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When I find myself down and out, because of the rampant evil in the world, I take a breather and revisit Genesis 3:15, which affirms: "She shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel." In that final battle, Mary will ultimately be victorious while Satan will be defeated and carted off to the pit by St. Michael. But in the interim, in anticipation of that glorious day, Christ's disciples should praise Our Lord for the many smaller victories Our Blessed Mother wins on our behalf.
Late one night a few years ago, Our Blessed Mother demonstrated to me this crushing of Satan's head. Perhaps it wasn't the "big man himself," but one of his minions did get checked. I had retired to bed, just to be awoken to shouts and screams. When I peeked through the front window, I saw three men — two cops with a man, all wrestling in front of the house at the foot of my Blessed Mother statue inside the spiked wrought iron fence.
After the two cops subdued the man, I ventured outside with keys in hand and opened the front gate for the police. Once the perpetrator was safely secured in a squad car, the police explained what had transpired.
The man had pulled a gun in one of the restaurants across the alley from my residence and began shooting at patrons. The officer doing undercover surveillance in the restaurant district had almost apprehended the shooter when the perpetrator bolted, running down the alley into my neighbor's yard, up the neighbor's back steps to his balcony, and then jumped into my yard.
Once on my property, the perpetrator ran through the gangway to the front of the house only to find the 6-foot wrought iron fence unclimbable because of its height and sharpened spikes.
Later that night, after the shooter was hauled off to jail, I spent another hour or so with the authorities looking in my yard for the perpetrator's gun, which, disturbingly, was never found.
This was a very unsettling incident for a life-long Chicago resident who, over the decades, has witnessed many evil things playing out but rarely as unnerving as cops wrestling with a gunman on my front stoop during the night's wee hours just a stone's throw from where I slept.
As requested by officers, the following morning I did a full inspection of my yard and alley. Even in the bright sunshine, I was not able to locate where the perpetrator's gun had been ditched. Also disturbing was that the morning sun revealed Mary's flower bed, which was in front of her statue, had been completely crushed. Not one flower was left clinging to a stem.
On the other hand, the statue of Our Lady of Grace, with hands outstretched, stood valiant and unscathed. In my head, I attributed to a miracle Mary's weathering the brawl without a scratch. How can you fit three adult men in a 6-foot square section of ground, bounded by the front wall of a house and a 6-foot iron fence, and not topple a 3-foot-high stone statue perched on a pedestal?
This kind of miracle may not be on par with Moses parting the Red Sea, but for me at my downtown Chicago residence, I chalked up Mary's apprehension of the gunman as yet another miracle. Remember, most shooters in Chicago go uncaught, and most murders go unsolved.
Incidentally, my residence in Chi-Town is just six blocks away from the hospital where I was born some 60 years ago. Throughout these six decades of life I have witnessed the downward spiral of what was once a great metropolis. When I was young, front doors were seldom locked and home security systems were not needed.
Moreover, the Catholic Church figured predominantly in the lives of most Chicagoans — from its mayor, who went to daily Mass, down to the lowliest of its residents. On Sunday mornings, my family, accompanied by numerous neighbors, would walk to Church. As a sign of devotion and love of God, many homes back then sported their own shrines to Our Blessed Mother and the Sacred Heart. My family had a sacred trio back then: Our Lady of Grace, St. Joseph and St. Francis were all proudly displayed with flowers.
That era of Chicago is dead and buried. My residence, where I lived for 34 years in the heart of the old neighborhood, is the last one to sport a statue of Our Lady of Grace. The neighborhood of century-old Victorian flats, which in my youth honored the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary in their front yards, now in large part only pays tribute to the demons of lust. This June, house after house in the old hood were festooned with garish gay pride flags.
Even more tragic than this, the Church where I was baptized, St. Peter Canisius on North Avenue, shuttered permanently by the archdiocese of Chicago in 2007, is now a Spanish Protestant Church. Just a generation ago, Spanish Protestants did not even exist. Spaniards in the 16th century did not abandon the Catholic Church, and Mexicans by and large used to be staunchly Catholic. But many of Spanish descent have now become Lutherans.
Gazing into the now sterile interior of my former parish church, tears come to my eyes. Absent from the once beautiful church is the Italian statue of Our Lady. The immigrant Italians who built the parish paid dearly to have it shipped from Italy. It caused me to wonder, "Where is my Blessed Mother?"
Chicago's overall decline is nothing new for Church Militant readers. The once great Catholic U.S. cities of Chicago, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit, Baltimore, Los Angeles and San Francisco do not have many remaining vestiges of Catholicism. Hundreds of Catholic parishes have been shut down permanently in all of these dioceses.
Chicago's once beautiful Holy Name Cathedral, now dwarfed by a skyscraper, is referred to by many native Chicago Catholics who remembered its pre-Vatican II splendor as the "Cathedral of the Holy Shame." Apart from the original ceiling, nothing much remains of the pre-council structure. On the other hand, Chicago Catholics consider it a blessing their cathedral was not sold off the way the cathedral in Los Angeles was by former archbishop of Los Angeles Cdl. Roger Mahony. Los Angeles' former cathedral is now a restaurant and an entertainment venue.
You must admit, in so many respects in the last couple of years, the Evil One and many evil people have destroyed a lot. Many churches are now just a thing of the past. Many well-populated dioceses now contain but a small remnant of what they once did, and many have almost apostatized. The next couple of years will be pivotal in turning this all around.
But the key to turning this all around is Our Blessed Mother. Mary, who witnessed the horrific passion and death of Our Lord, her own son, never despaired! So, today, neither should we throw up our hands and give up. We may have lost some major battles, but there will always be many more skirmishes before the final trumpet!
Recall what God the Father said to the serpent in the Garden: "She shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel." At that time, God was describing what would play out between the New Adam and Eve and the serpent. All these centuries later, we understand this line from Genesis to mean that Mary, the new Eve, the Mother of God, will in the fullness of time crush Satan completely. Never, ever again will he be allowed by God to bother humanity with his deceptions.
So, faithful, have some faith and show some trust in Our Lord's promises. Our Lord did not promise us happiness in this fallen world, nor did He say we would be free from persecution. In fact, He promised that because of our belief in Him, unhappiness and division would, in fact, be our lot. So, stay faithful, say your daily Rosary and don't give up the fight, even when your losses are severe. Christ will indeed have the final victory on the Last Day.
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