An Old Lady and Her Rosary


“O sinner, be not discouraged, but have recourse to Mary in all your necessities. Call her to your assistance, for such is the divine Will that she should help in every kind of necessity.”

–Saint Basil the Great

I’ve been in the Church over 18 years now and I find I’m still learning new things all the time.  For example, over the last couple of months, I’ve been giving some thought to how I feel about Mary.  It’s something I’ve struggled with mostly due to my Scottish Presbyterian background, which certainly frowned on such things.  I’ve always thought that was a fault that I need to overcome, but I never thought she played much of a role in my conversion to Catholicism and I’ve sort of kept the idea on the back burner. Rosary prayer

Then, a few days ago, I began thinking about my experience in RCIA and what it was that confirmed me on the path to becoming Catholic.  I remembered that the first time I darkened the door of St Stephens’s parish with the idea of actually attending Mass, I wasn’t at all sure I could go through with it.  I remembered, as I often have, that one of the first things I saw was a little, very old, Hispanic lady with work worn, weary, arthritic hands and light gray sweater, sitting in the very last row of the sanctuary, praying her Rosary.  She caught my attention because in my entire life I’d never seen anyone visibly praying in a church.  You don’t do that as a Protestant; the idea is, you can pray anywhere and the church building is mainly for meeting other Christians for Sunday services and study.

Well, as I say, that little old lady, sitting in the middle of the very last row of the church presented a picture I’ve never forgotten.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such a vivid picture of humble, living faith.  I was drawn in immediately, my interest was piqued and I lost any idea of turning back.  Considering this, it struck me – what if the Rosary hadn’t been in her hands?  What would I have seen then?  I would simply have seen a little old lady who appeared lost in her thoughts and dreams.  I would not have seen a living example of the depth of the faith and devotion possible within the doors of the Catholic Church.  Had it not been for that Rosary I might well have lost my nerve and turned around and gone home.

That thought struck me like a thunder clap.  Was it possible that Mary was leading me to Rome almost from the very first?  Even worse, have I been completely oblivious of the fact all this time?  Am I making all this up in my own mind?  I don’t know any of these answers, but I need to give it a good deal of thought.  I do know that when we began RCIA we were in need of great assistance.  Our Presbyterian church was in crisis and I was still relatively new in my faith and there seemed no where to go.  I knew that the wrong choice could very easily end with my dropping away from Christianity again.  I felt we only had one chance to get it right and I had no idea what the right choice was.  But that lady praying the Rosary seemed to be a sign I was in the right place.  I’m beginning to think that, even without consciously “having recourse to Mary,” she was helping us both at a time of great necessity.

I’m not sure I think that was a coincidence and it shows I still have a lot to learn about being Catholic, the first thing is to learn to heed St. Basil’s advice.

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