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How The Whimper Of A Sick Child Is Like The Rosary

As you know I am Catholic. Recently a friend of mine asked me why I, and Catholics in general, say the rosary. It seems like such a boring prayer. I gave her a simple answer, simple and inadequate. And then I said to her I’d think more about it and answer her again in a better way.

So I have been thinking about this and a day or so ago, suddenly, like a curtain opening, I knew exactly what I was going to say. An insight I had from an angle I’d never even thought of before. As usual, I’m going to tell you a story but first a little background.

If you are Catholic I hope this rings true and if you are not Catholic, or not Christian, I invite you to read on for the next few minutes and maybe glean some understanding into this Catholic custom.

I can fully understand how people think the rosary is a boring repetitive prayer, more suitable as a cure for insomnia than anything else. Hail Mary … Holy Mary … Hail Mary … over and over again, the same thing every day….

It has always been there in my life. As a child it was a cue for giggling misbehaviour; just make sure you knelt out of swiping distance of the long arm of the parental law. As a teenager something to be more or less abandoned until exam time when out of desperation it would be resorted to in the hopes that Mary would put a good word in for us in the ear of her son that he would overlook our laziness and procrastination and all those TV shows that filled our study hours … Hail Mary … Holy Mary … Pray for us … I promise I’ll be good forever … now and at the hour….

As a young couple we prayed more fervently, every day together, again and again, praying for help to overcome all the seemingly huge obstacles which stood between us and our longed for wedding day. Mother of God … Pray for us….

And then children come along and it’s an ideal we so often fell far short of. A hit or miss in the hustle and bustle of nappies and laundry and copy books. We’d fit in shortened versions, look out helpful tools for the children and try our best to make this prayer a part of our family life and all too often long-fingering it till bedtime and closing eyelids … Mum and Dad, Husband and Wife, Me and John praying in half sleep and promising that tomorrow we’d do better.

However I cannot say I ever really understood this repetitive prayer. I knew it, I loved it and could see the palpable differences it made to my young family whenever it was part of our family life. But understand it? Not really.

Now you know the story of our little girl and her diagnosis and all that went with it. I’m not planning to drag the rear end out of that tale but it is a story that has so many facets to it, many of which are only unfolding with the passing of time. This story is one of those things which completely passed me by when it was actually happening.

So back we go to a few years ago. A little girl, not quite three, is in distress … my own little girl, back on the ward after her very big operation. Her ragged little heart has just been stopped and restarted, patched, shunted, stitched and changed. Her bones have been wired back together, she has three painful drains coming out of her little body, machines and monitors are attached to her small limbs and her chest. Every vein has been exhausted from blood being drawn.

I have a little camp bed set up beside her with a sleeping bag which is calling me because I am exhausted. But I’m not as exhausted and worn out and wretched as the little girl beside me. I am her mother and that gives me all the energy I need to stay awake.

I am longing to do something for this suffering child who cannot sleep though she needs to. All night she reaches for me to hold her hot little hand in mine. All night she whimpers:

“Mommiee”

“What, Baby?”

“I want you”

“I’m here, Baby”

“Mommiee”

“What, Baby?”

“I want you“

“I’m here, Baby”

“Mommiee”

“What, Baby?”

“I want you”

“I’m here, Baby”

All night long, over and over and over again “… I want you … Mommy … I want you … I’m here Baby.”

A hundred times, a thousand times and then the sun starts to rise and she wakes up from her fifteen minute sleep….

“Mommiee”

“What, Baby?”

“I want you”

“I’m here, Baby”

All day and all the next night. What could I do but hold that little hand and stroke it and assure her I’m here … I’m here. That’s all she wanted. She could say nothing else, a little child who clung to her Mommy in her time of distress.

Was I bored of this little conversation repeated incessantly? What do you think? No I wasn’t bored. I wasn’t bored because it wasn’t boring. Every time she uttered those sorrowful words “I want you” my heart filled to overflowing, it’s capacity increasing with every little whimper. Of course I wasn’t bored and it was an honour to be able to say “I’m here, Baby” to be the one who was able to give that longed for comfort. The assurance that her mother who loved her was watching her and was never going to let go that feverish little hand.

And THAT my dear is why I will never not say the rosary till the day I die. Mary is not bored of our repetitive plea Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners. She’s not bored, because it’s not boring. She has no intention of letting go of our worn out and wretched hand. She is awake because she is the mother who loves her child and loves us all the more when we turn to her and say over and over and over again

“Mommy … I want you.” How The Whimper Of A Sick Child Is Like The Rosary

Jennifer Kehoe

Jennifer is a young mother of six, living in Co. Kildare. She runs a blog ‘Raindrops on my Head,’ at http://jenniferkehoe.blogspot.ie

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