This came out of the blue, or so it seemed. Last week, Green Bay Bishop David Ricken made the historic announcement that he has officially approved the Marian apparitions at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, Wisconsin. The approval was as stunning as the existence of this shrine was startling, even to many Catholics close by.
I heard the news from a priest friend before reading it anywhere. ‘And you know what her message was at Champion,’ he asked? Let’s see….Fatima, Lourdes, Guadalupe, LaSalette, Akita, and others….it always seemed to be about prayer and conversion. Turn back to God, and pray that others do, too. “Her message to the young Belgian immigrant woman was to catechize the children, teach the children the faith, that was the message,” he said.
Suddenly, I heard Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s Teach Your Children Well, (in my head), recalling high school seniors who had chosen that as their theme to be played while marching triumphantly out into a radically changing world beyond the walls of their homes and schools and into endless possibilities. I was a youth in that auditorium, watching with wonder….
Like, wondering what it all meant. Students had completed the education their parents provided, under their care and direction, through high school, and now they were about to find themselves and whatever mattered to them and show their parents what influenced them most.
It continued to be just about anything but Catholicism, or at least the ‘Baltimore Catechism’, as huge numbers of these young people turned (or drifted) away in college and adulthood. The cultural floodgates opened by the Boomers swept them up. Relatively few survived the lure. And by the way, everything was relative.
Pope Paul VI urgently tried to reform consciences on the foundation Moses stood on… the sanctity of human life. That did not take, for vast numbers of Catholics. Pope John Paul II tried in his own way in the Gospel of Life. Throughout his pontificate, John Paul wove the theme of personalism into all his teachings. Joseph Ratzinger’s ‘dictatorship of relativism’ homily and its stunning impact on the college of cardinals installed a new era of preaching ‘the new humanism’ that continues the teachings of his predecessors….
Because the message doesn’t change, but the media do. As do the new youthful generations interacting with both.
Which gets back to the message of the newly approved Marian apparation. This is huge.
“I declare with moral certainty and in accord with the norms of the Church that the events, apparitions and locutions given to Adele Brise in October of 1859 do exhibit the substance of supernatural character, and I do hereby approve these apparitions as worthy of belief (although not obligatory) by the Christian faithful,” [Bishop Ricken] said on December 8.
“Today’s declaration makes Our Lady of Good Help at Champion the first and only site in the United States of an approved apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” according to a diocesan press release.
So what happened there to cause this extraordinary pronouncement, rarely given in Church history?
In 1859, Adele Brise, a 28-year-old Belgian immigrant in Wisconsin, reported that the Blessed Virgin had appeared to her and asked her to catechize children. “Gather the children in this wild country and teach them what they should know for salvation,” the Blessed Mother said. “Teach them their catechism, how to sign themselves with the sign of the cross and how to approach the sacraments.” In 1861, a chapel was built on the site, and in 1867, Sister Adele founded a school to educate children in the faith.
“Go and fear nothing”, she reportedly told Adele Brise. “I will help you.”
Just four years later, in the same year as the Great Chicago Fire, a similarly destructive inferno raged through the rugged countryside around Champion, killing 2,000 people and burning land up to the perimeter of the shrine. Sister Adele was inside with the local people, praying for their safety and protection.
Why this message and why now? Because, as BarbNicolosi keenly pointed out about young people in that blast of boomers…
The Church must use all media to reach these new cultural power brokers, and to penetrate the commanding subconscious voices of their parents; she must teach them that the breakdown of the Boomers will require patience, heroism, and long-suffering.
And she must teach them what their parents may or may not have taught them. The basics, and why inestimable human dignity is at the core of everything.