The way a spark starts a fire is how the story of our fifth pregnancy and third soon-to-be born child came to be. That spark was a Miraculous Medal we happened upon, clandestinely sitting (planted?) in a pew at St. Jude's Catholic Church in Lewes, Delaware. We were on vacation at the beach, and this was the local church for Sunday Mass.
Upon leaving our pew after Mass, Deb noticed the silver medal. "What is this?" she asked. I don't know where the words came from, but I remember telling her, "I don't know, but it's for you. It was left for you. You take it." I was not all that familiar with sacramentals at the time. On one side was an image of the Virgin Mary, and on the other was a 'T' and an 'M' overlapped. She took it home, and we looked it up, and read the story of St. Catherine Laboure and how the Miraculous Medal, as it was later known, came to be. I had actually visited the Chapel of the Miraculous Medal at 140 rue du Bac and prayed at the incorrupt body of St. Catherine Laboure while in Paris years before, but didn't make the connection til later. Nothing is lost on God.
A week later, Deb's mom died. Deb remembered the story of St. Catherine and how she too had lost her mother in 1815, and how as a child after that tragic event she turned to the Blessed Virgin and said, "Now you will be my mother." Mary as mother became especially meaningful to my wife after the loss of her mom, and she began to wear the medal.
The day of the funeral, Debbie told me, she caught sight of a little girl running at the top of the stairs through the hallway. "Don't run, Monica!" she yelled, presuming it was our youngest daughter who should have been napping. When she got to the top of the stairs, though, Monica was playing in her room, having never left it.
We were not open to life at this point. Debbie was 41, we had two healthy kids, as they say, and I just was not open to more. I was motivated by fear. Deb had always wanted more kids, but didn't push me. We contracepted and also practiced NFP with the hopes of staving off further conception. We had the means and the ability to welcome more children. We--I--just didn't have the will, and exercised whatever control I could to keep our small family intact.
On October 11th, 2016, Deb took a day off from work and went to St. Ann's chapel for Adoration and she heard a voice in her head say, "you will name her Catherine." "Hm, that's weird," she thought. She told me what happened, and also that she was late. We took a pregnancy test that afternoon, and it was negative. "Phew!" I thought. Five days later, though, she took another test which came back positive.
It was a roller coaster of emotions. We weren't looking to get pregnant. By the time we started to come around to the idea, though, we hit another fork in the road. We miscarried at 12 weeks, and felt acute loss and heartache, not relief. It was the week after Thanksgiving, on November 28th. The feast of St. Catherine Laboure.
I wasn't aware of it, but God was melting the hardness of my heart; the Miraculous Medal and our Blessed Mother was the lye doing the dissolving. We confessed our sins in the Sacrament of Penance, and abandoned ourselves to God's mercy. We went on to experience another loss early on (our fourth pregnancy), and grieved then as well, knowing full well that at 42, the door of Debbie's fertility very well may have been closing for good. We regretted being closed to life for the time we were, and were resigned to the consequences of our decisions.
But in May, we took a test again, confirming that we were once again pregnant. We held our breaths and prayed, for weeks and months, and to our delight, the baby kept growing and progressing. At thirty-seven weeks today, we hope to meet him or her in person shortly, God willing.
An innocent medal sitting in a pew. A vision of a little girl. A loss of a mother, and two little souls created and gone to be with their Creator. And then, life.
It's against some odds that we find ourselves pregnant. But to me the biggest miracle is how God transformed our heart--my heart--from a fearful heart of stone to a soft one receptive and disposed to His greatest gift--life itself, and set us in a state of grace. Nevermind it would have been easier to just trust the Lord and His Church in Her wisdom from the start, but sometimes I have to learn things the hard way.
Recognizing her role in our lives, we consecrated ourselves and our entire family to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima at St. Hedwig's Church in Wilmington. The Lord in His grace gave Debbie what she had been longing for, as her favorite scripture passage goes, "Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart" (Ps 37:4): a husband, children, and now also the opportunity to stay home and homeschool. He has filled our cup to overflowing, and even now we pray, "Though he slay me, yet I will trust Him!" (Job 13:15).
Something changed when we abandoned our idols and began to trust. Grace dripped, dripped, dripped, and then broke through the roof. As you pray for, march for, advocate for, and celebrate Life this weekend, remember this little story of God's grace, our unworthiness, and His goodness; our sinfulness, and His mercy. And please keep us in your prayers, for the doctors and for Deb, as we prepare to welcome the gift He has so graciously entrusted us with, this little ordinary miracle.
"Behold, I make all things new!"