When they had heard the king they went their way; and lo, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:9-11)
On this Solemnity of the Epiphany we can picture ourselves among those staring in wonder at the Baby in the manger. God the Father used the heavens and the Holy Spirit to draw the Magi and the shepherds to Bethlehem, for reasons that they could barely begin to understand. The Newborn King lay cooing and smiling, sleeping, needing His diaper changed… so human yet so perfect. O come, let us adore Him!
We have no greater gift than Our Lord, Himself. To understand this is to be overwhelmed with gratitude, and moved to worship.
There are other moments in Jesus’ life that are often referred to as epiphanies: The moment we celebrate today with the arrival of the Magi, Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan, the miracle at the wedding feast of Cana, and the Transfiguration—when Peter, James and John saw Christ transfigured, in conversation with Moses and Elijah. Each of these moments was a revelation of Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ, the One Who was to come.
Now if anyone reading this has had moments of similar revelation, please give me a call! I don’t know about you, but the epiphanies in my life have been less spectacular, but were still defining moments. I am sure most of you have similar experiences—that moment that was important at the time, but only seems more so as your life unfolds, as it revealed something important about how God wanted you to live.
We at HLI speak often of one of our founder’s epiphanies. By the time Father Paul Marx went to the Vatican in July of 1979, he had already been traveling the world for years warning all who would listen about the perils that would follow the widespread acceptance of contraception, especially the slaughter of unborn children. He had an epiphany of sorts following Humanae vitae, a teaching with which he struggled initially, like many. But after a great deal of prayer and thought, the priest and social scientist saw the wisdom of the Church’s unchanged and unchangeable teaching on the gift of life. This transformed his priesthood, and set him on a mission that would transform the world.
Finding himself face to face with Pope John Paul II, Father Marx brilliantly and pithily laid out the connection between the acceptance of contraception and what had already become the Culture of Death, from abortion to divorce to euthanasia and every catastrophe in between. The Holy Father looked at him intently and, after a pause, said to the Benedictine from Minnesota: “You must bring this pro-life, pro-family movement all over the earth; and if you do that, you will be doing the most important work on earth.”
Talk about an epiphany. Being the good servant he was, Fr. Marx took this confirmation from the Holy Father as a mandate to expand his already rapidly growing mission. All over the world today, you will find amazing pro-life leaders who trace the beginning of their work to meeting “the warehouse priest,” nicknamed so because of Father Marx’s exploding catalogue of brochures and other materials that were shipped around the world from the warehouse in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
It is among the greatest blessings of my life and work in this mission to meet some of these incredible people. Let me mention just two of them here.
Sister Mary Rosana Emenusiobi was born in 1959 in a small village in Eastern Nigeria. None of her four younger siblings entered religious life, but all are married with families. She met Father Marx and Dr. Brian Clowes early in her religious life, during one of HLI’s missions to the region. As an order that already served the poor, Sister Mary and her fellow religious integrated the defense of the unborn naturally into their existing work. It is the most Catholic thing to want to care for those who can’t care for themselves, and to put a special emphasis on protecting the most vulnerable among us. Sister visited our offices this week and lifted up our staff with the story of her vocation and how she came to join the pro-life movement. We hope to get more involved with Sister, who has developed a great deal of pro-life and pro-family literature, as she knows well the threats to her people from Western nations who spend billions exporting their poisonous anti-life ideology.
Readers of Spirit & Life met Sister Annunciata recently, following our mission to her region of India. Like Sister Mary, Sister Annunciata traces the beginning of her pro-life work to a meeting with Father Marx, who informed her and her sisters about the threats posed by contraception, abortion, and related threats to life and family. She also integrated the truths of the Gospel of Life into her already beautiful and flourishing vocation, and to this day she works to help women who have been abandoned by their families, or who have been swept up in the demonic human trafficking industry. She serves Our Lord through her love of the poor and marginalized, which is why she also hosts pro-life conferences and family recollection weekends. Like Fr. Marx, she has also inspired many secular and religious leaders to get involved. I was truly blown away seeing her network in action during our visit a few weeks ago.
And let me pause here to ask your prayers for Sister Annunciata, who celebrates her diamond jubilee–the 60th anniversary of her vocation tomorrow, on the Solemnity of the Nativity!
We at HLI are so honored and blessed to serve alongside Sister Anunciata and her team. And when we all get to meet a hero like Sister Mary, who traces the beginning of her work to being inspired by Father Marx, our own mission becomes clearer.
Sometimes epiphanies are small moments. Sometimes they are huge. Let’s make sure that we are close to Our Lord and the sacraments, ready for our next great moment of awareness, ready to listen to His call. The celebration of the Epiphany is entirely about Jesus, the Christ. Yet in worshiping Him we begin to understand what will bring us the most joy and flourishing—serving Him. All we know for sure is that we must take up His cross with Him, and be unafraid.