Shortly before she died, my mother gave me a very special set of rosary beads that she had had for 40 years. They weren’t ornate. They weren’t silver or gold. They were made from black plastic, but at the center was a relic with an inscription saying that it was from the site of an alleged apparition by Our Lady.
Even though the church has neither confirmed nor denied the reality of the apparition, that rosary obviously had been very close to my mother’s heart.
Twenty years ago, my wife Sandy and I, along with several friends, took a bus to the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Stockbridge. We were taking a young father, who had Stage IV brain cancer, there to pray for a healing. After Mass and a visit to the shrine of Saint Faustina, we said the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and then returned home. While we were praying the rosary on the bus, I was overcome with the thought that I was meant to give my beads to the sick young man.
It was a difficult to do, but he needed them more than I did. Since he was devoted to Our Lady, what better gift could there be than the rosary beads my mother gave me?
A few years after he died, I met his mother, who told me, “Greg loved those rosary beads, and he used them every day. Now that he’s gone, you should have them.” While I was happy to get them back, I was happier to know they had been such an important part of his last months.
Several weeks later, I was talking to a friend whose teenage daughter has a chronic illness that has confined her to a wheelchair most of her life. Tears came to the woman’s eyes when she told me that the girl recently had been sexually assaulted and had almost died. It was such a painful story, I couldn’t respond. The suffering good people endure can pass human comprehension.
When she finished, all I could say was “I promise to pray for both of you.” Then I asked, “Do you pray?”
“All the time, especially to the Blessed Mother,” she responded. “It’s the only thing that keeps me sane.”
At that moment, I heard the familiar voice in my head. I’ve heard it before and often resisted it, but on the occasions when I’ve listened, miracles happen. Those rosary beads were meant to be given away again.
My first reaction was “Blessed Mother, I just got them back. Can’t I keep them awhile?”
I admit I’m a selfish man. Nevertheless, I realized that I don’t need rosary beads to recite the prayers that make up the rosary; fingers work just fine. This woman needed the rosary more than I did. They were like a sign that the Blessed Mother heard her prayers and was with her and her family.
“Take these. They’re special,” I said and told her the story. She listened silently, never questioning or doubting. When I left, I said, “Please pray a rosary for me.”
That night, I asked Our Lady, “If it’s possible, may I have another set?”
Then, I sat down at my computer and searched the Internet for hours, but came away empty-handed. It wasn’t meant to be. After all, doesn’t a sacrifice have to be painful to have meaning?
A week later, Sandy and I were traveling through northern New Hampshire and stopped in a small antique shop where I thought I might find a vintage cribbage board or history of the White Mountains, but there was nothing that interested me ... until I was leaving and spotted rosary beads on a table near the door.
They were black plastic beads with a Knights of Columbus emblem and the same inscription that was on my mother’s rosary.
I was speechless with joy and disbelief. For me, it was a minor miracle, a prayer answered by Our Lady. There are occasions in life when our prayers are answered so decisively that we come face-to-face with the undeniable reality of God’s infinite love.
So many times, we wonder whether our prayers are being heard and then, suddenly, astonishingly, we get an answer, and it’s as if God is shaking some spiritual sense into us and saying, “Oh, you of little faith!”
And I certainly don’t want to forget to say, “Thank you, Blessed Mother.”
J.F. Pisani is a writer who lives with his family in the New Haven area.