Two incredible gifts: Our daughter, the rosary

Editor’s note — The Diocese of Peoria will celebrate a Year of the Most Holy Rosary from Aug. 15, 2009, through May 31, 2010. A Rosary Festival at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria on Oct. 26, 2008, will serve to kick off a year of preparation for the rosary year. Further details will appear in a future issue of The Catholic Post.

After Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, announced plans to “reinvigorate the venerable practice” in the diocese, The Catholic Post invited readers to share what the rosary has meant in their lives. A full page of those reflections was printed Sept. 14, and we continue to receive personal testimonies regarding the devotion.

As October, a month of special rosary devotion — including the memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary on Oct. 7 — begins, we offer the following powerful testimony penned by Kathy Sommers, a member of St. Maria Goretti Parish in Coal Valley and secretary in the elementary building office of Seton Catholic School, Moline.

As a child growing up in a family with 14 children, praying the rosary together was a special, quiet time that I enjoyed. As a young adult out on my own, though, I did not make it a priority to say the rosary, hence may have only done so on occasions such as funerals.

However, as an adult being faced with a situation with which I knew I needed major help from above, I was guided back to the rosary in a big way. Thank you, God!

My daughter was diagnosed at the age of 6 with a heart defect present since birth that caused irreversible damage to her lungs by the time it was discovered. My husband and I were told she could live 10 years, would become more and more oxygen deprived, and that there was nothing medically to be done about it. How could parents accept that? Anger, sadness and depression set in, and after some time I asked our parish priest for advice. He offered the suggestion that I pray the rosary and simply ask Mary, the Mother of God, to watch over my daughter and the rest of the family. He later added that we could ask Mary to intercede on our behalf with God for strength and the ability to accept His will.

Each Sunday he would ask me if I was praying the rosary. I decided to do it just so I could say I had the next time he asked. What a blessing! I certainly did pray for strength, and for help, but not to accept God’s will. I was not ready to do that and felt I never would be.

The rosary quickly became a source of encouragement, comfort and strength for me, my daughter, and the rest of the family. My daughter instantly embraced the rosary, she who had the true faith of a child. As her disease progressed and she experienced shortness of breath to the point of momentary loss of consciousness, the rosary is what we prayed to get through those stressful, difficult times.

Her doctor had said the best thing to do was to remain calm, and that it would pass. It was far easier to remain calm with the help of the rosary. When my daughter began having seizures (an indicator of the end stage of her disease), we also prayed the rosary to get through the seizures.

One day, when she began to tremble as she did just before a seizure, rather than remaining calm I began to cry. My daughter reached over to her bedside table, picked up her Hail Mary prayer card and handed it to me. What an incredible reminder, and it worked! Not only were we given strength, but along with that God gave us so much more. He gave us the ability to truly enjoy the remainder of our daughter’s life with her, rather than be depressed about it. With that strength came the ability to accept His will, whether we wanted to or not, and that certainly improved her quality of life, and ours.

It also became apparent that her life, her disease, her faith and even her death had become positive life- changing experiences. She had taken us closer to God, the best gift a person can give other people. We learned true humility, that we are nothing without God.

The rosary played a key role in our entire perspective. Contemplating the mysteries of the life of Jesus gave us incredible benefits we never thought possible.

My mother was also a recipient of the grace of the rosary. She had come to stay with us for a few weeks during my daughter’s last years and asked me how we could possibly cope the way we were able to under such circumstances. I told her it was because of the rosary, and she decided to join in; the rosary again became a part of her life.

She passed away a little over a year after our daughter, but the rosary gave her comfort and strength in her last years, and certainly her last months, as well.

I prayed the rosary alongside my daughter’s bed the day that she passed away. It was obvious by her demeanor that she was participating in her own way, as sick as she was, and she was very peaceful. She knew she was going to be with Jesus.

As it turned out, that day was Oct. 7, the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. How incredibly appropriate that she should go to be with God on that particular date!

We are eternally thankful to God the Father, the Holy Spirit, and to Jesus for the incredible gift of the rosary, the incredible gift of our daughter, and all the good things given to us. We thank Mary, the mother of Jesus, for being the ideal role model, for watching over our family and for all her help.

We are very grateful to the priest who suggested we pray the rosary and to Bishop Jenky for making the rosary a focus of this year. We still pray the rosary to help us through the ups and downs of life!

Editor’s note: The Catholic Post continues to invite reader responses to the question”What has the rosary meant to you?” Selected reflections will be published in a booklet to be distributed during the Year of the Most Holy Rosary in our diocese.

To participate, send your reflections to The Catholic Post, PO Box 1722, Peoria, IL, 61656, or by e-mail to cathpost@cdop.org.

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