As we celebrate Memorial Day, with the honors we give to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for us and liberty, we might do well to remember Our Lady of America. This is a title of Mary that is unique to the United States and does not conflict with the similar title of Empress of the Americas, given by Pope Pius XII to Our Lady of Guadalupe, which title includes North, Central, and South America.
According to Catholicism.org, Mildred Neutzil was born in 1916 in Brooklyn, New York. When she was only thirteen, she joined an active religious community in Ohio, the Sisters of the Precious Blood, taking the name Sister Mary Ephrem. Nine years later, in 1938, she began to have mystical experiences, which, sometime later, she was put under obedience to record in a diary. As a young sister her duties were usually domestic tasks in various houses of the order, and from 1951-1954 she taught kindergarten children at a parish school in Indiana. During these years, the interior communications, or locutions, went on increasing in frequency and specific detail. Our Lord was pleased to call her His “Little White Dove” and the “Little Secretary of [His] Heart.” “Do you know what I find most lacking in the world today?” she heard Jesus ask, “It is Faith. There are so few souls that believe in Me and My love. . . . Their hearts are cold, for without faith there can be no love.” In 1958, Sister Mary Ephrem received permission to join a newly founded contemplative branch of her order in New Riegel, Ohio. From her cloistered cell here she wrote her diary.
Our Lady first appeared visibly to Sister Mary Ephrem on September 25, 1956 at her convent in Rome City, Indiana. She appeared as she did at Lourdes. Her message was a promise of “great miracles of the soul” for her children in the United States if they would heed her call to repentance. In particular she expressed her pleasure for the honor the Church in America had given her by dedicating the national shrine in Washington D.C. to her Immaculate Conception.
It was the next day, after Mass, that the Mother of God came to the “White Dove” in the figure of Our Lady of America, all in white, with a high crown of gold, and a lily in her right hand. Her Immaculate Heart was encircled by red roses and flames shot out from it. She was smiling as she said: “I am Our Lady of America, Immaculate Virgin. I desire that my children honor me, especially by the purity of their lives.” This was the central message of the apparitions: that we, in the Unites States, be children of her Most Pure Heart. If her request is obeyed, she would form an army, especially among the American young, who would be called “Torchbearers of the Queen,” carrying her message of faith and purity to all other nations of the world. If her requests were obeyed she promised to grant peace to the United States and use our faithful to spread the peace of Christ throughout the world. If her message is unheeded America will suffer along with the rest of the world in a chastisement that will be horribly severe. Our Lady chose to deliver this message on the feast of the eight North American martyrs, September 26, 1956.
If one were to try to capture the heart of these messages as they continued to be delivered, primarily on Marian feast days through the 1950s, it was the agony of a Mother who wishes her children to behold her Immaculate Heart pierced by the indifference and ingratitude of Christians who prefer darkness to light. In fact, she specifically refers to our times as “the darkest.” On the eve of the feast of her apparition at Lourdes, February 10, Our Lady spoke these sorrowful words to her messenger: “Beloved daughter, you wonder at the sword and the deep wound it has made in my Heart. It is the sword of grief plunged therein by my children who refuse to let me teach them the true way. There is only one way to the Father, my child, only one way to eternal union. It is the way of the divine humanity. It is through my Son, the Only-Begotten of the Father, that souls attain perfect union with the Divinity, as perfect as human nature is capable of, aided by grace.”
Our Lady also asked that a medal be struck in the form of a shield with these words arched around her image: “By thy Holy and Immaculate Conception, O Mary, deliver us from evil.” On the reverse side of the medal Our Lady requested a coat of arms for the Catholic family, which symbolized the Indwelling of the Trinity in the devout home. Those who wear the medal with great faith and fervent devotion to Mary will receive the grace of “intense purity of heart . . . sinners will receive the grace of repentance and the spiritual strength to live as true children of Mary . . . it will be a shield to protect them against the evil spirits . . . and St. Michael himself will be at their side to allay their fears at the hour of death.”
The devotion to the Lady of America is new and growing. So far, it has received approval of many local bishops, since 1963. Pope John Paul II was favorably inclined to this blossoming devotion; Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America and Star of the New Evangelization, draws all of the nations of America into unity in carrying out the new evangelization. Our Lady of America calls the people of our nation to the new evangelization through a renewed dedication to purity in love.