“We never give more honor to Jesus than when we honor his Mother, and we honor her simply and solely to honor him all the more perfectly. We go to her only as a way leading to the goal we seek — Jesus, her Son.” — Saint Louis Marie de Montfort
As I was undergoing my spiritual transformation I prayed a lot for my family, my children and my husband. When my husband and I married in 2000, he was not Catholic. He had been raised going to both Baptist and Presbyterian churches. He had a love for Jesus, and a love for me, and we complimented one another as a couple. Shortly after we were married, he converted to Catholicism. He had told me that he knew I was not going to go to another church and that we needed to go to church together, so it just made sense to him that he become Catholic. He believed in the Eucharist and together we raised our family Catholic.
During this time period, though, I sometimes referred to him as a “Baplic,” because he had some issues with Catholic teaching, and truly did not understand our honoring of Mary. I considered myself the spiritual head of our household, in that I got everyone up for Mass, and I did most of the instruction of the children. I felt blessed that we all went to church together and that he supported raising our children Catholic but I longed for him to be the leader, and I prayed asking Mary to intercede. One day, we were discussing spiritual things, and the topic of Mary came up. I was trying to explain to him about Mary when I remembered a video a friend had told me about. The video is about a priest’s near-death experience, and how he felt Mary saved him. That video had a powerful impact on my husband, opening his mind to the idea that there was a lot more to Mary than he had ever considered. He started reading more about Her, and decided to learn how to say the Rosary. The sequence of events that happened next was something of a small miracle. He has decided to tell his story in his own words:
I’m generally a reserved person not inclined to share private affairs outside of a very small circle of friends. However, I’ve come to feel that my story could offer inspiration to others, and that if one soul is moved to say or keep saying the Rosary as a result, then this is well worth the effort. Here’s my story.
In January of 2011, I decided to learn how to say the Rosary. Using a cheat-sheet with all the mysteries and prayers, I said my first five-decade Rosary. In subsequent days, I sometimes prayed the 15 decades of the full traditional Rosary, with its Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious mysteries*, but mostly said the five-decade version.
One evening, Susan mentioned to me that people new to saying the Rosary frequently are granted one of their petitions. She explained that it’s a real phenomenon and, in fact, there’s a saying that one shouldn’t be afraid to ask for something big. I was amused, but honestly didn’t give it a lot of thought. Anyway, most of my petitions were not for specific items that could be noticeably granted—they were for more general things, such as keeping my family safe from harm and evil, helping the children to do well in school, etc.
A few days later, while at work, I learned that the Ringling Brothers circus was coming to town at the Arena, and that my employer was going to give away its luxury-box tickets to some lucky employees. Interested employees could enter their names into drawings for the Friday and Saturday events. Thinking that this would be a great treat for my young boys, I entered my name in the drawing, in competition with many other entries.
That night, Susan and I decided to say a Rosary together in our “peaceful place,” a small area in our room set apart for prayer. At the end, I made a number of my usual petitions. Susan then continued with many additional petitions recorded in her prayer book. We made the sign of the cross, put our rosaries away, and started to leave when I stopped and said, “Oh yeah, one more thing…it would really be nice if I could win those tickets to the circus. The Saturday show would be great. Amen.”
The next afternoon at work, I received an email informing me that I had won four tickets to the Saturday circus event. I just sat there in disbelief a few moments and re-read the message. It was like, “Did you ask for something? Boom! Here you go.” I was stunned and thrilled at the same time. Now, sure, I’m a logical finance guy and thought to myself that these things happen. My chances were perhaps 1-2%, and somebody had to win. It wasn’t like it was the lottery. However, not only had I won, but it was for the Saturday show that I had requested. To me, it was more than chance. Mary had my attention.
First Five Saturdays
Before winning the tickets, I said the Rosary most days, but not every day. Afterwards, I decided to commit myself to five decades daily. I continued to read and learn about Mary and the Rosary. I read one of Saint Louis Marie de Montfort’s books about the Rosary. I also learned about the first five Saturdays devotion introduced in Fatima, and decided to take part.
This devotion entails, on the first Saturday of the month for five consecutive months, making reparations for the sins against the Immaculate Heart of Mary by saying the Rosary, going to confession, receiving communion at Mass, and praying in the presence of Jesus for at least 15 minutes (typically a Rosary is said during this time).
On the first Saturday of March 2011, I said a Rosary at home, and went to church early in order to say confession before Mass. Now, this was only my third confession ever, and honestly, I approached this one with much more thought and seriousness than my previous ones. I really dug deep, painfully confessing sins even and especially from my distant past. After receiving absolution for my sins, I felt a huge burden lifted from my soul. I then proceeded to the small chapel, knelt before the tabernacle, and said another Rosary. Shortly afterwards, Mass began. I received communion, and prayed for the reparation of sins against Mary’s Immaculate Heart. That was it for the first of the five Saturdays. It had been difficult—especially the confession—but felt good. I then went home for an uneventful evening.
While sound asleep that night, I was suddenly awakened by an intense warmth that moved in a wave through my whole body. It started at my head, then rapidly extended steadily to my torso, legs, and feet. More than just warmth, there was also a slight buzzing sensation. Then, in the pitch-black room, before I could even try to process what was happening to me, an image appeared in my eyes, which were closed. Similar to the way you might stare briefly at a brightly-lit object and then see the object’s shape imprinted in light under your eyelids, the image that came to me began as a point of light that expanded quickly into the shape of a rose. I recall thinking to myself at first, what is that? A flower? Then I realized, It’s…a rose! It was a top-down view of a rose.
The image remained for perhaps 2-3 seconds, then quickly shrunk back to the center point of light. However, it immediately expanded again into a new image. This time it was of many smaller roses packed tightly together, side by side, like in a bouquet. But then I realized this bouquet was also in the shape of a heart—a subtle valentine. It remained for the same length of time, and then faded out again, shrinking and then expanding into one final image.
This final image was of a series of roses connected side by side into a ring. It was like looking at a side view of a ring made of roses, and then tilting the front side downward slightly so that you could also see the back side of the ring. I viewed it as a crown of roses.
The final image then shrunk like the others, with nothing remaining. I opened my eyes in the dark room and sat up, amazed and trying to process what had just happened. I debated waking Susan to tell her about it, but decided to let her sleep and tell her in the morning.
Like considering the odds of winning the circus tickets, part of my logical brain sometimes wants to rationalize this as some natural, dream-induced occurrence. But then, I’ve never encountered anything remotely like it in my life before or since, and it happened after the first of the five Saturdays. As I see it, this was clearly Mary’s special acknowledgement and encouragement to me to continue. The first rose clearly represented the Rosary. I really didn’t comprehend the full significance of the last two images at the time, but upon later reflection, recognize these as images related to Her Immaculate Heart.
This is my husbands story. And just like that, after ten and a half years of marriage, my prayer had been answered. My husband became the spiritual leader in my household. This was truly a miracle in my midst. Being the human that I am, I was very grateful, but also perhaps a little spiritually jealous. I had prayed the Rosary on and off for years, and he gets a “vision.” I knew that was selfish and I quickly overcame that, as I watched him transform into a new person. He is still the same man I married who I lovingly refer to as, “Mr. Finance Pants,” but he is a softer, gentler, more generous person. He became involved in activities at church. He is a person whose heart is changed. We are still on this journey together, and we both still have a long way to go, but I am forever grateful to Mary, the Mother of God, for interceding in our lives.
*My husband now does pray the Luminous Mysteries as well, but when he was first learning the Rosary he had come across the traditional version before Pope John Paul II had added the Luminous Mysteries.
Immaculate Heart Image by Kathleen Carr: http://www.carrfineart.com