My husband and I once lived in an apartment for several months before moving on to a permanent home in another state.
We stored the bulk of our possessions in a warehouse, and movers would eventually transport them to a house when we were settled. Traveling with us were just the essentials and a few small things of value, such as good jewelry.
When the day arrived to head out of state to our new home, it wasn’t difficult to pack. Clothes, toiletries, a few pots and pans, and a small television we had purchased for our apartment life were loaded into our two cars. Since I was reluctant to drive alone across country, my brother had flown in to help with the driving and had spent the night on our couch.
We were excited and eager for a new life. The three of us grabbed our coffee, did a quick inventory of the apartment’s closets and cupboards and prepared to take off.
But something drew my husband back for one last look. I’ll never guess how he managed to find them, but tucked away, hanging on a nail, out of sight, around the corner of my closet, were five beautiful sterling rosaries I had hidden there. I had forgotten about them.
“Do you want these?” he asked with a smile.
One of them was my mother’s, a gift from my father decades ago. She had valued it deeply and prayed with it all of her life. She loved it so much that she gave one to each of my three children, inscribed with their initials, and when she realized I loved them, she gave me one, too. They were all in my possession, and I’d almost left them behind.
I will never forget how I felt when I saw my husband holding them out. It wasn’t the monetary value, although my parents were not wealthy people and purchasing sterling was an indication of the importance of the gift. It was the immeasurable value of my parents’ love, and the significance of the rosary itself that would have made the loss devastating.
Like many women of my generation, I’ve evolved through various stages of Marian devotion in my life. When I was young, the nuns used to frighten us, in that Cold War era, with apocalyptic visions associated with Fatima.
Our family prayed the rosary together, and I yearned for Mary as a source of solace and not fear. Later, as I explored Scripture and theology, I yearned to know the real woman in Mary. Scripture gives us so little insight, although the words ascribed to her in the Magnificat are among the most powerful spoken by any saint.
Nevertheless, even today I struggle to know her. The saint I greatly admire, Ignatius of Loyola, was dedicated to her, as is Pope Francis and a host of other notables whose insight I value.
So I still search for this mysterious woman. When my youngest child was born looking gray and still, I spontaneously began to say the Hail Mary aloud over and over. Today, that baby, whom we named Maria, is beautiful and healthy at 25.
Like countless others, I go to Mary in times of trouble.
My rosary lies beneath my pillow, and in moments of nighttime anxiety, I cling to it as to a rope thrown from a ship to a drowning woman. That’s exactly how it seems to me in the dark hours of the night.
Mary, Mother of God, pray for us and help us to know you.
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