Every so often, I am reminded of Our Lady and stand in awe of how she has touched my life. It is easy, in the daily grind (and cry and moan and groan and tantrum and what was dinner again?) to lose sight of small and not so small blessings. It is easy to lose the thread that, in fact, weaves our lives together. I was driving home from work only to find myself contemplating just such a thing.
October 7th is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, and I was reminded of that fact– one that had slipped my mind– when I pulled up my prayer app for the day. Our Lady of the Rosary has figured so prominently in my life that I felt almost ashamed to have forgotten. My parents were married at Our Lady of the Rosary parish, the same parish that my brother and I would be confirmed at. It was a lovely, unpresuming little building that fairly burst forth with joy every time we were there. It was built by Sicilian fisherman who were new to San Diego, and dedicated to Our Lady. They scrimped and saved and built their church, frescoed on every surface with carpet worn by the many people who crammed in every Sunday, far beyond the building’s capacity. It was a 75 year old parish when I was there, 90 years old now. No matter what seemed to go wrong, the parish weathered every storm. It was a good parish to grow up in: loud, and brash, and glad to celebrate every feast that could be found, glad to celebrate God and family and love at any moment. We processed to the Embarcadero every year and blessed the boats, though fishing was no longer the sole source of funds for the parish. We celebrated every Marian feast day there was, but none so much as October 7th.
I moved from San Diego to New England, and in the comings and goings of college life, Our Lady receded in my mind. She was there, always looking out for me, but for a time I wasn’t aware of it. One September morning, one week before my wedding, I got a call from my mother-in-law. She worked at the church my husband and I were to be married in, and had promised to do a quick walk through to make sure we were set for the flowers.
“You need to get here. Now.”
Cryptic. Not what you need when you’ve planned a wedding from Arizona, flown to New Hampshire, and have 7 days until the day. But my fiancé picked me up, and off we went. The church is on top of a hill, overlooking downtown, with beautiful French rococo themes, and at the time, they had just finished restoring several of the frescos and statues. It reminded me not a little of the “wedding church” in Rome– San Alessio (which, hey, isn’t it fortunate to share a name?). We walked up to the church and were almost blown over by a giant, industrial size fan, and I smelled sawdust in the chill of the morning air. This wasn’t good.
We followed her in and saw that, contrary to what we had been told, they had started the restoration of the high altar a week and a half early. In place of the marble and carpet, there was plywood, gaps in the floor, and exposed electrical. We were assured that they could try to piece some of the ripped up carpet and try to patch the holes for the next week, but it wasn’t sure. All I knew was that if I dragged my cathedral length train up rough plywood and live wires, I was going to go up like a Roman candle at best.
I have to admit, I was a little bit stunned, I couldn’t even begin to form a plan. My mother in law had a few friends around the diocese, and over the space of three phone calls, we were driving to the cathedral to see if it would do. The inside was nothing like I had hoped– it was bare, with water damage here and there, fallen prey to that period of time where wall decoration was whitewashed. Still, it was miraculously available. As I tried to adjust my bearings, I looked to my right and stopped.
Staring back at me was the beautiful, serene face of Our Lady of the Rosary, carved in wood. The statue itself is beautiful, but to come 3000 miles from home, run into obstacles and then find the same patroness as my parents had… It was enough to make me weep in relief. If my own mother couldn’t be there, it helped having a direct reminder of my Heavenly Mother’s presence.
All those thoughts and memories hummed through my mind as I hurtled down the beautiful fall tunnel that is the Turnpike at this time of year. All I could do was send up a short prayer of thanks and hold onto those memories for the moments when I’m tired, and run down, and thoroughly discouraged. Those memories help to pull me up enough to refocus my mind, to be reminded of the order of the world, and the Mother who is never more than a thought away, her Son right at her side.