Who Could Better Care for a Baby at Risk than this Mother?
The Pilgrim Mother for the Newborn and the Babies at Risk: One of the Forms of the Schoenstatt Rosary Campaign in Argentina
(Marta de Liotti, mb/mkf) ) When in September of this year little Patricio will celebrate his 5th birthday, it will provide a double reason to express joy and gratitude: for the life of this child whose chances to survive were almost zero when he was born in the seventh month of pregnacy, and for the birth of the "Little Campaign" for newborn babies, babies in risk pregnancies, and babies whose lives are at risk. The life of little Patricio, entrusted to the Blessed Mother in a moment of ultimate danger, created the idea to take Mary, the Mother Thrice Admirable, to other children born under difficult circumstances. Parents of these at-risk children were encouraged and invited to ask Mary, the Mother of all God's children, to comfort and help their little ones.
In September 1996, when Patricio Andrés was born in the 7th month of pregnancy, he had little chance to survive. Forty-eight hours after his birth, his grandmother, knowing about the fear and pain of his parents, entrusted his life to the Immaculate Heart of Mary during the Covenant Mass in the City Shrine in Buenos Aires on September 18, asking her care for this baby. She was inspired to do so by a mother who had done so in a similar difficult situation and whose child had throughout his life experienced the unconditional love and closeness of Mary - the mother of Joseph Kentenich who, when he was nine years old, dedicated him and his life to the Mother of God. From September 18 on, little Patricio's health improved. Today he is the sunshine of his parents and grandparents.
Birth of a New Form of the Campaign, Focussing on New-born Babies, Following the Example of Father Kentenich's Mother
In October 1998, Marta H de Liotti of Corrientes received the first Pilgrim Mother for new born babies and babies at risk. She shares: "I was convinced of being chosen as instrument for a great mission of our dear Mother. We prayed and spiritually went to the Shrine, asking
for graces and fruits of transformation for this mission. We expressed our longing that many people would be inspired to seal the Covenant of Love with Mary, the great Missionary, through this Campaign. On November 18, 1998, during the Covenant Mass, I received the second picture which had also been blessed in the Shrine in Oberá. These two Pilgrim Mother pictures accompanied the birth and the struggle for life of babies at risk. All the parents had great confidence in Mary and entrusted the life of their little ones to her, following the example of Father Kentenich's mother. They all continued to pray the rosary and simply 'fell in love' with the Mater. And all the babies are doing fine. To celebrate the life of these little 'pioneers' of the 'Little Campaign,' we met on November 18, 1999, during the Covenant Mass and expressed our thanks for the motherly care of the Mother Thrice Admirable. As a gift, the parents offered candles with the picture of Our Lady of Schoenstatt, symbolizing the light of hope that she brought to their hearts in times of ultimate pain. They understood that she had listened to their prayers and had been the great intercessor for their babies' health. Gastón, Rosita del Milagro, María de Fátima, Mauro, Alfonso Jesús, Matías Agustín... these names represent pages and pages of clinical reports, of depressing prognoses and diagnoses up to 'no chance of survival.' These babies are a song of love and hope, and their parents' testimonies of God's might. Little Julián (seven years old) got his vision back after a severe inflammation that had affected the cornea. He would lose his vision completely according to the medical record. His mother gladly offered the candles during Holy Mass. This 'Little Campaign' keeps me always alert. Each day and each night I unite my heart and mind with the suffering of the parents, and I feel urged to intensify my contributions to the Capital of Grace to 'gently force' the Blessed Mother to intercede for these babies like she did at the wedding in Cana."
The Absolute Conviction that Mary will Work Where She is Present
The Schoenstatt Rosary Campaign is mainly and always oriented toward the religious and moral renewal of families, yet it has widened its horizons in the course of the years. Deacon Joao Pozzobon, pilgrim and missionary of Mary whose process of beatification is soon to be finished on the diocesan level, began the Campaign in 1950. He took the picture of Mary to the houses so she could work as she did when visiting the house of Elizabeth and Zachary, giving joy, the presence of Christ Jesus, and practical help. Joao Pozzobon expressed the objective of the Campaign in three central points: "1. Redeem the families through the great work of Schoenstatt. 2. Encounter with the Blessed Mother and through her with her son, Christ Jesus, and the Triune God. 3. Be a reflection of Christian justice: one for the other, for a new conquering of dignity and respect for the human personality and its values; solidarity with the neediest ones." Father Kentenich, the founder of Schoenstatt, from the very beginning was profoundly interested in the Campaign, expressing that all the fundamental elements of Schoenstatt would become effective through Pozzobon's apostolate. He explained in a conversation in 1968 that Don Joao would take the Blessed Mother to all places with the absolute conviction that she would work wherever she was present. This would be what Schoenstatt, from the very beginning, had aimed to do - to give her the opportunity to work! It is with this absolute conviction that the Blessed Mother is ready, willing and able to work miracles – miracles of healing, of redemption, of inner strength - and the willingness of God that missionaries like Patricio's grandmother take the Pilgrim Mother to babies at risk and to their parents.
Responding to the Needs of the Babies and the Fear of their Parents
It is not "simply" about taking the Pilgrim Mother to the parents, but to share their pain and fear, faithful to the spirit of Pozzobon. He always had a strong understanding of the poorest and neediest ones, emphasizing that the social dimension of the Campaign was an essential element. A missionary shares: "Accompanying does not only mean to speak about Mary but to share the pain of the parents who suffer. Not to do so would be terribly hypocritical. We have to listen to the parents who often feel bad and share about earlier abortions or their insecurity regarding methods of contraception they used. Often we can help them to find a way to the sacrament of reconciliation. Always we can give and be a witness of God's unconditional mercy. Often, we are facing questions of biochemical praxis, of fields where human science fails to explain, and often we have to accept the mystery of God. Many women volunteer to help in the household of the parents and to care for siblings while the parents are in the hospital. A strong life stream is created and attachments grow - in the hand of the Mater." The Pilgrim Mother accompanies the parents in these difficult moments, watches over the birth and the difficult time after the birth of the babies. The Pilgrim Mother picture of this "Little Campaign" is smaller than the usual one and passed on in a small white basket. A small rosary with ten beads is with the picture. Father Kentenich's prayer of confidence is written on the back of the picture: "I trust your might, your kindness, Mother dear …" The parents are invited to pray together and to entrust their baby to the Blessed Mother. Like the other Pilgrim Mother pictures, this is also accompanied by a book with testimonies. All are invited to offer thanks for the lives of the babies during the monthly Covenant Mass.
Testimonies: "She Works Miracles"
This form of the Campaign meanwhile spread all over Argentina. The testimonies written by parents often are the best help for other parents. A family from Mendoza: "We have also experienced a miracle. Our baby – not yet born (in the sixth month of pregnancy) – was diagnosed with a cyst in the cervical area. The chances to survive birth were
almost zero and if born, it would have severe handicaps. The last test that had been preceded by much prayer, showed that the cyst had disappeared, leaving only an enlargement in the neck area. Eventually, this totally disappeared; and to complete this miracle, we were told that there were no traces of the cyst. Now we want to know how we can have the Mater in our home to accompany her baby from the first day with us …" The parents who have experienced the closeness and help of the Pilgrim Mother often want to keep in touch with the Campaign and with Schoenstatt. María Cristina Meana de Ávila, for example, in gratitude for all that she had experienced through the visit of the "Little Pilgrim Mother" during the time of her risk pregnancy and the difficult birth of her baby, dedicated herself as a missionary of the Campaign to take the Pilgrim Mother to families who had experienced similar problems.
A missionary shares: "When the picture is first taken to the family, we try to do it in a simple but profound 'rite.' The parents, the siblings, and other relatives welcome her with flowers and candles – often like a Queen. She is one. I am sure that from this celebration, many home shrines will come."
English edition: Joan Biemert, New Franken, Wisconsin, USA
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