By Charlie Johnston
When I was a Sophomore in high school, my French Teacher assigned me to put together a test for the class. When I take something to heart, I usually learn it pretty thoroughly, so he figured he ought to give me something to challenge me. I went at it with relish, treating it like a kind of elegant puzzle. The only problem was that when the test was given, my classmates were outraged at me, furious that I had designed something that all had flunked. During a shouting session in the class about the unfairness of it, my teacher vigorously defended me and what a great test I had devised.
But the debate cut me to the heart. I got up and apologized to the class, told them I had gotten lost in what fascinated me and treated it sort of like designing a puzzle – and I was dead wrong in my approach. I turned to my teacher and thanked him for defending me, but said the purpose of tests at this stage should be to help people fall in love with learning the language, not hate the very idea of it. On that basis, I deserved an “F” for the test I designed, for it had the effect of driving people away from learning this elegant language rather than inspiring them to delve more deeply into it. I asked for a “do-over” for all of us: let me re-design a test that was reasonably challenging, but calculated to bring people deeper into the delight of learning – and let the rest of the class take the new test. My proposal was greeted with enthusiasm by my classmates and a sigh of relief by my teacher. In fact, afterward, the girl who had been most angrily vigorous in denouncing me, came up to me and said, “I thought you were just a jerk, Charlie, but you’re all right,” and gave me a kiss on the cheek.
I told you last week about how, when my Mother got concerned about my enthusiasm for comic books when I was a little kid, our next door neighbor, a professor at the University of Chicago, told her to buy me all the comics I wanted: to encourage first the love of reading and know that much more deep reading would follow.
The Eucharistic and Marian Processions I am encouraging for this year are a profound public proclamation of the faith in fearful times, but they are more than that. They are a renewal of faith – an invitation to those whose love has grown cold but who are now disillusioned by the world and what it has become to come home, to fall in love with Our Lord and His Mother anew. That means that the core of such Processions should be simple and straightforward. It must not be something that people read a flyer on and think, oh well, this is something for daily communicants only or just for “Church people.” Rather, it should be so straightforward and bold that even the Christmas and Easter Christians feel like they can participate. Shoot, it should be straightforward enough that even the guy who hasn’t been to Church in a decade, but feels in his bones how bad things have become, can look and say, “I can do this – and I WILL do this – for it is time to make a stand.”
This is an invitation to all to fall in love with that which once brought life, that which built a great culture, the greatest culture in the history of the world. It is an invitation to know and love Him who is the only Author of what gives life and joy. For many, it will be a first date with Christ – or at least the first date in a very long time. You do not plan a wedding, or look at houses to buy, or consider the size of a family on a first date: you eat a good meal and you dance – and as love grows, all of these things naturally follow. A host of people have already lost confidence in modern institutions. I dearly want these Processions to be a profound public proclamation of faith, but one in which those who have grown most cold have a chance to fall in love anew. For that, it must be straightforward and simple.
Now if you have a good group of people who want to surround the Processions with other devotions, go ahead, but do it on your own in little groups – and don’t put it in the advertisement. Those who are devoted will find their way to it…but this is an invitation to all to come fall in love…to taste and see.
Our friend, Dan Lynch, has been helping with Processions devoted to Our Lady of Guadalupe for many years. All the pictures of Processions accompanying this article are from past Processions he has helped with. He is eager to help those who are new to this or want some extra help getting it off the ground. Below is a piece he wrote explaining how his group can help you put together a great Procession.
Project Jericho Procession with Missionary Image
By Dan Lynch
Missionary Image Guardian, Karen Kilpatrick of Elmira, New York was troubled by her community’s increase in violent crime, drug-related problems, suicides, New Age influences and people falling away from the Catholic faith. She said, “I really felt that we needed to do something to bring about change and conversion of heart.” So, she arranged for the Missionary Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe to come to the Elmira and Corning areas for more than a month beginning in mid-August. Karen said that the local Visitation could be viewed as “a response to the prayers of the faithful in the community and the need for hope in these very stressful days. The Blessed Mother is a mother who loves her children very much and comes to remind us that she is always very near to help.”
The Visitation began with a nine-day rosary novena. Each evening worshipers gathered at Ss. Peter and Paul Church to begin a motor-vehicle procession around the city with the Missionary Image prominently displayed. The processors offered intentions for the welfare of the city and surrounding communities. The nine-day novena was dubbed Project Jericho, a symbolic encircling of the city in faith “just like the Israelites did in the story of Jericho,” Karen said. She was referring to the sixth chapter of the Book of Joshua, which depicts the Israelites defeating Jericho after having marched around the city for several days based on instructions given by God to Joshua. Karen wrote to me:
We began together in the church with prayer and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and then some of us would leave the church to drive the Image of Our Lady through the city and then return to conclude the service at the church. Those that remained at St. Peter and Paul’s church were praying before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in union with those in the cars praying the rosary.
On the first day of our novena, as we finished our opening prayer to the Lord and began to pray our mission prayer to the Blessed Mother a ray of light shot through the church window onto the Image and lit up the front of the church where we were all seated. We had just asked the Lord at the end of our prayer, “In your tender compassion, make the dawn from on high break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death and guide our feet into the way of peace.” He immediately answered our prayers! As we left the church, we saw a beautiful full rainbow that began very close to the church and, as we marveled and praised God, a faint rainbow appeared above the other one, almost unseen. The two rainbows reminded me of Jesus and Mary and how Our Lady would never try to be equal with or try to outshine Him, but would humbly make Him the focus of attention. It occurred to me later that when St. Juan Diego first saw Our Lady of Guadalupe she was surrounded by a rainbow so there must be significance to the rainbow in some way. The following week we went to Corning, N.Y., birthplace of Margaret Sanger and the home of Corning, Inc. one of the largest donors to Planned Parenthood. For seven days we encircled the town of Corning as we did in Elmira and prayed at cemeteries, the local community college, at the Corning headquarters, at Margaret Sanger’s birthplace, and others. The local parishioners involved honored our Lady with a triduum of prayers at the three churches in Corning and an afternoon Latin Mass on the last day.
Following the Latin Mass, we took the Image to the local Planned Parenthood clinic and Father offered exorcism prayers and the rosary, asking our Mother to close Planned Parenthood and that our prayers at the root of the tree of Planned Parenthood would bring down the whole tree.
As always, I am so grateful and so blessed to have had the opportunity to be Our Lady’s Guardian and share her with others. She is so generous with all of us and I’m happy to make her more well known and to work with her beautiful assistants. Thank all of you who work tirelessly for her.
Dan Lynch is the Director of Dan Lynch Apostolates promoting devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, Jesus King of All Nations, Our Lady of America and St. John Paul II. He is an author, public speaker and a former judge and lawyer in Vermont. He has appeared many times on radio and television and has spoken at conferences throughout the world. You may learn more about Dan here.