By Michael H. Brown

There is no place quite like it -- not for the culinary arts, not for the friendliness, not for the holiness.

And not for the spiritual warfare.

We speak here of New Orleans.

A special place?

At the same time that you have some of the most intense Marian groups in the nation, and some of the most devout, loyal priests, nowhere east of California where there is a greater level of open evil.

There is the grace of Our Lady of Prompt Succor but it is in stark contrast with the residue of ancient witchery (back to Native American times).

The voodoo, the psychics, the Mardi Gras, the reveling on Bourbon, the explicit (and often blasphemous) parades are shoulder to shoulder with churches where the Spirit moves and where folks have tried their best to counter the darkness around them.

Unfortunately, many of those parishes are closing (as the result of storm damage, as well as the shrinkage seen in urban parishes across America), and once more danger arises.

Bring blessed salt!

There is no need to repeat the warning given to New Orleans many years ago, the warning that a great storm was coming, a warning that was adequately displayed from small websites to large ones like the Drudge Report. It came from the book Sent To Earth, and can be revisited, for newcomers, here.

Of course and tragically the storm came, and that was the last time we were there: in the aftermath, to pray with those who had seen an area they love demolished in a fashion that many anticipated but few truly envisioned -- a tragedy that no matter how bad you expected it to be, was worse when the damage was viewed first-hand (from New Orleans to Mississippi and into Alabama).

Even the Pope, who alluded to it during his speech to bishops the other night, still has it on his mind.

An "atomic bomb" -- a series of atomic bombs -- were detonated by nature, and being New Orleans, where the folks believe in straight talk, there was open discussion (including from the mayor and a former archbishop) on how Katrina stood clearly as a purification.

That was said despite the protesting howls of secularists.

One priest I met, Monsignor Bob Guste (whose brother was once state attorney general) discussed precisely such with us and has since written a booklet called, "Katrina, Rita, and God" -- referring to the second hurricane that came the same woeful summer and is forgotten despite how it devastated the western part of the state.

In the booklet, Father Guste, who is now retired -- and who brought up the notion that Katrina was a chastisement to no less than the city council -- points out little miraculous coincidences that softened the blow of this historic disaster.

Countless were the stories of statues and other holy relics that survived the onslaught.

"Was this always the case?" asks the priest. No. It rains on the good and evil alike. "There were many devout people who asked God's blessing on their property but experienced the terrible devastation of the storms."

Meanwhile, the French Quarter survived -- and today thrives defiantly. The debauchery is at its height.

God's mysterious ways. Did God send the storm, or the devil?

But have no doubt that the believers fared best, and always will, whatever the calamity.

This is the city where Prompt Succor is famous for everything from halting fires to bringing victory against an invasion in 1815. Even General Andrew Jackson acknowledged it as a miracle of the Blessed Mother.

At one point, a priest ordered to evacuate the area during Katrina happened to turn on a crank-up radio just in time to hear Father Guste broadcasting over the lone functioning radio channel and announcing that his church was still able to hold Mass. The priest was able to flee there.

"Everything was destroyed or was in disarray, but there, for example, on a table, ledge, open field, or whatever, stood the precious image, wonderfully preserved, in the midst of it all," writes the priest. "There are those who tell the story of neighbors' houses that were flooded or on which trees fell, and yet they, who had asked God's blessing on their houses, were spared. Though Espanade Avenue was a river of water, bearing only rescue boats, in the same area, Holy Rosary School and Cabrini High on the avenue did not experience any flooding."

There was also the account of three men all named Michael who by Divine guidance were led to bring ice to folks who -- it turned out -- had been pleading to St. Michael for it!

As for mysticism: there is the claim that years ago, in 1995, the Lord told a local locutionist who had asked in residents of southern Louisiana were being affected by past evil or satanic events, ceremonies, or rituals during the past two centuries to locate all the parishes in the area that were named after saints or holy days of obligation.

Can we rely on such?

We can best meditate on spreading holiness (and blessed salt) in this great area and remember a quote that Father Guste uses from the Christophers:

"It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness."

[resources: Sent To Earth]

[Prophetic "word": the next will be not water but great wind elsewhere]

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