Sunday, July 22, 2018

In Gratitude for a Fresh Glimpse at Dorothy Day


I can't recall if I sent you a thank-you note for that book, but I'm finally reading through it, and I'm grateful you sent it along.

You mentioned that the author is a friend of yours. If you're in touch with him, please tell him that he has succeeded in coaxing the dying embers of my Catholic Worker enthusiasms back into flame.

I didn't become a Catholic because of Dorothy Day, but I don't think I would've become a Catholic without her – and Peter...and the whole messy Catholic Worker schtick

Deo gratias.

– Rick

Decades ago, in Eugene, Oregon, I read Dorothy Day's autobiography and decided to move to "the city" to find out about this Catholic Worker thing she started. Before I left, I forked over to Harper & Row for a whole box of Long Loneliness paperbacks, and I handed them out to family and friends and strangers. I urgently wanted others to meet this extraordinary woman – to see Jesus through her eyes, to meet him again, as I had, with her help.

Years ago, here in South Bend, I asked the New York Catholic Worker community to sign me up for a bulk subscription to their newspaper. Ever since, every month or two, I get a tight roll of 50 copies in the mail. I spread them out on a table, weigh them down with encyclopedias to flatten them, and then place them in the vestibule and exits at my church. It's not quite the same as passing out copies of Dorothy's autobiography. Still, there's always the possibility that somebody will, out of curiosity, pick up one of the newspapers and discover the Catholic Worker for the first time – and, indirectly, discover Dorothy.

However, Terrence Wright's new book, the one Joe sent me, has brought me up short. I read it eagerly, and I'm looking forward to reading it again. Far from nostalgia, it makes Dorothy's complex legacy and the rollicking CW ethos come alive, succinctly and compellingly. And, for me, it was a powerful reminder of why I've been pushing The Long Loneliness and the newspaper all these years: Because Dorothy Day knew Jesus, and she hoped the Catholic Worker – through the works of mercy and peacemaking and clarification of thought – would help others to know him and make him known.

So, stand by, Ignatius Press. Once I scrounge together the cash, I'll be contacting you for a boxful of Wright, and I'll get back into the book-pushing business.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Our Lady of Good Help

The airport cabbie was blunt. “Champion? It’s a bump along the road – you don’t even slow down for it.”

My wife and I explained that we were looking for Our Lady of Good Help. “Oh, you’re here for the shrine,” he said. “That’s different.”

He was right on both counts. Champion, Wisconsin, is little more than a dot on the map, but the shrine there is a bustling hub. As the only fully approved Marian apparition site in the USA, Our Lady of Good Help hosts thousands of pilgrims every year.

The shrine’s origins dates back to the mid-19th century when Belgian immigrants settled the area, including the Brise family and their teenage daughter, Adele. A cheerful girl despite a disfiguring youthful injury, Adele was both pious and affable.

One day, Adele was walking to the gristmill with a load of wheat. A shimmering lady clothed in white appeared between two trees, but the vision rapidly dissipated. After a second sighting, Adele asked her confessor for advice, and he told her to ask the lady who she was and what she wanted. On the way home from Mass later that same day, October 9, 1859, Adele saw the lady again and made bold her inquiry.

“I am the Queen of Heaven,” came the lady’s reply. “Gather the children in this wild country and teach them what they should know for salvation.”

Adele balked, but our Lady met her objections with a simple formula: “Teach them their catechism, how to sign themselves with the sign of the Cross, and how to approach the sacraments.” Then, before vanishing, the Queen of Heaven reassured the young apostle. “Go and fear nothing,” she said. “I will help you.”

From that moment on until her death in 1896, Adele dedicated herself to carrying out Mary’s charge. Along with a handful of companions, who associated themselves with the Franciscan Third Order, Sister Adele worked tirelessly to build up the faith of the fledgling immigrant community. They built a chapel, a convent, and a school, and when the compound was miraculously spared during the devastating Peshtigo Fire of 1871, all lingering doubts about Adele’s visions were dismissed.

Green Bay Bishop David Ricken declared the apparitions “worthy of belief” in 2010, and in 2016, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops designated the grounds a National Shrine.

A version of this story originally appeared in Franciscan Magazine, Franciscan University of Steubenville. For more information on Our Lady of Good Help and the shrine at Champion, Wisconsin, follow this link