with your words and your witness.” …The Gospel is the real antidote to spiritual destitution: wherever we go, …as Christians…proclaim the liberating news that forgiveness for sins committed is possible, that God is greater than our sinfulness, that he freely loves us at all times and that we were made for communion and eternal life. The Lord asks us to be joyous heralds of this message of mercy and hope!”
Pope Francis tells us that, “Genuine forms of popular religiosity are incarnate, since they are born of the incarnation of Christian faith in popular culture. For this reason they entail a personal relationship, not with vague spiritual energies or powers, but with God, with Christ, with Mary, with the saints.” I personally believe that the Rosary encompasses all of that.
It is the simple but beautiful prayer of the Ave Maria that was the plan that Our Lady gave to the directors of the Pilgrims of St. Michael when she gave this message to a privileged soul in San Damiano, Italy in 1968, “Make me known and loved through the recitation of Rosary.” Ever since that time, the Pilgrims of St. Michael have been doing the Rosary Crusade, spreading, teaching and praying the rosary with people all over the world.
Our Lady herself told Saint Dominic, “One day the world will be saved by the Rosary.” And in 1917, over 97 years ago when she appeared to the three young shepherds of Fatima, Portugal, Our Lady reiterated, “I am the Lady of the Rosary, I have come to warn the faithful to amend their lives and ask for pardon for their sins. They must not offend Our Lord any more, for He is already too grievously offended by the sins of men. People must say the Rosary. Let them continue saying it every day.”
She also warned at Fatima of the errors that Russia would spread throughout the world. These errors exist today in the many evil ideologies of atheistic Communism, relativism, evolution, the banking cartel, etc… However, Our Lady also promised that, “in the end my Immaculate heart will triumph”, assuring us of her victory over these evils. It is the Rosary that is our spiritual weapon. Through the Rosary, Jesus and Mary hear our prayers and they can change the hearts of men.
At Our Lady’s last apparition in Fatima, on October 13, 1917, the atheistic and Masonic government of Portugal planned to make a mockery of the apparition — but God had His own design. While the people were praying the Holy Rosary, as Our Lady had asked, a great miracle occured. Over 70,000 people witnessed the sun spin in place, radiating vibrant and unearthly colors. Some even described the sun as dancing in the sky. Many of the atheistic agents who witnessed this breathtaking sign from God, were converted as a result.
Pope St. John Paul II, who beatified Bartolo Longo in 1980, a former Satanist and militant anti-cleric, who converted to Catholicism, said of him, “...a true apostle of the Rosary, Blessed Bartolo Longo had a special charism. His path to holiness rested on an inspiration heard in the depths of his heart: ‘Whosoever spreads the Rosary is saved!’” In a sermon given in Pompeii, Italy in 2008, Pope Benedict XVI likened Bartolo Longo to St Paul of Tarsus, who, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, was the great persecutor of Christians. While traveling later on the road to Damascus, Saul was thrown from his horse and Jesus appeared to him saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4) In an instant he was converted and he became know to the Christians as Paul, the Great Apostle of the Gentiles.
If we want to encounter Jesus, we must go and touch His wounds in the materially poor as well as the spiritually poor, by bringing to them Mary’s remedy; the simple prayer of the Rosary. Therefore, in the spirit of the New Evangelization, as proclaimed in Pope Francis’s Apostolic Letter, Evangelii Gaudium, (The Joy of the Gospel), we make this appeal for Rosary Crusade Missionaries. Let us evangelize with Mary, door to door, initiating people in this way, to meditate on the mysteries of the Gospel through the Most Holy Rosary. As Saint Louis-Marie de Montfort said of the Apostles of the Latter Days, ”They will carry the crucifix in their right hand and the Rosary in their left, and the holy names of Jesus and Mary on their heart.”
For this Rosary Crusade Apostolate, let us pray to Pope Saint John Paul II, the greatest twentieth Century promoter of the Rosary, making him the special patron saint of our mission. Come, and ask Our Lady for the grace to respond to her call, to spread her Rosary throughout the world. Learn with us how to evangelize with Saint Michael, for The Triumph of the Immaculate. Let us become men and women who, being filled with the Holy Spirit, desire to walk with Mary, rosary in hand, to evangelize our brothers and sisters. As St. Maximillian Kolbe, apostle of the Immaculata and Martyr of Auschwitz, once said, “We are all called to become, not only saints, but great saints.”