Joseph Pronechen is staff writer with the National Catholic Register since 2005. His articles have appeared in a number of national publications including Columbia magazine, Soul, Faith and Family, Catholic Digest, and Marian Helper. His religion features have also appeared in Fairfield County Catholic and in one of Connecticut’s largest news dailies. He holds an MS degree and formerly taught English and courses in film study that he developed at a Catholic high school in Connecticut. Joseph and his wife Mary reside on the East Coast.
Father Andrew, co-founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, ardent Fatima expert, vice postulator for Venerable Fulton J. Sheen’s canonization cause, author, speaker, and host of EWTN’s Sunday Night Prime, will be sadly missed, but he left so much for us to ponder. Here are just a sprinkling of his insights and guidance.
On Venerable Fulton Sheen changing the world:
With his teachings, he instructed so many, many people in the media of television, where 25-30 million watched him on a Tuesday night for six years. It seems to me that people of that time seem to be good Catholics today. I often wonder if his programs and his steadfast loyalty to the Church have been a source of strength and faith in the people of that era.
On his earliest memories of Bishop Sheen:
My own love for him started by seeing him on television as a little boy.
He ordained me a priest on March 16, 1967. I always remember that, in the sermon he gave that day, he said, ‘It is a joy for bishops to have sons in Christ.’
St. Francis is my seraphic father in my religious vocation, and Bishop Sheen is my father in Christ for my priestly vocation.
On Bishop Sheen’s lasting example:
There was his daily Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament.
He had great love for the Blessed Virgin Mary and promoted the praying of the Rosary very much also. He was a great defender and promoter of the message of Our Lady of Fatima.
He was not afraid to say what had to be said. He said, ‘We don’t need a voice that’s right when everybody else is right; we need a voice that’s right when everybody else is wrong.’ He was willing to step out and be that lone voice if he had to.
He also used to say, ‘The truth is the truth, even if nobody believes it.’
In all his writing and speaking, he was a great promoter of the Gospel. That is the New Evangelization.
On the continuing relevance of the Fatima warning on communism:
Actually, we are in a dead-heat battle with the basic message of communism, which is now seen as secularism in the Western countries of the world. Secularism aims to remove all signs and influence of religion from public life; to take religious rights away; to undermine the sanctity of human life by promoting abortion and attacking principles of Christian morality, especially marriage and family life. For example, pornography was not allowed in Russia, but the communists did a great job of exporting it to the West.
On spiritual battles:
We are in an enormous spiritual battle. The communists were masters of deceit, and many of our Catholic people have been deceived. Interestingly, we cannot teach about God in our public schools, but the present Russian president is promoting the teaching of Orthodoxy in Russian schools.
On the crucial importance of Our Lady of Fatima’s message:
The world is so divided between the atheistic communist world and the post-Christian Western world that we need this message as our greatest hope to save a Christian culture that has taken 2,000 years to establish. John Paul II said we are in the greatest spiritual battle of the Church’s 2,000-year history and that most Catholics are unaware of it. Secularism is threatening to destroy the Christian foundation of culture in the West.
On the way to peace:
Many have the notion that we don’t need God, but we do. The threat of a total war is very real. Our Lady promised an era of peace. That’s why we must do what she told us in numbers great enough to bring about the conversion of the hearts of those who hate God. This will lead to the promised triumph of Mary’s Immaculate Heart.
On Our Lady of Fatima’s plan for peace:
[W]e do not have to invent another one. We only have to put her plan into practice.”
The world is longing for peace. Our Lady promised it as the triumph of her Immaculate Heart. I know of no other plan from heaven that so directly leads us on the road to peace.
On saving souls:
At Fatima Mary was particularly concerned with the salvation of souls. She told the visionaries that many souls are lost from God because there is no one to pray and offer sacrifices for them.
On the Eucharist:
The Eucharist occupies a very important place in the message of Fatima, which we must respond to.
On how to be close to Jesus and Mary:
Our Lady called her children to live holy lives of prayer and penance. This is missing in many people’s lives today. They reject sacrifice because they’re attached to the world and so cannot allow Jesus into their lives. If we follow what Our Lady is asking, we will find ourselves close to Jesus.
On the Five First Saturdays devotion:
“This devotion is most important and neglected. I call it Our Lady’s spiritual formation program. It’s one of the most important elements for the peace of the world and the consecration and conversion of Russia. With Russia, the pope did his part. What’s not happened is we’re not making the Five First Saturdays devotion in numbers sufficient.
On the specifics:
Our Lady asked for confession, holy Communion, a Rosary and 15 minutes meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary, all done in reparation for the offenses against her Immaculate Heart. This devotion will actually help our people grow in holiness through prayer, sacrifice, intercession and reparation.
On need to continue Saturday devotion:
The Christ Child said to Sister Lucia not to make this devotion just once, but to repeat it over and over again because it is necessary for the coming of the era of peace in the world.
On Mary’s motherly concern:
As a mother, Our Lady wants none of her children to be lost, but all to be saved. So let us faithfully and generously carry out her wishes in this great devotion of the Five First Saturdays. The Five First Saturdays devotion, with its unique combination of confession, Communion and the Rosary, holds a special place in Our Lady’s plan.
On the daily Rosary:
Certainly Our Lady would want us to pray the Rosary every day, a request she made in all her apparitions. She said, “The Rosary can stop wars, bring world peace and convert sinners.”
On true tolerance:
“You can’t tolerate evil teachings and distortions of values against God’s laws and natural law to be accepted by society.”
On eroding religious rights:
We don’t have the secret police coming into our houses and arresting us for saying the Rosary; we don’t have that. But, gradually, all of our religious rights are being taken away. Things that we support as part of the moral teaching of Christ are being suppressed, and things are being forced upon us.
Applying the request of Lepanto today:
Since Mary obtained one victory in a naval battle of great consequence to protect the Church of her Son not to be militarily overrun, now we are asking Our Lady to obtain for us a political victory that would protect the Church of her Son in our nation. It is not only for the Catholic Church, but for people of all churches and those who cherish their religious freedom and rights.
On Bishop Sheen’s dedication to truth:
He was a man committed to the truth, and we need to hear that truth once again. He was a man who loved America and certainly defended the Judeo-Christian values that our country was built on, mainly, the sanctity of all life from conception to natural death; the sanctity of the gift of sexuality — God created them male and female; the sanctity of marriage and family life and its importance to our society; and, finally, the freedom of religion basic to our American heritage.
On Bishop’s Sheen vision:
“He was a prophet for our time.
On Mary and the Holy Trinity:
Mary helps us to understand our relationship to the Holy Trinity. As spouse of the Holy Spirit, she was so perfect Jesus actually took flesh in her. And the Holy Spirit is the one forming Christ in us. And so we share that maternal role of Mary with Jesus living spiritually in us. We conceive Christ in our hearts, and we have a kind of maternal relationship there.
On imitating Mary’s motherhood
We actually imitate Mary’s motherhood two ways. First, Christ is living in us spiritually. Second, we become ‘mothers’ of Jesus because the Holy Spirit helps us bring Christ to come to birth in others by our communicating the word (evangelization), by our witness, good example, teaching others to pray, encouraging them to receive the sacraments, and by prayers and sacrifices for the conversion of people.
On Our Lady of America:
I rely on the judgment of Cardinal Burke who studied this question very carefully as an outstanding canon lawyer and has concluded that in his judgment this apparition of Our Lady of America has been approved by Archbishop Paul Leibold. He was the spiritual director of Sr. Mildred Neuzil who received the apparitions of Our Lady of America. She was also given the mission to promote her message by Our Lady. This message can bring peace and protection in our land.
On his early years:
I always had a great love for the Rosary; it helped me grow spiritually, and it began as a child.
On praying the Rosary with his family:
When we finished praying the Rosary, we often commented to one another that we experienced such a powerful and consoling sense of God’s peace in our hearts and in our home.