On this Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the season of Advent we can share our own special Marian stories. Mine takes place decades ago on a night when I was desperately praying to Mary for help. As my pleas continued I began to vividly experience Mary's real presence in a hazy visual image. The message she was conveying to me, however, was anything but indistinct: “It will be all right, you are going to be healed.” What joy, relief and consolation flowed from this kind looking maternal woman dressed in simple ancient robes. Mary was overturning that afternoon’s dire message from my doctor. An x ray showed that my lungs were filled with some gritty substance that could well be fatal. As a young mother with a busy husband and six young children this was dreadful news.
On the following day when I returned for another scheduled x-ray I was so enthralled by my vision that I had high hopes that my lungs would be clear. But no, the shadowy evidence of the grit (which I came to call ‘true grit’) remained. So I decided I had experienced a benign hallucination brought on by stress. More of which promptly followed as I was hospitalized for a lung biopsy and/or operation. In those days they put you out, broke your ribs, and cut under your breast to obtain samples for the lab. After all that pain, the good news was that the grit was not cancer, but neither was it any other recognizable condition. The bad news was that the condition would most probably keep increasing; so I should prepare to be an invalid and face early death. How early? When I asked my doctor whether I would live a long enough life to complete a lengthy Ph D program, she answered, “Why do you want to go to graduate school anyway?” But the case was not closed. Two years later my doctors were astounded to find that my lungs were now completly clear. The grit had gone. My “hallucinated?” Marian promise of rescue had become a reality, with forty more years of wonderful life to come.
When grace and favor abound they inspire gratitude, but they also produce intense intellectual quests. What really happens in Marian encounters and in answered prayers? Like Mary in the scriptures, I find myself ‘wondering’ and continuing to ask, “How can this be?’ I’d like to write more fully on such experiences taking full account of both psychological and faith perspectives. In the meantime I would love to know what my fellow pilgrims experience.