There’s nothing quite like having your world rocked and turned upside down to really fire up your prayer life. Our baby was put on tons of prayer lists, rosaries were said by the dozens (I finally had each mystery memorized…only took me 27 years!), and we clung tightly to our faith; if I couldn’t physically do anything to help my baby, I was gonna flood Heaven’s gates with prayers!
I prayed for a miracle. I prayed for peace. I prayed for wisdom, courage, and strength. Some prayers were really really big, “God, if it is your will, please miraculously heal our baby’s brain. And if it’s not your will for a miracle, give us the courage to accept what you have planned.”
Others were really really small “God, please just give me the strength to make it through my first class today.”
One day I found a flyer (I don’t even know how I got a hold of this thing…it probably fell from the sky as some sort of holy intervention) promoting a talk one of our local priests was going to soon be giving on St. Faustina. Two important things here:
1. St. Faustina is my confirmation saint, and therefore my self-proclaimed “home-girl”.
2. The talk was happening the evening before our baby’s brain MRI.
“I gotta go to that!”
I was interested in what I could learn about St. Faustina, but to be honest…I had another motive that was a little more important to me at the time. This priest has a deep love for new life. Whenever we attended a Mass he celebrated, and the congregation would walk up to receive Communion, he would always give a blessing over the mother’s womb if she was visibly pregnant. I knew I wanted a blessing from him, and the only time I knew for sure I could hunt him down for that blessing was at this talk.
My mom was feeling pretty sad for me at this point; I know how much I hate seeing my own children in pain, so having to watch me go through all of this must have been very hard on her. The good news was, she’d pretty much do anything I asked- ha! (hindsight: should have milked this a little longer…kidding…kind of) Anyway, my point is that it didn’t take a whole lot of convincing to persuade my mom to come along with me. So the night before our baby’s MRI, we hopped in the car and headed across town.
I don’t remember much about the presentation on St. Faustina. I was pretty distracted and kept thinking about how I was going to approach this priest and ask for a blessing without sounding like a total looney toon. As he was wrapping up his talk, my heart started to race. I was sweating like a pig. What was I so worried about?!
He’s a pretty popular dude, so I knew other people would want to talk to him. It was me versus the old church ladies with their beautifully permed white hair. Sorry, gals, not tonight. I fought my way through the clouds of hairspray and perfume, probably throwing elbows and taking out ankles of any poor soul who tried to cut in front of me #SorryNotSorry. Miraculously, I made it to the front of church, practically out of breath, with just one other person in front of me (she must have been in the front row ‘cuz I was really truck’n).
I waited anxiously as I wiped my sweaty palms on my pants for the thousandth time. And then I was up. It was my turn. Oh, crap. What do I say?! How do I tell him what’s going on without breaking down in front of all these old church ladies? I caught my breath and somehow came up with the words to quickly and quietly explain what was going on.
He listened closely. He listened intently. As I was speaking, the look in his eyes was one of a father’s love for his daughter: soft, caring, gentle. We were right in front of this big picture called “The Divine Mercy” which is St. Faustina’s “claim to fame”. The picture is of Jesus walking towards us with His left hand touching His heart. From His heart are rays of red and white; the red signifies His blood that was shed for our sins, and the white signifies his grace and mercy.
The priest put his hand on my head, and had me place one hand on Jesus’s heart on the painting and my other on my baby-bump. I have no clue what he said during the blessing. That’s a total blur. Here’s what I do remember…the moment he started praying, my fear and anxiety started leaving. I felt so calm and peaceful; I think some people call this “resting in the Spirit”. I’m honestly surprised I didn’t fall asleep or fall over…for the first time in four weeks, I was completely relaxed! It was one of the most beautiful prayer experiences I’ve ever had. And… it gets better!
After he was finished praying, we did a little more small talk. I told him how St. Faustina was my “home girl” and how much I admired her. All of the sudden he goes, “Wait! I need to go back to the rectory to get something.”
With the swiftness of a gazelle and the speed of a cheetah (we watch a lot of National Geographic at my house right now, can you tell?) he headed to the rectory. Soon the church door opened again and I heard the scurry of his sandals (don’t worry he had socks on) across the tile floor.
We met over at the altar and he opened up this box. I thought maybe he was going to grab a rosary or a prayer card or something. But I was in for quite a surprise! Inside the box were nearly a dozen relics from different saints. A relic is a piece of the body of a saint (a spec of bone or strand of hair), an item owned or used by the saint (cloth from a coat or shirt), or an object that has been touched to the tomb of a saint. Because Christianity is spiritually centered, the remains of certain dead are surrounded with special care and veneration (https://www.catholiceducation.org).
If you look up Acts 19: 11-12 you’ll find a good starting point on the Church and relics. “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.” And there are many more references throughout the Bible…Acts 5:12-16, Mark 5:25-34, and Old Testament as well 2 Kings 13:20-21 to name a few.
If you want to read more in-depth on this, click here. I think the author does a great job explaining.
But put very simply, when a loved one passes, we keep pictures of them up around the house to remind us of them; relics act in a similar way. They help us remember the saints in a special way. And just like we ask our friends on earth to pray for us, we can also ask those who have gone before us to pray for us as well. We don’t pray to them like we pray to God. Instead, we ask them to pray for us and for our intentions, much like we would ask a friend on earth to pray for us. There is nothing in a relic itself that contains some sort of “magical power,” but the church teaches that relics may be the occurrence or condition through which God’s works miracles.
And here’s where God came shining through to me in yet another special way. Before we knew we were pregnant, we already had a boy and girl name picked out for our next baby. But with the change in our circumstance, somehow, those names didn’t seem quite the right fit any more. Matt and I had decided if the baby was a boy, we would name him Gabriel (after the Archangel); this name was strong and we needed our baby to be a fighter. But we weren’t sure about a girl name. We were still waiting for that nudge on picking the right one.
That all ended after father blessed our baby with the relics. One name on that list was one we had been strongly considering. As soon as I heard father say her name, I knew that was it! That was my nudge. How much more clear could He be on a name?
Father gently took out each relic, and as he did, he touched it to my belly and asked that saint to pray for our baby.
St. John Chrysostom
St. John Vianney
St. Maria Goretti
St. Mother Teresa
St. Faustina (what!!)
I went home that night and told my husband…”If we have a girl, her name HAS to be Claire.” Claire means “bright,” “clear,” “distinguished”. It was perfect.