Through many dark days and nights, Jesus the Eternal High Priest carried me through tumultuous waters. My encounters with Jesus during daily Holy Hours undoubtedly saved my family as the cross bore down upon us.
Regrettably, the practice of my faith was mediocre at best during the first seven years of my marriage because my eyes were fixed on financial success and not on God. My husband and I worked very hard and at the age of thirty, we moved into an exclusive neighborhood. I worked in medical office management until the birth of our second son and then stayed home to raise the children and focus on the family.
When our sons entered Catholic grammar school, one of the school mothers invited me to attend a weekly Rosary prayer group. I had to relearn the prayers, but when I resumed praying our Lady’s Rosary, my heart became convicted that I had offended God by allowing worldliness to eclipse my relationship with Him.
As I prayed the Rosary regularly and witnessed the faith of the prayer group, I began to experience a conversion of heart. A year later, my conversion was solidified during a pilgrimage to Lourdes, where I experienced Mary leading me into an encounter with the Real Presence of her Son. I spoke to the pilgrimage priest adviser regarding some prayer experiences at Lourdes and other holy sites in France where we had prayed and he offered to become my spiritual director.
The rediscovery of the history, beauty and truth of Catholicism awakened in my soul the fervor of my youth. I returned from the pilgrimage and happily resumed family life while continuing to abide with Christ in prayer. I began attending daily Mass with renewed fervor.
During my first spiritual-direction meeting, I was encouraged to begin the practice of a daily Holy Hour. After daily morning Mass I remained in prayer before the tabernacle and this became transformative.
At that time, my family seemingly had no problems at all. My daily Holy Hour cultivated a love of silence, and my relationship with the Lord grew quickly. I began to distinguish the still, small voice of Jesus in my heart, whispering sentiments of love and inviting me to pray for His intentions for the Church, for priests, and for the salvation of souls. I emerged from my Holy Hours more peaceful and joyful as these encounters with Jesus enkindled the fire of divine love within me. This helped me to become a better wife and mother through my growth in patience, kindness, and inner peace.
All was well until one beautiful spring Saturday morning. As we were on our way to watch our sons play in their Little League baseball games, we received a phone call asking us to come immediately to the local hospital, where my father-in-law had just been admitted. Two women driving by had seen him lying in a pool of blood on the sidewalk in front of our family lumber business and called the paramedics.
We arrived at the hospital and were shocked to see that our beloved father had been severely beaten about the head by a large timber. The damage to his face and head were so severe that he was unrecognizable; there was no semblance ofhis former wonderful countenance! The trauma was shocking. How could this happen?
The surgeons attempted to save his life by performing a frontal lobectomy. After we waited and prayed for a few hours, the doctors wheeled him out of the operating room and advised our family that he would be able to survive for only about another hour by artificial means, just enough time for the rest of the family to say their goodbyes. In grief and anticipation, we hovered around this beloved father of six, the glue of our families, a bright light of love, Irish wit, and German strength. After a few hours, he breathed his last as our inconsolable family suffered gut-wrenching anguish, shock, and grief.
Although the case aired on America’s Most Wanted, the two robbers who killed our father were never found. The police investigation stalled. Nothing was stolen from our business that day except the life of our father.
It is impossible to describe the effect of such trauma on our family, especially my husband, who had worked closely with his dad in the family business. Our former innocence was lost, and our life would never be the same. I felt acutely the horror of absolute disrespect for human life. During the funeral Mass, the Lord reminded me of the culture of death, wherein license is given for a woman to abort her child, which in turn erodes our culture’s appreciation of the sanctity of life.
After the funeral, our family tried to carry on, to help our mother with the loss of her husband, and to keep the business moving forward. Many in the family simply shut down emotionally, and a veil of silence descended over the horror of the murder. But I could not contain my agony. Tears flowed spontaneously whenever I was alone. Perhaps I was mourning for those who would not allow themselves to mourn?
Daily I ran to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and remained there conversing with Him, often for hours. Oh, how I protested to God for allowing this to happen! I had no peace of soul, onlythe anguish of trying to comprehend what had happened to our happy life! Anger welled up within me. After a few weeks of struggling back and forth with Jesus in the tabernacle, I heard His gentle voice in my heart: Please pray for the murderers.
Oh, how indignant I became! I refused my Lord’s request repeatedly. Yet I was drawn like a magnet to the tabernacle every day, where I received strength not to weep in front of my husband, my children, and my mother-in-law. Jesus continued to ask me to pray for the murderers, and I continued to resist. Then one day He really got my attention when I heard these words in my heart: I am only asking that you repeat the words I said from the Cross: “Father, forgive them; for they not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).
I decided that I would try to echo the Lord’s words, although I still felt emotions quite contrary to forgiveness. During my Holy Hours, I kept repeating His words of mercy. In the process of daily Holy Hours where I encountered the Lord’s mercy, my tears ceased, and my anger quelled, my peace returned, and my joy came back. Eventually, I could pray the words of forgiveness from my heart. Forgiveness changed my perspective on everything!
During my Holy Hours, Jesus flooded my soul with the realization of how much He loves everyone, even the sinner and the murderer. I became overwhelmed with an awareness of His infinite divine mercy. He then invited me to become a vessel of divine mercy not only for the murderers, but also for others.
Jesus desires all to be souls to be carried back to the embrace of the Father, and that is why He remains with us always in the Sacrament of the Altar, in His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. My daily Holy Hours became healing encounters with the Divine Physician. Divine mercy became the medicine to quell the terror of the trauma that shook my family.
When I lead retreats, I always end with my testimony to the healing power of the Eucharist. I am confident that grace of the Eucharist at Mass and daily Holy Hour carried me to the place of encounter with Jesus who is Mercy Incarnate. Forgiveness heals! The grace to forgive flows from the pierced heart of the Eternal High Priest who, in the midst of His agony said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:24).
Lord Jesus, grant us the grace to imitate you in dispensing the medicine of mercy that heals. Amen.
Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from the new book, Praying for Priests: A Mission for the New Evangelization, Sophia Institute Press.