|Photo by Cindy Parent|
On the Feast of the Assumption, August 15, 2016 Bishop David Ricken of the Diocese of Green Bay made an announcement on behalf of the US Bishops that the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, Wisconsin is now a National Shrine. This humble sanctuary resides on six acres of farmland on the East side of Wisconsin and is the only approved Marian apparition site in the United States.
Bishop Ricken made note that at the heart of this Shrine’s apostolate is the mission of prayer and catechesis. This mission draws from the heart of visionary and founder of the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, Adele Brise. Adele received three visions of the Blessed mother in October of 1859. As Divine Providence would have it, these apparitions took place during the month dedicated to the Blessed Mother and the Holy Rosary. The messages given to Adele in these apparitions encouraged Adele to persevere in working to lead the faithful into the inviting and loving embrace of the Blessed Mother so that they in turn would be strengthened by God’s grace.
When Adele asked the Blessed Mother for guidance, she gave Adele a two-fold mission of prayer for the conversion of sinners and to teach catechesis so that souls may gain eternal salvation. On December 8, 2010, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Bishop Ricken wrote a formal declaration on the apparition site. In this declaration he quoted the words which the Blessed Mother spoke to Adele when she bestowed Adele with this two-fold mission. She said to Adele, “Gather the children in this wild country and teach them what they should know for salvation…Teach the children 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.”
What is the importance of the mission that the Blessed Mother gave to Adele and is it still relevant today? Considering the current state of our world today, I would argue that a focus on the catechism, the sign of the cross and the sacraments is urgently needed.
First, the catechism; Saint Pope John Paul II said that the Catechism “is offered to all the faithful who want to understand better the inexhaustible riches of salvation.” How fitting it is then, that the Blessed Mother would specifically request Adele to teach this to the children so that they may become disciples of Jesus and inherit the richness of an eternity spent with Him. Mary was the very first of Jesus’ disciples and she desires to bring children into the warmth of His heart. Saint Pope John Paul II wrote On Catechesis in Our Time and in paragraph seventy-one writes, “She was the first disciple above all else because no one has been ‘taught by God’ to such depth…Mary is ‘a living catechism’ and ‘the mother and model of all catechists.”
Secondly, the Baltimore Catechism, the first catechism written for children in North America speaks well to the power of the sign of the cross. In lesson twenty-seven it reads that the sign of the cross is the “chief sacramental used in the Church.” We make the sign of the cross to express that we are disciples of Jesus Christ and to profess our faith. In Luke 9:23 we read of the conditions of discipleship that Jesus gave, saying to all “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow.” The Baltimore Catechism goes on to read that “the sign of the cross is a profession of faith in the chief mysteries of our religion because it expresses the mysteries of the Unity and Trinity of God and the Incarnation and death of our Lord.” Making the sign of the cross is a declaration of Colossians 1:24, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church.”
Finally, we must not forget the great gift we have in the Sacraments; outward signs instituted by Christ to provide grace. Again, in the children’s catechism in lesson thirteen it teaches how the needs of the soul resemble the needs of the body and the Sacraments meet these needs. The soul is given new life in Baptism, strengthened in Confirmation, nourished through the Eucharist, healed in Penance, given aid by Extreme Unction, guided through those who are in Holy Orders and “is given a body in which to dwell by the Sacrament of Matrimony.”
Over one-hundred and fifty years ago, the Blessed Mother said to Adele to gather the children in the wild country and teach them what they need to know for salvation. I too think we must heed these words and be emboldened to “go and fear nothing,” for our Mother will help us.