Freedom through prayer
[Prayer's effectiveness]

After World War II Austria, who had been incorporated into the Third Reich, was divided into four occupational zones. Tirol, the westernmost region of Alps was occupied by the French, the area of Styria and Carinthia – by the British, Salzburg and Upper Austria – by the Americans. The richest region of Lower Austria, with the capital of the country – the city of Vienna, almost the entire Burgenland and a part of Upper Austria fell prey to the Soviet Red Army. Vienna itself was partitioned like Berlin.

Contrary to the other invaders, the Soviets enforced a new communist order in the zone they had taken up. They plundered anything they could, looted machinery and industrial equipment. The country was getting poorer and poorer. Five years after the WWII was over, a Franciscan of Vienna, Fr. Petrus Pavlicek, conceived an idea to arrange a nightly Light Procession, in the intention of the Soviet troops withdrawal. Tens of thousands of people – mainly the members of the Penitential Rosary Crusade, which he had established three years earlier, marched then along the Vienna Ring holding candles and rosaries, covering the route from the famous Votivkirche up to the Franciscan Monastery. The outstanding Austrian politicians took part in the procession – among them chancellor Leopold Figl and Mr. Julius Raab, the Austrian People's Party (OVP) leader. “Even if we are the only two to go, then our homeland is worth doing it” – said Mr. Figl to Fr. Pavlicek on the day before the procession. It appeared, however, that the chancellor's fears were groundless; wellness and freedom of their homeland were troubling all the Austrians, and the friar managed to mobilize huge crowds.

A man of trust

Who was the initiator of the Procession – a 48-year-old Fr. Petrus Pavlicek? Otto Augustin Pavlicek was born in 1902 in Innsbruck. His life hasn't been all roses. His mother died when he was 2 years old. Along with his brother he was cared of by his father – a professional Austrian army officer. Those days Austria was a widespread powerful state, and his father used to be relocated from site to site, thus they frequently changed their domicile, and a chance to put down roots was out of the question anywhere. Young Otto took up a job in a furniture manufactory, then he began his study at the Academy of Fine Arts in Wrocław (then Breslau). Having completed his study he tramped all over Europe as a wandering painter. He stayed a little longer in Paris, London and Cambridge. In the latter he took up making posters and designing handbags. He got married on a civil contract, but was divorced soon after. Having spent several year in the British Islands he returned to Prague. While studying and staying in Western Europe Otton renounced his ties with the Church. He was converted only in 1935 and through his brother's prayers – as he himself maintained. Soon he abandoned painting and wished to take the veil – but he didn't know which order to choose. The provincial of Dominicans in Prague recommended him to seek advice from Teresa Neumann, a famous German mystic and stigmatic, who lived in Konnersreuth, Bavaria.”It is high time for you to become a priest. I will pray for you and make offerings” – she declared. After leaving the stigmatic Otton set for the nearest church. It was a Franciscan one. Pavlicek decided then to join Franciscans. But actually it appeared that the way from a decision to its accomplishment was not easy. Only the third province in turn – and it was the Prague one - accepted his application, while the provinces in Innsbruck and Vienna considered him too old. Prior to taking the veil Otto had given away all his possessions to the poor. In December 1941 he was ordained a priest and was given a new name in religion – Petrus. The war was on and Germany wanted more military men. Petrus refused to serve in the army. After being tried at a court martial he was crimped to auxiliary military services. He performed there as a paramedic. In 1944 the American troops took him POW, and he landed in a POW camp in Cherbourg. There he served as chaplain. Just then he came across a booklet on Marian revelations in Fatima. He grasped then the very sense of the historical events going on clearly to his eyes. After being released Fr. Pavlicek headed for Mariazell, an Austrian shrine like that of Poland's Częstochowa.

Kneeling at Magna Mater Austria - the famous Holy Mary's effigy – he heard these words: “Do what I am telling you, and you will be given peace.” (Much later he revealed that these words were the same heard by the children of Fatima from Mary.) Fr. Petrus began to get deeper and deeper in devolving Mary's message. He discovered that the only salvation for Austria and the whole world is to trust in God, Mary and her Immaculate Heart.

In Fatima Holy Mary called on praying Rosary and conversion. Thus in 1947 Fr. Petrus established Penitential Rosary Crusade and began to travel across the country – fulfilling missions, in which he called on Austrians to do penance, prayer and conversion. His calls were not left without response. Soon he brought down the whole nation after him. The churches were bursting at the seams when he conducted holy services; multitudes appeared at the confessional where he heard their confessions. Many sinners were converted and restored faith.

“Please pray!”

The occupation was still a matter of fact in 1954. It appeared the Soviets made themselves at home in Austria. Multiple negotiations as conducted by the chancellors Figl and Raab failed due to the firm attitude of Vyacheslav Molotov, the Soviet foreign Minister. Some 300 attempts to seek an agreement with Kremlin failed. The Soviets did not wish to give Austria back to the Austrians. Then Fr. Pavlicek supported by 500 thousands of the members who prayed Rosary persuaded the Government to make December the 8
th, the feast of Holy Mary's Immaculate Conception, a labour free day, just as it had been before Austria was incorporated into the Third Reich, and also for the two years following the war. Then this day was made a weekday. Only thanks to Fr. Pavlicek and his Crusade the 8th of December became again a non-labour day. It was a remarkable ex-voto offered to Mary on the 100th anniversary of the proclamation of the dogma of Her Immaculate Conception.

Fr. Pavlicek was sure the problem of Austria's liberation from the Soviet occupation might be and had to be entrusted to Holy Mary. “We can only switch from ‘niet' to ‘yes' through Mary's support” – he wrote in a letter to chancellor Raab. After the Easter of 1955, just before another round of talks in Moscow, chancellor Raab and foreign minister Leopold Figl requested Fr. Pavlicek and all the Crusade members to pray. “Please pray! Let all the Crusade members pray” – asked Raab. Mr. Raab himself prayed fervently that the Austrian nation be granted God's graces.

And then a miracle happened. On April 13th – a Fatima Day – the Soviets unexpectedly changed their minds. Having received generous indemnity they agreed to leave Austria. A treaty on withdrawal of all the Soviet occupational troops from Austria was signed in May, and in October the last Red Army soldier left Austria. The bells in all Austrian churches began to toll. To mark the thanksgiving they were ringing for three days and nights. Chancellor Raab himself lead the thanksgiving prayer on September 12th, during the feast of “Fest-Maria-Nahme” in Vienna. “We are free! Thanks You, Holy Mary!” he concluded.

Holy Mary helped

The spontaneous withdrawal of the Soviets from the occupation Austria was obviously a miracle, an outcome of years of prayers of many. The Soviets did not use to withdraw from the territories they had once occupied. The German workers in East Berlin, as well as the inhabitants of Hungary's Budapest were the living witnesses of such a stance. The efforts to liberate from Soviet domination attempted in the 1960s had been relentlessly suppressed in blood. The same was in Czechoslovakia and Poland. Until now the historians have not been able to unveil the reasons of such uncommon behaviour of the Soviets towards Austria. For worshippers the matter is unmistakable – it was Holy Mary who aided Austrians. The same opinion was held by the those days Austrian chancellor Julius Raab. “It was Holy Mary who helped us to gain the peace treaty” – he said.

The Penitential Rosary Crusade did not abandon their activity after liberation of Austria. On the contrary, they extended the scope of the intentions of their prayers and their activity on the whole world. Particularly warm prayers were devoted to Russia's conversion. Nowadays the 700.000 Crusade is headed by Fr. Benno Mikocki. Fr. Pavlicek, the Crusade's founder, suffered a heart attack in 1970 and never fully recovered. Due to his illness he could no longer perform his ministry. In May 1981 he visited John Paul II, a couple of days before the assassination attempt on the Pontiff. Fr. Pavlicek died on December 14
th, 1982. On October 13th, 2000, the process of his beatification began.

from "Cuda i Łaski Boże"

  © International Secretariat of The World Prayer for Life, 2008.