‘Go to Mary’
The Blessed Mother Is Always Ready to Lend Ample Aid
On a recent pilgrimage to Italy with her Holland, Pennsylvania, parish of St. Bede the Venerable, Susan DiFlorio was thrilled to visit Sciacca, Sicily, hometown of some of her ancestors. The townspeople have been devoted for centuries to Madonna del Soccorso di Sciacca (Our Lady of Help). They turned to her as their protector during the Black Plague in 1626, and Mary helped to rescue them from the deadly bout. Ever since, twice yearly, the townsfolk celebrate and honor Mary, carrying her miraculous statue through the town.
“I was blessed not only to be involved in the procession, but to carry her crown,” DiFlorio said of her recent trip. Her devotion to Mary under several other titles — Our Lady of Grace (Miraculous Medal), Our Lady of Wisdom and Our Lady of Fatima — recently saw her praying for Mary’s help when she found out she had breast cancer.
A frequent pilgrim to the Miraculous Medal Shrine (CammOnline.org) in Philadelphia, DiFlorio said a lot of the priests praying for her told her, “Don’t worry. She’ll take care of you.”
Mary did. DiFlorio beat the cancer. Halfway through the treatment, she experienced a great blessing, “I saw her. She came to me in a split second holding a baby. She heard me.” Post-surgery, she explained, “The day after, I was home sitting on the deck with no pain at all.”
Mary is sure to come to help. As the Memorare says: Never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided.
“Look at the eyes of any statue of Mary, and you will find yourself under her maternal gaze,” said Father Edward Looney, the author of A Rosary Litany, Renewing a Pious Custom. “The Blessed Mother looks at her children from up above and intercedes for them in their every need. This is Mary’s role as Queen, to advocate and intercede for us before her Son, the King.”
Ever since his mother and father took Daniel Drossart to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help as a child in 1944, he has been a regular visitor.
Today, he volunteers at the shrine (ShrineofOurLadyOfGoodHelp.com) in Campion, Wisconsin, at least two days a week and often more.
Over the years, Drossart has seen Mary help visitors, including a family member. “My uncle Henry Renquin had a devotion to our Blessed Mother,” he said. When Uncle Henry was 19, while helping a friend replace a car engine, the engine stand fell over, badly breaking his left leg in seven places. Because Henry had diabetes, his severely injured leg never healed. He was on crutches for more than 10 years when, in 1942, on his biweekly trip to the shrine with his parents (Drossart’s grandparents), Uncle Henry was healed in the oratory where Mary appeared to Adele Brise on Oct. 9, 1859.
“He left his crutches, and they are still there today. One of the crutches is in the welcoming center,” Drossart said of the shrine that recently received national designation by the bishops. “When it was time to go home, he said, ‘I’ve been on these crutches over 10 years, and, today, I’ll walk home to Green Bay.” And he did.
Recounting other help, Drossart said, “The Lord always seems to come through with Mary’s interceding. If you pray to Mary, she will ask her Son. And how many sons would refuse their mothers if they ask for something? Our Lord does not refuse her if you go to Mary and pray, ‘I really need your help. I really have a problem here. Would you intercede and ask your Son?’”
Mary has come to Drossart’s aid many times, too. “When I pray the Rosary in my car going home from the shrine,” he said, “I get the answer to what I have to do.”
In one remarkable case, in the 1990s, he had three mini-strokes. “I prayed I would be okay. I can walk normally now,” he explained, with assistance from a cane.
Then, in 2012, he had a major stroke. It left him unable to speak.
As Drossart explained, “I prayed, ‘Mary, Our Lord gave me my last mission in life — to volunteer at this shrine. I’m 74 years old. My last mission is to greet people, converse with them and tell them about this wonderful place and the wonderful things happening out here and bring them back to God. How can I do this mission if I can’t talk to people?’ I started to cry, then fell asleep. The next morning, when I woke up, I started talking slowly, one word at a time.”
“Mary has been very good to me,” Drossart emphasized in the clear, strong voice heard by visitors to the shrine.
Mary Feldner, a regular visitor and volunteer at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe (GuadalupeShrine.org) in La Crosse, Wisconsin, said her favorite devotions are the Rosary and the Seven Dolors (Sorrows) of the Blessed Mother.
“I just know that our Blessed Mother is a comfort, and she’s there holding our hand,” Feldner said. “I went through some personal things and know she was there; I would not have gotten through without her. She has been a comfort to me in raising our family; [she] lets us know her Son is there and will help us along the way.”
Also at Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine, Donald and Mary Rose Verdegan pray the Rosary together daily and make and distribute thousands of rosaries.
“With any Marian prayers, I like to think of going to Jesus through Mary,” Mary Rose said.
“I really associated myself with the Fourth Station of the Cross, Mary standing at the cross through her sorrow,” Mary Rose added, reflecting on the loss of their young son 29 years ago. “She really brought both of us through this time of sadness.”
“No matter how you look at it,” she said, “the Blessed Virgin has been playing a very important part in our lives.”
Matt Radico of St. Francis of Assisi Church in Springfield, Pennsylvania, was once a self-described Easter and Christmas Catholic.
But today he loves the faith and said, “Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal is my strongest devotion, and I pray the Rosary and carry it at all times.”
Twelve years ago, when his mother died, he wanted to return to weekly Mass but had no burning desire for attending church. Then a friend started working at the Miraculous Medal Shrine in Philadelphia. His friend gave him a tour, and he met the Vincentian priests.
Shortly after, Radico was hired to help create some videos at the shrine. During the interview, Father Carl Pieber, the shrine director, told him that the Miraculous Medal is life-changing.
“That line stuck with me,” Radico said. But he did not start wearing one. Weeks later, on a vacation with his wife and young daughter at the New Jersey shore, he was immersed in thinking about a project for his video company.
“I was on my knees in the beach house at 2 in the morning praying for Mary’s help,” he recalled. He prayed constantly the rest of the week — and then started going back to Mass.
“Something changed me in that short time of asking for our Blessed Mother’s help,” Radico said. What happened with the video project? It didn’t work out and he lost money, but it didn’t bother him because he realized “it wasn’t meant to be.” A month later, back at the shrine, he got his Miraculous Medal and has worn it ever since.
“For me, the Miraculous Medal is a constant reminder to center my life around the Lord, with Mary tapping me on the shoulder like a good mom,” Radico explained.
“When I need help with problems and with what direction to take with some aspect of my life, I go to Mary, and she always helps me,” he added. “I don’t always like the answer I get, but I always get an answer. I get what I need, and I thank her every opportunity [I get] for that — because Mary brought me to her Son.”
That’s the beauty of Mary’s aid.
As Father Looney put it, “In our devotions to her, the Rosary, the Memorare, etc., we ask Mary to draw us closer to her Son, Jesus.”
Today, Radico calls himself the “Johnny Appleseed of the Miraculous Medal” because he always carries several with him. Whenever an opportunity arises, “whether with a practicing Catholic or not, I put a Miraculous Medal in their hands,” he said.
He wants others to know Mary is there waiting to help them, too.
Joseph Pronechen is a
Register staff writer.
Our Lady of Good Help image
courtesy of Tracy Christianson