By: Rick Hernandez
A few years ago, I found myself living away from my family in the Milwaukee suburb of West Allis during a harsh Wisconsin winter due to my work. While I was there, I attended Mass at Mary Queen of Heaven Catholic Church, served by the Missionary Fathers of the Blessed Sacrament. After a few weeks of attending, that wonderful church became, for me, a second home. There we had Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament every night in a small intimate space, where I would go and kneel to tell God of my day and to try to hear his comforting words in my soul.
It was challenging to be away from home. My loneliness was difficult to overcome as winter kept most people cooped inside, where it was not freezing with below-zero temperatures. Most of my comfort came from praying with my rosary in the Adoration chapel, feeling quite content that I was finally wearing down some of the edges of my rosary beads.
One day, while working outside, I noticed that I had lost my rosary. I was so sad and hurt over this. I felt deflated and lost. That physical rosary had become so important to me like it was the one connection to my sanity, the one road to soothing my anxieties over my loneliness, and it was now lost... I shed many tears over this. It is not that I did not have other rosaries. I did. It is just that both habit and the context of my living situation had given much more meaning to that particular rosary. I felt that loss deeply.
I started praying about this, and when I visited Our Lord in his Adoration chapel, I brought forward my questions... “Why did it become like this? Why did that rosary become so important? I have you here right now, Lord, and that is of more value than a thousand rosary beads, just material things...” But then, why did it hurt so much? Right at that moment, as I was kneeling there in that little chapel, I felt God placing his gentle hand over my shoulder. With this fatherly gesture, a great calm washed over me; I knew then that it was ok. I understood at that moment that my prayers through that particular rosary helped bring forth both His love for me and my love for Him. That rosary was a token of our relationship, of a love alive, shared freely in both directions, but a token does not define a relationship; the relationship defines the token.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)
I had come to terms with my loss, and I felt so grateful for the time that I spent there and the gift of understanding that comforted my heart. After a while, I said my goodbyes and left. Hunger reminded me that I had not eaten yet, and I decided to stop and pick up something to eat in a pretty famous burger joint not far from the church. I got out of my car, and there on a snow mound I saw it, my rosary waiting for me. How did it get there? Well, that is for the angels to reveal, but I know deep in my heart that it was another gift, just for me. Like my rosary, I was a little lost, but at that moment, I knew that I had been found. What a way to be yet again claimed by the One who loves me!
I pray for all of us that whenever we are discouraged, lost, anxious, or wavering, we are again reminded by the power of His own hand, that we are LOVED, that He is with us, wherever we go. Amen