Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sunday's Life Changing Moment

Well, the first week of classes at BTC didn't go well, and I had this question hanging in front of me that if it wasn't working out, maybe it's God trying to tell me I'm doing the wrong thing and not the devil preventing me from reaching a goal.  All the week before classes I kept getting the idea I was supposed to be in the class I switched to the Monday after my epiphany.  Anyway, we celebrated my sister's birthday at her house over the weekend, and while using her internet access, saw she left the page open.  I had so many doubts nagging me about my classes, my program of study...I decided to enter an online prayer petition (a special little service they've set up on there - you really should check it out).  They receive the petition, print it out and with all the other petitions pray over them as a community, then have them present at the monthly apparition of Our Lady.  Well, they must have been praying right when I had the epiphany.  I suddenly lit up like I was struck by lightning and said "I should be a radiologist!"  Something I've avoided for quite a while in confronting - fears reasonable and unreasonable have kept me from pursuing that career and tech training.  I was registered in the Medical Receptionist program, but the official switch to Radiology Technian will be in October because of Admissions/Financial Aid paperwork/red tape.  So, suddenly shedding the fear of facing intense study, the new technology to deal with, the financial debt, etc. I suddenly embraced the calling confronting me without worry of anything.  I can finally get a job that has local accessibility and security to be close to my family and take care of myself economically.  Our Lady of Medjugorje has been very present in my life lately, and with the easy switch into the right classes (I have 4 pre-requisite classes before I can start the program), things are just falling into place.  And October is the Month of the Rosary.  I'm quite looking forward to it.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Power of the Rosary

Many people underestimate the power of the rosary, even the mere presence of one.  By it's very existence, it tests the mettle men and women are made of.  Scott Hahn related in his youth how when his grandmother, a devout Catholic, died, that his family gave him all her religious belongings.  Not that he was Catholic - he was non-denominational Christian with an anti-Catholic slant.  He didn't hate the Church - he hated what he thought it was.  Among her possessions he inherited was her rosary, which she prayed fervently as he well recalled.  He picked up what he believed to be a 'symbol of misguided devotion,' and pulled it apart into pieces, thinking that his grandmother was 'free of such superstitious chains that bound her on earth.'  Years later when he converted, he yearned for that rosary.  A vibrant memory of his grandmother's faith, the true faith he had finally found.

I have to say that many who know me know of my annual collection of rosaries for rosary mission charities.  Some come in the mail, others as gifts...many people do not see the point of having more than one rosary.  It is, for all intense purposes, a tool of prayer.  This is very evident in the 'Ladder Rosary.'  It relates back to the beginning of mendicant orders, where one saint had a dream of two ladders to heaven: one steep one leading straight up to Jesus, but his brothers kept falling off the ladder; the other was a ladder to Mary, Jesus' mother.  Jesus said to the saint in that dream: "Tell your brethren to climb to heaven by means of the ladder to my Mother."  It was more at a gradual angle for easier climbing.  All right, if you are set on having only one rosary, fine.  But let me relate to you some experiences I have had that will make you think twice.

Until recently, I felt guilty of having all these 'extra' rosaries around me because I knew somewhere someone could be using it to pray on and here I just had it lying about for convenience.  A rosary in the car, a rosary in my purse, a rosary on the wall, a couple of gifted rosaries I felt I could not give away because they were gifts.  I took a hard look to see what I 'needed' as far as rosaries go.  The wall one would stay - it hangs by my bedroom door.  It is special not only because I made it, and made it out of luminescent beads, but the crucifix is a large pectoral style St. Benedict crucifix for protection.  I kept the first rosary (encased in a glass heart-shaped jewelry dish) that I felt Mother Mary gave me - the first rosary I sincerely and seriously prayed with while recovering from PTSD from the convent.  I kept the one in the car for emergencies and as a spare in case my traveling companion (whoever that might be) might want to pray the rosary while we drove to town, 45 minutes from our house in the county.  (And I have mastered the art of praying the rosary in hand while driving safely - it's all a matter of technique.)  And in memory of Our Lady's miraculous apparition and blessing at Medjugore, I keep one rosary hanging from the curtain rod above my window, facing out as a protectorant against evil.  And of course, the rosary I have to pray with does change frequently.  As I said, I am quick to give in generosity or charity.  I had a splendid pink crystal rosary my uncle got for me in Rome, blessed by the Pope and touched to the tomb of Bl. Pope John Paul II.  I loaned it to a friend of a friend who has aggressive malignant breast cancer and is 34 weeks pregnant.  I have come to terms that I may never get that rosary back and I have occasional pangs of regret - but the greater good must come first.  I gave it to her to comfort her.

But returning to that luminous rosary in the window, the cheap plastic string ones you can get for 99 cents - there's a good story behind that.  When I was a young nun, one of the visionaries from Medjugore was touring San Diego and giving talks on the apparitions.  It so happened to be arranged that one of his talks took place in our chapel, open to the sisters on one side and the public on the other.  At the end of the talk he gave, we met with him in the vestibule, and he gave us rosaries blessed by the Mother of God in a recent apparition.  Yes, it was the common plastic ones most people shrug off as cheap, replaceable 'things,' but to me it was gold.  I never had a present like it before or since.  I was in complete awe that Our Lady would send me a rosary with her personal blessing.  I used that rosary - I prayed with it until the cord frayed and broke and even then I kept it close.  At first I wrapped it around my metal bed frame, and then I wrapped it on the latch of the window of my cell (room).  That was while I was in the novitiate.  Time came for me to take my first vows eventually, and I was moved into the professed sisters section of the convent.  I left the rosary in my old cell.  The reason being, I wanted whoever had that cell to be protected.  You see, the convent was a section of the older part of the retirement home, locked off by heavy fire doors.  It was 3 stories tall and had a basement.  The novitiate was on the 3rd floor, professed sisters on the second, and on the first was the kitchen, refectory, offices, infirmary cells, and adjacent chapel. 

The novitiate floor used to be divided in half - one corridor for candidates and postulants and one corridor for the novices, keeping us segregated until my last six months of postulancy.  It was decided that since the mistress of novices was put in charge of postulants and candidates as well, that the dividing wall would be knocked down, and so it was.  It became in general the formation floor of the convent.  But something strange happened after the wall came down.  At different times, all of us at one time or other heard mysterious footsteps at night, pacing the hall - sometimes even coming into the rooms at night...but you could see no one.  Then things got worse.  Unnerving as it was to see inexplicable figures of a nun in habit on occasion, we somehow acquired a poltergeist.  Two of us would be in one room, and hear a great commotion so loud we knew it came from the adjacent room, and despite the rules of privacy we went to investigate.  Most of the time, nothing would be found to be disturb.  Other times, things like medicine bottles from the bathroom cabinets would fly out of a closed cabinet with considerable force.  And there were the demons.  We had one to three which eventually were exorcised - one by proper rite with a priest, one with the leaving of a postulant, and the other one - that one I exorcised myself, with the help of Mother Mary's rosary from Medjugore. 

I was a professed sister and these disturbances still persisted, and it came time for the new Mother General of the Order to make her visit to the convent as required by the Rules.  Since the second floor was full and almost overflowing, it was decided to host our new Mother General in the third floor rooms, as well as her Senior Advisor.  The room chosen for Mother was my old room.  We not only knocked ourselves out cleaning the entire convent Marine-style, but I went around with permission (and this was after the official exorcism) with blessed salt and taped it to the door frames, cabinets, etc.  When I got to my old room, by my sixth sense unquestionably present was the last demon who had evaded all attempts to cast him out.  Caught between myself with blessed salt as I stood in the doorway and the window which still had my Medjugore rosary wrapped on the inside lock, I was suddenly impressed with the feeling that it was in immense terror because it was cornered and could not flee.  I had chased that thing all over the third floor - nothing was going to hurt Mother General as long as I could do something about it.  Between the rosary and the salt, it had no where to go.  I could not see it visibly but no one can deny the powerful evil essence present.  But it was weak, it was vulnerable.  I commanded it's attention in Biblical terms aloud: "By the power of Jesus, Son of God and God Almighty, by His name I command you to leave!  And by Blessed Mary ever Virgin, Mother of God, I command you to never come back!"  My body felt as if prepared for a wrestling match.  By those words, the demon was cast out and never returned.  And I was very, very amazed at power God granted me to do such a feat.  Had it been me and the salt, I think it would have found somewhere to hide.  But when cornered by the powerful presence of Mary's rosary and her devout daughter, it stood no chance to remain present.  And that is why, my brothers and sisters, for all the crosses, statues, crucifixes, and medals, I prefer to keep a rosary in the window, be it of my car or my room.