In the still hours of morning before my busy day as a homeschooling mom of six children commenced, I would rise to meditate on Pope St. John Paul’s 2002 Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, thinking, praying, and writing. These stolen moments allowed me to enter into the beauty and depth of the rosary, and as I did so, over the course of one year the chapters of my second children’s book poured forth from this wellspring of prayer.
While meditating on the Apostolic Letter the recurring theme of contemplating the face of Christ captured my heart:
“With the Rosary, the Christian people sits at the school of Mary and is led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love.” (1)
“To recite the rosary is nothing other than to contemplate with Mary the face of Christ.” (3)
“No one has ever devoted himself to the contemplation of the face of Christ as faithfully as Mary.” (10)
Mary gently led me to understand that she is inviting her youngest children to discover the face of Christ in their daily lives and to recognize His holy and beautiful face in the midst of their joys, sorrows, and struggles—she desires to teach her youngest children to know and love Jesus through the rosary.
The beauty and power of the rosary filled my days and nights as I prayed and wrote. Though keenly aware of my inadequacies and limitations, under Mary’s loving gaze I set out to craft the essence of Rosarium Virginis Mariae into a book that a child could effortlessly grasp and immensely enjoy. Enter The Costly Cookie Chronicles: A Young Heart Discovers the Face of Christ, with a Foreword by Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, and illustrations by Kellie Ryan, a homeschooling mom of six children in Wisconsin.
Eleven-year-old Clare wants to be a saint for Jesus, but there are a few things standing in her way: everything she says, does, and thinks . . . well, not quite but almost.
With disarming honesty she pours her heart out to Jesus: “I don’t understand why You made it so hard to do the right thing; if this is Your will for us, why couldn’t You make it easier to do? I try to do what’s right but then the same old battle kicks in with myself and before I know it I’ve done something selfish, usually before I even realize I’ve done it. Why couldn’t I have a sister and two brothers who aren’t always trying my patience—that would make being a saint a lot easier.”
Clare’s journey of the heart begins when she attends with her family the parish mission on the rosary. Through the gentle invitation of the visiting priest, who unfolds the beauty of Rosarium Virginis Mariae for the parishioners, Clare begins to learn more about the rosary and her relationship with Mary. She shares with Jesus, “Sitting at the feet of Mary means listening to Mary…as she teaches us about the mystery of Your life as only she can. We sit at her feet as she shares with us the treasures of her heart—her memories and thoughts of You.”
Irritating brothers, boredom in prayer, disobedience, impatience, and self-absorption—Clare’s struggle for holiness feels crushing at times, until she opens her heart to Mary and the transforming power of the rosary. After praying the First Glorious Mystery she tells Jesus: “Jesus, when I think of the empty tomb and Your love for me, how can I be the same? You suffered Your Passion, died on the cross, and rose from the dead to share Your life with me…how could I not give You my heart in return? I’m weak and selfish and sometimes mean, but I love You, Jesus, and I want to do Your will no matter what it costs me.”
The mysteries of the rosary and corresponding fruits or virtues begin to weave their way into the fabric of Clare’s daily life—instructing, guiding, strengthening—under Mary’s loving gaze. For strong-willed, selfish Clare, the journey of discovery and self-surrender will cost her dearly. In the chapter on the Crucifixion she reflects: “Dear Jesus, when I prayed this mystery I understood—I cannot be a saint without the cross. Dying to myself and following in Your footsteps is the only way I can reflect Your love.”
The Costly Cookie Chronicles is the story of a young girl’s journey to discover the face of Christ…but it was first mine. Clare’s story is my story, her joy is my joy, and I sing praise to Jesus and Mary as I echo Clare’s final words of the book: ” Jesus, just one more thing…spending time thinking and praying about your holy life has made You a part of me in a way I never imagined could be possible. It’s like Mary’s memories of You have become my own, in my heart, and I feel so close to You. Your thoughts are becoming my thoughts…Your desires my desires…Your heart my heart. The way I see it, Jesus, we belong together…always, every day…forever.”
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Copyright 2017 Julie Kelly
About the author: Julie Kelly is a Catholic wife and homeschooling mom of six children in rural Arkansas. The Costly Cookie Chronicles is a follow-up to her first book, Clare’s Costly Cookie: A Young Heart Discovers the Way of Love. Find Julie’s books at NativityPress.com.