When I was twenty-three, I recited a daily rosary. I was longing to become the real me, the me that God had designed. I was not there yet. I was fresh out of college, trying to find a career and a husband and an adult identity. I had not yet found any of those things, but I could feel them coming and prayed with my beads faithfully. As though I were a midwife, I leaned on the intercession of Mary to pray with me to the Lord, ushering in my adult self.
Ten years later, with a career and a husband and a flock of little children, again I prayed a daily rosary. My life goal was a happy Catholic family. As a first generation Catholic, I did not know what I was doing, and so I relied heavily on the example of new Catholic friends and lots of prayer. I asked Mary over and over to help me bring a thriving, joyful Catholic family into the world. One of the great joys of my life has been seeing that begin to come to pass.
The day that my fourth child was born and when my oldest child was only five years old, my dad laughed at me and said, “Do you realize that one day, you will have four teenagers at the same time?!” That day has finally come, the fourth of them just having turned thirteen. If my dad were alive today, I think he would be amazed with his grandchildren: they are wonderful people whom I adore with every fiber of my being and who show beautiful signs of faith. They are, in fact, a dream for me, young people who exceed what I could have hoped for. It is still true, however, that my dad was right. These years are hard, especially given what the culture presents as challenges to teenagers. In this particular age, to be a faithful Catholic teenager, much less to be a teenager at all, is harder than I think I can even imagine. I simply do not presume that my teenagers can navigate it unharmed and even joyfully without inundations of grace from God.
Once again, I find myself praying a daily rosary. Lord, through the intercession of Mary, can you please remember and use all that I have put into this family? Can you please redeem every wiped bottom, every night waking, every prepared meal, for their blessing? Grace, abundant grace, Lord! I feel like all that I have worked and prayed for may or may not come to pass. It is as though I am standing on the precipice of a cliff, and who knows what the future holds, what paths my children take.
I cling daily to my rosary. Recently I happened into a beautiful basilica in Rome, San Agostino. Many treasures are packed in this church, from St. Monica’s burial site to a Carravaggio painting to a Raphael. But the game-changer for me is a statue called Our Lady of Childbirth. Apparently, people have asked for her intercession for difficult labors or childbirths. Next to her is a wall covered with “Thank you’s” to Mary, from letters to baby booties to photos of babies who have survived their challenging ordeal.
I dropped to my knees when I recognized what these momentos were for. I asked Mary: “Please bring into being, six adults who are faithful, happy Catholics.” I am placing into her capable hands my four teenagers whose lives are not yet clear. After these four make it into adulthood, I have (at least!) two more coming down the pike toward teenage-hood. And then there is college, vocational decisions and all that adult life brings. I foresee many more stages of begging God to bring about something new and beautiful. Through it all, I feel like I am giving birth over and over—that is the essence of our vocation. I am in labor pains, helping God bring about the child—the cherished, dignified, invaluable, unrepeatable human person—that he created. As a mother, I get to steward, nurture, direct, and delight in these tender but resilient souls. I get to spend my adult life opening newer and brighter horizons for them, and helping them see bigger and aim higher for God’s kingdom as they plan their fragile yet tenacious lives.
I look forward to the day of making a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Childbirth and placing a photograph of my adult children on the wall, a photo of six, happy, faithful Catholics. I beg the Lord and Our Lady to bring into being the family that I believe God intends, a family of people who love God and each other with his love.