In these days we see continuing evidence of the existence and growth of evil in our culture, in the media, in crime and now apparently in terrorism within this great country’s borders. We desperately need to stay grounded in our faith, something we can be encouraged in by the examples of those who have gone before us. Consider the Siege of Jasna Gora in 1655 when the Swedes were threatening to totally overtake Poland. Anthony Esolen, in a piece for Magnificat, tells us the dramatic story of the battle that turned everything around, thanks to Our Lady of Częstochowa:
It is a bitter December, 1655. Twelve thousand Swedes have encamped before Jasna Gora, [Polish for “Bright Hill”], which is both monastery and fortress. They have all the vanity and power lust of the never-defeated. They look upon Jasna Gora as the last fortress to fall [in their invasion and over running of Poland and suppression of the Catholic faith]. If it falls, every Pole will know the war is over. Jan Casimir [the Polish king] will abdicate, for the sake of his people and that will be that. The Swedes have cannons, too. Inside the monastery are 300 men, most of them monks inexperienced in war.
An emissary from the Swedes approaches the monastery…he says, “Every city from here to the Baltic Sea has surrendered. You are 300. What can you do...give in.” The Swedes add a threat. If the monks do not surrender, they will put the village nearby to the torch. It will not be the last emissary or the last offer and threat…Some of the defenders have died, the walls are being shelled very day. Food is running low. Ammunition is low…Why hold out?
The Poles continue to fight…They also continue to pray, and the Swedes from their tents in the snow will often hear to their surprise and dismay, the sounds of joyous celebration, especially on the feasts of Our Lady and on Christmas Eve…the monastery is the scene of many inexplicable occurrences. One of the Swedish soldiers blasphemes against Mary and is struck down by a cannonball from the monastery, but the cannon was not aimed at him. The fatal shot ricocheted from the snow. Dense fog descends upon the monastery just when the Swedes are advancing to the walls, and then suddenly dissipates, in apparent answer to [the monks’] prayers, leaving the Swedes unprepared and exposed to attack from above. Swedish cannonballs often rebound from the walls to their own, and that is how their chief cannon is destroyed.
In that same fog, it seems sometimes that Jasna Gora is bathed in a strange light and poised high in the air, so that Swedish shots fall short; sometimes it appears low and close, and the shots sail harmlessly over the monastery…What is most fascinating is the testimony of many of the Swedish soldiers recorded after the siege. They saw a woman dressed in blue up on the ramparts, pointing the Polish cannons and bringing ammunition. Some of the Swedes would then drop their weapons in fear. Sometimes they saw a maiden in white, pointing a sword their way. One time one of the attackers aimed a cannon at the maiden and its breech exploded, driving the iron back into his face. Her bearing struck terror into their hearts. “Who is that witch,” they would say, “who walks upon your walls?”
…Always we will have the world against us. The lesson of Bright Hill is to keep the faith even when all around us have surrendered. When we meet that woman in blue, let us be able to say, “Lady, be gracious to me! I’m a sinner and a fool, but I never laid down my sword for comfort or the approval of the world.”
Indeed, it seems we always will have the world against us. Just read the headlines of the news on any day in this age of secular relativism and political correctness, where what was right is now wrong and vice-versa, where acts of terrorism are called workplace violence, and where God has been pushed out of the public square and religious liberty is on the ropes.
Now, more than ever, we need to heed the words of Our Lady of Fatima, (repeated with increasing urgency and emphasis in the 20th century at Kibeho and Akita:
“As I told you, if men do not repent and better themselves, the Father will inflict a terrible punishment on all humanity. It will be a punishment greater than the deluge, such as one will never have seen before. Fire will fall from the sky and will wipe out a great part of humanity, the good as well as the bad, sparing neither priests nor faithful. The survivors will find themselves so desolate that they will envy the dead.
The only arms which will remain for you will be the Rosary and the Sign left by my Son. Each day, recite the prayers of the Rosary. With the Rosary, pray for the Pope, the bishops and the priests. The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, and bishops against other bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their Confreres. The Church and altars will be vandalized. The Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord.
So how about it? Are we praying our Rosary daily? Are we calling upon Our Lady for her intercession in these difficult times, and for the grace we need to be prepared for what lies ahead? No time like now to start if one hasn’t been doing this.
And a special word to the guys who read this: as author David Calvillo says, “Real Men Pray the Rosary.” His book with that title provides some background on the Rosary and spiritual food for thought for men who might be interested. BUT—you don’t need a book—just start or begin again to pray the Rosary, ASAP. The Rosary is not just a devotion for kids and women, guys. It is a Christ-centered prayer available to, and commended to, us ALL.
Our Lady helped the faithful at Jasna Gora. She’ll help us as well if we only do what she asks of us. Can we do it? Can we encourage others to do so by our example? Will we do it?
At some time in the not too distant future, many believe, we’ll wish we had taken Our Lady's exhortations more seriously. There’s still time. Start now.