Cheating Death and Loving God
In the ensuing years, Rosario worked as a Catholic missionary through campus outreach, serving the poor in Mexico, and most recently, the Act One program, which supports Christians in Hollywood. In 2009, at the age of 31, she was walking on a Los Angeles street when a woman grabbed her purse and shot her in the chest.
Though Rosario didn't immediately feel the bullet (which remains in her body today), it tore her esophagus, caused her lungs to collapse, and missed her heart by one centimeter. The doctors said she should have died instantly. Instead, Rosario chased the robber and managed to get her license plate, which led to her capture.
Once she was in the hospital, the doctors had to cut into Rosario to insert tubes into her collapsed lungs. She remained awake during this painful procedure because, as the paramedics told her, "Once you're sedated, your body stops fighting for life because it's too at-ease."
Rosario recalled, "There was a moment in the ER when I was on the table that I thought, 'I'm dying right now.' I had so much peace about it. I thought about my life and all the opportunities I've had . . . and I was grateful. I said, 'Thank you, God, you've given me a full and beautiful life.' But then God gave me this vision of my family and every person I'd ever met. They were at my funeral all dressed in black, and I saw my family fall to the ground. Everyone was sobbing uncontrollably and my heart just broke. I said to God, 'They're not ready to let me go yet, are they?' He said, 'No, they're not.' So I said, 'Okay, I'll stay. I'll fight for them.'"
Rosario also attributes her survival to the many people who prayed for her. When word that she had been shot spread to her family and co-workers in the immediate aftermath, prayer requests started going up on blogs and Facebook statuses. "To learn how many people were praying for me has been incredible," she said.
Rosario's recovery has been slow and, at times, very painful. The one burden she doesn't carry, however, is unforgiveness toward the woman who shot her. Rosario explained, "I knew I didn't ever want to live the way I lived before. I didn't want to live shackled. I wanted the freedom of forgiveness. But it's so emotionally hard going into the courtroom and facing her every time I've had to testify. But I pray for her every single day. In December at one of the hearings . . . I looked at her and told her that I've forgiven her and that I pray she might come to know the incredible love, mercy and forgiveness of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Rosario's example is one that each of us—myself included—should take to heart. Too many times, we find Jesus' command to pray for our enemies a nice concept for other people to follow when they hurt us, but difficult to follow ourselves. We can nurse grudges and bitterness, letting them fester until their roots grow deep. When we die, however, we need to remember that every space in our heart that is taken up by hatred leaves less room for God's love. And since heaven is the fullest experience of God's love we can ever know, it would make sense that we make as much room for it as possible.
Though it wasn't always easy, Rosario learned that with forgiveness comes freedom. Let's open ourselves to that same kind of freedom.
To listen to the complete two-part interview with Rosario Rodriguez, visit Christopher Closeup.
Tony Rossi serves as host/producer of "Christopher Closeup," the radio show and podcast of. The Christophers, a Catholic non-profit that uses media to encourage people of all faiths to live gospel values.