A Testimony

When Brad asked me if I would write for the SEEK KNOCK ASK blog, I didn’t even have to think about it. I immediately said “yes”. Maybe he was a little surprised, I don’t know, but the reason was because I already knew that Jesus wanted me to write something. I didn’t know what or where or how and when I prayed about it, I would get no specific direction, but still I knew that’s what He wanted from me, so I was just waiting for Him to show me.

Anyway, many months later, Brad asked me to contribute to the blog, and said I could write about anything I was inspired to, so naturally I went to the Lord in prayer, “Jesus, what do YOU want me to write about?” I was in Church at Adoration of the Eucharist, at the time, and I immediately and clearly heard in my heart. “I want you to write about my Mother.” So, my first post “Behold your Mother” (a pretty “safe” one) was written, right there in Church, and then a couple of others followed on different subjects. Still I had a nagging feeling that there was something else I was supposed to do. I was avoiding, and Jesus wasn’t leaving me alone about it. So, a little timidly and reluctantly, I asked Him again, “My Jesus, what do you want me to write about?” Well, the answer was clear. Since then I have wrestled with it a little more, and even wrote another post first.  I am a very private person, and this is deeply personal, so it is hard for me to make public. Jesus always wins in the end though, and so this is the real story about the Blessed Mother of Jesus that He wants me to share.

About twenty-five years ago, I was in deep spiritual trouble. The thing is… I didn’t even know how much trouble I was in, or even how it was affecting my marriage or my family.  Oh, by all outward appearances, I was “good”, and did good things, and still went to Church, but I was really almost completely spiritually bankrupt, and deep in sin. There was so much that needed correction and healing in me, that I am sure it would have only been a matter of time before serious problems would have occurred, and seen outwardly.

I was lost. But Jesus always goes after his lost sheep…

And so something happened that changed my life.

One night I had a very vivid dream. I rarely even remember dreams let alone have one like this. It was so real. I dreamed that I saw Our Blessed Mother Mary, and she was just standing before me with her hands folded, some distance away.  I could tell though that she was looking at me and the only words she spoke were, “Do you know how much I love you?”, and as she was speaking, she opened her arms…. and these rays of light came out from her, and into me, and filled me with peace and love like I’ve never felt before! It is so very difficult to explain what this felt like, but during this I also knew that there was something else she was giving me! She was giving me a gift; it felt as if she had just infused something wonderful into me from God, and it was almost too much for me to take! I wish I could adequately describe this experience, but there really are no words!

I woke up suddenly, sitting straight up in bed, with my face all wet from tears. I had been crying in my sleep. I’d never had that happen before either. I woke up Mark, my husband, and told him, “Something just happened to me! I had this dream of the Blessed Mother Mary. I don’t understand it what it all means, but something has happened to me!” I think he told me, “Go back to sleep, you were just dreaming.” But sleep eluded me…

The next morning I still had this on my mind, of course, when I was getting breakfast for the kids (I had three then), when my oldest daughter, (who was about four or five) came into the kitchen. I said to her like always, “Good morning, did you sleep well last night?” She said, “Oh I slept great! I had this dream that this beautiful lady came into my room, and she sat on my bed. She said that she was Jesus’ mother.” I almost dropped my coffee cup, my hands started shaking so much! I turned to her and knelt down, holding her shoulders, and as calmly as I could I said “You had a dream about what?? Please tell me this again, all of it.”  She continued, “She had these beads that looked like a necklace with a cross on it, and the cross had Jesus on it, and the cross with Jesus was glowing, and all around the beads it was glowing in different places (and she was counting in the air trying to show me which beads were glowing, and it was at the parts where we pray the Lord’s prayer). “

She described to me in detail what the “Lady” said, and she was very specific about the details (even though, now as an adult, she doesn’t remember any of this, I suppose to her it was just a nice “dream”). She said that the lady told her that she wanted her to pray with this, and what prayer to say on the glowing beads, and then what prayers on the rest of the beads. I couldn’t believe it! She was so specific, and like my dream, she said that it seemed so real.

Now I am ashamed to admit it, but while my children did know some prayers, and we prayed with them at night and before meals etc. She did NOT know the rosary. She may have seen one, but I rarely used it, and I didn’t even remember all the prayers and mysteries myself, so I had not taught her any of this.

I cannot even begin to tell you the state of shock I was in! I knew without a doubt that Our Blessed Mother Mary had just intervened in my family! I hadn’t done a single thing to necessitate or deserve this if that was even possible. God doesn’t love us because we are good. He loves us because HE is good.

That very day, I took the kids to the only Catholic bookstore in the next city. I bought everyone rosaries, and a booklet on how to pray the rosary, and when Mark came home, I told him the whole story and said “We need to start praying the rosary as a family starting today!” I am sure he was more than a little startled too, but he went along with it, good man that he is. (He continues to pray the rosary daily on his way to work by the way.)

So we did, but even more, I prayed the rosary myself, and then an even more amazing thing happened. I began to “see” what I hadn’t seen before about myself. I saw all of my sins in their ugly and terrible clarity. I saw all of my spiritual “brokenness” and “sickness”, and little by little it was as if a light was being shown into all these dark corners of my soul. She helped me to understand that when you start falling into sin and away from God, at first your conscience warns you, but then your soul gets darker and darker and you go further and further away from Him which is the Light, and it makes it harder than ever to even “see” what sin is anymore, so you just keep getting worse! I could see how I had hurt myself, others, but worst of all, God, who had given me great and wonderful gifts and blessings my whole life!

After I was shown all of this, and feeling so sorry, I knew she was telling me, “Now go to the priest, tell your sins, and let my Son heal you through His Sacrament.”  (When I say that she or Jesus said something to me, I mean that sometimes it is an idea that gradually formulates, but is persistent, and usually is accompanied by what some people may call coincidences, but what I call “confirmations”, and other times it comes as an immediate and complete thought into my head. And it can be so striking because it is like nothing I would have come up with. But the deeper my prayer life has become the more I’ve seen how the Blessed Mother and Jesus wish to have real conversations with us!)

When I called our associate pastor, I told him that I urgently needed to make a confession. He said “Come right over.” God bless Father Augustine Lucca, and may his soul rest in peace. He may have been more than a little shocked at my very long confession, which I had written down and recited on my knees, but after giving me absolution and a penance he simply said, “ Now burn that list.  Your sins are no more. Have no doubt the Lord has forgiven you. Go in peace.”

I am in tears now remembering that feeling of complete peace and happiness. I was free!!

And make no mistake, saying your sins out loud, to the priest who is given the power to absolve them by Jesus is the most wonderful relief and joy. That priest stands in the place of Jesus, and there is no question of whether you are forgiven or not. That is one reason why all of the sacraments have “outward signs”, so the words, the gestures, the objects, everything, much of which is Scriptural, is done so that you KNOW it has happened. The prayer of absolution is beautiful too:

Then the priest extends his hands over the penitent’s head (or at least extends his right hand) and says:

God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit. The penitent answers: Amen.

So, I was forgiven, but Jesus also told those he forgave, “Now go and sin no more.” So there was still work to be done, the remnants and effects of sin and my own brokenness still took a while to battle and work on, but I kept praying the rosary, and kept going to confession on a regular basis, and then started going to daily mass too, and gradually the holds on me, habits of sin, and biggest struggles left me. Grace is there for the asking. There will always be temptation, because the devil is always around, but now I know better how to “put on the armor of God” to protect myself!

Then another wonderful thing happened…

Unfortunately, during my life I had been told some confusing and contradictory things about faith and morality, some of it by priests. My good parents did impart the faith to me, but even after going through Catholic schools, I was somehow not very well catechized, something was lost, and for my generation (I am fifty-three) it seems this is not unusual.  I have no blame for anyone since a major part of it was surely my own apathy, but at any rate that was the case. By the time I got to my last two years at a secular college, I was seriously slipping in my belief, and didn’t care that much about my faith.

I know this seems really simplistic and obvious, but after praying the rosary for a while, one day it occurred to me  when thinking about matters of faith or morality, and the conflicting things I had heard, that something is either the truth or it’s a lie. It’s God’s will or it isn’t.  So, I began to pray “Jesus, I simply want to know the Truth. Please show me the Truth and I promise that I will believe it, live it, speak it, obey your commands, and do whatever you ask of me because I know that you love me.”

And He did! I mean, wow, did He ever! It would take so many more pages to describe and explain how and what He showed me, and in how many different ways! But Truth, objective, profound Truth came into my life, and flooded my mind and heart, from all directions and sources.  And this Truth was coming through the Catholic Church! I realized what an idiot I had been. It is a very great blessing to be baptized and raised Catholic, to have the Sacraments from an early age, and the opportunity to learn the faith from the ground up, and I took it for granted!

Jesus said “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Light.” The Church through which Jesus promised would come all “Truth”, in matters of our faith and morals, really does teach it! Jesus didn’t just go to Heaven until the end of time leaving us with just His Word in Scripture to interpret all on our own and struggle to apply to every age. (Ever wonder why there are so many different protestant churches?)  He left us so much more! Just as the Holy Spirit inspired men to write the words of Scripture, so did He give His Church this same Holy Spirit who continues to inspire with wisdom, interpretation, and enlightenment. That is part of what we call Sacred Tradition, and it is Scriptural. (2 Thessalonians 2:15) Also, the earliest Church fathers, the disciples of the apostles themselves taught the same faith and morals then, and performed the same Sacraments, that the Catholic Church does now, so they passed on Sacred Tradition. This is all documented historical fact. And Sacred Scripture as we know it wasn’t put together by the Catholic Church until much later.

You see the Church isn’t an ancient relic, it is a living body!  When you think about it, it makes so much sense that He would leave us with more than His inspired Word in Scripture, but with real direction and help in every age,  a Church with leaders whom He inspires infallibly (ONLY when making a proclamation in matters of the Faith and morals), and grace through the Sacraments. Think of all the things that we face in our age, the questions of ethics and morality that were not even thought of in Jesus’ time. What is the only institution that has always remained steadfast in teaching unpopular truths, in going against the cultural tide, just like Jesus did? The Catholic Church!  If you don’t believe it’s true, look at the real sources, the history speaks for itself. There is a pope going all the way back to Peter himself, and every Word from the Holy Spirit, that has come through the Church and been proclaimed as Truth and infallible, has never changed in all these years, even if he was a bad pope, Jesus would NOT allow him to alter His Truth. This was His promise! (And by the way, just because there have been bad priests, or popes in the Catholic Church, who are not faithful, that doesn’t make the Church itself bad, remember one of the twelve Jesus chose betrayed him, so this is nothing new.)

“Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together, and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing, and move towards the same goal.” Each of them makes present and fruitful in the Church the mystery of Christ, who promised to remain with his own ‘always, to the close of the age.’ ” Catechism of the Catholic Church 80

So with this eye opening experience I now understood things I never did before.  It was like pieces of a great puzzle were slipping into place, and they fit perfectly. I was eager to find out more! I was reading Scripture, the Catechism, the lives of the Saints, it was as if my eyes were opened for the first time. I was falling in love again with God, and with this Church that He gave ME. It was mine, now, this faith. I claimed it. And I also knew that I belonged to God. I am His, and He is mine. This is a love affair.

It was then that the Lord began to lead me onto paths that perhaps others didn’t understand, like homeschooling when it was not very popular many years ago. I mean I didn’t even understand always, but I just knew when He was asking me to go in a particular direction or do a particular thing, and it was really terrifying sometimes, but it was like a grand adventure! I was excited to see what He was going to “do” next, and I promised Him that I would take the road less traveled.  Also, I had now learned that “obedience” is how God keeps us safe, and teaches us to trust in faith. It is also how we show God we love and trust Him. It’s like when you put your child in a fenced yard to play, and say, “Now stay in the yard.” It is so he won’t wander out into the street, or get lost, or have a dog bite him. He is then “free” to play in the fenced yard, and can trust that he is safe, while you are watching over him. That’s one of the things the Church does for us. The “rules” and laws of God are the “fence” and give us safety for our souls. Then the Sacraments provide grace which is supernatural help, especially the Holy Eucharist! This is Jesus Himself, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity who promised to be with us until the end of time. He meant that literally! That is why so many of his disciples went away when He told them. They couldn’t handle the truth! Jesus was so radical! They didn’t understand how he could say that, or how it could happen, but instead of just trusting and believing they left! We may not always “understand” everything about God. I mean who can? He is so far above us. But this is where trust comes, faith grows, and love triumphs. He waits for us to make that choice. It is a free choice, and He doesn’t coerce. He only invites.

So, I pray that I never again disobey, or reject a law or truth of God no matter how “good” the alternative may seem or how easy it would be, (and is it ever easy to conform to society). It’s because first of all, I know how blind I was before when I was following my own uninformed conscience. I simply can’t make up my own truth, and now that I saw the real Truth in all its beauty and brightness, I could understand how God gives us boundaries for our own protection and the safety of our soul, because He wants us with Him! It’s out of love!  We are the ones who reject Him, and say “I know better”, or even worse say, like Satan, “I will not serve you!” Then we end up following our own will, and making ourselves god!

It was this gift, the grace of repentance and conversion that was given to me by God through Our Blessed Mother, and she continues to guide and teach me to be more like her Son.  It’s a lifelong process and an amazing journey! Perhaps my testimony will help someone else on their journey. At least I believe this is the reason that He wanted me to write this, so that my witness to the love and mercy of God may be shared, and that is the way God works. He intends for us all to cooperate in His plan of salvation… because we are all family.

There is so much more that I could share, but for now, I just urge you to pray the rosary, there are spiritual gifts that come from God and through her that are meant just for you!  And it pleases Him for us to ask her help and honor her, because of how much He loves her, how much she did for Him, and for her role in our salvation! I think that one day we will all understand the fullness of what her “fiat” means.  Maybe in another post I can expound upon the rosary, its history and promises, but simply put it is a meditation on the life of Jesus, while at the same time we are asking Mary to intercede and pray for us. She is a mother, and just like good mothers do, she wants to help us in special ways.  And by the way, you don’t have to be Catholic to pray it. You don’t even have to be Christian. She is a mother to us all!

If you don’t have a rosary, SEEK KNOCK ASK, has some available, along with a pamphlet on how to pray the rosary.

Oh Blessed Mother Mary, you whose life was ceaseless prayer for the glory of the Father, the mission of your Son, and the salvation of your children, teach me how to pray.

 

 

 

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