LOS ANGELES (ChurchMilitant.com) - California Catholics are fighting for their state by taking to hilltops and streets, armed with the weapons Our Lord and Our Lady have bequeathed to the faithful.
They are obeying the 2,000-year-old command of St. Paul to the Church of Ephesus to "Put on the armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the deceits of the Devil," as they are turning themselves and others toward God, the saints and the angels for whom their cities are named.
Late last month, Los Angeles auxiliary bishop David G. O'Connell trekked to a hilltop in the San Jose Hills, which overlooks Orange, San Bernadino and Los Angeles counties and their 15.5 million souls. Armed with the Blessed Sacrament held high, Bp. O'Connell blessed the land and its people, praying over Southern California:
We are here on this mountaintop to call down the power of the Lord Jesus Christ upon this whole territory that we can see here. ... We are calling the glory of God upon the people and upon our land so we may have restoration of our lives, so we may have a vanquishing by the glory of God of the coronavirus so that our people can move to a new life living in the Easter joy of the Risen Christ.
We bless all these valleys and all these counties that we see around us. We bless them with the Blessed Sacrament, this sign of the Living Lord Jesus among us, and we want our Lord Jesus Christ to pour out his healing power over all that we can survey here and the whole world.
Come Lord Jesus, bring new life to the people, bring us out of this darkness back into your Light. Lord Jesus, source of all light and source all healing and all hope and all joy, we ask you to pour out that love and that healing that the world needs so much. Amen.
The bishop led a few lay attendees — all observing social distancing requirements — in praying the Rosary.
Mary Dannielle Barber, one of the small number of laypeople in attendance and a catalyst behind the event, described it as "a spiritual shot in the arm and renewal of my commitment to Jesus in the Most Holy Eucharist."
She said the faithful "need to take Jesus out to the streets, to the land, to reclaim His people for His Kingdom," especially during the pandemic. She encouraged the laity "to respectfully request their bishops lead them in the faith," adding, "there are bishops who want to shepherd their flock."
Barber also expressed concern that the lockdown resulting from the pandemic is as "dangerous" as the virus itself, cautioning that lockdown measures have become "more about taking away people's freedom" than protecting people.
"The taking away of the most important freedom, to worship God publicly," motivated Barber and her husband Terry Barber, international speaker and founder of such organizations as St. Joseph Communications, to make the hilltop benediction happen.
"The confusion and falsehoods over the COVID-19," she said particularly prompted them to seek Bp. O'Connell's intervention since he knows that Jesus is "the Way, the Truth and the Life" (John 14:6).
The Barbers live in the San Jose Hills with a unique view of the San Gabriel Valley. "Ever since we moved here, Terry and I have both been moved to pray for all the people in the San Gabriel valley to return to the Lord or come to know Him," she said.
"Sin is the greatest and most dangerous enemy and robber of freedom. Governments, men, cannot do anything that God does not allow. We need to give up our sins, repent and believe the gospel" and "we need to accompany Him with an army of people praying the Rosary — we need a eucharistic Rosary crusade."
The eucharistic blessing is the latest in a line of faith-filled initiatives driven by California laity.
For the past few years, director, writer and storyboard artist Angelo Libutti has rallied California residents to join together in consecrating the Golden State to Our Lady.
The idea for the consecration came to him during a 2–4 a.m. eucharistic adoration session, where he was struck by a deep awareness of California's spiritual barrenness.
"Of all the states, California is certainly the most distant from God, the least faithful to His Commandments," Libutti told Church Militant.
To the north, Sacramento faithful have honored Our Lady in the month of May by processing through the streets of the state capital. Procession organizer Michael Solton described the "Great Marian Procession" as an act of spiritual intercession. "California needs help — badly," he said. "We will be praying specifically for the people of this state to turn back to God."
Barber concurred with Libutti's and Solton's sentiments when she said: "With so many people living as if God's existence can be taken or left, it seems there is a need to take Jesus out of the churches and back to the streets, to physically bring Him closer to the people, so that He would touch the hearts of many to return to Him."