Knowing the content of the Faith is only the beginning of catechesis and evangelization. This is why Our Lady of Good Help said to Adele,
“Gather the children in this wild country and teach them what they should know for salvation … Teach them their catechism, how to sign themselves with the sign of the Cross, and how to approach the sacraments; that is what I wish you to do. Go and fear nothing. I will help you.”
To sign ourselves with the Cross is a testament to people, angels and demons that we belong to Christ. Furthermore, the Sign of Cross is a reminder of our baptism when we first received the Life of Christ. It also reminds us of the price Christ paid on the Cross so what he could have a share in His life. Hence, this “sign” accompanies us as we enter into prayer and when we conclude prayer. It is our passport.
Being properly disposed towards the Sacraments is also important. Indeed, approaching the Sacraments is to approach the Life of Christ. In large part, our approach to Christ in the Sacraments will give shape to how we will respond to him in our daily lives. Our disposition towards the Mass and the Sacrament of Reconciliation trains us to see the presence of Christ in our family members, in our neighbor, in the poor and in the events and circumstances that unfold each day. After all, the Lord uses the ordinary things of life to reveal himself to us.
This kind of good help is the best kind of help. And it is the kind of help that the Queen of Heaven came to give the settlers of Northeast Wisconsin. But the best kind of help is not wanted if people do not perceive what they need help from. To repeat, sometimes the more important things in life can easily escape our notice. As such, losing the less important things in life, such as material belongings and even human life itself, can serve as valuable reminders about the more important things that can be lost such as our souls. Enter the greatest natural disaster in North American history: The Peshtigo Fire of 1871.
The greatest and most pivotal events in history often go unnoticed for years and hence receive little public attention. For instance, in October of 1871, a fire raged across the plains of Wisconsin known as the Peshtigo Fire. It covered a geographical area as big as the State of Rhode Island. And worse yet, it killed approximately 2,500 people. But on October 9th of the same year the blazing furnace had reached the chapel and the five acre piece of land where Our Lady of Good Help had appeared exactly twelve years earlier. In a panic, Catholics in the region took refuge in Our Lady of Good by praying the rosary while processing around the property. It just so happened that a downpour of rain deluged the area and ended up quenching the fire, thus putting an abrupt end to the massive devastation. Our Lady of Good chapel and the grounds were spared. But more importantly, lives were saved.
The apparitions of Our Lady of Good Help starting on October 9, 1859 and the Peshtigo Fire miracle on October 9, 1871 is a dramatic illustration of great spiritual truths. As for the fire, it speaks to the fact that God often gets the attention of His people through adversity. In this case, adversity came by way of the greatest natural disaster in North American history, the Peshtigo Fire. And under the protection of Our Lady of Good Help human lives were saved from this massive fire.
But the Queen of Heaven came to save something even more important than the body. On behalf of her Son, she came to save lost souls; to retrieve them from a fire that can never be quenched! To claim them for her Son and for the joys of eternal life! And if Adele were to be a servant of this Queen by carrying out this mission, she would need courage. Perhaps this is why the Queen's parting words to her were, “Go and fear nothing.” That is to say, fear no evil, whether it be man-made or from hell itself. And even if death and destruction should encompass you, fear nothing. “I will help you.”
“I will help you!” To be sure, help came on October 9, 1871 when human lives were spared from the fury of the Peshtigo Fire. But the real help came – the really good help came! – on October 9, 1859 when the Queen of Heaven asked Adele and her children to join her in praying for the conversion of sinners exactly twelve years earlier!
* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.