The Gentlest Weapon

If you were in a war, would you be afraid of 18 women in the basement of a shrine?

Depends what kind of war you're fighting. Mind you, they were no innocuous bunch engaged in idle chit-chat. These women were personally recruited by Br. John Luth, MIC, to serve in a spiritual war - a war for souls. And they were armed with something Pope Francis said could heal the world.

Inspired strategy
Brother John's inspiration for the gathering came from Pope Francis' homily on Jan. 1. Particularly, these words:

If our faith is not to be reduced merely to an idea or a doctrine, we must have a mother's heart, one which knows how to keep the tender love of God, and to feel the heartbeat of all around us.

Brother John thought to create a roundtable to "break ground" in discussing the maternal heart and "its role in healing our Church, in healing our world."

He quoted the Venerable Servant of God Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, who said, "The world in which we live is the battleground of the Church."

"Now 44 years later," said Br. John, "we still face a threat to Christian civilization. ... If we don't [rescue] the family, we will lose the Church."

And so, on Saturday, July 21, the 18 women and more than a dozen observers gathered in the lower level of the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy to participate in a "Motherhood and Faith" roundtable.

Winning the battle
The event was moderated by Rose Folsom, a lay member of the Dominican order, a speaker, author, and workshop leader. The guests and invited observers identified themselves as wives, mothers, grandmothers, professionals, volunteers, homemakers, and, above all, Catholics.

Rose quoted Fr. Dan Cambra, MIC, from his homily that preceded the roundtable: "The mothers of the Church are women who converse to share the wisdom of the ages on how to bring the Kingdom of God to earth. Because souls are won over - won over - by love."

"That's why you are here," she emphasized. "You, mothers ... are the ones that the world needs to hear from!"

Rose divided Pope Francis' quote into sections, each building in meaning and scope. After each topic, Rose would give a summarized response for all to approve or amend. For example, she asked panelists, "What reduces faith to mere doctrine?" and distilled their responses to: "What I'm hearing from you is When the heart is missing, faith becomes just an idea."

Never give up
Rose asked participants to list words that describe a mother's heart.Vulnerable. Gentle. Open. Pierced. Forgiving. Understanding. Grateful. Docile. Patient. Reflective. Protective. And more.

Persevering. This word resonated with the group.

"You never stop being a mother," said Barbara, who works with the Marians' Divine Mercy Intercessory Prayerline in Stockbridge. She noted that the Prayerline continually receives prayer requests from mothers concerned about their children. "Women in their 80s and 90s ask, 'Please pray with me. I do not want to leave this earth until my children are saved.'"

"You can't give up on your own children," said one panelist. Another continued the sentiment, "If distances make it more difficult to communicate, send holy cards, send medals. Maybe you'll never see what it does, but it's there."

Others said they had seen the results of their persistence. One panelist spoke of how her son had moved to Utah to be with his Mormon girlfriend. For years, the mother prayed for him to be a faithful Catholic. Then the young man called her to say her prayers had been answered. He had witnessed a Mormon assembly that pained him. There he learned that because a member, a girl, had committed an offense, the church excommunicated her and her family disowned her.

"He told me, 'We wouldn't do that. That's not in our hearts.'" The mercy he had learned from his own mother enlightened his judgment.

One woman recalled the time her estranged teenage daughter announced she wanted to return home. "When I went to meet her at the bus, she cried and said, 'I didn't think you'd be there.'"

Others shared stories of sons and daughters involved in extra-marital affairs, abusing drugs, and even dabbling with Satanism.

"Give them to Mary, and Mary does the work," said one. Another recommended a specific prayer: "'Our Lady of Guadalupe, crush the demons seeking to destroy my son/daughter.' And pray it every day."

Building the Kingdom of God

"So," Rose asked, "what practical things can we do to bring the heart of a mother to our community, the Church, and the world? How do we build up the Kingdom of God?"

Participants suggested:

•Notice the needs of others. Much like St. Mother Teresa, actively look.
•Follow up. After you ask someone facing difficulty how they are doing, ask again at another time. Some people are inclined to put up a good front.
•Learn from our children. Be honest, be observant, be open.
•Compliment someone. Find something good to say. People punish themselves by comparing themselves to unrealistic standards.
•Imagine what others are going through. See every person as a child of God.
•God sends people into our lives. Sometimes all you have to do is listen.
•We can't do everything. But do something, and it will create a ripple effect.
•Be available to those in your path.
•Mentor those who have not been mothered.
•You may be the only Church the world ever sees. Show your faith and love.

One panelist, Sheila, asked everyone in the room to make a commitment to one another. "Let's promise to pray the Three Efficacious Hail Marys every day for each other's children." The group agreed.

One guest said, "Now we need to complement what we did today with a roundtable for fathers."

Brother John lowered his head, failing to hide a big grin. He looked up again and said, "When I asked my superior [the Very Rev. Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC] for permission for this roundtable, he said, 'Make sure it won't be one event. Not just for women. Do one for fathers.'"

It was a condition Br. John admits he was happy to accept.


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