Stories & Legends
A Protestant Converted by the Eucharist
Fr. Michael Müller
Writing in 1867, the German priest Fr. Michael Müller reports this true story of a Protestant in Wisconsin who was converted by saying one Hail Mary every Sunday.
Fr. Anthony Urbanek, who in the years 1847 and 1848 was pastor of a church in the city of Milwaukee in the State of Wisconsin, gave the following account of a wonderful conversion wrought by the recital of the "Hail Mary.
He frequently visited a German Protestant family by the name of Pollworth, natives of Hanover, residing a few hours drive from Milwaukee. After a short time, Mrs. Pollworth joined the Catholic Church, but her husband remained obstinate and would often say that he would never become a Catholic. He would not even allow his children to be baptized, although his wife resorted to every possible means to obtain his consent. All who knew him used to say it would require nothing less than a miracle to make a Catholic of Mr. Pollworth.
The priest continued his visits, and their conversation generally fell upon the truths of Catholicism. But every effort to convince Mr. Pollworth was in vain; he had always a thousand objections to present.
On one of these visits, after having long and uselessly endeavored to open the eyes of that headstrong man to the truth of the Catholic Faith, Fr. Urbanek at last said to him: "I see well, Mr. Pollworth, that I can do nothing with you." At that moment, the good priest was suddenly inspired with a feeling of extraordinary confidence in the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, and, continuing to address Mr. Pollworth, he added: "But you must, at least, promise me one thing?"
"What may that be?" asked his host in the low German dialect.
"I will tell you after you have promised it," answered Fr. Urbanek. "It is not difficult, and you can do it with no problem of conscience.”
After a good deal of argument, Mr. Pollworth finally promised to do what might be asked of him.
"Then," said the priest, "say on every Sunday henceforth one 'Hail Mary' for my intention, and you will in a short time experience a great change in your convictions."
Mr. Pollworth laughed at these words, but he kept his promise faithfully.
The effect of the prayer
About 14 days after the promise was made, he suddenly told his wife thus: "I am going to Milwaukee today to buy some new clothes for the children."
His astonished wife asked: "But why at this particular time?"
"Well, I have at last made up my mind to let the children be baptized," was his reply.
The news spread like wildfire through the entire neighborhood: "Pollworth has finally consented to have his children baptized," was in everyone's mouth.
Moreover, he asked Fr. Urbanek to have the ceremony performed with the greatest solemnity. His request was granted. Fr. Urbanek invited another priest and two clerics to assist at the baptism, which took place before High Mass. After Mass, the Most Blessed Sacrament was exposed and the hymn Pange Lingua sung by the choir. The newly baptized children stood close to the altar steps and their father immediately behind them.
During the singing of the hymn, it suddenly occurred to Mr. Pollworth to look at the Blessed Sacrament, and he was not long able to resist the inclination. He looked towards the altar and saw the Sacred Host as it always is, but then it increased to the size of a millstone, and in the center of it there appeared the Good Shepherd with a lamb upon His shoulders.
The astonished man wished to convince himself of what he seemed to see. He accordingly closed one eye for a short while and thus looked at the apparition; then he looked again with both eyes, until he was fully satisfied that there was no illusion in the matter. Besides, it was a clear noon day, and he was standing scarcely two steps from the altar.
After the lapse of about five minutes, the vision disappeared, and the Sacred Host reassumed its original appearance. On leaving the church, Pollworth asked some of his neighbors whether they had seen anything singular during the divine service. When he perceived that they knew nothing of the apparition, he said no more.
The next day he invited the priest to pay him a visit, and as soon as Fr. Urbanek entered the house, Pollworth said: "Now, indeed, the lost sheep - after its long straying among the briars – is at last found. I wish to become a Catholic."
A few days later he was received into the Church, and after he had made his Profession of Faith, he solemnly attested by oath to the truth of the vision above related. On that same day another heretic, a bigoted Calvinist, was converted and baptized upon the simple assurance of Mr. Pollworth of what had taken place.
The Bishop granted to the congregation of the church in which the wonder had taken place the privilege of having, on every 16th of July, the day of the apparition, a solemn procession with the Blessed Sacrament, exactly as on Corpus Christi. Mr. Pollworth and his family would always assist at this Mass and go to Holy Communion on that day.
From The Blessed Eucharist, Our Greatest Treasure by Fr. Michael Müller,
Baltimore, Kelley & Piet, 1868, Chapter 14
Posted on May 26, 2012
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