Agnostic Scientist becomes President of Legion of Mary & Praesidium gives "data, information.. when I have to talk to scientists or engineers who don't believe"
Page from Ilustração Portuguesa, 29 October 1917, showing the people looking at the Sun during the Fátima apparitions attributed to the Virgin Mary [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miracle_of_the_Sun]
Agnostic Scientist becomes President of Legion of Mary Praesidium
By Fred Martinez
Joe Navarro is an engineer who has worked with Silicon Valley companies such as Signetics and Exxon Enterprises. He is the president of the Legion of Mary's Blessed Sacrament Praesidium in Santa Clara.
Since you were an agnostic and a scientist, what do you say to people who are agnostics and scientists about the Faith?
Scientists like to deal with data, information, something they can see, hold or feel; so, when I have to talk to scientists or engineers who don't believe, I give them information; for example, the story of Fatima.
There is physical evidence of that miracle -- 70,000 to 100,000 people witnessed it. They call it the "dancing of the sun." The book, Our Lady of Fatima by William Thomas Walsh, contains interviews with people who were eyewitnesses to the miracle.
I also give them information on Padre Pio and the historical Blessed Sacrament miracles, and I explain to them what our beliefs are. I always give them data, so they will be forced to follow the logic of what I am saying, along with the information.
Typically what happens is that they reach a point where they realize where this is going. Then within themselves they have to make a decision: am I going to stick to my old ways or am I going to follow the data? Some don't want to change their old ways; but, there are honest people who are forced to accept the data because they are facts
What made you decide to become a member of the Legion of Mary?
I grew up without a good Catholic religious upbringing -- when I was young, my mother even allowed me to go to some Baptist bible classes and services. So, in high school, I really got involved with science. I even converted my Mom's kitchen into a chemistry lab.
I went to the University of California, Berkeley, in 1966, where I majored in physics. I was also an agnostic. I couldn't say there wasn't a God, because I couldn't prove there wasn't any God. But at the same time I did have this emptiness and longing inside of me.
I went to a Cal Berkeley bookstore where I saw a book on Our Lady of Fatima. Then I saw a front-page article on the Fatima Pilgrim Virgin statue in the Oakland Tribune. So I went and bought the book. Then I spent a lot of time in the Richmond library reading about Fatima, Lourdes and Our Lady of Guadalupe. So, in 1972, I converted and went to confession.
[Once] I went to pray for guidance in front of the exposed Blessed Sacrament. A young lady came up to me and asked me if I wanted to join the Legion of Mary. I was a new convert and I hadn't even received communion; still, I joined the Legion praesidium which met at St. Patrick's church between Third and Fourth Streets in San Francisco. Two years later, a group of us started a new praesidium in the North Beach area.
Please, describe the Legion of Mary.
The Legion of Mary is the lay group that does the missionary work in the parish.
Many times people are shocked when we come to the door. They say, "we didn't know that Catholics did that." They say that it's always the Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses who go door to door.
The most important work is the door to door visitation where we're able to reach people and help them either return to the church or inform them when and where to go to Mass.
You can call it an active lay group in the church. We're like the extension of the pastor. We do things such as- visiting the homes of a parish, door to door work, visiting hospitals, senior homes, jails and the sick.
We also have what we call the book barrel where we set up and give away free religious literature, rosaries and medals. We do this now at some of the shopping malls in Sunnyvale and Cupertino.
What are active praesidium members required to do?
Each active member is required to meet with the praesidium once a week. They report on their required two hours of work at each meeting, as well as say Legion prayers.
Because of our work -- such as the door-to-door apostolate -- we come across sensitive situations where there are personal problems which should be respected for their confidential nature. So we are required to keep the discussion of these reports secret.
Doing these assigned Legion works is following the commission that Jesus gave us at His ascension. He said go to the ends of the earth and spread the gospel. The commission is to be missionary.
What was your most difficult time in the Legion of Mary?
I won't say that I had any difficult times. Sometimes when you do door to door, people say, "oh, we're not interested!"
But, as a rule people are polite. I would say my Legion work has been a pure joy.
There have been so many happy times. Often we come to a house and someone has fallen away from the Church. We talk and give them papers I've written defending the church and the pope, using historical information. They are happy because they've never heard this information.
A few days ago we were talking to a Protestant Christian and we spoke to him about the Blessed Sacrament, using these papers. He became very interested and asked for more information. I get my happiness from seeing people make the decision to really change.
Please tell us about your spiritual life.
The key to my spiritual life is the Blessed Sacrament.
When I was reading the story of Fatima, I read about the angel teaching the children the Fatima prayer, which refers to the true presence of Jesus, body, blood, soul and divinity, in the Blessed Sacrament.
So I do holy hours of prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament. When I go to adoration, besides the peace I receive, I notice things change. Things happen after I do the holy hour. They seem to be normal, but I can tell -- one way or another people are drawn to God, whether it's family or someone else.
Devotion to the Blessed Sacrament also drew me to Our Blessed Mother.
Reading the stories of the saints I saw this same parallel -- they had devotion to the Blessed Mother and the Blessed Sacrament.
An example of such devotion is St. John Bosco. He had a vision that, in the future, the Church would undergo turmoil. He saw the pope as the captain of a big ship, which was attacked and in trouble. The pope steered the ship (that is, the Church) between two pillars; on one pillar [the higher one] was the Blessed Sacrament, and on the shorter pillar was Our Blessed Mother.
Once the ship went between the two pillars, there was peace and harmony.
Do you think we are living in that time?
Yes, our church is being very seriously attacked, not only from without, but from within. I think, as in the vision of John Bosco, the solution is to increase our devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and to Our Blessed Mother. The Blessed Sacrament used to be at the center of the church and there used to be kneelers in all churches; but, over the years, devotion to the Blessed Sacrament has waned.
Why do you think devotion to the Blessed Sacrament has waned?
It's the devil's work. He has attacked the Church in so many ways -- both from without and from within.
I had a friend who was looking for a seminary. He found the seminaries were very liberal and did not teach the traditions of the church. He ended up going to a seminary in Italy and became a priest.
More recently, I know one person who was in the seminary and had to tone down his beliefs in the traditions of the Faith because he was afraid he would be kicked out of the seminary.
The problems in the Church come from the seminaries. In the seminaries, instead of focusing on the traditions of the Faith (on what we believe and why we believe those traditions), they are bringing in other philosophies and beliefs that are against the Church's teachings.