Tag Archives: prayer

A wake-up call to evangelize

As we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, we have much to think and pray about. There has been a lot of talk about the long-term effects of this crisis on our economy, society, and the Church. From a spiritual perspective, the experience of going several months without the ability to attend Mass was something many of us could not have imagined in our lifetime! What will be the impact on Catholics worldwide? For some, they may not come back. On the other hand, this experience could cause faithful Catholics to realize the gift that the Mass and Eucharist are, and be a wake-up call and catalyst to set us on fire to evangelize others.

Tom Monaghan

Several years ago a Pew Research Survey reported that for every new Catholic who entered the Church, we lose six. This is a startling statistic, but let us start with the positive… those entering the Church. I believe it is safe to say that converts to the Faith are often the most on-fire Catholics in the Church. They are typically entering the Church because they are attracted to it, at least enough to know it is the true Faith and comes at a cost – such as having to change their lives and make sacrifices, such as upsetting family members. Yet the fact that they are willing to pay a price is evidence that they appreciate the Church.

I have often said that when it comes to evangelization, one on-fire Catholic is worth many lukewarm Catholics. How many nominal Catholics convince others to convert to Catholicism, if any? On the other hand, many converts who are on fire for Christ are willing to share their Faith with others and thus draw others into the Church. If each new Catholic converted six – our numbers would be the same, but how much more alive the Church would be!

Now in terms of those leaving the Church, we have to conclude that they did not understand what it meant to be Catholic. The same Pew Research Survey mentioned above stated that 13 percent of all Americans describe themselves as “former Catholics,” and that 23 percent of the total population are unaffiliated, or the so-called “nones.” These former Catholics and “nones” are unlikely to step into a Catholic Church unless we give them good reason. If our faith has no meaning, no substance, no hope, no love…why would anyone want to become Catholic? But if we as Catholics are markedly different from our secular counterparts, then we can truly be beacons, ambassadors for Christ and His Church.

As our society comes out of the pandemic, I think we have an opportunity. People do not want to be bound by the fear so prevalent today. Instead, they want to experience love and hope, which we have in the Church. And as I have said on many occasions, Legatus members have more potential than most to share our Faith because we are more visible, influential, and credible.

TOM MONAGHAN is Legatus’ founder, chairman, and CEO.

Crisis unveils valuable moment to show devotion to Christ

“Faith Seeking Understanding” is a phrase attributed to St. Anselm. It asserts succinctly the nature of the search of truth under the light of faith, which emphasizes our yearning to understand more perfectly — to see, as much as is possible, the truth about the human person, his life, and eternal destiny. The believer seeks to understand what he holds by faith, and his belief is itself an aid in the pursuit of the truth. As St. Anselm said, “I do not seek to understand so that I can believe, but I believe so that I may understand… I believe that unless I do believe, I shall not understand.”

Today we face a critical period in the Church’s life, affecting our families, parishes, communities, and world. Fueled by decades of superficial and false catechesis, millions of Church faithful are confused about fundamental tenets of the Catholic faith and the moral law — marriage, family, human sexuality, and the dignity of life. However, this crisis presents an opportunity for us to express our devotion to Christ the Truth. It is time the faith becomes our most intimate and valuable treasure.

In his encyclical God Is Love, Pope Benedict XVI said that Jesus’ dying for us on the cross is “love in its most radical form.” Our desire is to deepen our love of Him who first loved us, to constantly reflect on God’s goodness. As the pearl of great price, we want to know Him better, to be His follower and friend — “Lord, you know that I love you!” Called to this greater love, we seek, ask, and knock, desiring to deepen our personal relationship with Him.

We must first seek greater intimacy with God through prayer. Jesus is our model, and we desire to mirror His actions. So, what does He teach us? Throughout the Gospel accounts, the Evangelists expose us to our Lord’s habitual attitude of prayer. In all matters, He turns to the Father. We too need to aspire to be contemplative souls — at home, in the street, and at work, remaining in conversation with the Father, following the Master.

Our faith and understanding are further deepened by attendance at daily Mass, frequent Confession, daily prayer with Scripture, and study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, encyclicals, and the lives of the saints. This formation in faith helps us to cultivate wisdom of intellect and heart, to be well-formed disciples.

The best indication of growth in faith and advancement in the life of virtue is our love and service of our brothers and sisters. Do we practice the spiritual and corporal works of mercy? Do we share our greatest treasure, our faith, when prompted by the Holy Spirit? St. Teresa of Avila wisely noted that it is difficult to know if we love God. “But,” she said, “we can know if we love our neighbor. And the more we advance in this love, the greater likewise will be our love for God.”

Without a pursuit for holiness, depth of prayer, a life of virtue, expansion in one’s knowledge of the faith, and a life nourished by the sacraments, the heart is in danger of being ensnared by the allurement of an earthly life devoid of God. The day we no longer love God, our world will become cold and lifeless, deprived of its most precious good. Ours is to burn with love for our faith, and to desire and foster its growth in our hearts. Then we will not only defend it, but also share this treasured possession, bringing truth and life to those who are confused and lost.

FATHER SHENAN J. BOQUET is president of Human Life International (www.hli.org) and a priest of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, LA. Please keep Human Life International in your continued prayers and support.

In Fighting Virus of Evil, Men Wield Combat Rosary

Father Richard Heilman believes in the reality of a spiritual war, one in which the rosary is a powerful weapon. To get men to wield that weapon, however, he knew he needed one that looked like it belonged to a warrior. When he found a 1916 metal rosary manufactured by the U.S. government for the military and sometimes called the “service rosary,” he said, “this is it.”


Using it as a model, Father Heilman, a priest in the Diocese of Madison, WI, set about producing what he now calls the “Combat Rosary,” a string of beads that looks like a metal pull-chain, but with the addition of a special crucifix and two medals.

“I wanted it to be a powerful supernatural weapon, so I picked the Miraculous Medal and added the St. Benedict Medal as well and then . . . the Pardon Crucifix. It’s the only one that if you carry or kiss it, you receive an indulgence.”

Father Heilman was able to get a prototype made in a matter of weeks and then arranged to have enough rosaries produced for the Knights of Divine Mercy, a men’s apostolate he started. After that modest start in 2007, he said, “It kind of took off from there. People would see [the rosaries] and want one.”

Demand eventually grew to the point that Father Heilman approached his sister, Judy Balistreri, a benefits-administration executive, about taking over production and sales. With the help of her husband, another brother and niece, Balistreri now owns and runs Roman Catholic Gear, the online store that sells the “Combat Rosary” and other related religious articles. Most of the proceeds from sales are donated to parishes, pro-life and military organizations, and other charitable groups.

Father Heilman, who also is co-host of the U.S. Grace Force podcast, developed the “Combat Rosary” after noticing that many rosaries looked more like women’s jewelry or even children’s toys. If he was going to get men to pray the rosary and inspire them to be the providers and protectors of their families, he knew they would be more likely to pick up something that looked like it belonged to a guy engaged in battle.

“I am a strong proponent of us restoring a sense of the supernatural, that there is a battle, and there is such a thing as a devil.” Drawing from Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmsted’s 2015 apostolic exhortation, which calls on Catholic men to “step into the breach,” Father Heilman said men can protect their families from evil and call down supernatural grace and blessings from God. “We’ve known for centuries now that God has given us this amazing weapon of the rosary as a way to call upon Mary, who was said to crush the head of the serpent . . . I wanted to frame it that the rosary truly is a weapon that men are given. As Pope Pius IX said, ‘Give me an army saying the rosary and I will conquer the world.’”


Father Heilman said many men have always known it is beneficial to pray to the Blessed Mother, but to see the rosary as a weapon for warfare has resonated with many of them. “I think we all have a sense, especially in the era we’re living in now, that evil is being very aggressive so a lot of people, particularly men, are saying, ‘What can we do?’ Seeing this onslaught of evil and having that in their bones – this desire to be the providers and protectors of the family – once they understand the power of the rosary, it becomes something they feel very called to take on in their life.”

Dave Yanke, a father of nine from the Madison diocese and a Knights of Divine Mercy member, said he thinks saying the rosary on his “combat” beads has made him think about praying in a more manly way. Interestingly, he said, it was around the time he got his first “Combat Rosary” from Father Heilman that he began to take more seriously his faith as well as his role as spiritual leader of his family. “I went from going to Mass because my wife thought that was what we should do, to kind of taking that role over and leading the family to Mass, leading the rosary, leading prayers, and suggesting we do things.”

Yanke said his first impression of the “Combat Rosary” was, “Boy, this is cool.” He especially liked that the beads were metal. “My gut reaction was this is something that a man would like to carry around. It’s masculine.”

Initially, he said, he hung his “Combat Rosary” on his bed and used it at night if he awoke and couldn’t go back to sleep. But now that his family says the rosary together before Sunday Mass, he keeps it in his suit coat. “I save it for Sundays. It’s my prize rosary.”


The “Combat Rosary” also is the official rosary of the Pontifical Swiss Guard. After Father Heilman donated 150 of the rosaries to the Guard in 2016, Col. Christoph Graf, the Guard commander, held up one before a group of new recruits and told them that they were receiving “the most powerful weapon that exists on the market . . . Literally, the rosary for the fight.”

To enhance their appeal to men, the “Combat Rosary” comes with a leather pocket-sized combat pouch and a “Concealed Carry Card.” Roman Catholic Gear also sells “spiritual ammo tins” to hold the rosaries.

Balistreri said although the “Combat Rosary” was designed to inspire men to pray the rosary, women love it as well. She uses one herself and, when it comes to sales, has found that there is no typical customer. “Honestly, it’s a rosary for all spiritual warriors, regardless of age or gender.” Likewise, the rosaries have been shipped all over the world. 


As the impact of the coronavirus was felt globally, many who use the “Combat Rosary” joined in a 54-day “Three Hearts Novena for Protection and Provision,” announced by Father Heilman on his RomanCatholicMan. com website. The novena, to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and the Chaste Heart of St. Joseph, began March 9 and was to conclude May 1. 

“We are praying against the coronavirus with 60,000 people right now,” Father Heilman said in March. “Most carry the ‘Combat Rosary’ and see it as an effective weapon against this evil.” The band of prayer warriors included a Wisconsin Supreme Court justice who emailed Father Heilman to say he has a “Combat Rosary” and was praying the novena.


 In developing the “Combat Rosary” and other spiritual articles, Father Heilman has drawn on his priestly knowledge as well as a business and marketing background passed on to him by his grandfather and father. His grandfather was a founding executive of Oscar Mayer and his father, who also worked for the company, started his own merchandising business for chain grocery stores. Father Heilman said he and his six siblings grew up working in the company warehouse.

 “It was a way for the family to be together. I have extremely fond memories of that family business so that was a big part of this. It’s almost like reliving those days now.”

JUDY ROBERTS is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Entrust the cause of life to Mary – the Mother of Life

At the close of Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), he begins his prayer to the Mother of God by saying, “O Mary, bright dawn of the new world, Mother of the living, to you do we entrust the cause of life.”

Dr. Donald Demarco

We can assist in the cause of life by saying the rosary and meditating on three consecutive decades of the Joyful Mysteries. The culture of death has taken direct aim against new life in three ways: through contraception, which negates the inception of new life; abortion, which destroys life already formed; and infanticide (euphemistically called “wrongful birth”), which destroys newborn life. Against these evils, the Annunciation, Visitation, and Nativity provide a strong remedy.

The Annunciation means saying “yes” to life that has yet to commence. Mary’s “yes” overturned Eve’s “no” and welcomed Christ into the world. It was a momentous event. As St. Irenaeus stated, “Being obedient, she became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race.”

The Visitation, when Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth, occurs while Mary is pregnant with Jesus. It is a time of exultation for both women. Luke tells us that Elizabeth spoke out in a loud voice, saying, “Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb” (Luke 1: 42-45). As soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s voice, her own child, John the Baptist, “leaped in my womb with joy.”

The Nativity is the time when Mary delivers her child into the world. It is the first Christmas, an occasion that has been celebrated throughout the world for 2,000 years with great jubilation. It is the third “yes” to life following the acceptance of life and the joy of carrying it to term.

These three decades of the rosary represent not only Mary’s affirmation of life, but offer an instruction for all of us to follow. Mary invites us to hear, cultivate, and express the Word of God.

Saying “yes” to the Word of God imitates the Annunciation. Here, we agree to accept God. Our Visitation period is to carrying the Word of God in our hearts while at the same time cultivating it. Our Nativity is to bring the Word of God into the world, expressing it with love and an affirmation of life. When we recite these three decades of the rosary, we pledge to imitate Mary in our own way by accepting, developing, and expressing our love of life.

Mary, along with our relationship to her, takes on a special significance in today’s world where life is routinely despised and destroyed. As the Mother of God, she is also the Mother of Life. Our relationship with her is a powerful means of counteracting the evils that are transpiring in today’s culture of death.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, who had great affection for the Catholic Church, once wrote about Mary’s special importance: “I have always envied Catholics their faith in that sweet, sacred, Virgin Mother who stands between them and the deity, intercepting somewhat His awful splendor, but permitting His love to stream on the worshipper more intelligibly to human comprehension through the medium of a woman’s tenderness.” These beautiful words suggest that it should be easy to pray to Mary. Hawthorne’s own daughter, Rose, entered the Church and, as Mother Alphonsa, established a new order within the Dominican community.

We can re-enact the Annunciation, Visitation, and Nativity in our own way. In so doing, we help to advance the culture of life. Prayer is a prelude to a powerful remedy in the war against life that is currently transpiring.

Dr. DONALD DEMARCO is professor emeritus at St. Jerome’s University and adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College and Seminary. He is a regular columnist for the St. Austin Review. His latest two books, How to Navigate through Life and Apostles of the Culture of Life, are available on Amazon.com.

The Lent we get isn’t the one we choose

When a strong man armed keepeth his court, those things are in peace which he possesseth (Luke 11:21).

In recent years and especially this one, I’ve noticed that the Lent we envision isn’t the one that lands in our laps.

Christine Valentine-Owsik

One year just before Ash Wednesday as I’d put finishing touches on a mental list of Lenten “to dos,” my husband called in mid-morning – something he never does. His decades-long position was terminated. His employer was sold, all health and other benefits would cease tomorrow, the company car would be returned, and severance (in his contract) was being fought. It came right after I’d lost a longtime client due to budget cuts. We plunged from a handsome income straight to nothing, in a blink. The world seemed to bust from its axis, and shock temporarily canceled my vision and hearing – I saw a ‘snowstorm’ inside, my ears hissed like a steam train. I never heard the phone crash to the floor – I almost did the same thing.

The house. Our youngest still in college. The mortgage. The last of the Christmas bills. Everything spun in a blur as I tried to get a snapshot of what we had, what we owed, and how we’d survive. Paralyzed by whom to call and what to prioritize, I made another list (one of my habits). I calculated how long our cash could last, when we’d need to begin tapping untouchables (retirement accounts, etc.), and then selling – house, cars, stuff. Our canvas of life crumpled. I began to envy anyone who had a job, any job.

And then I thought of God. How could you let this happen? Are we being punished? My type-A disposition kicked in to overdrive, my anxiety stealing rationale. It would be nice to say I jumped into prayer, but not quite. All I could manage to do was cry to Christ for help. Even tears didn’t flow normally

In a daze, I went to our parish church. My favorite priest was walking through that morning. His usual chipper greeting collapsed at seeing me. I told him everything, admitting my utter fear. Like a father, he hugged and assured me God was with us, and would help indeed. He promised his personal prayers. I could hardly stand. I was drained, with yesterday’s makeup streaking, and it wasn’t even noon. He heard my Confession.

He then explained this was a trial, and that we had to be very vigilant about our faith and prayer life. We had to humbly trust God like never before, not ourselves or our resumes or our business networks. God alone. Had I ever done that?

“You need supernatural courage to keep your inner court undisturbed,” Father told me. I took up the daily rosary, and prioritized prayer. I cut obsessional TV shows, and other time-wasters. Each hour needed to be intentional.

Lent is also a time of great heavenly reversals. By Holy Week, we both had new positions. And we’d become more closely acquainted with our lifetime Friend, The Lord Himself.

CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK is Legatus magazine’s editor.

Mary and my brace of Saints

All my life, I had the custom of writing JMJ on the top of every piece of paper I wrote on. This was a common practice in my day. I remember Bishop Fulton Sheen used to do it on the top of his chalk board on his TV show. Jesus, Mary and Joseph are certainly the three people most central to salvation history. Jesus, of course, as the second person of the Trinity is not only man, but is God. Mary, who is the Mother of God, has long been venerated as the Queen of the Angles and Saints; and St. Joseph, the foster-father of Jesus, among many other titles, is honored as the Patron of the Universal Church.

Tom Monaghan

Over time, I have added four more saints to the list. First, my patron saint, St. Thomas the Apostle. Then, being Irish, I invoke St. Patrick’s intercession; without him, I probably would not be Catholic, nor most of us who are of European descent. It is said that he was blessed with the same power as the Apostles to work miracles, even raising the dead. Recently, after learning about St. Rita of Cascia, the patron saint of the impossible, I added her to my list. Countless miracles have been attributed to her intercession. And finally is St. Sharbel, whom I learned about from the Maronite monks who serve our chapel community at Domino’s Farms. (They celebrate four Masses daily and hear about 500 confessions weekly.) St. Sharbel is the patron saint of the Maronites, and is referred to as one of the greatest saints of our time.

I am not aware of any saints who are responsible for more miracles than Saints Patrick, Rita, and Sharbel. Bing Crosby used to refer to the Mills Brothers as a “brace” of guys. I liked the sound of that and adopted it to describe my short litany of saints. I ask for the intercession of Mary and my brace of saints every time I pick up a sheet of paper to write on. I also ask for their intercession every day after I receive Communion, as I pray for humility, charity, and for whatever other intentions I have at the time.

As we start the month of November with the Feast of All Saints, I thought I would share my personal devotion to Mary, and my brace of saints. The Church encourages us to develop relationships with saints – whether it be those who share our baptismal or confirmation name or those who we have just a special devotion to. So, during this month, maybe think about coming up with your own personal litany of saints.

TOM MONAGHAN is Legatus’ founder, chairman, and CEO.

‘Desert’ retreat rallies men closer to Christ

San Diego Legate Owen Mossy thought he was signing up for an extended study of the book of Exodus when he agreed in January to take part in Exodus 90.

Little did he know that the invitation he received from fellow Legate Mike Sweeney meant that for 90 days, he would be making a daily holy hour and abstaining from alcohol, sweets, eating between meals, TV, and hot showers, plus limiting his Internet usage to essential tasks.

Out-of-this-era encounter

To his credit, the 46-yearold father of six kept his commitment even after learning what was involved. He now says it has changed his life. Before beginning the regimen of intensive prayer and fasting designed for men, Mossy had been going to Mass only on Sundays – sometimes skipping if circumstances seemed to interfere – and to Confession only once a year on a silent retreat. Since embarking on Exodus 90, Mossy has become a daily Mass-goer and, 60 days into the program, had been to Confession three times.

Designed by a priest, Exodus 90 was begun in 2013 for seminarians who, having grown up in a sin dominated society, were seeking greater personal freedom. The 90 days are based on the book of Exodus, which recounts the Israelites’ journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land, and during that time, participants enter a desert experience. The program since has been expanded to include bishops, priests, and laymen, thousands of whom have completed the 90-day endurance test after learning about it through friends, dioceses, apostolates, and Catholic leaders.

Inspired by his brother-in-law, a Catholic convert who insisted Exodus 90 was “the coolest thing he’d ever done in his life,” Sweeney sent invitations to members of the Catholic men’s formation group he and fellow Legate Byrnes Lambert lead. When Sweeney learned of his brother-in-law’s plans to repeat Exodus 90, he said, “I felt the Holy Spirit say, ‘Mike, you’ve got to do it and rally your spiritual brothers with you.’”

Eight of the 15 men in the group – five of them Legatus members – agreed to the challenge. “I’ve done silent retreats and Lenten fasts,” Sweeney said. “I’ve been on men’s retreats, men’s conferences, and fly-fishing men’s Bible retreats, and this is the greatest spiritual exercise I’ve ever been a part of.”

Lambert said Exodus 90’s time-tested practices of Christian asceticism have awakened in him a minute-to-minute awareness of Christ’s presence in his daily walk. “I desire Christ more. I need Him more when the comfort is pulled away.”

He added, “The world considers comfort a cardinal virtue and tells us that discomfort or pain is an evil that we must fight to eradicate. As Christian disciples and Legates, we know that the world is wrong here since discomfort is a key part of the cross. Because of Exodus 90, I now see the necessity of intentionally adding some discomfort to my day as an offering to Jesus to unite me to His sacrifice on the cross.”

More available to Christ

James Baxter, Exodus 90 executive director, said the program offers any Catholic man of good will a formation experience that will profoundly impact his life. Many of the participants find it to be just that. “People come up to us afterward and say, ‘You promised me this and you were right. I am a freer man, more available to Jesus Christ.’”

But Atlanta Legate Ryan Foley, who has made Exodus 90 twice and has worked with Baxter to promote it, said the experience is more than about achieving freedom from personal attachments. “This is a powerful moment to become a man of prayer for others, but specifically for the Church.” Foley has used Exodus 90 as an opportunity to offer his time of fasting and intensified prayer for the intentions of friends and others.

Although every man’s journey is different, a common benefit participants cite is that of gaining time by giving up TV and unnecessary Internet usage. For example, Rich Cronin, a member of Legatus’s Genesis Chapter, has noticed that he has more quality time with his wife, Connie. Because they are not watching TV in the evenings, they may read a book together or listen to music. They also have added a Friday date night to give Connie a break from having to cook meatless meals on one of the two fasting days.

Sweeney said the absence of TV viewing also has given him more time with his wife, Shara, and their five children, opening up opportunities to draw and color with his daughters or play catch with his sons. “There’s definitely more time every day and week with family and that’s been the greatest blessing.”

New “fraternity” brothers

Likewise, Erik Jorgensen, who is in an Exodus 90 “fraternity” that includes Mossy, Sweeney, and Lambert, said the biggest benefit for him has been the ability to focus on more important things such as undistracted time with his family and quality meditation and prayer during the day. “Even the little things like not listening to the radio in the car have led to much more time over the course of the day spent in conversation with God. I’ve come to realize how much our modern media inserts itself into the free moments of the day that are now spent in silence and reflection. It has had a huge impact on what I’m thinking about during waking hours.”

Those who take up the Exodus 90 challenge say they also benefit from the requirement that they complete the regimen as part of such a fraternity that meets weekly.

Jorgensen said he hadn’t realized how much inspiration and support he would draw from the group. “That’s been critical to staying in it. You’re never alone in the process. The value of the fraternity cannot be understated. You learn to cherish the time spent sharing your experiences, your highs and lows, and challenging each other to drive on.”

Jorgensen’s fraternity meets every Friday for Mass and then spends about an hour afterward discussing the week and what lies ahead. Members also get and give regular updates on how they are doing through a group text.

Sweeney said for him, the fraternity has been the easiest part of the Exodus 90 regimen.

“It just is so natural to come together once a week and look your brothers in the eye and share your victories and encourage one another through the times we stumbled. It’s beautiful.”

Cronin said when he first heard about Exodus 90 at the SEEK 2019 conference in January, he thought it would be good to do, but he knew he didn’t want to go it alone. A few weeks later, a fellow parishioner at St. Joan of Arc in Toledo, Ohio, invited him to make Exodus 90. “The next thing I knew, I was part of a group.”

Strength-training, clearing obstacles

Before beginning Exodus 90, Cronin had never done any intensive fasting and acknowledges he wasn’t very good at it. Now, he said, by fasting every Wednesday and Friday using the Church’s guidelines for Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, he has learned to deal better with his hunger pangs. “In the past, what I would do is always try to satisfy those hungers, feeding them with junk.” Through Exodus 90, he said, he has learned to overcome his hunger pangs, adding, “After a while, they kind of go away.”

Cronin said the program also includes an exercise regimen that has been good for him because he was out of shape after going through cancer treatment last year. “When I first started, I couldn’t run a quarter mile. My weight was only 160 pounds, but physically, my body was just racked. Now, I’m running four to five miles several times a week.”

Asked why Legates should make Exodus 90, Cronin said, “I think no matter who we are, everyone’s got addictions and this program teaches you how to deal with any addiction you have and even your obsessions that are not good. With any addiction or obsession, you’re putting something in front of God. This whole thing is designed to say that God is number one in everything we do and if something is hindering us from putting him number one, we’re going to face that in these 90 days.”

JUDY ROBERTS is a Legatus magazine staff write

Imploring Our Mother’s healing touch – and mediation

Nancy Foytik of Reedsville, WI, was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer, and it had metastasized into both lungs. Doctors gave her a grim prognosis. After one round of chemotherapy, Foytik and her family decided to visit the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in the town of Champion, not far from Green Bay, in 2012.

“We didn’t have any hope. We went there for guidance,” she wept while telling her story on NBC’s Today last year. Yet after praying to the Virgin Mary there, “We just knew when I walked out of the chapel that day I was going to be cured… I can’t explain it other than that. I didn’t hear the words, but I felt them, that said ‘you’re going to be okay.’”

Surgeons removed a softball-sized tumor from her colon and smaller tumors from her right lung. When they performed a third surgery, they found the tumors in her left lung had disappeared. Foytik has been cancer-free ever since.

“I was an active Catholic,” she said. “I prayed, but I never prayed to Mary as much as I did to God. Mary was just the one I needed to go to at that time.”

What makes a miracle?

Foytik said she and her family never used the word “miracle” to describe her experience. Many Catholics, however, claim that their healings — whether physical, emotional, or spiritual — occurred through Mary’s intercession.

Often these healings are associated with Marian pilgrimage sites such as Our Lady of Good Help, the only Church-approved apparition site in the United States. Healings and conversions have been reported from there dating nearly to the time the Virgin Mary first appeared to young Adele Brise in 1859.

Perhaps the best-known of these shrines is Our Lady of Lourdes in France, where Mary appeared to St. Bernadette in 1858, one year prior to the Wisconsin apparition. Although more than 7,000 healings have been claimed at Lourdes, the Church has officially recognized just 70 of them. That’s largely because such miracles, like the miraculous healings investigated in causes for canonization, undergo painstaking scrutiny to ensure there is no natural explanation.

“For a cure to be considered a true miracle at Lourdes or at the Consulta Romana in the Vatican’s examination of intercessory miracles to be used for sainthood causes, it must pass the very old and strict ‘Lambertini criteria’ named for Prospero Lambertini, an Italian cardinal who later became Pope Benedict XIV, who was born in 1675,” explained Michael O’Neill, author of the 2015 book Exploring the Miraculous and host of “The Miracle Hunter” program on Relevant Radio. “The healing must be of a serious condition not liable to go away on its own, instantaneous, complete, and lasting — normally at least 10 years.

“Most difficult of all in our modern age,” he added, “there can be no medical treatment that relates to the cure.”

In 2018, the Church officially recognized the 70th miracle of healing to have taken place at Lourdes. It involved Sister Bernadette Moriau, a French nun who visited there in 2008. For 28 years she had suffered spinal complications that caused disabilities requiring use of a wheelchair. She regularly took prescription morphine to ease her pain.

After receiving a blessing for the sick at the shrine, Sister Moriau felt a warm, relaxing surge of well-being throughout her body. “I returned to my room and there, a voice told me to ‘take off your braces,’” she later recalled.

Not only could she move, but she immediately was able to walk away from her wheelchair, leg braces, and painkillers — and felt so good she took a three-mile walk the next day

As with many credible healing claims at the shrine, Sister Moriau’s case was referred to the International Medical Committee of Lourdes. Their painstaking research found no scientific explanation. After approval from the bishop of Sister Moriau’s home diocese, the healing received official recognition. It was the first miracle declared there since 2013.

 To Jesus through Mary

Healings are also commonly reported at sites of alleged apparitions that lack official sanction, including Medjugorje, in Bosnia-Herezegovina, where Mary is said to been appearing to visionaries since 1981.

In 1999, Artie Boyle of Hingham, MA, was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma. Not long after undergoing surgery to remove his diseased kidney, Boyle was told the cancer had metastasized aggressively to his lungs. “Renal cell carcinoma was definitely going to kill me,” he writes in his book, Six Months to Live.

The following year, Boyle traveled to Medjugorje with two close friends. There on Cross Mountain, rosary in hand, he felt an intense pain in his lung. Convinced he had been healed, he called his wife and asked her to make an appointment for a CT scan before his scheduled surgery to remove one of his diseased lungs. Upon returning home, the scan revealed his cancer was gone. Not only that, he and his friends had each experienced profound spiritual healings in Medjugorje.

 “The graces received, the prayers answered, and the miracles witnessed are vivid proof to us of [Mary’s] intervention and of the generous response of her Son,” writes Boyle, now a development officer for the Archdiocese of Boston.

Sometimes the apparent healings do not happen by way of pilgrimage, but when Mary answers prayers of intercessions — or simply touches someone’s spirit out of the blue.

Leo de Bondt was raised a Protestant in the Netherlands. At 25, he married into the Catholic Church, but he lost all faith in God after his three-year-old daughter died of leukemia in 1972.

Fifteen years later, he saw a photo depicting Our Lady of the Miracle, a painting in the Basilica of St. Andrea delle Fratte in Rome. It depicts a 19th-century apparition of Mary to a virulently anti- Catholic Jewish man which brought about his immediate conversion. De Bondt was deeply moved by the image and the story behind it.

“It was from that moment that my life changed completely,” he remembered. The Virgin Mary “brought me back to Christ. It was she who called this man who had lived as an atheist for 15 years. I became Catholic again, but this time as I had never been, while discovering the wonder of the Catholic faith.”

De Bondt, who has founded a website dedicated to spreading devotion to the Blessed Mother, says of his reversion to Catholicism: “I hated the Church until Mary called me.”

Power of the Rosary

Catholic evangelist and author Kathleen Beckman tells of how Mary’s intercession turned her son’s life around.

The younger of her two boys was going through a rough time. “I could see the spirit of the world trying to pull him away from our family and take him into a dark world,” Beckman related in a blog post. She began to pray the rosary daily “for our son to be delivered away from all the bad influences and temptations that were pulling him down. I prayed the Glorious Mysteries because I was interceding for my son’s resurrection.”

She continued for a year with no visible results. When her older son returned home from study in Europe, however, things changed unexpectedly. The big brother assessed the situation, wrote his troubled sibling a long and affirming letter, and read it to him. The transformation in the younger son was dramatic and immediate.

“At the end of that day, our son was healed and delivered,” said Beckman. “It was the power of a brother’s love that overcame the power of evil that had a grip on our son…. [But] I have no doubt my son’s healing and deliverance was the fruit of the one-year novena of the Holy Rosary.”

Mark Miravalle, the Saint John Paul II Chair of Mariology at Franciscan University of Steubenville, believes Mary always stands ready to strengthen and heal us.

“Where there is suffering and sickness, there is the Mother, hovering in wait to mediate graces of consolation, healing, and courage, all in conformity to the perfect and generous will of the Heavenly Father,” Miravalle said. “She waits only for our fiat in faith, to be freely welcomed into our homes, into our hearts … to bring to each one of us extraordinary healing graces of the Crucified Christ.”

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

The Contemplative Rosary with St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila

Dan Burke and Connie Rossini
EWTN Publishing, 138 pages 

With his 2002 apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, St. John Paul II wished to revitalize rosary devotion for our generation and proposed the new Mysteries of Light; St. Teresa of Avila, the 16th- century mystic, taught much about how to pray the rosary effectively and to avoid distraction. This book draws from both saints to guide readers in praying the rosary contemplatively, where we “place every moment of our lives before the throne of God” and recognize “the mystery of the Incarnation at work within us.” Scriptural meditations and reflections for each mystery and a guide to using both vocal and mental prayer will further renew the reader’s experience of praying the rosary. St. John Paul II would be pleased.

Order: Amazon

For the Love of Gracie

Gracie Ann, not quite two years old, was not well.

Seizures had become more frequent for little Gracie, but she had suffered particularly severe seizures on two consecutive nights and was spiking another fever. She had been home just four days after another hospital stay as she recovered from a stubborn respiratory infection. Her mother, Kerry, administered her emergency medications and gave her a cooling bath.

By morning, the fever had returned, and Gracie was lethargic and acting strangely. Alarmed, Kerry phoned her husband, Jeremy, to come home from work. When he saw Gracie’s labored breathing, they called 911.

“I sat in the ambulance with her as the medics tried to get a line in her,” Kerry recalled. “They had to leave fast, so I gave her the last kiss I would ever give her. That was the last time I saw my sweet angel alive.” Kerry, immune-compromised since her double-lung transplant, could not accompany her daughter to the hospital.

Jeremy rode the ambulance as the EMTs stopped by a fire station and then an emergency room seeking help in getting Gracie’s IV started. Then there was a long, stressful transfer via ambulance to a children’s hospital. Jeremy kept Kerry updated by phone and text message as both prayed fervently.

En route, the situation turned grave, and CPR was initiated. After 24 minutes of chest compressions in the hospital, Gracie Ann was declared dead.

Unable to phone Kerry, Jeremy sent a brief text: “Heaven just acquired an angel.”

Gracie Ann’s death on February 9 of this year was part of a long journey of faith and perseverance for Jeremy and Kerry Lustig of Keller, Texas, Legates of the Fort Worth Chapter. Their story dates to Kerry’s childhood.

Kerry was born with cystic fibrosis, a terminal lung disease, and was not expected to live long. “My parents were told to simply take me home and love me,” she recalled. But her devoutly Catholic mother and father were determined she would survive.

“My parents knew I was fragile, so they prayed a lot and raised me like any other child, staying on top of my appointments, daily meds, and daily therapies,” Kerry explained.

After Kerry and Jeremy fell in love during college and began talking about marriage, Kerry told him about her condition. “I knew that my CF would be a cross that both he and I would have to bear,” she said. It was no obstacle for Jeremy; he soon proposed marriage, and they were wed after graduation in 1997.

Since CF affects fertility, the Lustigs started having children while Jeremy was in dental school. Madison, Savannah and Nicholas were born uneventfully in two-year intervals, but nine years passed before Isaac came along in early 2014.

Because CF is a progressive disease, Kerry had grown sicker over the years. A month after Isaac’s birth, her health took a turn for the worse. She suffered respiratory arrest, was hospitalized, and was placed on a ventilator. Returning home, she struggled to stay well.

In February 2016, in her 30th week of a very difficult pregnancy, Kerry was in the hospital for outpatient lung treatments when she coughed and broke a major vessel in her lung — a life-threatening condition — and was admitted. The next morning, Gracie Ann was delivered via emergency C-section. But Gracie had been deprived of oxygen for several minutes and sustained brain damage, triggering the seizures that would later plague her. Given the situation, Jeremy baptized Gracie in the NICU.

Neither Kerry nor Gracie was expected to survive.

The Lustig family was in full crisis mode. Jeremy’s orthodontics partner managed the practice so he could devote full attention to his wife and infant daughter, dividing his time between the ICU and NICU. Jeremy’s mother moved from Utah to Texas to care for the other four children.

“My father came and went while having to work, but my mom was here indefinitely or until we were self-sufficient,” Jeremy said. During those first three months, Jeremy never left the hospital. “The kids came to the hospital a couple times a week so we could see them,” he said. “They would bring me clean clothes and take dirty ones home. It was very hard on them.”

Many supported the family in faith. “We had so many prayer warriors storming heaven for both Gracie Ann and me,” Kerry said. A prayer network developed out of text messages Jeremy began sending to family and close friends. “As word got out, there was a large influx of people texting me — asking for updates, expressing concern, and offering prayer for Kerry, Gracie, and our family,” Jeremy said. “The list of people in this text thread grew to a few hundred in almost no time.”

Gracie Ann, just 3-1/2 pounds at birth, was touch-and-go at first but “surpassed all reasonable expectations,” Jeremy said. Her survival turned into a roller coaster ride as she suffered bleeding on the brain and fought repeated infections. Kerry also had a rough time: under heavy sedation, she required breathing support for her damaged lungs, had internal bleeding, and required multiple surgeries. Thrice she had to be resuscitated.

Three months later, mother and child were released to go home. Kerry’s lungs were in such bad shape that she was placed on a waiting list for a transplant. “I was really physically struggling,” Kerry remembered. “Before the lung call, I was unable to walk and was on oxygen 24/7. I couldn’t be a mom physically and couldn’t do anything for myself.”

In October 2016, a donor was found and Kerry underwent a double-lung transplant. She faced a long recovery and a lifelong regimen of anti-rejection drugs. By that time, however, Gracie was having seizures. Around her first birthday, she required a feeding tube. During one ER visit, Gracie went into cardiac arrest and was revived. Her seizures became more frequent and severe.

Throughout all these challenges, the Lustigs’ Catholic faith remained strong.

“Jeremy and I have always known and still continue to believe that all our crosses are intended to glorify God, and they have,” Kerry said. “I never lost my faith but held onto it as tightly as I could, for God revealed to me that he alone was the reason I was alive.”

Gracie’s health declined with time. “As the seizures took a toll on her little brain, she began to lose functionality that she had gained against all odds,” Jeremy said. A respiratory infection stretching into early 2018 landed her in the hospital again. Four days after her discharge, Gracie was gone.

“When Gracie Ann passed away, a part of me died. I will always feel an emptiness,” said Kerry. “But Jesus is a gentle Father, and He carries me through my sorrows each day…. We praised Him in the most painful hour when she died, and we continue to praise Him as we must live our lives without her.”

Difficult and painful as Gracie’s death was, the Lustigs believe it drew their family closer together.

“We are stronger in faith today and more in love than ever,” Kerry affirmed. “Our family has benefitted so greatly from this cross.”

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.