On March 11, Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, called for processions against the Coronavirus. He directed “every priest to conduct a Eucharistic Procession in the communities that they serve sometime before the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary on March 19, 2020.”
Bishop Strickland is the Bishop who knelt before our Visitation Image of Our Lady of America at the meeting of the United States Bishops’ Conference last November. As he prayed the Rosary before the Image, several people witnessed the miracle of the sun.
Bishop Strickland tweeted, “I call on every Catholic priest to lead a simple Eucharistic Procession around your Church sometime before the Feast of St Joseph, March 19, for repentance, Christ’s healing hand on the Coronavirus & that all men may be Godly, manly sons & disciples of His Son Jesus Christ.”
On March 13, Bishop Strickland practiced what he preached and led a procession of the Blessed Sacrament for almost a mile, circling the block around the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
He called the procession a “great blessing and a moment of grace. It was a blessing to collectively turn to the Real Presence of the Lord and ask Him to help us and protect us.”
This is how Bishop Strickland described his procession,
We processed inside the cathedral, pausing to the east, west, north and south to pray and ask the Lord of Lords to offer His grace and protection. Then the procession continued outside the cathedral and did the same around the cathedral block and, pausing at the four directions of the compass, to ask Our Lord to protect the City of Tyler, the Diocese, the Nation and all of God’s people around the world.
May this great challenge of the Coronavirus make our Lenten journey one that leads us to deeper faith and more profound trust that the Lord is Really Present in our world and listens to our prayers.
Bishop Strickland and his procession imitated Pope St. Gregory the Great. In response to a plague decimating Rome in the year 591, Pope Gregory called for a procession through the streets to what was then called Hadrian’s Mausoleum. He understood that the plague was a chastisement from God, and encouraged the faithful to repent of their sins and to pray and process for their deliverance. The plague was so powerful that eighty people collapsed and died as they processed!
Here is how eyewitnesses described the procession,
As the procession neared the Vatican, the participants all saw St. Michael the Archangel standing upon the cupola of Hadrian’s Mausoleum as he sheathed his flaming sword. It was a sign that the chastisement had come to an end, and at once the heaviness in the air abated and the air itself seemed to freshen and clear. Indeed, at that moment the plague ended as the faithful rejoiced and lifted up their voices to thank the Mother of God.
In honor of St. Michael’s sheathing of his sword, Hadrian’s Mausoleum was renamed Castel Sant’Angelo and a statue of St. Michael now stands above it.
On Sunday, August 1, 1993, I spoke at the St. Louis Eucharistic Congress with the Missionary Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe during the rising of the Great Flood of the Mississippi River. In my talk, I explained how Our Lady of Guadalupe interceded to save Mexico City from a horrible flood in 1634. The flood had already killed 30,000 people. The desperate citizens, imploring Our Lady’s help, carried the Miraculous Image through the knee-high floodwaters from the Basilica Shrine to the Cathedral in Mexico City. This was the first and only time that such a procession took place. The flood miraculously ended.
After my talk, I was asked by several of the Congress participants to take our Missionary Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe to the flooding Mississippi River. This river was originally named the River of the Immaculate Conception. Our Lady of Guadalupe is a representation of the Immaculate Conception.
I made an announcement of a spontaneous procession with the Missionary Image to the river. About 200 people joined and we processed from the Cathedral of St. Louis to the Gateway Arch to the West and down the flood-swept steps to the riverside. Hundreds of on-lookers joined us there and I sprinkled holy water onto the river and prayed in the pouring rain for an abatement of the flood, the salvation of the dead and the healing of the sufferers. We concluded by singing “America the Beautiful.”
As we processed back, the rain suddenly stopped as we sang the very last note of the “Hail Holy Queen” and the Cathedral bells unexpectedly rang out jubilantly and spontaneously at 5:20 p.m., to the surprise of the sacristan who said that it was not programmed to do that! As we placed the Image into a large white van, a flock of hundreds of swallows suddenly appeared out of nowhere, swooped over the van and circled continuously over our heads. There were no other birds seen anywhere else.
On that day the Mississippi River at St. Louis crested at 49.58 feet, the highest stage ever recorded. The size and impact of the Great Flood of 1993 was unprecedented and was the most costly and devastating flood to ravage the U.S. in modern history. It was the greatest flood in the number of persons displaced, the amount of crop and property damage and its duration.
On that day, the Mississippi River had a flow rate of 1,000,000 cubic feet per second, that could have filled Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis to the brim in 70 seconds.
On that day, after our procession, thankfully to the glory of God and the honor of his Mother, the river began to recede and St. Louis was saved. This miracle was credited to Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Later, Sara Connelly Zervos, who was in our procession sent me an email. She reminded me of the grace of the salvation of St. Louis on that day. She wrote,
In 1993, you spoke at the St. Louis Eucharistic Congress with the Missionary Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe during the height of the Great Flood of 1993. The forecast for that weekend was for the flood stage to go to its highest level in history which was expected to inundate St. Louis.
On Sunday, the small group at the Congress, led by you and the Missionary Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, processed around the St. Louis Arch, praying for God’s mercy through the Mother of God.
The next day, the levees broke north of St. Louis and south of St. Louis, but St. Louis was saved. I was privileged by God to be there and witness this miracle.
Please notify people of this miracle on your email/website.
So, let us respond to Bishop Strickland’s call for processions. Please, host a Visitation of the Missionary Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and process her for Bishop Strickland’s intentions of “protection from the Coronavirus and healing for those who have already been infected; mercy and eternal rest for those who have died. Also petitioning Our Lord for strength for our families and the fortitude to be guided by the truths of the Deposit of Faith and the ethical and moral truths they represent. May the model of faith that St. Joseph provides as Patron of the Church inspire these efforts.”