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An Emerald Isle amid a sea of ashes

January 3, 2018 | Rex Teodosio


Spiritual wildfires have been raging in America in recent years. In the form of homosexual “marriage,” pornography, transgenderism and a rise in Satanism, among others, moral depravity leaves our cultural landscape desolate. Hundreds of thousands of souls have suffered. These “fires” have engulfed families and social structures. Many have lost hope in fleeing from the flames.

But our Catholic Faith offers us another solution. Our Lady’s offer to make her Immaculate Heart our “refuge and the path that will lead (us) to God,” provides a shelter for all who seek it. This lesson can be learned from the great Peshtigo Fire of 1871 in which a group of faithful Catholics relied upon Our Lady of Good Help’s intervention. The miracle which followed was evidence of her power to protect.

 

An Eyewitness Account of a Massive Fire

Flames in a forestThe Peshtigo Fire happened on October 8th, 1871—the same day of the Great Chicago Fire that is so well known in American history. Though overshadowed by the Chicago Fire, the Peshtigo blaze killed more people (around 2,500) and destroyed more property—over 1.2 million acres.

The magnitude of the miracle can be gauged by the destructiveness of the fire. It started in the city of Peshtigo, Wisconsin, an hour north of Green Bay. Father Peter Pernin describes the ferocity of the blaze in a gripping firsthand account in his book, The Great Peshtigo Fire, An Eyewitness Account.

No one knows how the fire started. What was known was that it was made worse by a particularly dry year and hurricane strength wind. Fire was, so to speak, in the air. On October 6th, Father Pernin saw a stump spontaneously burst into flames, even though there were no sparks or fire nearby. While the fire was put out, it signaled worse things to come.

 

Preparing for the Worst

For days, the priest had seen a red glow some distance away. He also heard loud noises in the distance like the sounds of numerous carts and trains. As the noise and the glow grew closer, Father Pernin decided to prepare for the worst.

It took him several hours to dig a pit in the ground to bury sacred objects, statues, books, linens and vestments under a foot of dirt, which he considered sufficient. In the meantime, several of his neighbor’s guests laughed at him for making this effort.

 

Heading into an Inferno

Fr PerninAs he finished covering his pit, Father Pernin barely had time to release his horse and load the tabernacle into a hand cart, before the wildfire reached Peshtigo. He called for his dog but it refused to budge from under the bed, frozen in fear.

As he went through the city to head for the river, he was blown against the tavern wall, cart and all by the force of a sudden wind. He forced his way against the wind and came upon his horse which was now frozen in fear and refused to move.

The conflagration was soon upon the village and everything was in chaos. The clang of carts, the neighing of horses, the alarmed cries of beasts, and the roar of the inferno instilled a terror in the hearts of the living. People ran in all directions. Father Pernin tripped and fell upon the dead bodies of a mother and her daughter.

 

The End of “Our World”

Along one side of the river, the flames from the village buildings formed an impenetrable canopy of fire. Father Pernin went to the other side. At the edge of the water, he found people “as far as the eye can see” standing, gazing, in stunned amazement and with mouths agape, at the sight of the conflagration around them. He started pushing them into the water since it was the only safe place. Immediately people followed suit and everyone around him waded in the water.

The air became a mixture of ash, sparks, smoke, fire and oppressive heat. Everyone stayed in the cold water splashing water over themselves for almost five hours. At the peak of the fire, Father Pernin described the air above them as a tornado of fire, brighter than day even causing temporary blindness. It was a scene of hell on earth, a true inferno.

A lady next to the priest asked, “Father, is this the end of the world?” Not knowing what to say, he replied perhaps not the whole world, but if the surrounding countryside were burning like this, it would be the end of “our world.”

The fire eventually burned itself out in Peshtigo, jumping across a nearby bay, a distance of about 10 miles at its narrowest point. With the hurricane-like winds serving as bellows, the fire continued on its destructive path eventually burning a total of 1.2 million acres.

 

The Miracle of Champion, Wisconsin

While this chaos took place in Peshtigo, there was a different scene at the village of Robinsonville, Wisconsin. Now called Champion, this village lay right in the path of the untamable inferno.

Sr Adele BriseThe village was the site of the first approved apparition of Our Lady in the United States. She had appeared to Sister Adele Brise in 1859. In honor of the apparition, a wooden chapel was built dedicated to Our Lady of Good Help. Many locals believed in the apparition, largely due to Sister Adele’s reputation of holiness.

In the early morning of October 9th, the locals fled to the safety of Our Lady of Good Help’s protection. It seems irrational to seek safety in a wooden structure in the middle of the greatest wildfire in American history. However, faith sometimes goes against what seems rational. They abandoned themselves to practice the great virtue of confidence, hoping against all hope. The locals had so much confidence in Our Lady’s protection that they drove their livestock onto the chapel grounds.

Sister Adele led the inhabitants in a procession outside with a statue of Our Lady while praying the rosary. When the air became oppressive, they were forced to continue inside. The voices of the faithful filled the air with hopeful prayer. Outside the ever-hungry inferno was raging, ready to devour everything in its path.

However, the wooden structure miraculously refused to burn. The prayers of the faithful were heard. The heavy winds that drove the conflagration stilled and the fired abated. The sweet sound of rainfall soon followed. It was as immediate as when Jesus raised his hands to calm the storm. The faithful were in awe. Salvation from the fire had finally come.

 

Confirmation of the Miracle

Father Pernin, who witnessed firsthand the unyielding savagery of fire in Peshtigo went to investigate this alleged miracle with his own eyes. He recounted what he saw in a second manuscript called, The Finger of God.

“[All] the houses and fences in the neighborhood had been burned, with the exception of the school, the chapel and fences surrounding the six acres of land consecrated to the Blessed Virgin. (…) [The property] sanctified by the visible presence of the Mother of God now shone out like an emerald island amid a sea of ashes.”1

Father Pernin’s description of the church grounds as an emerald island in a desolate sea could be seen in the grass inside the fence that kept its lush healthy color. All the local inhabitants and their livestock were spared. The wooden chapel was spared. The wooden fence surrounding the grounds was spared.

Is there not a lesson to be learned from this?

This miracle was instrumental in convincing Bishop David Ricken to declare on December 8, 2010 the authenticity of the apparitions of 1859 to Sister Adele Brise. This holy site is now called the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help. In the decree, one can find these words that serve as a lesson to modern firefighters, or to anyone who needs divine help, especially when all human efforts have failed. These words are: “Our Lady has lessened or relieved the burdens of the People of God (…) even through diminishing inclement and tempestuous weather.”

Curiously, the great Peshtigo Fire abated on the 12th anniversary of one of the apparitions of Our Lady of Good Help.
 Our Lady of Good Help

 

A Lesson for Our Times

The events that unfolded in Champion, Wisconsin, so many years ago are almost a prefigure of our times. The fires of impurity and godlessness rage all around the People of God. Human efforts alone, though at times even heroic, are not sufficient to quell the flames. We need recourse to Our Lady.

At Fatima, she told little Lucia, “My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the path that will lead you to God.” These very words reverberate into and beyond 2020. If we stop and listen, we can hear her say them to each and every one of her children. Our Heavenly Mother beckons us to gather in confidence around her, praying her Holy Rosary, just as Sr. Adele and the faithful did in 1871.

It is no small coincidence that the town once called “Robinsonville” has been renamed “Champion.” For it was on this precious ground, right here in our United States, that Our Lady chose to answer the pleas of her children, thereby showing all the world that she would happily become our Champion, if we only would turn to her in confidence and love.

 


Footnotes:

1. Fr. Edward Looney, Our Lady of Good Help, Mary’s Message and Mission for Adele Brise and the World, p.16.

 

 

Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for April 17, 2021

The heart of man is, so to speak, the paradise of God. Since...

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April 17

 

The heart of man is, so to speak,
the paradise of God.
Since His delights are to be with you,
let yours be found in Him.

St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori

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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Stephen Harding

God answered him dramatically when thirty noblemen knocked a...

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St. Stephen Harding

Stephen Harding was an Englishman of an honorable family, and heir to a large estate. Born in Dorset, he was educated at the monastery of Sherborne and spoke English, Norman, French and Latin.

Desirous of seeking a more perfect way of Christian perfection, he, with a devout companion, traveled into Scotland and afterwards to Paris and to Rome. On their return journey, the two travelers chanced upon a collection of huts in the forest of Molesme in Burgundy, where monks lived in great austerity. Struck by their way of life and finding kindred spirits in Robert the Abbot, and Alberic the Prior, he bid his friend goodbye and threw in his lot with the monks.

After some years, finding that religious fervor had waned considerably, Stephen, Robert, Alberic and others went to Lyons and with the support of Bishop Hugh struck a new foundation in the forest of Citeaux sponsored by Rainald, Lord of Beaune, and Odo, Duke of Burgundy.

Later Robert returned to his monks of Molesme who reclaimed him as their abbot, and upon the death of Alberic, in 1109, Stephen succeeded him as Abbot of Citeaux.

He immediately instituted such austere measures to keep the spirit of the world out that he alienated the support of many who had helped to establish the abbey. Novices ceased applying, and to make matters worse, a mysterious disease decimated his monks to the point that even Stephen’s stout heart began to quiver wondering if he were really doing God’s will.

God answered him dramatically when thirty noblemen knocked at the abbey’s door seeking admittance. They were headed by young St. Bernard who in his zeal had convinced his brothers, uncles and a number of his acquaintances to give up the world with him.

Increasing numbers called for additional foundations and the first two were made at Morimond and Clairvaux. To the general surprise, Stephen appointed twenty-four-year-old Bernard as Abbot of Clairvaux. When nine abbeys had sprung from Citeaux, Stephen drew up the statutes of his Charter of Charity which officially organized the Cistercians into an order.

Stephen Harding died in 1134, advanced in age and nearly blind, and having served as Abbot of Cîteaux for twenty-five years.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

I turned to God, but God seems to remain deaf to me. Why is...

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Why Doesn't God Answer My Prayer?

Question:  I pray and pray, but I feel as if God is not listening. We always had a good, peaceful family life, but these last years have been tough. We don’t seem to be getting along and our finances have taken a turn for the worse.

I am so anxious about this situation that, not having anyone to turn to, I turned to God.

But God seems to remain deaf to me. Why is that? In addition, what do I say to certain people, agnostics and atheists, who laugh at prayer, saying it is nonsensical and only a figment of the imagination with no real value?

Answer:  God is faithful to His promises, and God promised to answer our prayers. “And I tell you, ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Luke 11:9–10).

If God promises to answer our prayers, He will do so infallibly. But in prayer there are two sides: he who asks and He Who gives.

Our part is to ask. How must we ask?

Saint Alphonsus Liguori, a Doctor of the Church, teaches in his book Prayer, the Great Means of Salvation that prayer must be persevering and humble.

So many times we hear people saying: “Oh, I used to ask God for this and that and the other, but He never gave it to me. Now, ten years later, how glad I am that He didn’t!”

One thing is certain: God will not fail to answer a humble and perseverance prayer. Whether He chooses to grant what we ask immediately or make us wait, we must trust that He, regardless of appearances, is doing us good. What we think is good and what He thinks is good may be two different things: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways My ways” (Isa. 55:8), but here is where we must abandon ourselves to His beneficent will. Our part is to be patient, calm and, above all, faithful, because this is the time for testing and later will come the time for full enjoyment.


Answering Atheists and Agnostics
As for atheists and agnostics, their skepticism proceeds from the fact that they, respectively, deny God’s existence or deny men’s capacity to know God.

In this case, we can only express our regret over their ignorance of this Supreme Being, our omnipotent Creator and loving Savior.

We may direct them to a few sources that may help in their search for the truth of His existence. Atheism and agnosticism can only be sustained in ignorance or ill will because the evidence of God’s existence is overwhelming.

Moreover, God will not hide Himself from those who seek Him sincerely and unconditionally.

Another consideration pertaining to non-believers is this: If God were to grant us absolutely everything we ask at a moment’s notice, such people might start believing purely out of self-interest.

They would look at God as a wand-wielding wizard. And God Our Lord is infinitely more than that. He wants us to know, love, and serve Him for Himself so that He can treat us as children and heirs and grant us unending happiness in Heaven.

"My impression is that the Rosary is of the greatest value not only according to the words of Our Lady of Fatima, but according to the effects of the Rosary one sees throughout history. My impression is that Our Lady wanted to give ordinary people, who might not know how to pray, this simple method of getting closer to God."  Sister Lucia, one of the seers of Fatima.

 

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I turned to God, but God seems to remain deaf to me. Why is that? In addition, what do I say to certain people, agnostics and atheists,

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