April 28, 2017

‘A cloud of witnesses:’ More than 600 women gather for Indiana Catholic Women’s Conference

Ruby Dlugosz of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Indianapolis holds a rosary over her 4-month old son, Daniel, during the Indiana Catholic Women’s Conference in Indianapolis on March 25. (Photo by Victoria Arthur)

Ruby Dlugosz of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Indianapolis holds a rosary over her 4-month old son, Daniel, during the Indiana Catholic Women’s Conference in Indianapolis on March 25. (Photo by Victoria Arthur)

By Victoria Arthur and Natalie Hoefer

Ruby Dlugosz was reluctant to attend the March 25 Indiana Catholic Women’s Conference.

“I didn’t think there would be many people my age,” said the 28-year-old member of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Indianapolis.

In addition, she was dealing with worry and stress over the upcoming surgery her 4-month-old son Daniel would soon undergo. He was born with cranial scaphocephaly, a condition that occurs when the skull bones fuse prematurely.

Dlugosz decided to attend the conference, held at the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown hotel.

(Related: See a photo gallery from the event)

“I loved it,” she said. “I saw people of all ages, and I ran into several friends I hadn’t seen in a while. That was my favorite part—the feeling of community.”

She brought Daniel with her. He was a ray of joy, cooing, smiling and fascinated by his mother’s rosary.

Dlugosz eyed the prayer beads, too.

“I haven’t been praying the rosary as I should,” she admitted. “It occurred to me [during the conference] that I take time to check my phone and my e-mail—why don’t I check in with God?”

So that’s what she did throughout the day as the women prayed the litany of the saints, listened to three speakers whose talks focused on Mary, worshipped at Mass and participated in a eucharistic procession down several blocks in Indianapolis.

Dlugosz realized the opportunity to “draw closer to [God]” through her son’s health issue.

“It was as if God was saying, ‘Come back to me. You can’t cure him; you can’t fix him. You need me.’ ”

At the end of the conference, Dlugosz’s husband, Michael, joined her in having their son blessed at a healing service by one of the speakers, Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Father James “Jim” Blount, immediately following the conference.

Father Jim was joined by Father Ronan Murphy and author, blogger and Pontifex University professor Dr. Carrie Gress as speakers, while Father Michael Keucher, associate pastor of Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish in Greenwood, served as the master of ceremonies, concelebrated Mass and led the eucharistic procession.

Reminiscent of the conference’s theme “A Cloud of Witnesses,” more than 600 women gathered for the March 25 conference, which was also the Feast of the Annunciation. (Related story: Participants rave about Indiana Catholic Women’s Conference)

Between that feast and 2017 being the centennial anniversary of the Marian apparitions of Fatima, the topic of the event’s three talks and the homily naturally focused on the Blessed Mother—the foremost of all witnesses.

“The women’s conference helped a lot,” said Dlugosz. “Next year, I am going to get as many people to go [to the conference] as I can. If anyone says, ‘No, I don’t want to,’ I’ll say, ‘That was me last year. You really need to go.’ ”

Since the surgery, Dlugosz shared some good news—her son’s April 10 surgery was a success

Each of the talks and the homily are summarized below.

‘Pray the rosary every day.’—Excerpts from the talk of Father Ronan Murphy (Father Murphy, a native of Dublin, Ireland, is chaplain to a Carmelite monastery in the state of New York.)

“On this feast of the Annunciation, we focus on Mary, the new Eve, who gave her fiat—her ‘yes’—to almighty God. And in so doing, the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We owe it all to Mary who became his mother. …

“I remind you that today is a pro-life feast, because this solemnity marked the moment when God himself began redeeming the unborn child and every single one of us who were once unborn children by becoming one himself. …

“Remember that this is the centenary of the Fatima apparitions, so a very, very important year. …

“Do you know how the three children of Fatima described Our Lady when she appeared to them? ‘She was a woman clothed with the sun.’ Just as Mary was the advent for the first coming of Jesus, she is the advent for the second coming of Jesus. That’s why you have an explosion of Marian apparitions all over the Earth, because Mary is preparing for the second coming of her son. …

“Satan is at war with all of Our Lady’s offspring. And Our Lady has equipped her little ones in order to fight in this great, epic battle. The weapon [she has offered] is none other than the most holy rosary. She has asked for [us to pray the rosary] directly and indirectly time and time again.

“At Fatima, she appeared as Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, and … in each of her apparitions, she urged us to pray the rosary every day. …

“The rosary is not just a Marian prayer—it’s a Marian/Christocentric prayer, because anything authentically Marian is authentically Christocentric. It is Mary who leads us to Jesus.

“The rosary is a Bible on a string. It is a catechism on a string. It is so Christocentric. Pope John Paul II said that every time you pray the rosary, you contemplate the face of Jesus Christ in union with Mary. …

“ ‘We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,’ namely, the saints. And do you know what the saints—the holy men and women—held in common? They were prayerful men and women, and many used the rosary to grow to great heights of holiness.

“We have to get back to the family prayer. The rosary has always been a prayer of the family and for the family. … According to [Fatima seer] Sister Lucia, the final confrontation between God and the devil in these latter times will be over marriage and the family.

“Sometimes I go into schools … and I ask [the students]: ‘How much time do you spend in prayer with Jesus every day?’ Do you know what the average is? Four minutes. Then I ask, ‘How much time do you spend watching television? On the Internet, especially Facebook? Xbox? Cell phones?’ Average: four hours. Who do you love? Where your heart is, that’s who your god is.

“These things are taking our children away from God, and they can’t distinguish between needs and wants today. … If you love your children, curtail some of these things in their lives.

“Become a saint. We are called to be saints!”

‘When Marian devotion increases, culture increases.’—Excerpts from the talk of Carrie Gress, Ph.D. (Gress is the author of numerous books, a blogger at the National Catholic Register and a faculty member at Pontifex University.)

“My second book, The Marian Option, has a deadline of May 13—the 100th anniversary of Fatima. I take a look at how Mary has helped us in times of crisis throughout history.

“Vicki Thorn, the founder of Project Rachel, is famous for saying that the definition of women is that we’re practical responders. So it would make sense to say that Mary is the practical responder par excellence. She is the one who can respond to any given situation in which we find ourselves.

“I spent a lot of time digging [into the history], and let me tell you, after 2,000 years, there are a lot of books about Mary! …

“It was one of these graces of the Holy Spirit where I would find one page, and it would lead me to another page, and then this fabric of stories and details about Mary turned into a whole picture of her influence and intercession. I connected some of the apparitions—I used only 15 Church-approved apparitions—and it’s amazing how they all fit together.

“The first thing that I encountered was a fantastic book by Henry Adams, the grandson of President John Quincy Adams and great-grandson of President John Adams. He went to a World’s Fair in Europe, and in his book, The Education of Henry Adams, he said he realized that there is nothing more powerful in the world than the Virgin Mary.

“He explains in minute detail just how influential Mary has been in the culture. This is after he has seen cathedrals with incredible stained-glass windows, he has seen cemeteries, and he has the insight to see that Mary has been incredibly influential in Europe. The shocking thing about all this, of course, is that Henry Adams was a Protestant.

“What I was able to see [through Adams’ book] is that when Marian devotion increases, culture increases. There is a direct correlation between them. Marian devotion brings with it culture, because culture is an expression of God’s love for us.

“Of course, Henry Adams isn’t the only one to have noticed Mary’s influence. In 2015, National Geographic [published a cover story] calling her ‘The Most Powerful Woman in the World.’ In my book, I talk about philosophy … I talk about music. … It’s just amazing how deeply she has influenced these fields and so many thinkers throughout the centuries. …

“The other piece of the pie was figuring out how effective she has been geopolitically. One of the great stories is the Battle of Lepanto, in 1571, when the Holy League was able to hold back Islam from invading Europe. Spain had been under Islamic occupation for 800 years. Finally, someone had the bright idea to fight a battle under the standard of Mary. And guess what happened? They started winning, and winning, and winning. …

“Mary was also responsible for giving the world this radical notion that women have dignity equal to men. It’s really through the Catholic faith and through Mary that [everything] was transformed.”

‘Mary said “yes” to five things.’—Excerpts from homily by Father Michael Keucher (Father Keucher is associate pastor of Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish in Greenwood.)

“March 25th is a very important day in the course of our calendar year. …

“What the Holy Church celebrates today … is the ‘yes’ of our Blessed Mother. We celebrate one word. It is one word that has echoed down through the centuries and will ever through eternity. Our salvation hinged on that ‘yes.’ ...

“In saying ‘yes’ to Jesus, Mary said ‘yes’ to five things: A, B, C, D and E.

“ ‘Almighty.’ Mary turned [Eve’s no] around and said ‘yes.’ She said ‘yes’ not just to a baby, she said ‘yes’ to her almighty God, who came knocking on the door of her heart, and she opened it with her fiat. …

“ ‘Breath of life.’ Mary is pro-life. She said ‘yes’ to the presence of God within her. … If we could respond to God’s presence, to the breath that he breathes into our ears and our hearts, then not only will our lives change, but our families, our Church, the whole world would be different, just as everything changed with Mary’s fiat. …

“ ‘Church.’ As Scripture teaches us, the Church is the mystical body of Jesus. It is the living body of Jesus. It’s why we have hospitals, because Jesus healed. It’s why we have schools, because Jesus taught. It’s why we have food pantries, because he fed. …

“ ‘Divine will.’ God’s divine will for us must be so sacred that we treasure it more than our next breath. Knowing and putting our full and absolute trust in his will, we give it all to him, and Mary teaches us that, and gives us an important example.

“ ‘The eucharistic Lord.’ On this very day, he came into being, and everything changed. That Eucharist will rest in our own bodies and souls in this very Mass, and we shouldn’t be the same. We give our fiat when we say ‘Amen’ to holy Communion as it is lifted in front of us and placed in our hands or in our mouth. He takes up residence in our own lowly bodies. Mother Teresa said, ‘I am Jesus after I receive the Holy Eucharist. He lives his life in me, and he changes everything through me.’ …

“We pray that we can offer our ‘yes’— our fiat—to all of those [five components], and if we can’t, then we’re not saying ‘yes’ to Jesus.”

‘Enter the heart of Mary.’—Excerpts from the talk of Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Father James Blount (Father James is a national speaker, retreat leader and exorcist.)

“The Holy Spirit told me there were more [things Mary said ‘yes’ to than A-E]. Father forgot F, G, H, I and J!

“When Mary said ‘yes’ on March 25th, what ‘F’ did she say yes to? Faith! …

Mary lived and walked by faith, especially when she saw her son die in front of her and held his lifeless body in her arms. She alone had faith at that moment. If we want faith we have to enter the heart of Mary. … Here’s what John Paul said to pray. It’s a short consecration, only three lines. It was written by St. Louis de Montfort. It’s a good summary of our faith, it’s a good consecration. John Paul recommended saying it all during the day: “I am all yours, Lord Jesus, and all that I have is yours, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. …

“On March 25th, she also said ‘yes’ to the letter ‘G’—godliness. You are called to be women of God. In other words, you’re not women of the world. … Each

one of you mirrors God, and St. John Paul opened this up theologically. He told us that yes indeed, while the man, the husband, the father, the priest, while we mirror the Father, you holy women mirror the Holy Spirit. He is called the comforter. Who is the comforter of the family? You are! … Let every word you speak be full of grace. … Your speech can heal. Your speech can convert souls. Your speech can elevate people to a higher dignity. …

“ ‘H’ is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a spirit of joy! St. Teresa of Avila said, ‘God deliver us from sour‑faced saints.’ We need to put a sign over the door of every Catholic church: ‘No grumpy Catholics allowed!’

“Mary also said ‘yes’ to happiness. Where is happiness found? … Food? TV? Money? … There’s something wrong [with our country]. … We’re worshipping sex, and money and drugs and alcohol. We’re worshipping everything but God. … You know how you’re in love with God? He’s the one you spend the most time with. If you spend the most time with television, that is your God. If you go to Mass for an hour a week, but you go home and watch TV for five hours every day, then you have made TV your God. … We learned from Our Lady that happiness only comes from Jesus and falling in love with Jesus. … The Eucharist will bring you joy. But you have to go up to the Lord hungering. If we go up to [receive] the Lord ablaze, we will leave ablaze. … When we go up to receive the Lord, we have to recognize who we’re receiving, and we have to receive him with hunger—go to Mass hungry. …

“[For the letter ‘I,’] Mary said ‘yes’ to intelligence. She became the wisest woman in history that day. … The

women of God are wise, holy and intelligent. …

“ ‘J’ is Jesus. … One of the best prayers you can pray is, ‘I love you, Jesus. Help me love you more.’ Don’t wait until night before you pray—you give the devil 12 hours to attack you! Don’t wait until lunch to pray—it’s too late by then! When you get up in the morning, slay the enemy!”

(Victoria Arthur is a freelance writer and member of St. Malachy Parish in Brownsburg.)

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