I wear it all the time now. It came on my birthday in a small box from a lifelong friend far away. I was surprised because, though we always exchange cards and sometimes a phone call on our birthdays, we have not exchanged gifts in many years. Yet, when I opened the box, I understood. It was a breathe blessing bracelet and the packaging said, “Made with love in the small pilgrimage town of Medjugorje.” Medjogorje is where the Blessed Mother Mary has appeared since 1981 giving messages to the world. My dear friend had absolutely no idea what had been happening in my life. Later, she would tell me she just knew she was drawn to send it to me. You will understand better the significance of this gift by the end of the story – a story that has left me gratia plena, full of grace.
The telling of this unfolding I most humbly and gratefully dedicate to the Blessed Mother Mary. Ave Maria! My heart has no words to thank you for being with me, for being my Mother in my most desperate hour, and for staying with me going forward to teach me ever more deeply the mysteries of birthing God. Oh, how I thank you! How I love you!
Here is a simple accounting of the events sprinkled with insights gleamed along the way. I sense the larger spiritual journey has only just begun. Yet, it feels ripe to share at this juncture. I trust completely that each of you will receive something important for your life and journey. It is in this spirit, I offer my personal story.
After an extremely busy school year, I was very much looking forward to my summer break and my hammock. What I didn’t realize was just how much my body was needing the rest for, by the first week of June, I was starting to have neck and head pain.
Whether we are aware or not, God’s Law will calibrate us when we have wondered too far off balance. Yet, truly, this shows how much we are Loved. The body registers this as dis-ease.
During this time, a friend dropped by to pick up the key to the Sparrow’s Nest as I was too sick to go to a meeting. In our brief conversation, he told my husband and I of having had Bells Palsy. In my state, the story barely registered. Later, someone would reflect, “It was like God sent him to let you know this was going to happen and that, like him, you’d be okay.”
Pay attention. From the most seemingly insignificant places, God is always reaching out to us. How blessed to know we are so very cared for.
Within a few days, I woke and noticed my mouth felt strange. Looking in the mirror, I saw that one side was drooping and not responsive to any of my efforts to fix it. My husband took me immediately to the ER. My mother had had her first stroke at about my age. I remember feeling numb. After a brief examination, the doctor said matter-of-factly, “It looks like you’ve had a stroke in the middle of the night. We’ll get a cat-scan to be sure. Meanwhile, I’m going to admit you overnight.” And, off he went. What? Is this really happening?
After two cat-scans and an MRI came back normal, the doctor looked clearly puzzled. But, by this time, my daughter had arrived and noticed my right eye was not closing in sync with my left. The doctor took another look. “Okay, now I understand. It’s Bells Palsy.” “So, no stroke?” I asked. And, “What is Bells Palsy?” not recalling, at that moment, the earlier conversation with my friend. After some explanation, I was released with medication. Still numb. What just happened?
Though all is unfolding quite perfectly, it can be difficult to understand the reasons for our most troubling and challenging times. It can take a while, sometimes quite a while, perhaps not even in this lifetime, for the deeper lessons being gifted to come into focus. But I so trust that the heart knows, sees, what may be, initially, invisible to the eye.
Shortly after returning home, I wrote to you, my blessed community, to ask for your prayers. That evening, one of my dear friends to whom I had loaned my Mother Teresa rosary called to insist that she come over and return the rosary. At some point, she suggested praying with the rosary together stressing, “The rosary is all about Mother Mary.” True, I thought. But, at that very moment, it struck me that, for all my extraordinary experiences with the rosary (see my February 11, 2011 blog, “The Mother Teresa Rosary – The Next Chapter”), my focus had always been on Mother Teresa whom I had long loved. So, that night, as I clutched my rosary close in bed, I started calling on the Blessed Mother…
God often speaks to us through one another. It is why we are given to one another. When we reach out, share in Love, God is there for Love can only beget Love.
And every day and night I started praying to the Blessed Mother. Oh, how loved and supported I felt. I just knew she was near.
A few days later, I went see my doctor for the follow up visit. “The doctor at the hospital ordered a test for Lyme,” he said. “The first results have come back positive. We’re now going to send it off for the next level to verify. I will call you in the next few days to let you know.” Feeling better and still elated not to have had a stroke, I thought: Hummmm, Lyme? Okay. Anything else is secondary. Anything else I can handle. And, I felt impatient to leave.
Then I noticed a slight shift in his posture as he looked down at my chart. I can remember feeling a pause. “But, there is something else we need to talk about. One of the cat-scans taken at the hospital showed a spot on your lungs, a small nodule. It looks like the kind that can grow unnoticed and silent for years until finally lung cancer is diagnosed but, by then, it’s too late. If this is the case, we can say, ‘Thank you Bells Palsy!’” What? Geeeeeees!! What else??? “The hospital will call you in the next few days to schedule another cat-scan for your lungs. Try not to worry. Most of the time these things are benign or just turn out to be scar tissue.”
On the ride home, it suddenly became quite clear to me why the rosary and the Blessed Mother were with me. I told my husband but decided not to say anything to anyone else until I knew for sure. And, right away, I wrote a prayer and started sending love to my nodule. Gently touching my upper lungs…
Little one, what has formed you? What are you here to tell me? I am listening. Help me to receive all you have for me. Talk to me in the silence so you, so I, so we may be healed. Meanwhile, know that I am surrounding you with Light and infusing you with Love. Any dis-ease you may hold is returning to easy for nothing lives in my body but Light and Love. Be well, little one, for all is well.
I started saying this all during the day – in the shower, in the car, in my hammock. I began and ended each day with my rosary thanking Mother Mary for being with me, for holding me in her tender care and healing love.
The next week was my yearly retreat with my seminarians at the House of Prayer in New Ipswich, NH. I decide it should go forward. The first night there, we were introduced to a nun, Sister Miriam, visiting from a Carmelite order. Immediately, I remembered that the Chasuble my mentor in seminary had given me for my graduation was from a Carmelite order in Italy. Its picture is above. I have always wondered if the image on it was of Mother Teresa because of the blue and white coloring. I asked my husband to text me a picture to show Sister Miriam and the next day she assured me it was not Mother Teresa but, rather, the Mother Mary. That same day, I received a call confirming my positive results for Lyme and a call to schedule my lung cat-scan.
Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10: I am all around you. I yearn for you. I am as close as your breath and as dear as your heartbeat. You are my Beloved…All these years the Blessed Mother had been right here with me in a way I had not known or recognized. Where else are you hiding? Smiling, I can only wonder! Help me to stay open, looking with soft eyes, so I may better see You, feel You, know You everywhere.
Before leaving the House of Prayer, I discussed my fall workshop offering with Sister Rita and knew, without a doubt, that I would be offering a workshop honoring Mother Mary conceived on Mister Eckhart’s well known saying, “We are all meant to be mothers of God…for God is always needing to be born.” I could feel the Blessed Mother now steadily each moment, palpable, always with me.
The next week, I had my lung cat-scan and a few days later, right before my birthday, I received a call confirming that only scar tissue was found and there was no need for a biopsy. Do I believe I had a cancer nodule? I don’t know. Truly, it doesn’t feel important to know. What I do know is that I have felt held, loved, supported and cared for each step of the way. And, I continue to do my part – to practice consciously loving myself, a little more deeply, back to balance…back to health.
Recall now the beginning of this story: receiving the breathe blessing bracelet from my dear lifelong friend made in the small pilgrimage town of Medjugorje. Amen. For me, receiving the bracelet confirmed what I had felt all along – that the Blessed Mother had been with me, was with me, and, as importantly, would continue to be with me going forward. For, blessedly now, I can feel her each moment directing, guiding and breathing through me the very gift God is now seeking to birth next through my humble, joyous and most expectant life.
Gratia plena I am for the Blessed Mother is caring for me; Love is healing me; and, full with silent wonder, the Grace of God is birthing me. Ave Maria!
We are all meant to be mothers of God…for God is always needing to be born.
5 responses to “Gratia Plena”
Most beautiful are all Mother’s – to my most cherished spiritual Mother.
Thank you Julie…I so cherish you as well…
The fact that you could pray such a precious and loving prayer to your God spot on your lung is probably one of the finest examples to us as to how to walk our God Love into ourselves and this world. How blessed we are to have you and your heart revealing blog to remind us not to envelop in fear and panic. Thank you Mother Theresa, supporting friends, Sister Miriam and Mother Mary. Thank you Stephanie❤️
And thank you dear Ahjan for your always kind and heartfelt words…
My lovely Stephanie, I am sobbing with relief, joy, reflection, and inspiration. I will share this story at my church and pray others will hear the everlasting hope and strength Mother Mary can provide through God’s love. Your writing is beyond magnificent. I so pray you continue to improve–this world needs you here. Please rest.
I love you, Jane