As a boy, who was born and raised Catholic, I was cognizant of the important role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Church. Truth be told though, it was only later in life that I realized the importance of her to me when I was in serious need. That was when I learned of her true value to the Church and to the world.
As young children, my six brothers and sisters and I were taught the rosary by our mother. I remember the times that she had us all kneeling down in the living room and praying the rosary together, with five of us each taking a turn on a decade. Many times it was a debacle as we made faces at each other, even hit each other playfully or made gestures to our dog and cats who wondered what we were doing.
Years later, when I was on my own and living thousands of miles away from home, I was in a quandary: I had the best job that a 21-year-old guy could get, working at Hughes Aircraft in Los Angeles and getting a full-time salary with the benefits that any head of a family would be grateful to earn; yet, I felt I belonged somewhere else and was meant to do something else. Then I recalled my days as a child when we prayed to the Virgin Mary for help and guidance. I decided to dust off my rosary and began to pray it again, asking the Blessed Virgin for direction. I also began to attend daily Mass for several days each week. Over a period of about 2 ½ years, the possibility of a vocation to the priesthood and to the Dominican Order seemed to spring out of nowhere. One thing led to the other, and now it has been 29 years since entered the Dominican Order.
As the new director of the Dominican Rosary Center here in Portland, Oregon, I can recall my path throughout the years and where the Lord has led me. Sometimes this path has led me through precarious circumstances with hazardous cliffs on either side. It is in these times that I have clung to the Blessed Virgin and endured forward—albeit with trembling knees.
I remember years ago when my father was clinging to life and unbeknownst to me was only days away from death. As I sat at his bedside I felt helpless. He would drift off to sleep but then be awakened by anxiety. It was then that I began to pray for him, either that the Lord would heal him or take him home. Once when he awoke in a panicked state, I didn’t know what to say, but as I was praying the rosary, I simply held it up, and he immediately grew calm as if to understand that he was in good hands. No words of consolation could calm him—but the rosary did.
Many years later as a priest, in the course of ministry, I found myself faceto-face with real evil. It was then that I was reminded of the power of the Blessed Virgin Mary over any kind of evil no matter how virulent. The Virgin Mary is no shrinking violet, and in the face of evil, I discovered that she has tremendous God-given power to thwart any malevolence. Now, no confrontation with evil commences without first seeking her protection.
In November of 2016 I met with a new challenge as I suffered a massive, life-altering stroke, which was later determined to be the result of a heart defect. In the weeks that followed, I could do very little for myself. One day on the hospital ward, as I was going for a walk, I brought along my beads to pray the rosary—but to my horror I could not finish the Hail Mary because of the existing brain trauma from the stroke. My thoughts would get muddled half-way through the prayer. So then I simply entrusted myself to her care and asked her to accompany me. On each bead, I prayed “Hail Mary full of grace, please pray for me.” And that was how I said the rosary in those first days of recovery.
Now, 11 months later, I am back to full-time ministry and ministering at the Rosary Center; however, no one has to remind me of the value of the rosary or of the efficacy of the prayers of the Virgin Mary who I know will accompany us whenever we summon her.