In An 'Underground' Of New Orleans Priests Is Talk Of Storm As Purification
Six months after a ferocious hurricane devastated huge swaths of New Orleans and the Mississippi coast, the notion that such damage can be part of a purification or "chastisement" continues to be met with fierce resistance.
Statements by clerics and even politicians to the effect that "Katrina" was an act of God have been ridiculed, labeled "insensitive," or dismissed as "archaic" by the secular media and even Christian and Catholic outlets of liberal persuasion.
The very mention of the word "judgment" by the mayor (along with unfortunate remarks about the racial nature of New Orleans) drew the most recent opprobrium. Many religious leaders have quickly followed the secular lead in dismissing notions that what happened last August had deep spiritual implications.
But if my experience in visiting the city over the weekend is an indication, there is a substantial "underground" of priests who believe precisely this: that the storm, which caused one of the nation's greatest disasters, was allowed by God to serve as a sign to the world and to reorient the area. At one dinner party, fully four of five priests present indicated their concurrence, as did a fifth the following morning from the pulpit at Our Lady of Perpetual Help -- where images of Mary, including an iconic painting of her as Perpetual Help, in recent years have "wept" inexplicably.
One of the priests, Father Robert Guste [left], who is now retired in a New Orleans suburb, expressed this view at a meeting that included the entire New Orleans City Council and representatives of the governor's office, FEMA, the Corps of Engineers, and the media in September. He said his mention of a spiritual connection drew groans, tapping fingers, and shuffling feet among some of those in the audience -- and then misquotes in a newspaper.
Father Guste, who had warned politicians before "Katrina" that "complicity in public immortality and disrespect for human life" would "continue to invite God's judgment and punishment," then wrote a letter to the mayor after the storm, in which he expressed a viewpoint similar to what he would verbalize at the meeting (and now to Spirit Daily).
"New Orleans is my city and that of my family going back many generations," the priest said. "I'm 78. I grew up with Mardi Gras, street hockey, red beans and rive every Monday and beignets at the French market, morning call after Mass on Sunday.
"[But] I've seen things come into the life and culture of New Orleans that were never there, in the same public and perceptive way, as they are today. This is true of Mardi Gras, the Decadence Festival, gay bars, many Bourbon Street and French Quarters activities, porn joints, devil worship, and casino-connected addictions and prostitution.
"New Orleans is jokingly but (by many) proudly called 'sin city,'" added the priest. "Does it not invite Divine judgment today as Jerusalem, Nineveh, and Sodom and Gomorrah of old?"
Indeed, for years, exorcists and those involved in spiritual-warfare ministries have cited New Orleans as one of the nation's "hotspots" for demonic activity, along with New York and San Francisco. The Big Easy's strip clubs, pagan-style parades, transvestite bars, voodoo parlors, psychic shops, tarot readings (on the sidewalk in front of the cathedral), drug use, pollution, and crime rate have all been cited as magnets for darkness. Ironically, the hurricane put a damper on Mardi Gras this year and caused postponement of the annual "Decadence Weekend."
These evils stand in stark contrast to a population of dedicated New Orleans Catholics whose devotion is not exceeded anywhere in the nation.
Famous shrines and some of the nation's most beautiful churches stand as fortresses against the spirit of debauchery, in testimony to the extraordinary Catholicity of Louisiana in general and New Orleans in particular.
But Christianity is under attack (blasphemies reign during the Mardi Gras, with horribly vulgar spoofs of Jesus and Mary) -- and even lesser forms of sin cause disorder in the realms of both the natural and the supernatural, noted another attendee at the dinner.
As some have posited, it may not be God causing disasters so much as allowing them to happen when the darkness has grown too strong -- lifting His Hand of protection when His children need to learn the hard way.
Despite public criticism of any mention of "signs" (a resistance that was also seen after September 11), there is a growing notion that something unusual is afoot in the world, from hurricanes to the Asian tsunami.
A former judge and state senator told me that he believed the hurricane was a message from God -- and that "we better get the message." A city councilman and a state representative from Mississippi also have gone on the record with similar viewpoints -- and similarly have been attacked by the media.
Former Archbishop Philip Hannan, nicknamed the "pope of New Orleans," has issued the strongest statements to date, exhorting Catholics to "teach our children" that what happened during the storm "was a Divine chastisement."
While the current bishop has maintained a distance from similarly strong language, the manner in which New Orleans was decimated has given former skeptics second thoughts and has led to call for a re-sanctification of the "City of Saints."
In the days after the hurricane, noted Father Guste, Mass readings from the Bible bore striking references to purification.
If it was a purification, many ask, why was the heart of much debauchery -- the French Quarter -- spared?
"What came to me is that God wants us to take care of correcting that situation," replies Father Guste. "He wants us to decide to do that."
Is it that? Is it that in His mercy the Lord did not want to take away the very heart of the city?
Or is it because such disasters may be orchestrated at times by evil itself -- which would naturally spare the center of darkness?
Whatever the case, it has become apparent to a growing if often silent number that something strange is happening, and that it is the role of the Church to practice prophecy.
"Jerusalem, Jerusalem!" Father Guste quoted to the local officials (from Matthew 23:37-38). "How often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but thou wouldst not! Behold your house is left to you desolate."
"Someone asked me in an interview if I think New Orleans will ever be the same," said the priest. "I answered 'I hope not!' I hope and pray it will be a better city built on the foundation of Christ or even just natural commonsense law -- with respect for public morality and human life. Only then can we expect God's blessing."
A Huge Prophetic Pulse Prefaced Storm In New Orleans As Miracles Followed It
A multi-millionaire real estate developer who has been placed in charge of the committee to rebuild devastated New Orleans has revealed that a trip to an apparition site and an experience of witnessing the "miracle of the sun" changed his life and has set him on a path that now includes assisting the city in its recovery from "Katrina."
The magnate is Joe Canizaro, 68, and his is one in what continues to unfold as a long series of miraculous occurrences that have both prefaced and followed the horrible disaster of last August.
He is the owner of a bank. He holds the largest building in town. But he now approaches his biggest challenge: figuring out what the future of the city will look like.
Reported the New Orleans Times-Picayune on Sunday in a front-page story about his effort to help the city:
"Most mornings, the first stop in Canizaro's busy day is a Catholic mass at St. Francis Xavier in Old Metairie, often with his priest and close friend, Andrew Taormina, who lives in Canizaro's old home, an $800,000 house he donated to the church. Before the storm flooded Canizaro's new $12-million mansion on Northline in Old Metairie, he prayed in a private chapel he had built in the sprawling, white beaux-arts palace.
"Though once a nominal Catholic, Canizaro recommitted himself to his faith in the late 1980s, he said, beginning a journey toward spiritual renewal that continues today. At around that time, Canizaro made a trek to Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, where tens of thousands of pilgrims flocked in response to reports that a group of children there communed daily with the Virgin Mary, who appeared to them on the mountainside.
"Sitting near that mountaintop surrounded by a pastoral scene of grapevines and wheat, Canizaro witnessed the 'miracle of the sun,' he said, by staring directly into its harsh brilliance for minutes at a time without damaging his eyes. The sun appeared covered, he said, by a white circle resembling the Eucharist, the circular communion wafer Catholics believe is the body of Christ.
"The vision has stayed with him. 'It's not like I see it every day, just sometimes," he said, motioning toward the horizon outside the window of his 17th-floor corner office. Upon his return from Medjugorje, The Canizaro Foundation, his philanthropic arm, became The Donum Dei Foundation, for 'gift of God,' a conscious renunciation of his egotism."
It is one of many stories as it becomes increasingly obvious that New Orleans -- one of the nation's most devoutly Catholic cities, and at the same time one that is also known for its unusually dark underside (best represented in places like Bourbon Street) -- has become a hotbed of reported mysticism and epicenter in the current spiritual battle, with all eyes on the Big Easy to see how it will react to one of the nation's greatest-ever disasters.
Always known for deep Marian spirituality, the storm has unleashed a torrent of reports about the prophetic and the miraculous side of that mysterious city.
The terrible aftermath of the hurricane brought to mind, for example, the often disregarded fact that in 1972, the Pilgrim Statue of Fatima shed tears while visiting the city. According to reports, a sample was sent for analysis and the tears were found to be human.
Was it a presage? Was it a long-ago indication that New Orleans was veering onto a wrongful path?
Home to its own famous statue -- Our Lady of Prompt Succor, now kept at the Ursuline Convent and Academy in northern New Orleans [left] -- it is a city where even politicians openly profess their faith. One of the candidates for mayor, Marie Galatas, has publicly stated that God told her to run for the office.
And so it is a city of the prophetic. Weeping pictures have been reported at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in the suburb of Kenner, and there have been alleged apparitions of the Blessed Mother in Washington, Louisiana, 130 miles northwest of the city, in Theriot, Louisiana, 65 miles southwest of the city, and in Tickfaw, again to the northwest -- to name a few.
Meanwhile, statues of the Blessed Mother survived the storm in a way that seemed to go far beyond coincidence.
Underscore the word "alleged" but the point is a hefty dose of the mystical -- including a prophecy that was sent to this website on May 15, 2004 -- more than a year before "Katrina" -- that said, "I ask you to pray for the City of New Orleans and the surrounding areas," said a note to us from a woman named Dee Orgeron. "Over 14 years ago Our Lord and Our Lady gave me a prophecy about New Orleans that there would be a great flood. I am not sure how it will come but I do know that there are some weeping statues of Our Lady and that when they weep again, the flood is near.
"The flood will be great and it is because of abortion and all the other sin that man refuses to stop. The Lord also told me the Flood could not be averted but could be lessened through prayers."
Indeed: while Hurricane Katrina was devastating, the city was spared a direct hit and was not totally destroyed -- in what many believe is a warning to quickly come back to the faith.
Meantime: While some of the occurrences might be attributed to the low gravity of lawn statues, in case after case, homeowners from southern Louisiana to Biloxi, Mississippi, have reported instances in which everything but such a statue was destroyed [see left in Chalmette].
A statue of Jesus at the cathedral downtown managed to escape as trees fell all around it.
After the hurricane, countless backyard statues rose from the waters in an area that has long allowed displays of Mary even in public places.
Indeed, was not the storm less than it could have been, however destructive?
And a St. Michael painting -- distributed by a businessman named Louis Saia who had reported yet another apparition of Mary, this time in Houma -- stood in an untouched corner of a house in another town -- Gretna -- where all the other sheetrock had collapsed in "Katrina's" fantastic devastation.
Originally published as neworleanstrip2
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