Over the course if the next several weeks, I will be publishing my story, as wife, mother, sister and daughter. This is the evolution of how a little girl can change the course of her mother’s story, can change the course of her heart. If your new to this blog, please begin here.
Chapter 15 ~ Diving for Jesus
We spent the rest of the afternoon in our room. I crawled into bed with Court and softly prayed the Rosary. She slept so soundly, taking deep clean breaths. I never realized how important breathing was until this child entered my world. The in and out of life. Take in the good, breathe out the bad. Every single day.
Jerry read, napped and read some more. He did not say a word for the next four hours. Finally Miss Courtney woke up and I looked at the clock. Dinner would be served shortly. We both showered then we gave Courtney her first French bath. She was not impressed. She hates getting her hair washed. It didn’t matter if she’s in the US or France.
We headed down to the dining room once again. This evening we would be participating in the nightly Rosary Procession on the Domain. I wanted to be excited but I was still so worried about Jonathan that it was hard to be fully present.
We arrived, Blanche came and fed Courtney while Jerry and I ate quietly. “Is everything OK?” she asked. “You guys are so quiet tonight.”
“Yep. We’re fine.” Jerry answered not really leaving room for me to follow up.
She just kept smiling sweetly at us and encouraged Courtney to keep eating. Finally, the staff was clearing the tables. It was time to head over to the Domain for the walk. I just couldn’t shake the feeling that something was going to break and I was worried it would be Jerry. He had been a Catholic for only a year and all of this was so overwhelming for me, the cradle Catholic. I could only imagine how he felt about things.
We took our time walking to the Domain. The town of Lourdes was bustling with life. There were bars up and down the street. A Polish bar, an Irish bar, an Italian bar and so on. Then there were the stores filled with “Lourdeswear” as we called it. It looked like a Catholic Disneyland. Everything had pictures of St. Bernadette or the Grotto. There was holy water, candles, pictures, china cups, and many other household items all bearing the images of the beloved St. Bernadette and Our Blessed Lady.
As we went along I stopped in front of one of the shops. I looked at Jerry and smiled. “Let’s see if we can find the tackiest piece of Lourdeswear. What do you think it will be? A plate? A shot glass? Come on, we have time.” I turned and went into the little shop.
Jerry groaned aloud. “Mary, seriously? We don’t have the money for this. Let’s just go meet the group.”
I ignored him and held up a pen. When you tilted it the Blessed Mother rose in the air and took her place on the side of the mountain while Bernadette knelt below. “Oooo this one is great. Look.” and I demonstrated the pen.
“Uh huh” was all I got.
“Jonathan would love this.” I said. “Let’s see what else they have.” I scanned the shelves and found exactly what I was looking for in the back of the shop. I lifted it off the shelf and brought it to Jerry. “Check this out. It’s a miraculous cheese board.”
I held up a laminated piece of wood that had A picture of the Grotto on it. The piece of wire that came down to slice the cheese cut right through Our Lady’s head. “It’s a Lourdes guillotine. How horrible.” I laughed. “This has got to be the tackiest piece of Lourdewear there is. It has to be. Who thinks this stuff up? I mean really? This is what I want at my next party. Hey, would you like a piece of cheese? Oh, don’t worry. It just looks like your cutting off the Blessed Mother’s head. She fine. No really.” I demonstrated as I talked.
Jerry smiled. It was the most wonderful thing I had scene all day. Well at least since Miss Courtney was in the water.
“That is just wrong.” he said. “Come on let’s get going. They will be waiting for us.”
He was still smiling.
We met our group and proceeded to line up with Courtney and I in the carts that held the malades (sick ones). I had to be with her because she could not sit up by herself. Also, if she had a seizure, she would slip right down and fall out. That would be disastrous. Been there, done that.
We processed with 5,000 people saying the Rosary in about eight different languages. It was an absolutely incredible sight. Candles burning, sending prayers of pilgrims upward to our Lord. Priests, nuns, sisters, brothers, malades and those who care for them all together in one place. It was an amazing sight. I still didn’t understand what was happening with us, but I knew without a doubt that we were on holy ground and we needed to respect that.
After the Rosary Procession we headed back to the hotel. Courtney needed to be changed and I knew Jerry had reached his Catholic limit for the day. It didn’t take much it seemed. Once there we decided to just remain there. We both ordered hot tea to our room and sat together at the little table by the window. We really didn’t talk, we just took the town in and tried to process all that had happened.
Acceptence still didn’t make sense to us. We had to be missing something.
We fed Courtney one more time and then settled in for the night. Sleep eluded me once more. I just wanted an answer. A clear concise answer for once.
The next day was another beautiful Spring day. Once more we headed down for breakfast. Afterward we headed out to do the Stations of the Cross. These were life size stations and they were stunning. You were really drawn into the story of the Passion of Christ. One of the priests traveling with us was Fr. John Enzler. His father had been a permanent deacon in the Archdiocese of Washington and used to sing with my Dad at Our Lady of Lourdes in Bethesda…the church where I was baptized. Coincidence…I think not.
|The life-size Stations of the Cross in Lourdes…my Pieta…|
Anyway, I knew Fr. John from when I was in CYO in high school. He is a generous soul and very funny. We used the stations that his father had written in the late 1970’s…..the same booklet I used every Friday in Lent at the Shrine of St. Jude’s, the parish I grew up in Rockville, MD. As we pushed Courtney up the hill to the second station I remembered how my brothers used to serve as altar boys walking each station holding their candles the whole time. I imagined their arms burned as much as mine did pushing Court up the hill.
We walked through each one and ended at the final station where Jesus is taken down from the cross. I just stared at these life size statues. Our Blessed Mother was holding Christ’s broken body in her arms looking at Him with such love and anguish. It was an emotion I totally understood.
She did it, why can’t I? She accepted God’s plan. She said yes, why can’t I? She dedicated her life to the man. She walked beside Him as He was mocked and brutalized. She never left Him. I do the same in my own way, right Lord. I walk with Courtney while her body is racked with seizure after seizure. I don’t leave her side. I trust that your going to give her the breath she needs right when she needs it. I pray every time for your mercy. What am I missing?What am I not accepting?
We headed back to the hotel but this time we took the long way and walked through the Grotto. The sun shone high in the sky. It was a clear stunning day and Our Lady shone from her perch on the mountain side. I stopped with Courtney right in front of the Grotto. I looked around me for the first time since yesterday taking in all the faces form around the globe.
Women and men were bent deep in prayer. Some had tears streaming down their faces, some were more stoic. There was one elderly woman kneeling next to her son in a wheelchair. His body was all curled up and he just kept staring at Our Lady with such joy on his face. His mother had such a peaceful expression on hers. There was a couple sitting on one of the stone benches. He had his arm draped around her shoulder. She was bald and her skin was a very familiar color of the “cancer yellow” that my Dad had while undergoing chemo. They were laughing. What was their secret? All of them here in this holy place searching for the answers the world could not give them.
They needed the strength to face whatever challenge they had in their life. They knew they could not make this journey alone. I knew this too. I was so very tired of trying to walk this all by myself. Trying to make everyone else happy. To keep myself sane.
I knelt down next to Courtney took her hand in mine and began to pray softly. “Mother Mary, my heart is clouded with doubt. You know I am a stubborn prideful woman. I am far from perfect but I love you. I love your Son Jesus so much. But I am so afraid. I don’t know where to go from here. Help me. Help my son. Help my husband. Help my Courtney. I don’t know what else to pray. I don’t know how else to do this. Could you just tell me today. Show me you hear me. Show me. I love you Jesus. I love you my Blessed Lady. I need you.”
Jerry knelt down next to Courtney on the other side. He took her hand and bowed his head. His lips moved silently. I closed my eyes and lifted my face to feel the rays of the sun. I knew she would show me that she heard us. I knew she would.
We decided to light one of the large candles for Courtney and Jonathan. I watched and took a picture of Jerry helping Courtney light it. Our daughter had always brought us such joy…today was no exception.
|Jerry and Court lighting a little love…|
At lunch the pilgrims that we shared our table with were all talking excitedly about something that had happened to another malade in the baths that morning. She had experienced pain relief for the first time in many years. She could walk without pain! What a glorious miracle our table mates shared. Jerry just put his head down and ate quietly.
I decided in that moment to seek their counsel. Jerry wouldn’t be happy that I would share something so personal but I was tired of walking around with this uncertainty about Jonathan and Courtney’s future. So I jumped into the conversation.
“So what if your not healed here? What then? What if all the things you prayed and fasted for don’t happen like you thought they would? What do you do?”
Jerry was staring a hole in me. I could just feel his frustration. I did not look at him. If I did I would lose my nerve.
I went on to share with them what happened the day before in the baths with Courtney. Then I shared what happened when we called home. I just unburdened my heart and asked them to pray for Jerry, Courtney and Jonathan and I. Blanche sat there holding a spoonful of Courtney’s food, mouth open and staring at me.
Finally it seemed everyone spoke at once. They shared their individual stories of healing and grace. They assured us that we were not alone in our questioning and uncertainty. One pilgrim shared his story.
“Mary, many times Lourdes is the place the healing begins. Very few miracles actually happen here on the grounds. But there are thousands that are reported one, two three months later, sometime three years later. That’s what happened to my daughter. She had cancer and was told her time was short. We brought her here and she went into the baths willing to accept whatever His plan was for her. It took two years but she was healed and she is now a nun serving the poor. It was a miracle that happened in God’s time. There are people who come here every year on pilgrimage just to sit in the calm and peace. To re-charge their spiritual batteries to fight for another year. They are not cured but they are strengthened for the fight. You have to believe that whatever God needs you to know He has already given you. You don’t have to know what it means today or tomorrow. He will reveal it in His own time. You just need to trust and believe that there is a plan. Your job is to get up each day, place yourself at the foot of the cross and trust that Our Lady and her Son will guide your steps.”
OK I thought. I can do that. I can be patient. I can trust at least I think I can. God brought us this far, I guess we just need to keep walking with him.
I thanked them all for their gracious understanding. Jerry was quiet but not so angry at me anymore. He had been listening as well. Preparing for the battle ahead was something his military mind could grasp. Our chaperones for the afternoon met us by the elevator. That had been sitting at our table for lunch and heard my plea for prayers.
“Why don’t you let us watch Courtney for you while she naps. There will be adoration in the underground Basilica so why don’t the two of you go and spend some time with Our Lord. Courtney will be fine with us.”
I looked to Jerry for guidance. I was not going step out against him twice in one day. He nodded and said “That sounds like a good idea.”
I guess miracles do happen when you least expect them.
|Bishop Curlin at Adoration after the “save”…|
We got Courtney settled in the room and we walked hand in hand back down to the Domain. The underground Basilica of Pius X is the largest in the world. It seats 25,000 worshippers. It is built under the Domain since there was nowhere to build a new chapel on the Domain grounds as the number of pilgrim’s making their way to Lourdes increased over the years. By the time we got there it was 3/4 full. We found a seat and knelt to pray the Rosary before Adoration began.
I looked up at the huge crucifix hanging over the central altar and I made a decision.
I needed to let all my worry go.
What was so special about now? I don’t have an answer other than I could not carry it for one more minute. I placed every single fear and worry right at the foot of His cross. I laid both my children there. I placed my marriage there. Myself, my husband. My Dad and his healing, my mother, my extended family, everything that came to my heart, I just gave it back to God. I told God I could not do this anymore. I was being crushed by the weight of it all.
God you want me to accept your help? OK, I accept. You want me to accept your plan without knowing what the heck your going to do next? OK, I accept. You want me to accept my husband and son as they are right now today, with every worry and concern they have? OK, I accept. You want me to accept my daughter no matter what happens, she lives, she dies, no matter WAHAT happens? OK, I accept. You want me to accept my Father’s illness and possible death? OK, I accept….
I went through everything that I could think of that was weighing on me. My weight, my body issues, my emotional overspending, my relationships with my siblings and various friends that needed healing, my relationship with my in-laws, and anything else that came to mind. I laid it down. ALL of it.
When I finished my prayers, the organ started and everyone stood. I looked up and Bishop Curlin was beginning to ascend the ten or so steps to the elevated center altar. Then all of a sudden there was a perfectly synchronized gasp of 20,000 people as the Bishop tripped on the step, began to fall forward and the Eucharist encased in the luna fell from his hands.
I felt like I was watching a reel from Monday Night Football.
The two seminarians behind the Bishop lunged forward to catch him. From the side another seminarian leaped in a move reminiscent of Jerry Rice catching a Hail Mary pass from Joe Montana in the end zone. Body fully extended, arms stretched out in front of him. He caught Jesus. Caught him! It was amazing. The crowd cheered. I mean there was cheering just like at a football game.
Jerry looked over at me with a smile on his face. “I guess we’re doing a little diving for Jesus today. Best catch I have ever seen.”
I had been tripping up my whole life. I knew exactly how the Bishop felt when the two seminarians caught him. I had been falling for so long and just when I thought I was going to smash to the ground, and be destroyed Jesus reached out and caught me.
Everything was going to work itself out. I had no flippin clue how this was going to happen. I just knew I had to be patient and wait for God and His Blessed Mother to show me. I had waited seven years.
A few more days wouldn’t matter.
Copyright 2011 ~ Mary E. Lenaburg
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