I had the opportunity to go to Japan this past November to see family, visit the sites of the Japanese martyrs, and, most especially, visit the Church-approved site of Our Lady of Akita.
“Each day recite the prayers of the Rosary.” These words from the Blessed Virgin Mary were said to Sister Agnes Sasagawa on October 13, 1973.
This summer I was planning on visiting another Church-approved site — Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal — but because of the pandemic, it had to be rescheduled. Mary performed a miracle there in 1917 before a crowd of 70,000 people and she had a similar message: “Say the Rosary every day to bring peace to the world and an end to the war.”
For the Catholic, especially one discerning priesthood and religious life, praying the Rosary daily is necessary. Why? We live in calamitous times; thus, we need the help of Our Lady, who loves us dearly and desires us to know our vocation more than we do.
First, a few words about the times we live in. COVID, riots, widespread disinformation — all these things have led many to despair and to believe it is too difficult to follow Jesus Christ unreservedly at a time like this. Don’t worry: such thoughts do not come from Almighty God. Does He not say to the prophet Isaiah: “Do not fear: I am with you; do not be anxious: I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)
Yes, these are difficult times, but so was being Catholic in ancient Rome before Constantine, in 17th century Japan, or during the French Revolution. It will always be difficult times for a Christian but “if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)
Since we live in calamitous times, we need help! We call Mary “Advocata Nostra (Our Advocate)” because Mary loves us more than we can ever imagine, and she will never stop loving us and advocating for us — even if we stop loving her! She promises us help when we seek her intercession in the Rosary; just read those messages from her in Akita and in Fatima. They are very powerful!
Mary especially helps those discerning their vocation. Since she magnifies the Lord in all that she does (Luke 1:46), Mary most powerfully magnifies the Lord by helping souls follow their God-given vocation. When we follow the path God traces for us, we become a sweet aroma (2 Corinthians 2:15), giving God great honor and glory through the intercession of Mary.
How many souls are saved — or greatly helped — when a man or woman discerns the correct vocation in life? The priest offers numerous souls the sacraments; consecrated religious men and women offer numerous prayers, sacrifices, and good works, drawing down a torrent of blessings on Holy Mother Church.
Although we live in tumultuous times, we have no cause for despair or melancholy — such thoughts do not come from God, but from the Evil One. Our job as Catholics, especially those discerning their vocation, is to stay close to Our Lady, and she will help us remain on the path that God has traced for us. Mary does this by her constant prayers and protection.
According to Pope Francis, devotion to this most gracious mother of ours is not an option: “Devotion to Mary is not spiritual etiquette; it is a requirement of the Christian life,” (Homily, St. Peter’s Basilica, Jan. 1, 2018).