“What I needed was prayer. As to which prayer, I had no idea; I only knew that I yearned for a prayer that would quiet my mind, engage my heart, and speak for me words that could capture the love and hope I had for this baby.”
It all began with a little girl – a little girl whose thumb-sucking habit and gorgeous eyelashes were visible during her twenty-week ultrasound. My journey with the rosary began with her, because I thought I might need a miracle.
It’s a long story, but when I met my husband, I had just begun exploring Catholicism. In the early years of our marriage I was new to the faith and had a lot to take in – scripture, tradition, liturgy, and in general, a deeper understanding of Catholic teaching. Reading, studying and pondering came quite naturally to me, but establishing my prayer life was a work in progress, and while I had heard of the rosary, I knew relatively little about it.
My ignorance, however, was about to change. During my pregnancy with my daughter Claire, the standard second-trimester ultrasound revealed a choroid plexus cyst. I understood the terminology, but had no idea what it meant for the well-being of my baby. And no one seemed to want to tell me anything about these cysts, which was extremely unnerving. Currently, if you do an online search, you’ll immediately see a myriad of sites offering information about this condition, which in my daughter’s case was a tiny sac of fluid within her brain, somewhat like a blister, pinched off as the choroid plexus formed. But, this ultrasound happened back in 1997, back when the internet didn’t provide fingertip access to the wealth of information it does today.
At some point after the scan, I do recall some mumbling about an association with trisomies 18 and 21, and conversely, that the cysts resolve, sometimes posing no problem at all. But, anyone who knows me well will tell you that when it comes to obtaining medical information, I err on the side of saturation. Perhaps it’s a control thing, but enduring this lack of feedback was painful. I was completely preoccupied with a desire to understand the worse-case scenario of the diagnosis, perseverating on the one fact I was familiar with – babies with trisomy 18 have very abbreviated lives. I was devastated.
Furthering my dismay, the appointment for a level II scan was scheduled a month out, and in the meantime I clearly needed something more productive to do than purchase tissues. At first, I thought I just needed distraction, but keeping busy did nothing to ease my angst. What I needed was prayer. As to which prayer, I had no idea; I only knew that I yearned for a prayer that would quiet my mind, engage my heart, and speak for me words that could capture the love and hope I had for this baby. I needed to be cradled in prayer, pacifying the fear and sorrow that consumed my thoughts. It was a pretty tall order, and not knowing exactly where to turn, I suppose I did what any grace-desperate neophyte would do – I grabbed a glossy Catholic prayer pamphlet from my bedside table and began to read. Fortunately for me, it contained a beautiful guide on how to pray the rosary. I don’t think I had rosary beads when I started. I just started.
It has been said before, but is certainly worth repeating, that God uses our struggles to draw us closer to Him. Recently, a dear friend of mine spoke of a point in her life in which she quite literally had no strength to do anything. While she was hospitalized, too weak to even speak, her mother regularly visited and prayed the rosary aloud. She shared with me that as her mother prayed, she felt lovingly rocked by the rhythm of the Hail Marys. She felt herself wrapped in the love of Our Lord, and tenderly cradled in the arms of Our Blessed Mother.
During that month of waiting for the ultrasound, I too, was cradled in the arms of Our Lady. She knew the pain of worry, and, as mothers do, soothed my heart with her embrace. Whether a miracle occurred, I really can’t say, but my daughter was found to be perfectly healthy. Perhaps the therapeutic effects of the rosary were a lifelong gift for me, rather than a remedy for my unborn child. In Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s moving reflection on praying the rosary he aptly wrote, “The rosary is the book of the blind, where souls see and enact the greatest drama of love the world has ever known; it is the book of the simple, which initiates them into mysteries and knowledge more satisfying than the education of other men; it is the book of the aged, whose eyes close upon the shadow of this world, and open on the substance of the next. The power of the rosary is beyond description.”
Image Credit: Catherine Yeulet (photos.com)