The Approaching Storm On A Calm Day
The day was already half spent by the time we rolled into the state capital of Lansing in Michigan. For two weeks, we had seen similar scenes of apparent tranquility. The almost-sleepy town of Lansing gave no indication things would be any different. However, our expectations were soon dispelled. In a little while, we would be facing an armed activist with uncertain intentions.
Here is what happened.
Our crew of volunteers is part of a special rosary crusade promoted by the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Property (TFP) and America Needs Fatima. The campaign’s goal is to pray the Rosary at every state capital of the United States and territories asking God for America’s return to order. Several groups of volunteers are currently traveling throughout the United States.
The Buildup of a Storm Cloud
On June 30, our peaceful prayer rally was initially disrupted by two counter-protesters, who held their clenched fists up at every passing car. The situation was tolerable enough, especially since our group of prayer warriors was noticeably larger. Many local Catholics joined our rally, and so we were 45 strong. Soon other counter-protesters showed up. By the fourth Joyful Mystery, they had ten people assembled. They were mostly white 20-somethings, liberal activists. Occasionally, a black activist would join them for a few minutes and then leave.
Their brashness seemed to grow with their number. They all lined up along the curb with raised, clenched fists posing as if they had just conquered the capital. Still, it seemed tolerable. Their occasional chants of “Black Lives Matter,” raised fists, and blaring music were overpowered by our prayers, bagpipe tunes, and strains of “Ave, Ave Maria.” Their presence only encouraged our band of prayer warriors to pray and sing louder.
The Lily amid the Storm
We had a glorious setup. We were closer to the Michigan State Capitol Building than the counter-protesters. We were about 50 feet from the road. There was an 18-foot-tall grand standard of the TFP with its golden rampant lion on a field of red. We had a banner that read, “Pray For America’s Return To Order.” There were posters saying, “God bless America,” “Mary, Mother of Mercy, Restore America,” “Calm, Courage, Confidence,” and “Honk Against Socialism.” All forty-five of us, except the baby in the stroller, had a rosary in hand.
The centerpiece of our setup was the miraculous International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Our Lady of Fatima under the care of Mr. Patrick Sabat of the World Apostolate of Fatima. This statue miraculously wept in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1972. Tests verified that the liquid flowing from her eyes was human tears. This statue has traveled the world and touched the hearts of many sinners. The three-foot-tall statue has a regal presence that few statues have. Her eyes are particularly expressive and captivating.
Catholic thinker and founder of the Brazilian TFP, Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, wrote: “What a gaze! None other is so calm, frank, pure or welcoming. In none other can one penetrate with such ease. None other holds such unfathomable depth or grand horizons. The more one penetrates this gaze, the more one is attracted toward an indescribable interior and sublime summit.”
Everyone present believes that this statue played a crucial role in a confrontation that could have easily turned violent.
A Black Man Armed To The Teeth
Out of nowhere, an intimidating middle-aged man rushed onto the scene armed with what seemed to be a tactical shotgun and a handgun with an extended magazine.
He seemed to be the leader of this group of leftist activists. He came ready for a fight. He was accompanied by a black woman who said she was affiliated with the BLM cause.
It was an unsettling situation.
We had to worry about the safety of all the rally participants. The miraculous statue must be safeguarded too. We had parked on the road. To return to our vehicles, we would have to go past the aggressive activists.
Rosary Rallies for America
The man handed his rifle to a fellow activist and approached us cautiously. As he drew nearer, he scrutinized the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue, the TFP standard, the banner, our signs and looked back to the statue again. He seemed puzzled by our setup, not sure what to make of us.
It is daunting enough to face this very large man, openly carrying a pistol with what appeared to be a 32-round magazine. The tension palpably grew as he approached.
The Need for Calm, Courage, Confidence to Face the Storm
One theme of our rosary crusade is to ask God for the grace of calm, courage and confidence. Never was the need for these virtues more tested than at this moment in our campaign.
Little did we know that the day before our arrival, BLM activists had occupied the capitol plaza and even prevented pedestrian traffic from entering. One participant of our rally was a fireman, who was working security at the BLM event. He told us that he saw the same man preventing pedestrians from crossing a bridge at gunpoint. An online report of the rally said that the security was handled by BLM volunteers who were openly carrying firearms. It also mentioned that parts of the capitol area were cordoned off as areas for blacks, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC).
We had unwittingly stepped into a powder keg.
The activist approached with his handgun visible. John Ritchie, director of TFP Student Action, courageously met him halfway. With a calm demeanor, Mr. Ritchie diffused the tension by explaining that we were praying to restore order and peace in the nation. Unlike the activist he faced, Mr. Ritchie was armed with nothing more than a “high-capacity” rosary. He later mentioned how he confided that Our Lady would help him say the right words.
As they spoke, we announced the Third Sorrowful Mystery, the Crowning of Thorns of Our Lord Jesus Christ. He repeatedly looked at Our Lady of Fatima’s statue. The conversation seemed to calm down the armed leader. Before walking back, he shook Mr. Ritchie’s hand and gave his approval. “You’re alright,” he said before leaving.
Whatever he told his band of followers had the effect of defusing the tension. Within a few minutes, they stopped trying to rally support from the passing cars. A little while later, they even stopped raising their fists. We all knelt for the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery, the Crucifixion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It was a silent affirmation that we only kneel for God. By the time it was over, all the activists had followed their leader down the street.
Serenity After The Storm
We prayed the Glorious Mysteries in complete peace and tranquility.
It was like the moment of serenity after the apostles cried out to the slumbering Savior thinking the boat is about to sink, “Lord, we perish.” Jesus stood up and calmed the storm. The relief we felt after our confrontation was something similar.
After the Rosary, Our Lady’s prayer warriors venerated the Pilgrim Virgin Statue with tender devotion. Some knelt, and others were moved to tears. No one, neither the young nor the old, rushed to their cars. A moving calm and serenity, infused by the presence of Our Lady, permeated the end of the Rosary rally.
A Lily in the Mud amid the Storm
Our Lady is represented as a lily. The present culture might well be represented by a swamp. Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira once said that those who follow Our Lady in the modern world are like a lily in the mud amid a raging storm.
In Lansing, we experienced this metaphor and felt the power of this lily that protects us from the storms that surrounded us.
Our Lady of Fatima, Pray for us.