When I was getting married, gifts started arriving long before I headed down the aisle. One of those gifts came all the way from Puerto Rico and was a Crucifix from my Aunt Rafaelina. When I opened the box and unwrapped it, I remember thinking how very “Spanish” it was with Jesus’ passionate death so intricately displayed – His sallow flesh wounded and bloody, His eyes open and suffering, looking up to His Father — it was a little ‘messy’ for the tidy, modern décor I had chosen in my new little home.
I smiled at the thought of Aunt Rafa’s cute Hispanic ways and I quickly placed it back in the box. After all, I didn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable and clearly, that was a possibility because I loved Jesus and that kind of Passion with that much Blood made even me a little uncomfortable. Really, it was the right thing to do, I told myself.
As the wedding drew nearer, we received another Crucifix in the mail — this one was from my mother and father-in-law to be. It was perfect. A little smaller, carved out of wood, and just a tiny speckle of blood on His pierced side. Nice and tidy, but getting the point across that I was part of “Team Jesus” to whomever might enter our home. Plus, I liked the added benefit of scoring a few extra points with the new in-laws by putting their gift in the main part of the house. Everybody wins.
Fast forward 15 years — the death of my father, a move halfway across the country, three teenage boys, a struggling marriage, and working full time – God began to stir in my soul through the difficulties and sorrows of life in general and led me to finally “look up” with the realization that I had built everything on my own strength and it was all now crumbling before my very eyes.
“Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build.” Psalm 127:1
I started praying the Rosary because I didn’t know what else to do and it was the only thing that held panic at bay. It felt like Mary was teaching me how to be silent before the Lord and to contemplate His life and His suffering and to let go of all my own plans for my life and my children and surrender everything to Jesus. I had finally started to pray, really pray, and ask the Lord to help me.
“When you seek Me with your whole heart, then you will find Me.” Jer 29:13
Every morning, at ridiculously early times, I felt Jesus beckoning me to come and sit with Him in the darkness and the silence. The Rosary led me to Scripture and Jesus drew me closer. The added blessing of a new friend, who just happened to be a priest, opened the door to frequent Confession and Daily Mass. Repentance, the Gospel, and receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus daily in the Holy Eucharist was a game changer. I had always tried so hard to be perfect and was failing miserably. But now I saw that I actually had to do nothing and that being perfect was reserved for only Jesus. I was just called to receive Him and love Him and serve Him.
I suddenly saw my life in a whole new light. The sadness I had for my failure was sometimes overwhelming unless I was sitting with Jesus and His Mother. I started reading about the saints and their lives and I couldn’t get enough; each one was more fascinating than the last and I longed to see what they saw and to feel what they felt and to live like they lived. It was as if they were taking turns leading me to Jesus, one handing me off to the next as they taught me about courage and sacrificial love and the gift of faith. My morning quiet time had turned into a thrilling fascination – ok, obsession — of the endless reality of the spiritual world.
I don’t remember exactly the first time I thought of that Crucifix again, but one day the thought of it entered my mind and I wondered what had happened to it during our move 15 years prior. Surely it was in a box somewhere in the attic. I still had the nice, neat, and clean Crucifix my in laws had given to us hanging in the foyer of our home.
In the busyness of life, I quickly forgot about the Crucifix. Several weeks later the thought returned and I so I went up into the attic to see if I could find it. After about 15 minutes, my body covered in sweat from the August heat, I decided I would look another time. A few days later I went into the attic early in the morning to avoid the heat and I searched again but with no avail. I started to feel sick about having lost this Passionate Jesus and I tried not to think about the possibility that it may have been thrown away during the move.
This time, thoughts of the Crucifix stayed with me. Aunt Rafa had recently died and I was ashamed of my indifference towards her beautiful gift. After the many years of sitting silently with Jesus each morning, He had shown me the beauty of His Passion and death and the power of His Precious Blood. Through my own life as a mother of sons, I had grown to understand just a little of how His Mother suffered at the cruelty of man towards her Son. That bloody, passionate death was for my family and me and I had been indifferent towards it, maybe even somewhat ashamed.
“…but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 10:33
I had to find this Crucifix.
Then I had a dream. I dreamt that I was in the attic, sweating and moving boxes around to find the Crucifix. In the dream, I spotted a box in the corner with all of my wedding items. I started digging through the box, moving things aside – wedding guest book, wedding shoes, cake topper – until I reached the bottom of the box where I found Him. … When I woke up, I remembered the dream and planned to go into the attic and search one last time. After all, the dream had been very specific about the location of that box.
After I got the boys out the door to school, I went – pajamas and all – into the attic and recalled the dream. I looked over to the corner and there was the box from the dream! My heart was pounding not only with anticipation of finding the Crucifix, but also with amazement that God had possibly “spoken” to me in a dream to lead me to Himself. I cleared a path towards the box and began digging through, just like the dream – guest book, wedding shoes, cake topper – and then, Jesus.
My heart sank as I looked at Him. His nose, knees and feet were chipped off and one of his arms and hands broken completely off and missing. I knelt and cried there for a while as I held Him and told Him how sorry and ashamed I was for my indifference. I wanted to make things right and be different. I wanted the whole world to know just how much Jesus had suffered and that it wasn’t a neat and tidy death; it was gruesome and bloody and horrible and He did it lovingly and silently. And then I knew what I needed to do. I searched in the box, found the broken-off arm and hand at the bottom, got dressed, put my broken Jesus in my purse, and took off to Hobby Lobby.
The rest of the morning was spent at my kitchen table repairing this “broken by me, Jesus.” I mended His chipped nose, knees and feet. I re-attached His arm and His hand. I repainted the mended parts and then I painted the Precious Blood back onto His holy wounds. It was almost three o’clock when I was finally finished. I placed Him on my coffee table and stared in gratitude at him for quite a while and then prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet.
I look at this Crucifix now, hanging prominently in our family room next to a painting of our Blessed Mother, and I smile when I remember the story of finding Him — discarded for so long – patiently waiting, while I relied on myself for strength and perfection. I know that Mary led me to find Him because that’s what she does; she brings Jesus to us, and us to Jesus.
As for the neat, clean, and tidy Jesus my in-laws gave to us, I have found so much beauty in Him also; His suffering revealed through each carving in the wood of His bones and muscles. He hangs prominently in our bedroom now and guards our marriage while we sleep and trust in His Love and Mercy for us.
Copyright 2018 Inés Mersch
About the author: Inés Mersch has been married to her college sweetheart for 28 years, and is the mother of three wonderful young men. She enjoys life on a river in Mobile, Alabama with her husband, dog, and Fetty the attack cat. She loves Mary and her Son, a good saint story, popcorn, laughing, red wine, bold coffee, the sun (rising or setting), hip-hop, and of course, French fries.