The Chinese virus crisis has led California Governor Gavin Newsom to issue a stay-at-home order. No one in the state is allowed to leave home for nonessential reasons. The rest of the nation may soon be subject to similar restrictions.
Due to this forced seclusion, many feel trapped. Contradictory news stories concerning the virus’ severity worsen this sensation. Some say that all the hype is overblown, while alarmists proclaim that the United States is a mere week behind Italy where military personnel have been called in to remove bodies that can no longer fit in overcrowded funeral homes and cremation ovens.
Indeed, those who seek solace through studying the facts more deeply can become buried under mountains of speculation. They are like flies in a spider web; the more they struggle to find the truth, the more entangled they become. Amid the agitation and uncertainty, California’s patroness stands as a shining light to assuage fears, calm panic and build up trust in the Blessed Virgin.
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Few are aware that California has been under the patronage of Our Lady of Refuge (also known as Refuge of Sinners) since 1843, when California’s first bishop, the Most Rev. Francisco Garcia Diego y Moreno, proclaimed her the state’s patroness at Santa Clara mission. For this reason, a painting of Our Lady of Refuge can be found in almost every one of the state’s historic missions.
This proclamation was further ratified in 1982, when the California Bishops Conference succeeded in having the Vatican proclaim her feast to be an obligatory memorial (celebrated July 5) throughout the state.1
Everyone Is a Sinner in Need of Refuge
The invocation highlights two essential truths. The first is that everyone is a sinner. Many saints throughout history have emphasized this point, perhaps none so entirely as Saint Louis de Montfort. In his treatise titled, “True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin,” the saint wrote:
“By nature, we are prouder than peacocks, we cling to the earth more than toads, we are more base than goats, more envious than serpents, greedier than pigs, fiercer than tigers, lazier than tortoises, weaker than reeds, and more changeable than weather-cocks. We have in us nothing but sin, and deserve only the wrath of God and the eternity of hell.”2
This demonstrates every man’s need for assistance as he “works out his salvation in fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12) The good news is that God has provided the Church with Our Lady, who is not only the supreme advocate but also accessible to everyone. She is man’s ultimate protection, always present with the solicitude of a mother.
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The second truth is that Our Lady is man’s refuge, regardless of how great may be the evil that he faces.
This is obvious because sin is the greatest of all evils. Indeed, sin is so terrible that to remedy it, the Divine Son of God became Man and suffered His cruel Passion and Death. Sin brought sickness, suffering and death upon the world. It caused man to be expelled from Paradise for all history.
Thus, if the Church has proclaimed Our Lady the Refuge of Sinners, it means that she protects those guilty of the greatest evil that exists. Certainly, she will defend man even more easily when any lesser evil besets him.
She Merits Absolute Confidence
Knowledge of these two truths drives man to place absolute and unrestricted confidence in Our Lady as Refuge of Sinners. Doing so will prevent him from falling into two great spiritual dangers that can result from the Chinese virus.
The first truth, that all men are sinners, protects him against the danger of becoming angry and revolted against God. This is a common reaction when disaster strikes.
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However, when man realizes that he is sinful and deserves to be punished, it lessens this temptation. It calls him to accept whatever may come in a spirit of resignation and penance. This attitude not only protects him from sin but brings him closer to God because it requires the practice of virtue.
The second spiritual danger from which Our Lady of Refuge protects mankind is fear and panic. The realization that Our Lady’s maternal protection is perpetually at arm’s reach is a soothing balsam that eases the terror spread far and wide by exaggerated news reports and speculation.
Courage, Calm and Confidence
The TFP founder, Professor Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira often repeated that in these troubled times, which will undoubtedly get worse before they get better, mankind must advance steadfastly, supported by three virtues: courage, calm and confidence. Indeed, no better advice can be given during the current crisis.
This is exactly what Our Lady of Refuge offers mankind. Guarding against anger and revolt by the knowledge of his sinfulness and encouraged by the Blessed Mother’s protection, all should pray that these three virtues descend upon the land and lead society through these trying times.
Our Lady of Refuge, Pray for and protect us in our times of need…
- Cf. Brother John Samaha, S.M., The Catholic Voice, “Our Lady of Refuge is the patroness of both Californias,” July 4, 2005, last accessed March 23, 2020, http://www.catholicvoiceoakland.org/2005/05-07-04/insidethisissue13.htm.
- Saint Louis de Montfort, EWTN, Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, paragraph 79, last accessed March 23, 2020, https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/library/treatise-on-true-devotion-to-the-blessed-virgin-6064.