The Amazing Grace of the Rosary

“Because though Mary couldn’t give me my baby, she could give me her heart. Though she couldn’t give me my child, she could give me her Son. And that day, I’m convinced she did.”

My first adult attempt at praying a full rosary wasn’t a good one.

I was nearly three months pregnant for the first time, and my husband and I were in the car on our way to a friend’s birthday party.  It should have been a beautiful time.  It should have been a rosary of joy and thanksgiving.  Instead, my first rosary was one of desperation.

rosary buttonI hadn’t been feeling well the previous few days.  I had lower back pain and cramps.  And my pregnancy symptoms, the ones that had been apparent from the start, had gradually disappeared over the course of the week.  “You’re reaching the end of your first trimester,” I was told. “That’s normal.”

It didn’t feel normal to me.  Not that I’d been pregnant before.  Not that I had anything to compare it to.  At my eight-week prenatal visit, the midwife had tried in vain to find my baby’s heartbeat. “No worries,” she said. “It’s still quite early to hear a heartbeat. You’re so small, though, I thought we might. We’ll hear it at the 12-week visit.”

But the lack of a heartbeat two weeks earlier, together with my lost pregnancy symptoms but gained premenstrual ones worried me. My husband tried to allay my fears, repeating the encouragement we’d been given by nurses, doctors, family and friends. But, in my heart, I felt something wasn’t right. On the way out the door, as we prepared for the one and a half hour drive to the party, I grabbed my rosary beads.

Though I rarely prayed a decade, and could not remember praying a full rosary in my adult life, I usually had beads around. Sometimes, they just sat on my dresser. Other times, they hung out in a pouch in my purse. But, they rarely made it to my hands.

On that day, though, the day of the birthday party, I held them tightly. In the car, I talked with God. I prayed the random Our Father or Hail Mary, but though I had the beads in my hand, I didn’t pray a single decade. Until we got within a half hour of the party and we passed a Catholic Church.

“Pull in!” I begged my husband.

Within minutes, he parked in the empty lot and I raced into the church. The abdominal pains were coming stronger now, but I still held out hope. I knelt into a pew and began to pray the rosary. I prayed it fervently, if slightly incorrectly, saying only the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Glory Be, not even knowing about the Hail, Holy Queen or the Oh, My Jesus prayers. I’m not even sure I said the Apostles’ Creed. But, I did pray five decades, the first time I remember ever doing so.

And, as I neared the final Glory Be, the miscarriage began. I was lost. Confused. I thought this could save my baby. In my immature faith, I clung tight to that hope I’d had.

 As we turned around and drove back home, towards the emergency room of our local hospital, questions raced through my head. I thought the rosary could bring miracles. Why do this? Why take my baby while I pray a rosary? What is that supposed to tell me?

Here’s the funny thing, though.  I could have had a crisis of faith.  I very nearly did.  But, I think, in retrospect, that the rosary I prayed as I began to lose my first child gave birth to a love of the rosary within me.

Because though Mary couldn’t give me my baby, she could give me her heart. Though she couldn’t give me my child, she could give me her Son. And that day, I’m convinced she did.

Because as I lay in the emergency room bed, there was a moment when I very clearly felt arms around me, hugging me from behind, even though the only thing behind me was a wall. And I was sure that was Jesus.

Because while I was losing my child, I, who am always emotional, was somehow calm. Even more astounding, I worried not about my comfort but about comforting those around me. When my husband looked white as a sheet and had to sit with his head lowered, I encouraged him to take a walk outside. To take a breather. And I didn’t resent him in the least when he did. When the young medical intern fumbled her words and was obviously nervous and upset, I soothed her, “Don’t worry. It’s okay. Really, it’s okay.” Where did that come from? I wondered. Because that wasn’t me. That calm, more concerned about everyone else than my own current sorrow, wasn’t me. It was Mary.

I have prayed the rosary (almost) daily since then. It is a prayer that finds me no matter where I am in life and teaches me how to be more like our Blessed Mother. How to be more like our Lord. In the Joyful Mysteries, I find the beauty of life. In the Sorrowful Mysteries, I find the beauty of strength in suffering. In the Luminous Mysteries, I find my Jesus, the beautiful God-Man who moves me. And in the Glorious Mysteries, I find the hope of our Father in heaven.

The first time I prayed the rosary, I prayed for an obvious miracle. But the power of the rosary works deeper miracles:  not one-time shows to which we can say a quick thank you to God and be on our merry way, but subtler, slower-forming miracles, the kind that take deep root and have the power to change our lives, to change us, from the inside out.

And that’s what pulls me back – each day – to the rosary.

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