International pro-life icon coming to Colorado

A replica of the famous icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa, also known as the Black Madonna, will travel through Colorado beginning Sept. 27 as part of a worldwide pilgrimage promoting life and family. Organized by Human Life International, the “Ocean to Ocean International Campaign in Defense of Life” is expected to visit eight sites in the archdiocese (see schedule below).

“I wanted the icon here because we’re across the street from the second largest abortion clinic in the country,” explained Paula Dong, R.N., and sonographer at Lighthouse Women’s Center at 3894 Olive St. in Denver, who helped spearhead the visit. “We need her here, we need her blessing.”

The journey of the icon, liturgically united with the original with a blessing from the Archbishop of Czestochowa, began in 2012 in Vladivostok, Russia. The image traveled across Europe to the Shrine of Fatima in Portugal before coming to the United States in 2013. Organizers of the tour hope “the number of people who discover and defend the dignity of the human being from conception to natural death will continuously increase.”

The original icon, one of the most venerated images in Poland, is housed at the Jasna Gora monastery in Czestochowa, Poland. It depicts the Virgin Mary with a darkened face holding the Christ Child. Tradition holds that St. Luke wrote the icon on a wooden plank from the Holy Family’s table. Throughout its history, it has been the target of attacks that have left gouges on the Blessed Mother’s cheek.

“She has scars on her face,” Dong said of the image considered the patron of post-abortive women. “They’ve tried to fix the scars, but they keep coming through. It’s like Our Lady wants to show the scars of abortion.

“She symbolizes the pain and scars of abortion.”

Miracles and healings have been credited as a result of praying with the icon, including outside abortion clinics. The campaign has already traveled more than 40,000 miles, visiting 24 countries and more than 400 cities. Once completing the U.S. pilgrimage, the icon leaves for Mexico Nov. 1.

While in Colorado, veneration, Masses and other liturgies are planned at churches and outside Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains in Denver. For more information, visit www.hli.org/oceantoocean, or call the parish.

Our Lady of Czestochowa in Colorado
The schedule is subject to change. Call the parish for more information.

Shrine of St. Anne, Arvada
303-420-1280
Sept. 27: 4 p.m. welcome ceremony, 5:30 Mass
Sept. 28: Sunday Masses
Sept. 29: 8:15 a.m. Mass

Planned Parenthood, 7155 E. 38th Ave., Denver (with Shrine of St. Anne)
303-420-1280
Sept. 29: 10 a.m. icon arrives, 11:30 a.m. Mass

Sacred Heart of Mary Parish, Boulder
303-494-7572
Sept. 29: 7 p.m. Mass

St. Mary Parish, Eagle
970-926-1070
Sept. 30: 5:30 p.m. Mass

St. Clare of Assisi Parish, Edwards
970-926-1070
Oct. 1: 8:15 a.m. Mass

Our Lady of the Snow Parish, Granby
970-887-0032
Oct. 1: evening service

Queen of Peace Parish, Aurora
303-364-1056
Oct. 3: 6:30 p.m. Mass

Planned Parenthood, 7155 E. 38th Ave., Denver (with Lighthouse Women’s Center)
303-320-8352
Oct. 4: 8 a.m. prayer service, 8:30 a.m. Mass

St. Joseph Polish, Denver
303-296-3217
Oct. 4: 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Masses
Oct. 5: Sunday Masses

COMING UP: On Fathers and Christian Masculinity

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The Year of St. Joseph points us to Jesus’ adoptive father, Joseph, as the essential model for fathers. Joseph not only manifests genuine masculinity, he also images God’s own fatherhood, as Pope Francis makes clear in his apostolic letter, Patris Corde: “In his relationship to Jesus, Joseph was the earthly shadow of the heavenly Father: he watched over him and protected him, never leaving him to go his own way.” Jesus, though the Son of God, obeyed Joseph, learned from him, and worked with him, acknowledging Joseph as a true expression of God’s own fatherhood.  

God does not just use fatherhood as an image of himself, because he himself is Father, even within his own triune life. Earthly fatherhood comes forth from him and should manifest his life and love. St. Paul speaks of honoring the “Father, from whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth is named” (Eph 3:15). God wants everyone to be able to see his own fatherly love and called certain men to share in his own paternal gift of bringing forth life and caring for others. Every father is called to be liked Joseph, “an earthly shadow of the heavenly Father” for his own family. 

Our culture, however, often denigrates masculinity, sometimes viewing even its proper expressions as toxic. We too often see maleness in its fallenness — dominating and selfish — rather than showing self-sacrificial service. In fact, later in Ephesians, Paul speaks of the true vocation of the husband and father: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:25). He also speaks of the role of fatherhood: “Do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4). Paul shows us the goal of fatherhood — sacrificing himself for the flourishing of the family by putting the good of his wife and children before his own desires.   

No matter what the contrary voices of our culture say, we need strong men and fathers. God created man and woman in complementarity, and they need each other to thrive, helping the other in relation to their own strengths and weaknesses. Children need the strong presence of a father to discipline and teach, as Paul reminds us. Study after study has shown that fathers have the largest impact on the faith of their children. Christian Smith explains in his sociological study, Young Catholic America, that “the faith of Catholic fathers is powerfully determinative of the future faith of their children (125). The same can be said for general wellbeing and success. When fathers are absent or refuse to exercise their role, a moral and spiritual vacuum appears. A strong majority of felons, for instance, grew up without fathers in the home.  

St. Joseph helps us to understand the strength of Christian fatherhood. First, like any good husband, Joseph listened — not just to his wife but also to God. Woken up frequently by angels, he demonstrated obedience and trust, quickly leaving everything behind to follow God’s instructions and to protect his family. We also know Joseph for his work as a carpenter and builder, content to live simply and to work hard. Importantly, he also taught Jesus how to work, showing that fathers model and teach by drawing their children into their life and work. And we can also learn from Joseph’s humility, serving the Incarnate God and his Mother without even a single recorded word in the Gospels.  

This humility points us to the essence of Christian fatherhood. Although living with two perfect people, Joseph was still called to lead. He quietly and humbly did what was needed for his family and taught his own maker how to share in his work. Fathers do not lead in order to be in charge or to get their own way. They lead because God asks them to care for and protect their families. Fathers and mothers share in the great and beautiful partnership of family life, although fathers cannot simply sit back and let mom take the lead in the spiritual life, as they are often tempted to do. Like Joseph, fathers should act firmly and lovingly to put God and the family before self, obeying God and leading the family in the right direction. They are called to model faith, work, and sacrifice to their children. 

On Father’s Day we can affirm that masculinity and fatherhood are not just good — they are essential to understanding God and his plan for human flourishing. If our culture turns around, it will be because, in large part, Christian men stand up and fight. As Christians, we cannot give in to the culture’s attempt to denigrate masculinity and fatherhood or to pit men and women against each other. We can use this celebration to affirm the essential role that our fathers play, leading their families like St. Joseph.