My daughter, Malaysia Marie, has been giddy all week. She loves birthdays and she has been hopping around saying, “It’s Mary’s birthday on Friday!”
Because of my hopping-around-excited child, I have been thinking about Our Lady all week.
In honor of my daughter’s excitement as well as Mary’s birthday, I want to share my rosary miracle story with you today. It’s a little miracle, as far as miracles go, no broken bones were healed, no thunder bolts were seen; but it totally strengthened my child-like faith.
My Little Miracle ~ A Rosary Story:
It starts, as most stories do, with my mother. I am the third of eleven children and we were raised by a wondrous woman.
In fact, if God grades on a curve, my mother has screwed it up for us. She’s that amazing. She has this heart that just loves. She doesn’t demand or control or belittle. She.just.loves.
It was incredible to be brought up by such a woman.
Her faith was deep. DEEP. I learned about Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the saints through her life and her love of them.
She prayed the rosary faithfully. She attended Mass faithfully.
Her faith became my faith.
I was never blessed with a Catholic school education; there were only public school options, which were just fine. However, as I thought about my future, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. And not just any teacher.
I wanted to teach in a Catholic school.
While at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, if a professor would find out about my desire, he or she would belittle me and try to sway me.
I just laughed. I knew what I knew.
I knew I was to teach in a Catholic school.
Okay, you gotta know something. My faith, at that point, was all in my heart. ALL OF IT.
I loved Jesus. LOVED LOVED LOVED Jesus. I was incredibly grateful to His Blessed Mother and I felt a deep, deep kinship with her.
She reminded me of my own mother, thoughtful and kind. She gave, no matter the cost.
That was where I lived, in this cocoon of heart-felt faith. I loved praying the rosary. I loved it. (I also should insert that I had some deep emotional struggles; life wasn’t all peaches and sunshine.)
I got married. I graduated from college with a middle-school teaching degree. My new husband, Russ, and I moved to St. Louis so he could pursue his work as an engineer.
After some searching, I found an opening at a Catholic school. I applied.
After I was interviewed by the priest of Sacred Heart Catholic School in Florissant, he told the principal not to hire me.
I was, in his words, a heathen.
He said that I did not know my Catechism.
And truthfully, he was correct. I did not know much about my Catholic faith. I had not been taught the ins and outs of Catholicism.
I hate to admit this, but I think it will demonstrate who I was back then: I remember walking in the halls of Sacred Heart School, seeing a framed picture of a man.
I wondered who it was. I knew I should know him but I did not.
It was Pope John Paul II.
It hurts to admit that, because later, (Saint) Pope John Paul II radically changed my life with his teaching, Theology of the Body.
But that’s another story for another time.
The principal saw something in me that he liked, regardless of my heathenism, and I was hired.
I taught third grade then I was, gratefully, moved to sixth grade.
Those sixth graders were THE BEST KIDS.
Their hearts were SO.OPEN.TO.RECEIVE.THE.LOVE.OF.GOD.
I loved teaching math and English (I know, it’s odd, I have a knack for both subjects) but I absolutely, positively loved teaching religion.
I taught my students to pray.
I taught them why and how to love the rosary.
Teaching was all I had hoped it to be; I felt like a nun/teacher/wife rolled into one and I loved it.
I loved going to school on Monday mornings. I loved my students; I missed them over the weekends.
However, as my husband and I began talking about our future and the possibility of children, we recognized that my “half salary” as a Catholic school teacher would not get us ahead financially.
After many talks, we decided that I would start the application process to teach in the public schools.
I told no one of this decision, mostly because it broke my heart.
I continued to teach my students about Our Lady. They astounded me by their hunger. They ASKED to pray the rosary. Some of my fondest memories were of my first sixth grade class kneeling together in the quiet church, praying with their wide-open faith.
I didn’t want to leave that. It was a difficult time for me.
Now, here is where I pause.
I have never shared this story in print, because it’s mine. It.is.mine. I don’t want to cast my pearls out in front of anyone, good, bad or otherwise.
These are my pearls.
I told my husband of my dilemma. A part of me has always felt called to share this story, but there is a bigger part, a more vulnerable part, that does not want to share.
Russ is an amazing husband. He always listens to me and I trust what he has to say. After some thought he quietly told me, “There are people out there that don’t have faith. Would if your story would be the spark for them?”
He basically told me that my experience wasn’t for me alone.
So, I share this with you as a gift. Take it or leave it, as all gifts.
It was the spring of 1991; I was finishing up a school day when Denise, mother of one of my students, stopped by my classroom.
She smiled and handed me a little package; it contained a beautiful wooden rosary held together with brown cord.
Then she said, “I also have a message: ‘You are to stay where you are at.'”
I didn’t understand. She didn’t know much, either. She said that while she was at work a monk came up to her, asked her some questions then gave her the rosary and the message, to be given to me.
I asked her where she worked.
She promised she’d have the monk call me.
I had a lot of questions. He graciously invited me to visit him at the monastery.
I went as soon as I could. The gentle monk greeted me with a big smile; we sat down in a sparsely-furnished sitting room and he kindly told me his life story.
When he was a small boy, he had received visions of The Holy Family, but he didn’t really understand what they were.
As he grew older, he started receiving locutions from Our Lady.
I asked him what a locution was. He told me that some people received the blessing of seeing Our Lady in an apparition. (Juan Diego seeing Our Lady of Guadalupe is one example.)
He merely heard from her on occasion.
That’s a locution.
I know it sounds crazy, but I 100% believed him. Maybe it was the black robe, maybe it was his honest face. But I just believed him.
He usually heard from Mary when he was in prayer. Many times it was in chapel.
A beautiful voice would sound in his head.
That’s when I stopped him. A VOICE WOULD SOUND IN HIS HEAD?
He laughed. Yes, he’d be praying and he would hear a voice, clear as day, talk to him in his head.
The female voice would tell him something specific about a person. And he’d be directed to give that person a rosary with a message.
He explained that he was simply a messenger. He sometimes messed things up when he read too much into something or added his own flair. But when he kept it exactly as he had been given it, all was well.
Seems so logical, doesn’t it?
Oh my stars.
Of course I asked him what he had heard in regards to me.
He said that he had been praying and Mary told him about a teacher that was doing much good for her children, teaching them how to pray and planting seeds of faith. However, that teacher felt conflict, she felt like she should leave that school.
Mary told him that the teacher was to stay where she was.
He simply asked, “How do I find this teacher?”
“Her name is Lori. The secretary knows her.”
So he went to the secretary of the monastery and asked, “Do you know a teacher by the name of Lori?”
To which she replied, “My daughter, Ellen, has a teacher by the name of Lori.”
The monk gave her the rosary and told Denise to tell me “to stay where I was.”
Bless. Bless. Bless.
That encounter with the divine only deepened my faith. I know Jesus is real. And I know that I know.
I also have acquired quite a bit of head knowledge over the years; I have studied apologetics and Scripture. In fact, I could probably teach a high school theology class quite easily.
I know my Catechism.
So I wonder why, after writing the first draft of this post, I went out onto my deck, sat with my Bible and my rosary and cried from my soul?
I thought of the last 28 years.
Do I still possess that faith of my 22-year old “heathen” self? Or has it been replaced by knowledge? Has my faith been replaced with knowing the answers?
Or has my knowledge enhanced my faith?
If you are a therapist, or a wanna-be-therapist, have a go.
See, I started this post afraid to share my most precious gift with you. And it appears that, upon reflection, I may have drifted or detached somehow from that gift.
Which, truth be told, is why I write. When I write I discover.
And I, 50-year old Lori Lynn Agnes Kreshel Doerneman, desire to live with faith and trustful surrender.
Have your way with me, Sweet Jesus. I am yours. Mary, my mother of Grace, thank you for holding back the veil for a moment. Help me live the grace of that gift.
Thank you, dearest Father, for giving us our little Malaysia, whose faith shines in this home. (If you want to read the mini miracles we received when adopting Malaysia, start here: Our Adoption Story, Part I.)
Oh yes, and Happy Birthday, Sweet Mother.
P.S. The Parenting Dare is a new resource for Christian parents. We must parent intentionally in today’s world. I explain more in this post, Dare to Parent.