As the Church embarks on a new stage of its eschatological journey through history, under the leadership of Pope Francis, it is clear that two separate heavenly initiatives are converging in preparation for the instillation of the eternal Kingdom of Jesus Christ. These initiatives-stages of salvation history, are known as the Marian era, a period of time marked by an increased maternal presence of the Blessed Virgin in the life of the Church; and theNew Evangelization, an attempt to re-evangelize the lost sheep of Western Christianity-those souls ensnared by what Blessed John Paul II called the silent apostasy (Ecclesia in Europa no 9).
The present situation, in this dramatic hour of history calls for an extraordinary effort of all Catholics to respond to the demands of the Gospel: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20). Why is this so necessary? It is because in the prophetic voice of the recent popes and saints, an apocalyptic menace is looming over humanity; the culmination of a battle that began in the Garden of Eden as described in the third chapter of Genesis. The divine will of God has decreed that the glory of the Blessed Virgin should shine forth in this era to bring to fulfilment the victory won for us by the Lord’s death and resurrection. Pope John Paul II, imbued with a prophetic spirit, understood more than anyone the true extent of the role of Mary in these times – in fact he stated that the “Marian era” began with the proclamation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady in 1854. As far as the specific times we face, he told priests in Poland in 1983 “In the period of these great struggles, Mary is given to us as a sign. ‘A woman clothed with the sun with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars’ (Rev 12:1), thus sees John in the Book of Revelation. In the period of this great struggle with the “principes et potestates . . . Tenebrarum harum” a powerful illumination is required, more powerful than at any other time.”
Looking at the prophetic teaching of St Louis de Montfort concerning Mary’s role in the end times, we see a gradual coming to fruition over the past two centuries; from the many apparitions and the proclamation of the dogmas, to the great Marian popes and their mariological teaching of the twentieth century.
However, what is also striking in this era, is how the devil has tried to halt Marian devotion; many of us will have witnessed statues or images of Our Lady being removed from Catholic churches, while the Holy Rosary has been frowned upon by a certain section of the Catholicism. The modern error strewn theological approach has been to claim that devotion to the Mother of God draws attention away from Jesus. In reality the opposite is true. Mary is the perfect image of the Church. In her person she is the ecclesia immaculata and the ecclesia assumpta; in essence, the perfect model for all believers. There is an ancient title for Mary loved by the popes-the Hodegetria– meaning “She who shows the way”. For the surest path to Christ, Mary is that way-in her purity, charity, humility and obedience. The perfection of these virtues in her Immaculate Heart makes her the icon of the Church militant. The eloquent silence of Mary in the Gospel teaches us that silence is the way to listen to the voice of God in our heart and conscience, while granting is a greater ability to discern the signs of the times.
The New Evangelization called for by Blessed Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI is the answer to the dictatorship of relativism that dominates much of the West. Its aim is to reverse the trend of apostasy and atheism wherever it manifests itself. Significantly, Popes Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI have all stated that the Gospel has now spread to a universal dimension, seemingly bringing to fruition the prophecy of Jesus that it would have to go throughout the world before His return. In fact Paul VI asked this question: “Now that the Gospel message has reached the ends of the earth, is missionary work, properly so called at an end?” His answer was no. The Church would have to work hard until the very last day, especially in this new aspect of re-evangelization. The popes have placed Mary the “Star of the New Evangelization” as its leader and have begged for her prayers to bring about conversions. The Church of the twenty-first century needs to be in the Upper Room with Mary in the cenacle of a new Pentecost. It needs to listen to Mary while being docile to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, who is the beginning and end of all missionary activity. As Mary is the spouse of the Holy Spirit, it is given to her as our Mediatrix and Advocate to lead this new evangelization and to obtain from Him the graces necessary for a miraculous catch (Lk 5:4). The maternal interventions of Mary in contemporary history can only be understood in the light of the new evangelization-to place these apparitions outside the missionary mandate of the Lord is to misunderstand their significance .The Blessed Virgin knows the entire stretch of salvation history from beginning to end, and therefore Her increased presence in recent times illustrates the necessity and urgency of evangelization.
Upon reflection, we see clearly the convergence of the Marian era and the New Evangelization in an eschatological light. It’s ultimate goal is to prepare the world for the Second Coming of Our Lord as explained by Blessed John Paul in a speech to Spanish bishops “May the Virgin, Mother of the Church, Our Lady of Hope and Advent, give us the grace to accomplish the task of a new evangelization to prepare hearts for the coming of the Lord”. It also explains why the great polish pontiff constantly urged the youth of the Church to recognize the signs of the new times and to boldly spread the Good News to all. At World Youth Day 1993 in Denver he prophetically proclaimed: “This pilgrimage must continue—it must continue in our lives; it must continue in the life of the Church as she looks forward to the Third Christian Millennium. It must continue as a new advent, a moment of hope and expectation until the return of the Lord in glory.”
In these dark days for humanity and the Church, may our prayer be one of unfailing hope and joy, not pessimism or despair -for that is not the Christian way, nor is it the way of evangelization. With the Blessed Virgin at the helm, we can be sure that the knot tied by Eve’s disobedience will finally be untied forever and the Kingdom of God will come bringing the peace that only Jesus can give. Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!