We’ve all heard the saying: it doesn’t matter what the question is, the answer is Jesus.
For Catholics, it might be truer to say that it doesn’t matter what the problem is — the answer is the Eucharist, the rosary, and a courageous public witness to the Gospel message.
“We as Catholics have the fullness of the faith. We should be the tip of the spear. We should be the ones out there leading,” said Kevin O’Brien, a cofounder of Men of Christ and a parishioner at St. Charles in Hartland. “We have Christ himself. We have a spiritual arsenal of goodness. All we need to do is use it.”
In a summer that, undoubtedly, saw its fair share of problems on a national and international scale — from a pandemic and the fear associated with it to racial unrest and a raging political disunity — O’Brien found himself growing weary of “everybody complaining about, ‘Well, when’s somebody going to do something?’”
“Two Fridays ago, I said, ‘Enough,’” he said. “I thought, ‘Let’s not blame somebody else. Let’s do it.’”
O’Brien and the Men of Christ community quickly got to work organizing a massive public show of faith in God’s mercy to those who humble themselves and seek his face. On Saturday, Aug. 15 — the Feast of the Assumption — they rallied thousands of people to participate in a Eucharistic procession to the Wisconsin State Capitol, where they prayed the Patriotic Rosary for God’s graces on the United States. The procession ended with Benediction at the Capitol steps.
“We’re calling graces down from heaven to open up the hearts and minds of our people. We’re taking Christ into the streets to be a light in the darkness that we see so much everywhere,” said O’Brien.
Organizers were explicit in saying that the procession was not a political event, but a “Holy Spirit-driven event.”
“Certainly the Capitol represents politics — but the message is that God is in charge, not any politician,” said Pat Ciriacks, who helped plan the procession.
“We want to be Catholic and show how Catholics do this,” said O’Brien. “We want to pray for unity in our Church, in our country, in families. We’re praying for those that protect the freedoms that we have. We’re praying for justice and all the right things that need to be done. We’re taking God out there.”
The procession was attended by Bishop Donald J. Hying of Madison and Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki of Milwaukee. Archbishop Listecki described the event as a “beautiful” example of what can happen when thousands of people gather peacefully in the name of God. “This was a peaceful demonstration of the power of prayer and the power of our faith to take hold of us during this time of crisis, and to direct ourselves to trusting in God,” he said.
Instead of feeling helpless, he said, Catholics need to remember that their power lies in trusting God and in seeking his will.
“When Kevin told me about this idea, he was saying, ‘This is something that men can do to demonstrate in response to a lot of the crazy chaotic things that are happening in our society — from the pandemic to looting to violence to racism to aboriton. These are all things which we as Catholics take a look at and say this can’t be,’” said Archbishop Listecki. “The one thing we can do is we can marshall our prayer together as a group and demonstrate that our trust is in God during this time. If we look at ourselves and examine our own communities in the light of our faith, we can be different.”
“If you look at the people who were there, it was really a Catholic event — it was the face of the Church,” said Jerry Topczewski, Chief of Staff to Archbishop Listecki.
Ciriacks called the procession “a dream come true — especially given that we only planned for three weeks.”
The event attracted attendees from neighboring states, he said, and even from other religions.
“I got an email from a non-denominational Christian last week and he asked if he had to have a rosary,” Ciriacks said. “I said absolutely not; all are welcome. He emailed me back and said it was the best event, the most inspirational event he’s ever attended and he’s hoping more churches and more pastors take the steps that ours have taken.”