As hurricanes passed over so many parts of the country, most people were thinking about the material damage that would ruin the lives of so many. However, there was a spiritual part to the disaster. During times of suffering, people turn more easily back to God. That is what happened after Hurricane Harvey in Texas.
This story is about the experience of two young America Needs Fatima volunteers from Texas who survived the buffeting winds and rains of Harvey and decided to help others in a different way.
Thinking about the spiritual needs of the thousands displaced, they decided to hand out as many Fatima Centennial Rosaries as possible. These special rosaries were made to celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima. With this in mind, as soon as they could make it to the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston after the storm, they went to aid the thousands that took shelter there. The response from the people was surprisingly positive if not enthusiastic.
Indeed, two young men, handing out rosaries was probably the last thing people expected to see outside the Convention Center. Yet, throughout the day, Cesar Franco and Zechariah Long reached out to the steady flow of refugees that welcomed their message.
In fact, people gathered around the two volunteers to hear about the rosary. The two were saddened to see how little most people knew about this great prayer, especially when it seemed that many had been raised Catholics but fallen away. Unfortunately, many today wear the rosary as if it is a piece of jewelry and do not use it as the great instrument of prayer it is.
To ensure that the rosary would be prayed, the two taught people how to pray the rosary. Most did not know the Hail Mary so they were guided through it, repeating after their teachers. Many were deeply touched by the prayer. Some passages and especially the “pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death, Amen” brought tears to the eyes of those listening. Wiping a tear running down his cheek, one man said: “I remember learning that from my mother. It’s been too long since I have prayed this prayer. It’s time for me to come back.”
The police officers at the scene were also sympathetic to the rosary message. Upon being offered a rosary, one officer replied with a chuckle: “That’s okay. I got mine right here.” He patted his chest rig where he kept his gear.
The two volunteers offered Saint Michael medals to the police since their role was to keep order. Whenever the medal was offered, the police took them, shook hands and showed themselves extremely grateful. One police officer said: “Well, I already have one on me, but I will take one for my friend, he needs one.”
The volunteers also offered a few Saint Michael medals to those in the shelter. Many times, they did not know who Saint Michael is. Upon being asked by one couple about the archangel, Zachariah Long tried several explanations. That he was the leader of the heavenly Host. Or the warrior angel who protects those who fight evil and protect order in society like soldiers and policemen. But to no avail. Finally, he said, “Saint Michael is the one who kicked Lucifer and the demons out of Heaven.” Their faces lit up and said “that’s all you had to say, give me one of those, I love Saint Michael!” Many others received the medals remarking how much he is needed today to help restore order.
After handing out all the rosaries and Saint Michael medals, these two volunteers returned home. The eventful day left them with many beautiful lessons for reflection.
The first lesson was that the warm reception from everyone shows how there is no need to be afraid of taking the Catholic Faith into the public square. People appreciate it and are attracted to the Faith.
A second lesson is that suffering causes people to turn to God for aid. People from all walks of life, from the police to the little children, avidly took the rosaries. Some had never prayed the rosary, others had forgotten it, and a few already prayed it regularly. The suffering caused by Hurricane Harvey had humbled them and inflamed in them a desire to turn back to God.
Finally, the two volunteers learned that on occasions like this, everyone, especially young people, should reach out to provide for the spiritual needs of others. Catholics need to seize the opportunity to spread devotion to the Holy Rosary and bring lost souls back to God.
As one man put it: “It is time for me to come back.” He spoke for all of America that day. Indeed, the devastation of Hurricane Harvey and so many other crises that are appearing on the horizon are a sign that it is time for America to return to order and come back to the Father’s House.