On a warm summer day a couple years ago, I sat in a chapel with a heart cold as ice. Before the Lord, I had finally come to accept that the romantic relationship I was in was not going well and needed to come to an end. The month prior, I had been in denial and disbelief, as most people are in the face of a litany of reasons to break up. As I came face to face with the Lord, I was given the courage to face the reality that He was leading the relationship to an end.
What I was struggling with the most was grieving all the lost dreams and plans. When you have the gift of being in a relationship with someone you love, it is quite natural to start making plans for the future with your significant other in mind. In my hand was a small journal I’d kept throughout the relationship, containing a list of fun things and dreams my now ex and I had made for the future. Images of trips never to be taken, movies never to be watched, and experiences never to be had flashed through my mind.
The pain in my heart was so heavy it brought me to my knees. Tears began to flow freely. I shut my eyes tight and began to rub them. “Oh Jesus, this is a nightmare.” I thought. The relationship went from joyful bliss and a bright future to inevitable destruction and a dead end.
I looked up at the crucifix above the altar. "Jesus, I was so sure this was it...If this isn't it, what is?" In that moment, I felt like a complete and total failure, and a fool for believing in love.
Through my grief, I felt a tender and gentle presence come over me. Although I was sad, I became aware I was not alone in my grief. I recognized the presence of Jesus instantly, as a warmth began to grow in my heart. All the lies and insults I was throwing at myself, soon fell away in the presence of the Lord.
After several minutes of abiding in the love of Jesus, I began to sense another presence with me and soon I realized it was Mary. The presence of Our Lady in my life manifests in a deep sense of curiosity, wonder, and peace. Our Lady, like Our Lord and the communion of saints, is always with me and interceding for me, however, I find she makes her presence particularly known to me when I’ve reached the end of my rope. When I feel as if I have run out of options and there are no possibilities in sight, Our Lady never fails to come to my aid. More specifically, she encourages me and teaches me to dream again. Mary's angelic voice quiets all my fears and failures, reminding me to trust in the Father and abandon myself completely to His dream for my life.
When I look at the example of Mary, I am struck by her capacity to dream. Her unique and perfect receptivity to be able to catch the Father’s vision and completely heed to His word. Without completely understanding all the moving parts and pieces, or doubting the Father’s providence, Our Lady’s fiat is a perfect acceptance of God’s dream for her life as well as the lives of all generations to come.
That summer day, I came to the chapel feeling like a complete mess. Another relationship bit the dust and all my plans, hopes, and dreams went down the drain. In my poverty and grief, I was met by my Mother Mary. In a puddle of tears, my sorrowful heart was united to her own. The fruit of that Immaculate communion was a profound and unshakeable certainty that my story was far from over. In fact, it was just beginning. Her love was the bright star in a moment of darkness, beckoning me to believe in the greatness of the Lord.
Today is the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. I could talk for years about what this feast means to me and the Church. At another time I'll share about the pilgrimage I took to Lourdes a little over a year ago, however; today what Mary has placed in my heart, as I ponder her and the apparitions in Lourdes, is that the dream the Father has for our life is right in front of us.
The little grotto in Lourdes was an ordinary spot in which St. Bernadette, and countless other residents of Lourdes, walked by every day. Who would have ever guessed the damp little cave would be transformed by God into a miraculous place where countless souls would encountered the healing power of Jesus through the intercession of Our Lady?
The very ground that Bernadette walked on was holy ground. Isn't that curious and lovely? Beneath the surface of this ordinary piece of earth was a wondrous wellspring of God’s dream for Bernadette and millions of other souls. To access the dream, all Bernadette had to do was love. Bernadette didn't hustle, perform, or strive. She whole-heartedly loved the Lord Jesus and responded to his invitation from the cross to “Behold your Mother.” After receiving the invitation, she responded to it by simply doing as she was told and uniting herself to the Immaculate Mother, whose only desire is to bring all souls to her Son.
As I walk through my life, and particularly on this day, I wonder about the curious ways in which the Father is orienting my life towards His Kingdom purpose. Even when I don’t see it, wonder how all the pieces will fit together, and of course when my heart is distressed and discouraged, I simply draw my attention to the curious yet wondrous presence I spoke of earlier. The presence of my Mother, which comforts and consoles my feeble heart, and reminds me that my Father is in the business of doing the impossible. Her love is fiercely gentle, and sparks a fire in my soul to dare to dream that the Almighty can and will do great things in me.
It is not up to me to perform, strive, or grasp to attain this dream God has for me. All I have to do is receive the invitation set before me, and ask the Father to give me a lively faith to be able to recognize the extraordinary grace of God in seemingly ordinary places, faces, and spaces... and who knows... maybe right beneath my feet.