In this post, I share an excerpt from my book about my conversion–a desperately-needed victory in Christ brought about through Our Lady’s intercession and intervention–as we celebrate one of my favorite dates on the liturgical calendar.
Today marks the memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary and commemorates a victorious sea battle waged between an allied Christian fleet and the invading Ottoman Turks. In 1571, the Turkish fleet had been marauding up and down the Mediterranean, capturing, torturing, murdering, or enslaving Christians by the thousands. Things were looking pretty grim, when an alliance of Christian leaders pulled together by Pope Pius V linked arms and prayed the Rosary, asking Our Lady for Victory. This stunning moment in history is just thrilling to read and savor, as we face our own life and death battles–spiritually, culturally, and politically. Read more here.
The following excerpt, from Chapter One of True Radiance: Finding Grace in the Second Half of Life, describes a mysterious encounter with the Blessed Mother that occurred during my stay at a small shrine in New England in 1992.
I had fled my life to seek the solitude and safety of a retreat house, but I was not consciously seeking God. In fact, I was so angry with God that I regularly shouted at him in prayer, my fist raised. If I could have physically attacked him, I would have. In my confusion, I believed he had abandoned me.
Yet, for no reason I could explain, I had begun to pray the Rosary each day; and without realizing it, the battle that I been losing for years was about to turn to victory. But first, I had to open my heart to Mary:
There were white, life-sized statues of the Stations of the Cross, as well as other beautiful images, scattered around the grounds of the shrine. Their plaster surfaces reflected the light of the moon, and they seemed to glow in the dark as I moved among them, totally alone. Eventually, I found myself at the top of a flight of stone steps, where a statue of Our Lady of La Salette had been set on a low pedestal so that I could look almost directly into her eyes.
For some reason, it was as if the statue were inviting me to unburden myself, so I spoke to her out loud about everything that was wrong with my life—and every miserable, useless person in it. No one escaped my condemnation or my fury. Like a dam breaking, the agony of my own existential crisis flooded out of me; I complained and cried and exposed my soul completely, every last filthy resentment spilling out at the feet of the Virgin’s image. I don’t know how much time passed like this, but if anyone heard me wailing away before Our Lady’s statue, they surely kept their distance from the crazy woman on the hill.
When there was nothing left, I stood empty before her, my face soaked with bitter tears, my mind exhausted. I just stared at her face in silence. Suddenly, for the first time in my life, words that were not my own were spoken in the depths of my heart. As clearly as if I’d heard them with my ears, I heard her say, “Go see my Son.” I froze, astonished at the clarity of her command. But a moment later I obeyed, moving as if in a trance down the stone steps to approach the foot of a much larger staircase leading up to a gigantic crucifix.
Moved by the conviction that the Blessed Mother had, in fact, ordered me to present my needs to Jesus, I gazed up at the huge image of Our Lord on the cross. Mindful that the stairs would have been slowly and reverently mounted by penitent pilgrims on their knees in humble contrition, I disdainfully marched up the steps to the platform at the top, my back straight and my jaw set. When I reached the foot of the cross, I let him have it.
In the days that followed, I would experience a series of healings and finally head home, deep into conversion, falling into the arms of Christ with an overwhelming sense of homecoming and joy.
Only a mother could have brought me back to the very person I blamed for everything wrong in my life. Only she could have shown me that in Jesus were found all the answers I had fruitlessly sought in the confusion of my ignorance. His power, his sacrificial love, his mercy saved me and redeemed my whole life.
Holy Mary, powerful Queen and most tender of mothers, thank you for leading me back to your Divine Son!
Jesus, I trust in You!