I have always used the rosary as the center of my daily prayer. Sometimes it is difficult to speak to Jesus spontaneously and I rely upon the time-honored words of the prayers of the Church. However, the rosary is not merely words, it is based on mysteries. And those mysteries begin with motherhood. Mary’s acceptance of the Incarnation changed the history of the world. My motherhood changes the world too, as I accept the role of raising souls for heaven. The rosary helped me to see the parallels between the two.
After two little girls were born to us, my husband and I thought our life as parents was complete. But unexpectedly, another life began, and we were surprised by joy. We were unprepared for the loss of that life, and two more. I was laid low with unspeakable grief. I could not pray the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary, bringing to mind the joy of conception, since my last three had ended in tragedy. My calendar was dotted with days of loss, which sprung up whether I was consciously remembering them or not, like the seasons. My son, Theodore had died on my Grandpa Theodore’s birthday in September, Patrick died on St Patrick’s Day, and Dolores died on Good Friday. I prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries with the Sorrowful Mother, who watched her only Son die a slow, painful, ignominious death on the cross. The loss of a child tears a mother’s heart, so I could relate to the image of the Immaculate Heart, pierced with a sword at her son’s death. I could also feel the anguish of Our Lord who asked for the cup of suffering to be taken away from the Heavenly Father, and when it was not said, “Lord, into Your Hands, I commend my spirit.” The rosary taught me to unite my pain with the Cross and offer it to God as a sacrifice.
Soon, my life was to change. I was able to find a book, which explained the root cause of my secondary infertility (Fertility Cycles and Nutrition by Marilyn Shannon). I conceived again, and suddenly I could not stop praying the Joyful Mysteries. The season of sorrow was over for me. I meditated on Mary’s pregnancy, at the Annunciation at first a secret she hardly dared breathe to anyone, then a joyful Visitation with her cousin Elizabeth as they discussed their coming births. No less than eight of my friends were expecting babies within two months of one another. We attended a baby shower, and stayed late into the night, sharing our joyful anticipation. We weathered 9/11, praying for the husbands of one of our friends who was a firefighter in the World Trade Center, and rejoiced when he came out alive to raise his new daughter. In the spring, we met in the halls of the local Catholic hospital, celebrating our nativities. Our Lady may have given birth to Jesus in a strange land, but God sent shepherds and Wise Men to worship her Son and share her joy.
The Presentation in the Temple is akin to our sacrament of Baptism. We had 100 guests attend the ceremony in our parish church that rainy Mother’s Day in 2002. Our daughter Christina had Down syndrome, and like our Lady our celebration was tinged with fear for our child’s future, as nurses in the hospital gave me frightening statistics about congenital defects which often accompany Trisomy 21. Christina had a small hole in her heart, which kept us going to the Cardiologist for a year until it healed spontaneously. Simeon had issued a dire warning about her heart being pierced with a sword, yet Our Lady, watching Jesus grow up strong and healthy, must have found it hard to imagine her Son dying a horrible death in the three decades of their peaceful hidden life.
When Jesus was 12, He frightened His parents by disappearing from the Passover Pilgrims and, when at the Finding in the Temple, they were stunned to see how the elders of the Temple sat at His feet to hear His wisdom. He gently reminded them of His role in the world, serving God not them, some day in the future. Little by little, Christina is doing the same to me, displaying signs of independence and a desire to embrace the world beyond our safe home. I have to undergo a gradual process of letting go, and proudly watch her achievements at school. God knows me well, I do not have the spiritual strength to let go in an instant as Our Lady did. It’s hard enough to let go of her little hand as her aide takes her down the hall to her Kindergarten class.
As I walked through these mothering mysteries in my own life, I grew closer to Our Lady whose experiences paralleled mine. As a reward for my devotion, she helped me to grow closer to her Son. Just before I met my husband, I wrote Mother Teresa a letter discerning my vocation. Her response was “put your hand in Mary’s hand and she will lead you to Jesus”. The rosary has been her method of drawing me toward her Son.
My vocation to motherhood was ennobled with the daily contact with Heaven, and the reason for the rosary is becoming clearer. It is not so much about how many times you tell Mary that she is “Blessed among women.” It’s about allowing Our Lady to show you that motherhood is a blessing, and that she, whose unique role in salvation was to give birth to the Lamb of God, though it broke her heart, was the most blessed of all of us.
Copyright 2009 Leticia Velasquez