Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Telling Stories

My first post!  When initially invited to contribute to the Association of Pauline Cooperators blog, I was excited, and my first reaction was to quickly say “yes.” Then fear and anxiety set in.  Who am I to write for a spiritual blog?  I have no formal training in theology or writing.  Yet, as a wife, mother, and grandmother, semi-retired from the finance field, I knew I had many stories – “telling” stories – that strengthened my faith.  So, here I am and I have come to tell my story; well, at least one.

Last year, Pope Francis encouraged all young men and women to become evangelizers, even if they make mistakes. In 1 Cor. 2: 3-5, St. Paul tells us of his great fear of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus: “I came to you in weakness, fear and trembling, and my message and proclamation were delivered not with plausible words of ‘wisdom’ but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of the power, so that your faith would be based on the power of God rather than on human wisdom.”  St. Paul could not simply call upon his own skills.  He had to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit.

With these thoughts (and fears) in mind, I would like to tell you about one experience that led me closer to Christ and to our Blessed Mother.  This article is dedicated to our Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Guadalupe, who has had a life-changing effect on me.

In 2007, while visiting the Cathedral of San Juan, Puerto Rico, I encountered a woman praying fervently and devoutly in front of the statue of our Lady of Guadalupe.  I was so impressed that, even though I knew nothing about Our Lady of Guadalupe, I started to pray to her for a special intention.  My motherly intuition told me that my oldest daughter was trying to conceive.  Every day I asked for our Lady’s intercession; if it were God’s will, please bless my daughter with the gift of a baby.

Not even a month later, my daughter announced that she was expecting and her due date was December 9.  At that time, the date meant nothing to me.  While sharing my happy news with Sr. Maria Joseph, FSP, I learned that December 9 was the date of our Lady’s first apparition to Juan Diego.  I also later discovered that our Lady is known to be the “Protector of Unborn Children.”   She is wearing a dress typical for a woman with child.

My daughter gave birth on December 12 – the feast day of our Lady of Guadalupe!  Since I had no control over the birth date of my grandson, I can only believe that this was not a coincidence but a “God incident.”   My grandson is now almost six years old.  This experience left me with a feeling difficult to describe.  I often think of it during times of weak faith and then am immediately lifted up by our Blessed Mother.  This encounter has led me to a stronger devotion to our Lady.  As a Pauline Cooperator, I find this devotion to be especially meaningful.  Our founder, Blessed James Alberione, developed a deeply personal relationship with Mary and part of the charism of the Pauline Family is devotion to Mary, Queen of Apostles.

My daily prayers now include a prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe from the Queen of Apostles Prayer Book (published in the USA by Pauline Books and Media).  A beautiful prayer for meditation, it speaks to me and challenges me to be a better person.  I would like to share some of my favorite phrases and reflections:
  • Fruitful Mother of holiness – We look to Mary who possessed the fullness of holiness to help us along our path to holiness.
  • Teach me your ways of gentleness and strength – Do these attributes seem to be contradictory?  Mary, help me to be a woman of gentleness and strength with myself and others. 
  • Queen of Martyrs, whose Immaculate Heart was pierced by seven swords of grief, help me to walk valiantly amid the sharp thorns strewn across my pathway – Our Lady, I am sure, had the highs and lows of every mother.  The grief she experienced in witnessing her Son die is incomprehensible.  Let me walk valiantly and be strong as you were whenever I encounter a thorn in my life.
  • Help me always to seek the good of others – Rid me of faultfinding and negativity. As our Lord tells us, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
  • May I proclaim the loving solicitude of our Father in heaven so that the wayward may heed his pleading and obtain pardon – help me to be caring and compassionate as our heavenly Father, so that many who have turned away from him will feel loved and forgiven and will come home.
A simple visit to a cathedral positively impacted my faith and my life forever.  Who was this woman?  I will never know, and she will never know the influence she had on me.  This woman could have been you.  Our actions are also a form of witnessing and evangelizing.

The feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is only a few short weeks away.  Let us all come to Mary with our intentions.  On November 18 we will celebrate the feast day of the Dedication of the Basilicas of Saints Peter and Paul in Rome.  May they also lead us to Jesus as Mary does.

What is your story, your “Aha!” moment, that brought you closer to God?  We all have one.  Evangelize me by telling me your story in the “Comments” section below.
Photo, Our Lady of Guadalupe: Maryann Toth

Maryann Toth has been a Pauline Cooperator for six years. Semi-retired as a credit/AR manager in New Jersey, she is a wife, a mother of two daughters, and a grandmother of four. She serves as a Eucharistic minister and belongs to a Divine Mercy Cenacle group. Maryann assists at Pauline book fairs and J-Club events, schedules meetings and prayer times for local Cooperators and friends of the Pauline Family, and currently accompanies a candidate in the Cooperator formation program. She participated in a Pauline Cooperator pilgrimage to Italy in 2010.