This past June the 8th, my 8-year-old daughter was baptized at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. My grandparents, who are Methodist, were present for the occasion. I knew from my mother that my grandma had been "sprinkled" as a baby, so I had a vague notion that she had been Catholic. But some Protestant denominations also baptize infants, and I never really knew the story. When I was growing up my family, including my grandparents, belonged to the Church of Christ. This was the church of my grandpa's youth. My grandparents left that church after long time membership and joined the First Methodist, which was the church that my grandma had belonged to in her youth. But it turns out there's more to this history.
Either before or after my daughter's baptism I had the opportunity to share my Rosary miracle with my grandma (see June 1 post). This brought back a flood of memory for her. She told me that she too had been baptized at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Her mother was a Catholic Frenchwoman, and she took my grandma and her older sister to church there when they were very young. My grandma's father, however, was Protestant, and he went to the United Brethern Church (from my understanding, this eventually become a United Methodist Church). So the family was divided by religious denomination and did not attend church together. My grandma told me that when she was only 3 or 4, they came home from church one Sunday, and there was a proliferation of pink roses in full bloom in her yard. She is 84 years old, and she still has this vivid image of the roses in her mind after 80 years. She can still see them perfectly. Why this particular memory stands out, she says she does not know...
In my mind, I am screaming, "Mary!" Grandma associates the roses with her young childhood in the Catholic Church. And there is no more predominant symbol of Mary than the rose. Rosary literally means garland of roses. My grandma did not attend the Catholic Church past the age of 4. For the sake of family unity, my great-grandmother began attending church with her husband so that they could all worship together. But, my grandma told me, her mother never, ever stopped being Catholic. She never transferred membership to my great-grandfather's church. I believe strongly that Mary knew that my grandma, and her mother and sister, would be leaving the Catholic Church, and the gorgeous pink rose blossoms were Mary's way of letting them know that she would always be with them. She would always be their Mother. Subconsciously my grandma associated my Rosary miracle with her own miracle of roses.
I was only 5 when my great-grandmother died. I have memories of her, and I remember crying when my mom told me that she had passed away. I wish I would have known my Catholic great-grandmother who sacrificed so much for the peace and unity of her family. How did she live without the Holy Sacrament, the Eucharist? How did she live without Mary as part of Christian worship? Did she still pray her Rosary? How her heart must have ached. How brave she must have been, how full of faith.
But I am comforted by this thought: My great-grandma Ruth is a saint in heaven. I can talk to her whenever I want. And how happy she must have been on the day of my daughter's baptism, to see from the celestial view her great-great-grandaughter coming into the Church that she had so loved in her lifetime, the Church she left but never abandoned. And of course she will also be thrilled to see me enter the Church at the Easter vigil next year! In my small way, I can make reparation for her sacrifice. I can give something precious back to her, and I am humbled to be able to honor her memory in this way.