I grew up in the Southern Baptist faith and was raise by 2 very loving, strong Christian parents.
I met my husband 8 years ago and I remember after the 2nd dinner date, asking him where he went to church and he said St. John, which got my attention because I was almost sure that was a Catholic Church. Driving home that night, I asked the Lord if that was his way of showing me he had a sense of humor by putting a Catholic man in my life.
You see a couple years earlier I had told my Dad that I just wanted God to put a good Christian man in my life, somebody who loved the Lord as much as I did and could share my faith and worship with me.
Well, that 2nd dinner date turned into many more and after 1 ½ yrs of dating it became increasingly apparent that this was the person God had put into my life for a reason.
When we started talking about marriage we had to sit down and have a serious conversation about how we were going to somehow co-mingle our faiths so we would both be happy. From time to time I would attend Mass with him and remembered seeing something about RCIA in the weekly bulletin so I ask about it and reluctantly agreed to start RCIA just to check out the Catholic faith. I made no promises, as I had doubts but decided to go with an open mind.
Half way through RCIA I called my husband, after leaving class one night, and told him I had started RCIA for him but I was finishing it for myself. I fell truly in love with the teachings and everything about the faith.
One of the hardest things I’ve ever done is tell my Dad, who is a Baptist Deacon, at the small country church, where I was baptized at the age of 9 that I was going to convert to Catholicism. I will never forget what he said when I told him.
He said “Sweetheart, we may all take a different path to heaven but as long as we get there, that’s all that really matters so I’ll see you in Heaven someday”.
That’s when I knew I had made the right decision to convert to the Catholic faith.
During RCIA I remember have a lesson on the Rosary but it just seemed meaningless to me. You see growing up in the Baptist faith, you get accustomed to hearing those spontaneous vocalized prayer, spoke from the heart so the Rosary meant nothing to me nor was I interested in learning to recite it.
Six months after finishing RCIA my husband and I we were married in a beautiful Catholic ceremony. A short time after we were married, my mother-in-law came for a visit. I remember getting up around 6AM the first morning she was there, leaving for work and in the dark, I could hear a faint voice and see a shadow sitting near the fireplace and thinking it had to be her (Mary was her name) because Jerry was still in bed. I went on to work.
The next morning it was the same thing, third morning same thing, so that night I remember expressing my concern to Jerry about his Mother sitting in the dark every morning and talking to herself. He smiled and said she is saying the Rosary. He went on to tell me she said it 3 times a day, morning, noon and night and if her heart was burdened about something or somebody, she may say it 5 or 6 additional times a day. I couldn’t fathom somebody saying the Rosary once much less 5 or 6 times in a day. All I was hearing and counting was the number of times she was saying Hail Mary in a single day.
The last night of her visit I remember telling her that I admired her for saying the Rosary so much but I just didn’t get it and struggled with even saying it. She smiled and told me not to worry or fret over it, someday I would understand. I felt a sigh of relief. Here I am, recently married into this wonderful Catholic family with the most precious mother-n-law anybody could want and her only daughter-n-law had just told her I had no interest in learning the Rosary.
Several years passed and she became ill. After about 3 weeks in the hospital it became increasingly obvious we would not be bringing her back to her earthly home. It was a Friday, and the family had practically lived at the hospital all week, knowing the time was near. The Doctor came for a visit that morning and when he came from her room we knew it was not going to be the news we had hoped for. He told us her body had begun to shut down and she only had a few hours left. She hadn’t spoken or opened her eyes in over a week, not even when we were at her bedside, holding her hand, trying to comfort her and telling her we loved her.
Her priest was called and after saying several prayers, he looked down and saw her Rosary clinched in her hand. He said he knew she loved the Rosary and said it faithfully every day, so he ask if he could lead us in the Rosary.
As we began saying the Rosary, her lips started moving as if she were reciting it word for word. It was in that moment that I understood what the Rosary meant. And what a Grace I received that day, standing there next to her! God used her, the one who told me not to worry or fret over learning the Rosary, to show me the true meaning of the Rosary, the significance of it and why clinging to the words and their meaning is so important for us all.
That precious Rosary, that she clung to every day of her life, gave her peace and comfort in the final hours of her life.
Approximately 2 hours after we finished the Rosary that day she passed peacefully.
I vowed that day to be more faithful with saying the Rosary and really meditating on the words and their meaning. She had many rosaries and she left each of her children and daughter-in-law one of her rosaries.
I carry her Rosary with me every day. I now make the Rosary a daily part of my routine. I have it on CD and say it every morning while driving to work and again driving home. I have joined the St, Joan of Arc Monthly Rosary Group and I say it as often throughout the day as time will allow.
I saw the peace it brought to my mother-in-law in her final hours of life and I look forward to having that same peace when my journey here on earth is over.
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