On a long drive last week, I listened to a couple of homilies on CD. One was in two parts, and concerned the story of Hermann Cohen. It’s an amazing story: young Jewish boy shows musical talent as a pianist; mom takes him to Paris; he studies under Franz Liszt and is led into a life of dissolution; he is converted when, while playing the organ for a Benediction service, the priest raised the monstrance to bless the faithful. He became a Carmelite and a priest in very short order.
There was much more – about his father who disowned him, his mother who threw fits outside the monastery to try to convince Hermann to return to her, the conversion of several of Hermann’s brothers and sisters, and so on. Hermann took the religious name Augustine Marie of the Blessed Sacrament.
Many years later, Fr. Augustine was visiting with his friend Fr. John Vianney, and told him of his mother, who had still had not converted and held deep resentment about her son’s conversion at her death. The future saint told him that one year, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Fr. Augustine would receive a letter that would give him great consolation.
And so it happened, six years later. I don’t have the time or energy to relate the whole story as the priest did in his homily, but here’s the heartening conclusion of it: the woman who wrote the letter told of a sort of vision she had in which the Lord gave her to know what happened at the moment of Fr. Augustine’s mother’s death.
Our Lady prostrated herself before her Son, and said of Fr. Augustine’s mother: “This one is mine. Her son has consecrated her to me a thousand times. I want this one.”
Immediately, the mother’s soul was flooded with grace, she professed faith in God and Our Lord Jesus Christ, she acknowledged and felt contrition for all her sins, and she desired baptism with all her heart.
And no one knew. This was all between earth and heaven in a moment barely preceding the woman’s death. The Lord gave the letter-writer to know that he was telling her this to show His Mother’s power over His own.
This had such a profound effect on me that I began to weep as I was driving. It gave me such hope! Of course! All things are possible with God!
And as the priest giving the homily pointed out, the story shows us how important it is that we cultivate a devotion to Mary, that we entrust the salvation of our loved ones to her, that we pray to her for others.
Now, I do all those things, and I have consecrated myself to Mary by way of the DeMontfort exercises, but this made me realize that I also need to have faith in Our Lady’s great power and compassion!
I pray constantly for my pagan son in his Godlessness; I have a Mass said for him every month; I pray for his conversion of heart and the salvation of his soul several times each day. At times, I have felt that it is hopeless, but I persevere; now I have even more hope and even more reason to persevere!
It may sound silly, but “back in the day” when I used to watch the TV series “Touched By An Angel”, I used to imagine that, at the moment of death of an “unsaved” person (I was Protestant then!), the person might be given a moment in which he could make the choice for God. I figured it would be like those moments in the show, when everything around the person stopped, and it was just the person talking to the angels as time was suspended. Perhaps that idea is not so very far from the truth!
None of this, of course, makes me want to pray any less. Fr. Augustine Marie’s mother was granted a reprieve because her son prayed for her so ardently. It was his prayers, not the mother’s merits, which brought about her salvation. His prayers paved the way for her conversion.
So, you see, all of this makes me want to pray all the more! And so I will.
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.