Asking for help from holy men

Facing this page, Father Landry has a column about Blessed Stanley Rother, whose beatification ceremony will be held tomorrow (Saturday) in Oklahoma. Thirty years before Blessed Stanley died in Guatemala, the Servant of God Father Emil Kapaun died as a prisoner of war of the Communist Chinese Army during the Korean War. Both holy priests would be good people to whom we should be offering intercessory prayers during this time of crisis. 

We could be praying, asking their intercession, for a peaceful and just resolution to the crisis on the Korean peninsula, that nuclear (or other) weapons not be used and that the people of North Korea be freed of the oppression under which they eke out their existence.

The prayer for the beatification and canonization of Father Kapaun twice mentions peace. We can all pray it: “Lord Jesus, in the midst of the folly of war, Your servant, Chaplain Emil Kapaun, spent himself in total service to You on the battlefields and in the prison camps of Korea, until his death at the hands of his captors. We now ask You, Lord Jesus, if it be Your will, to make known to all the world the holiness of Chaplain Kapaun and the glory of his complete sacrifice for You by signs of miracles and peace. In Your name, Lord, we ask, for You are the source of peace, the strength of our service to others, and our final hope. Amen.”

With the strife in St. Louis, Mo. during these days, these two midwestern priests (Blessed Stanley being from Oklahoma, Father Kapaun from Kansas) would be good intercessors to invoke to ask God to help us have more racial harmony and respect for one another’s dignity in this country. 

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis appealed for calm last Friday, after a former police officer was acquitted in the death of an African-American man. He wrote, “If we want peace and justice, we must come together as a community through prayer, mutual understanding, and forgiveness. While acknowledging the hurt and anger, we must not fuel the fires of hatred and division. We must ask God for peace in our own hearts and share it with those around us. Violence does not lead to peace and justice — they are opposing forces and cannot coexist. I implore each of you to choose peace! Reject the false and empty hope that violence will solve problems. Violence only creates more violence. We must work together for a better, stronger, safer community, one founded upon respect for each other, and one in which we see our neighbor as another self.”

While concerned about the possibility of war abroad and the internal strife at home, our eyes (in part, literally via the computer and the television) are turned towards harsh weather. When this editorial was being written, Puerto Rico was anticipating being hit by Hurricane Maria, with much worse damage from what was sustained from Hurricane Irma. Bishop Ruben Gonzalez-Medina of Ponce wrote to his flock on Monday, encouraging them to take the advice of civil authorities to be prepared (and to evacuate, if needed) and to help elderly and sick people in need. He ended by telling them, “Above all, promote an environment of peace and of trust in God.”

The Diocese of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands was also under threat from Hurricane Maria. It had sustained much worse damage than Puerto Rico had from Irma. On the St. Thomas diocesan website on Tuesday, the home page had these petitions to viewers: “During this very active hurricane season, please remember us and those in other locations in your prayers. You are invited to join us in saying the Hurricane Season Prayer. On Monday September 18, the U. S. Virgin Islands were placed under a Hurricane Warning due to Hurricane Maria. Please continue to remember us in your prayers. Kindly remember the United States Virgin Islands in your prayers after the passing by of Hurricane Irma.”

The prayer which the Caribbean diocese mentioned is as follows: “God, our Father, all the elements of nature obey Your command. Keep us safe from the danger of hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, or other natural disasters. May we be secure in Your protection and always feel the presence of Your love as You turn our fears into praise of Your goodness. Bless our families and bring peace to all nations. We ask this through Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.”

In the Caribbean neighborhood we also find Colombia (where Pope Francis recently visited, lauding the recent peace agreement and urging all involved to give up grudges from the past) and Venezuela (which is torn by civil strife, as the government tends more and more towards totalitarianism). In Cartagena, Colombia on September 10, Pope Francis addressed both countries: “I assure all of you of my prayers for each of the countries of Latin America, and in a special way for neighboring Venezuela. I express my closeness to all the sons and daughters of that beloved nation, as well as to all those who have found a place of welcome here in Colombia. From this city, known as the seat of human rights, I appeal for the rejection of all violence in political life and for a solution to the current grave crisis, which affects everyone, particularly the poorest and most disadvantaged of society. May the Most Blessed Virgin Mary intercede for the world’s needs and for every one of her children.”

We need to pray for the solidification of the peace process in Colombia and for a conversion of the forces of division in Venezuela. Part of the Venezuelan government’s policy of trying to distract its population from their lack of food is by threatening to have a war with Colombia (while Colombia welcomes Venezuelan refugees). 

While in Cartagena, Pope Francis visited the tomb of another holy priest, St. Peter Claver, who was the “slave of the slaves” during the Spanish colonial era. The Holy Father said of him, “St. Peter Claver was austere and charitable to the point of heroism. After consoling hundreds of thousands of people in their loneliness, he died without honors and was not remembered, having spent the last four years of his life in sickness and confined to his cell which was in a terrible state of neglect. This was how the world paid him, yet God paid him in another way.”

The Church affirms this weekend that God also repaid Blessed Stanley in a different way than the world did — and if a miracle happens through his intercession, we will be able to say with assurance that the same thing happened to Father Kapaun. May we imitate the virtues of these holy men and ask their intercession to aid all those threatened by natural or man-made disasters. 

© 2019 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing    †    Fall River, Massachusetts