Monday, May 23, 2016

Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost

The rosary in the picture above had been in a Lord and Taylor jewelry box, carefully surrounded with aging tissue paper. It was in a bag that my dad had given me just before we moved to Idaho, which had belonged to my maternal grandmother, Grandma Mary. Our relocation had been so busy that I never had a chance to go through the bag until we finally landed in corporate housing. 

I already had a rosary which an Episcopal priest's wife (who had been Catholic) had given me back in 1999 as a thank you gift for singing at a retreat. She said she felt the Holy Spirit wanted her to give it to me. I never tried praying with it until sometime in 2011, but every time I'd start to pray I felt like I was doing something dangerous. One day I had taken it out, and when I put it back in the drawer, it caught on the knob and broke. I took it as a sign that God didn't want me to pray the rosary. So imagine the puzzling shock of finding a rosary, beautiful and pristine, in my Protestant grandmother's bag.

When I mentioned it to my dad, he said it must have belonged to my grandfather who had been Catholic. I did find Grandpa Charlie's old Knights of Columbus pin in the bag, along with some other tokens of his past, but the rosary didn't look like something he would own. Also, Grandma Mary had worked in the jewelry department of Lord and Taylor in Manhattan. So it seemed to me that it was hers, though I will never know if she ever prayed with it.

I put Grandma Mary's rosary in the little coin purse that came with the rosary I had broken, so that I could easily carry it around. I would pray a decade on it here and there. Then I went to pray in front of Planned Parenthood in the spring of 2013, with my kids and some other women. When the women brought out their rosaries, I took out my grandmother's. It was the first time I had prayed an entire rosary, and my kids happily joined in. From then on, whenever we prayed with the pro-life group, I brought Grandma Mary's rosary. Eventually, I started praying the rosary on my own at home.

Last year my husband and I decided that we'd pray during Lent to discern once and for all whether to become Catholic. In a series of events that should be told one day, it became obvious on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday that we needed to be Catholic. We were too late to be a part of RCIA, but we met with the Pastoral Associate and submitted letters requesting to become Catholic. We went to Mass every Sunday, and we couldn't wait until we could finally fully participate, which seemed destined to be sometime in the summer.

Holy Week began, and we were so excited! Even though we couldn't receive communion, it was an amazing experience celebrating it with the Catholic Church. It was an incredibly busy week though, and Maundy (Holy) Thursday came upon us in a slew of one thing after another. Because I wanted Good Friday to be a quiet day, I decided to take the kids Easter clothes shopping after co-op classes and before Mass, even though it would be a tight squeeze.

I took my grandmother's rosary with me in my pocket, rather than in my purse, because I was feeling sentimental and missing Grandma Mary so much that day. It slipped out, and I ignored the voice in my head that said to put it in my purse for safer keeping. I put it back in my pocket, without worrying that it would fall out again. When we got to the car, I checked my pocket. It was gone. I looked in the stroller, my purse, the diaper bag, the car seat, and all around the car. The older kids helped look, too. We found nothing. I then had a choice: Skip Mass and retrace my steps throughout the mall, or go to Mass and look for it another day. I chose Mass.

Not only was I moved by the Mass for Maundy Thursday, but the kids were, too. (My husband unfortunately wasn't able to make it.) The Pastoral Associate came up to us and told us we should go up for a blessing during communion, and I will never forget how much it made my seven year old's eyes light up! Of course with a toddler in tow, something had to go a bit awry: After the repose of the Blessed Sacrament, when everyone was supposed to be quiet, my toddler was so excited to see the pastor that she kept jumping in my arms and squealing, "Hi!" Thankfully, without any hint of annoyance, the kind priest looked at her, smiled, and said, "Hi!" back.  

I wasn't able to go to the mall again until Saturday. I couldn't find the rosary anywhere, though I prayed and prayed. I checked the mall's lost and found, every store we were in, and the parking lot again and again. Nothing. The kids prayed, my husband prayed, and it never turned up. My husband and a friend said that maybe someone else just really needed to find it, which brought some comfort. I still prayed to find it though, and over the months, the few times I went to the mall, I would check lost and found or around the parking lot, just in case. 

On December 22, almost nine months after I lost the rosary, I lifted my toddler's mattress to change the sheets, as I had done each week in all the months before. Then I fell to my knees in shock: Stuck to the wall was the little purse I had put the rosary in!!! I couldn't believe it!! I started screaming, and my fourteen year old son came running in. He couldn't believe it either! The purse stayed up against the wall where the mattress had been, suspended as if someone had glued it there. I grabbed the purse, opened it, and there it was! Grandma Mary's rosary was in perfect condition!

Someone speculated that the toddler filched it, stuck it in a pocket, and then hid it between the mattress and the wall. She was fourteen months old when I lost it, was wearing a dress without pockets, and didn't have the capacity for such a deft sleight of hand. Also, I honestly lifted the mattress each week to change the sheets, and I never saw it against the wall any of those times. So we have no idea how it got there, or what on earth happened. But we do know that that which we thought was hopelessly lost was found.

©2016 Emily Woodham

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