My fourth pregnancy was a nightmare. For starters, it was not in my plan. Yes, I wanted more children, but not right then. I had just gotten myself back into my regular clothes. Our apartment was tiny. Adding a fourth child was something that needed to happen later. Not sooner. When my husband suspected I was pregnant, he urged me to take a test. So, while on the way to adopt a cat with my three small children, I stopped at K-Mart, bought a test, and took it.
We didn’t adopt the cat.
The pregnancy was high risk and difficult, and came with a labor and delivery that required seven blood transfusions to save my life. When I was finally discharged on Mother’s Day and my husband handed me a small gift box, I could only imagine the present inside! Was it diamonds? Pearls? I slowly opened the box in great anticipation, and uncovered what I was certain would be the gift of all gifts.
It was a rosary.
And I was disappointed.
That’s not easy to admit. But it is the truth. I had no idea what a priceless treasure I was given. My mother had definitely made known its importance and reverence when, as a child, I tried to look like Madonna andwore my rosary beads as a necklace. But praying it? That was never something I felt I needed to do. That was something the old holy women did.
Four years later, one morning after Mass, that fourth baby of mine went missing. I ran back into the church, but couldn’t find him. I panicked and set out for the parking lot, fearing the worst. Finally, I spotted him. Knees on the pavement, his hands folded in prayer, my 4-year-old son was praying in front of a statue of the Blessed Mother. He proceeded to do this every Sunday after Mass. He ran to Mary, as if she were calling him.
A year later, the enemy attacked my marriage. It was during this time that my husband bought me a Valentine’s Day gift. It was not a diamond necklace. It was another rosary! (Cue more disappointment.) But this was not any ordinary rosary. It was the beads used to pray the Sorrowful Rosary. I did not know that then, nor did my husband when he purchased it. I figured he got a discount because it was missing a few beads.
Despite my lack of rosary knowledge, I prayed it as best as I could and faithfully every day. Our marriage was restored and life was good. And then the enemy attacked again. This time, he went after my children. Without hesitation, I found myself running to the church, but when I discovered it was in lockdown, I ran to the one who could unlock any door, the one would bring me to Jesus: our Blessed Mother. And in the same spot that my son would run to, I got on my knees and began to pray.
That was no small moment. It was huge and significant, and had our Lady’s hands all over it. I could go on and on with the countless ways that Mary has interceded in my life, so you would think that I would be praying the rosary fervently, every day. But I am sad to admit, it has not been that way. Despite my devotion to Mary, my many consecrations and my enrollment as a member of The Association of Mary, Queen of All Hearts, praying the Rosary is a habit that I all too easily allow myself to slide out of.
Since quarantine, there have been no more excuses of “not enough time for Mary.” And the more I get back to this devotion, the more crystal clear the spiritual component of this virus has become to me. The enemy is real, my friends, and he is delighting in our fear and panic over this pandemic. He is thrilled that our churches have closed, and the Eucharist has been removed from our lives. But while the enemy whispers, “you are helpless, you can’t get to your God”…Mary comes to us in haste, stands on his head, and says, “Do not fear, my daughter, your Mother is here.”
When the Blessed Virgin Mary came to America in the visitation of the miraculous apparitions of Guadalupe, our Lady said to St. Juan Diego: “Know for certain that I am the perfect and ever Virgin Mary, Mother of the True God…Here I will show and offer all my love, my compassion, my help and protection. I am your merciful Mother, the Mother of all who love me, of those who cry to me, of those who have confidence in me. I will hear their weeping and their sorrows…their necessities and misfortunes...Listen, and let it penetrate your heart...Do not fear any illness or vexation, anguish or pain. Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle? In the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need?”
Today, April 28, is the Feast day of one of the greatest Marian Saints: St. Louis De Montfort. His books, True Devotionand The Secret Of The Rosary, have radically transformed my life, showing me how Mary is necessary and the Rosary is our greatest weapon. And so I urge you today, to use this gift of time we have been given wisely, to draw closer to Jesus through Mary. As I encourage this, I am aware that many see no need to go to Mary. “Why go to her, when I can go straight to Jesus?” Fair question. And so, as Lisa Brenninkmeyer responds, “The more we understand her, the more we can love her. The more we love her, the more we’ll be drawn to her son. When we turn our eyes to Mary, we don’t take our focus off of Christ. She just helps us to see him better.”
I cannot think of another time in my life when the world needs to see Christ better than right now. If you have been away from the Rosary, I urge you…come back. If you have never prayed the Rosary, I urge you…try it. Listen to the call of your Mother, and let her bring you to Jesus.
Queen of the most holy Rosary, pray for us.
In Jesus and Mary,
P.S. Looking for ways to better understand devotion to Mary? Check out the Walking with Purpose Bible study on the women of the Bible: Discovering Our Dignity. This is my favorite study, and Lesson 16 is all about Mary and showing us how this devotion flows from a deep understanding of Scripture.
 Father Peter John Cameron, Homily for December 23, 2012, at St. Rose of Lima Church in Newtown, Connecticut. https://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/am-i-not-here-who-am-your-mother
 Lisa Brenninkmeyer, Discovering Our Dignity(Walking With Purpose, July 2019), p. 230.
So, the question came up last night, “Can you grieve and still have hope?”
Let me backtrack here a bit, to give you the full picture. Currently, I run in two different circles: my Bible Study, which aims to lead women into a personal relationship with Christ through Scripture, and my Support Group, which aims to offer encouragement and hope to those who care for, or have tragically lost, a loved one afflicted with substance abuse disorder. This question came up at Group.
What has become crystal clear is my total inability to keep Jesus out of any discussion. To keep Jesus out of any circumstance. To keep Jesus out, period. Because I have grieved without hope; back when I did not know God's character, back when I reduced the Blessed Mother to a plastic statue, back when I believed the Gospel stories to be outdated and unrelatable, back when I did not know...truly know...my Catholic faith.
I see this a lot with cradle Catholics, fallen away Catholics, and non-Catholics. We know bits and pieces of our Catholic story but not the whole thing. Ironically, many of us wind up learning about Catholicism from our friends who have left the Church and encourage us to do the same. We misinterpret Scripture and allow the world to tell us who God is, and our hideous news feed becomes the icing on top of this lopsided cake. Then enter in the blind side: an unexpected twist in the road that takes us out at our knees, pulling us right out of hope and straight into despair; because I mean, really...if God were real, He would never have let this happen. If God were love, why would He stack one more thing upon our already burdened shoulders?
I so get it.
But here is the other thing I so get: God never promised that life will be easy or we will only be given so much. In the Gospel of John, He promises that we will have trouble. And the statement that we love to throw out in times of suffering? You know the one. “God will never give you more than you can handle.” Fun fact, folks...that phrase is not in Scripture! As Proverbs 31 Founder, Lysa Terkuerst, points out in her book, It's Not Supposed To Be This Way, “Nowhere in the Bible will you read that God will not give you more than you can handle. God does say He will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear and that He always provides a way out (1 Cor 10:13) but that's not the same as God not giving us more than we can handle. He sometimes will allow more and more and more.”¹
Saint Paul's words in 2 Cor 1:8-9 confirms this hard to swallow truth.
“...we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead.”
God absolutely gives us more than we can handle...beyond our strength...because He wants us to rely on Him. God does not expect us to handle it all on our own; He asks that we hand it all over. If you do not believe you can have hope while grieving, meditate on the Joyful Mystery of the Holy Rosary. The Annunciation cannot bring Mary the joy of carrying the Son of God without the grief of letting go of a life she had planned. The Presentation cannot offer Mary the joy of dedicating her Firstborn to the Lord without grieving the news that her son will be rejected and both will suffer greatly. Joy and Sorrow. Hope and Grief. Our Lady perfectly models how they can live side by side. But to be able to do this, you need to be like Mary; you need to accept whatever God has given you to carry and believe that what He says is true.
Herein lies the obstacle for so many of us: how do we accept something we do not understand from someone we truly don't know? It is the not knowing Jesus that ultimately trips us up. It is our lack of intimacy with Christ that directs our misplaced hope. We have all of these expectations for ourselves, our loved ones, our marriages, our future, and when those expectations we hold tight to do not line up with God's plan, we stay stuck in the need to understand what God is doing; to understand how this plan, which is often endless and painful, could actually be good. I have been stuck in this place myself, sweet friend. Stayed there too long, and it is a recipe for an extinguished faith.
Coincidentally, only hours before sitting in Group and faced with the question, “Can we grieve and still have hope?”, we had just chosen our Parish's Walking with Purpose Bible study for the fall: Grounded in Hope. The course description is as follows: “In a world where levels of despair, addiction, and suicide are rising, we need more than clichés or positive thinking. Grounded in Hope will help you encounter Jesus in such a powerful, comforting, and stabilizing way that He can become your lifeline.”²
If you are in the midst of a suffering causing you to lose hope, maybe the question is not so much, “Can you grieve and still have hope?” but rather…“What has become your lifeline?”
Praying we always stay tethered to the Anchor that grounds us in hope.
Your Sister in Christ,
¹ Lysa Teurkerst, It's Not Supposed To Be This Way, 2018, p.111,112
² Lisa Brenninkmeyer, Grounded in Hope, Walking With Purpose 2019