Local News Archive
Print Issue: March 7, 2002
Speakers Say Imitating Mary's Trust In God Is Wise Path
By Priscilla Greear, Staff Writer
KENNESAW-The greatest imitation of Mary is trusting in God through painful and peaceful times, Father Benedict Groeschel, CFR, said Feb. 22 at the fourth annual Marian conference in the archdiocese.
Father Groeschel was one of several speakers at the conference held at St. Catherine of Siena Church, Kennesaw. Particularly in light of the turmoil following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, speakers at the conference called on Catholics to look to the example of Mary, who suffered the plight of the poor and the refugees, and who watched her son tortured, but trusted in God. The conference theme was "Mary, Queen of Peace."
Father Groeschel, who has been ministering to Sept. 11 victims and has written a book called "The Cross at Ground Zero," spoke on "Our Lady's Call to Peace at Ground Zero."
He was in Assisi, Italy, Sept. 11 and spoke of the waves of shock around the world and the reverberating question of "why"- just as Jesus asked on the cross and Mary surely asked at its foot.
Director of the Office of Spiritual Development for the New York Archdiocese, Father Groeschel denounced those who've said that God caused the terrorism, as well as those who say God willed rather than permitted Jesus' crucifixion, as God does not cause evil. Even when people destroy, God can bring about good, he said.
"The crucifixion of Christ is the worst thing that ever happened. It's 'deicide,' not homicide, the killing of God. And it's also the best thing that ever happened, the redemption of the world - your salvation and mine depended on it."
Reminding people of the hope beyond death, he told of a New York woman who dreamed on Sept. 9 that she was looking down on a scene of chaos and flying debris before she heard Jesus, wearing a crown of thorns, tell her not to be afraid. On Sept. 11 she was among those killed in tower two of the World Trade Center. In their last conversation, her husband heard her scream, apparently when the second plane hit, and then heard her co-worker, a Catholic, say, "Come on, we've got to get out of here, we've got to get home."
Father Groeschel spoke of how if the buildings had fallen over instead of imploding, 40,000 could have died. Quoting from a French Catholic poet, he said, "Jesus Christ did not come to end suffering and he certainly didn't come to explain it away, but he came to fill all suffering with his holy presence."
Calling Mary the Queen of Peace doesn't mean that her life was peaceful, or that nothing bad will happen to those who pray, Father Groeschel said.
"What happened to her is the worst thing that could happen to a mother. She saw her child, innocent, tortured to death," he said. ". . . Her life was not what you would call a peaceful life and the warnings she has given through Marian apparitions for almost two centuries have not been warnings about peace. They've been warnings about catastrophe and most of these warnings have happened."
"Queen of Peace doesn't mean that (Mary's) going to intercede for us so that our lives will all be peachy. It means that we will (strive) for peace even in the midst of difficult and tragic events-they will come into your life."
Father Groeschel spoke of the continued terrorism threat. "Our country is in terrible condition," he said, citing abortion and the nation's role as the world's major producer of pornography. Finally, the priest, who has a doctorate in psychology, described the famous case study of a woman who was stabbed while 38 people saw the attack, but only one called the police 45 minutes later.
"They weren't bad people, but they wouldn't stir themselves to take upon themselves the possibility of some inconvenience or trouble," he said, warning that people need to fight moral wrongs around them.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta believed that abortion is the biggest obstacle to world peace, he said, urging people to keep praying the rosary, but also let Congress hear of their opposition to abortion.
"When I was in Assisi . . . and I saw those towers go down, I knew (Mother Teresa) was right," he said.
The conference opened with Mass celebrated by Archbishop John F. Donoghue and continued Feb. 23 with speakers, including Griffin pastor Father Tom Hennessy, Patrick and Nancy Latta of Medjugorje, Bosnia, and Diane Guesman, a promoter of the Alliance of the Two Hearts. About 600 to 700 people came each day.
The archbishop said Pope Benedict XV asked for Mary's intercession during World War I, calling her the "Queen of Peace."
"In the wake of 9/11, thousands have died, on both sides, and families have been torn asunder, never to be healed again. We want to be optimistic, but it is also necessary to be wise . . . for where the vacuum exists for a lack of peace, war, evil, Satan and his angels, are soon to rush in," he said. "Therefore, the Church, and we who are messengers of her goodness, should turn again to our Lady, as the wise of former times always have - to learn from her example, of peace, and to implore once again, that she intercede with her Son for our sakes."
Mary opened herself up to God's love in giving birth to his Son, which teaches the faithful about spiritual trust, he said. Pope Benedict XV encouraged Catholics to go to her seeking Christ's peace.
"Let us follow his example as we too, turn to her-asking for God's Spirit to come into us, and to stay with us as long as we obey His will, giving us peace in our hearts-asking her to bring Christ into the daily lives of our homes, where he may grow in stature, in our understanding, in our willingness to accept, that where He dwells in the home, peace dwells in the home-and finally, let us ask that she bring into the hearts of all men and women, a desire for peace in the world, the peace given by Christ on the Cross."
Nancy Prochaska, one of the conference planners with her husband, Kevin, and Jim and Genny Hoene, called the conference a "huge success" through the Holy Spirit's intercession.
"So many mentioned how uplifting it was and what inspirations were brought to them through the speakers. The Lattas talked about family life and their conversion through the intercession of the Blessed Mother. And all hearts were touched by Father Benedict's witty and thought-provoking call to convert our lives to Jesus," she said.
Clara and Richard Reed came from Holy Trinity Church, Peachtree City, where they facilitate a weekly rosary group. Reed spoke about how he "found Christ through Mary," which led him to convert to Catholicism, and how as he deepens his relationship with Christ his devotion to Mary also increases. "It's been a roller-coaster ride for me and at times it's fast, at times it's slow, but it never stops and it's all because of Our Lady and it's wonderful."
As some believe the church is sexist, Richard believes that its reverence for Mary contradicts that belief. "She was the first tabernacle. When we honor her above any other human being, how can we be sexist?"
Clara Reed appreciated Father Groeschel's "depth to see beyond appearances or a mask or facade" and his affirmation that there is hope beyond tragedy.
Nicole Saint-Victor, a member of Holy Cross Church, Atlanta, found it good to be reminded of Mary's empathy with hardship through the harsh reality of her earthly life. Mary doesn't replace a relationship with Jesus, but is "somebody I can go to talk to about everything, even when I can't sleep," she said. "I love her like a mother."