“All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.” –Flannery O’Connor.
Merriam Webster defines grace as being unmerited divine assistance given to us for our sanctification. When grace comes flooding through all one can do is repeatedly say thank you with a grateful, humble heart!
When the Blessed Mother seeks you, be assured grace will follow and it may not always be as you expect.
I can’t imagine my life without the Blessed Mother, so much so I cannot begin to say where Mary begins, and I end. It’s not easy to capture a snapshot of her effect on my life in a quick succinct way, her presence is beyond abundant.
Mama Mary entered my life in a gentle but sweeping way over a decade ago. At the time I was in a prayer group studying Mary and Motherhood. However, something in the group reading and prayers tugged my heart.
It was a difficult time, I was a young mom navigating parenthood and doing my best to be faithful to God, trying to keep up with a home and the early years of married life. It was a struggle to get laundry done, let alone the weekly reading.
But I kept feeling Mary reaching out to me, she became a real living and loving mother to me. I could feel her tenderness as I tried to navigate being that young mom ready to pull my hair out. Mary never abandoned or disappointed me, she always consoled, guided and drew me closer.
Years later I would feel Mary nudging me even deeper. The Holy Spirit placed it on my heart that my husband and I needed to consecrate to Jesus through Mary, though we had no idea what were about to undertake, she kept lovingly pushing me on, I knew we had to fulfill the consecration.
Within months of consecration, December 8th, The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, I was delivering my fourth child under very serious and unexpected circumstances. Over the course of several weeks I continued to experience issues with my health, fearing I may not live, I constantly held a Rosary clutched in my hand. Too weak to fully pray, I could feel my guardian angel praying for me, and I believe St. Michael kept a constant vigil next to my hospital bed. It was truly a surreal but deeply peaceful experience. A few weeks post-partum I again had to be rushed by ambulance to the ER. I remember talking with the paramedics, I remember thinking I had been praying the Memorare out loud or at least it seemed so very loud in my head, but those around me said I hardly uttered a word.
Looking back now I realize it wasn’t me nor the paramedics voice I heard but it had been Mary herself. She had been with me in that ambulance that day, audibly as well as visibly. The Blessed Mother stood over me protecting and praying for me and with me, as she had done the weeks before.
During those late spring days, I continued to experience serious health issues, some I cannot believe I survived. But the single most defining aspect that has remained with me is the conviction that Mary is a Mother true to her Word; her Son Jesus and her earthly children. She is the real deal!
The words that comprise the Memorare, written by St. Bernard of Clairvaux, an 11th century Cistercian monk, deliver what they promise; Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided… Praying the Memorare and holding the Rosary saved my life during those critical days years ago and they continue to do the same today. As years passed the Rosary continued to be more important to me.
I desperately wanted to thank Mary and Jesus for saving my life, saving my daughter’s life and ultimately my family’s life. I felt so humbled that she had reached down and saved me, only by grace; a very broken and imperfect soul. No thank you note was big enough, no way to physically hug Jesus and his precious Mother on this side of heaven.
Instead I promised Mary that in gratitude for her inestimable gift I would commit to praying the Rosary daily and I promised her I would spend the rest of my life sharing her with others.
Not in wild public ways, instead in how I was to live. I felt deeply compelled that it was important that my love and gratitude for her and Jesus and what they did in my life be shared organically and through a natural extension of who I am. Being a trained artist and art educator I devoted myself to using my creative gifts to bring Mary and her love to others through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. My hope was that maybe, from a tender sharing of my story, through my art and the power of the Rosary, I might help someone turn to Mary and come to know her for themselves. Over time opportunities emerged that allowed me to share my story, to share Mary’s story, to share the power of the Rosary. Soon I was sharing her love, all made possible by grace.
In the spring of 2018 almost to the day of Mary’s intercession years prior, Debbie Staresinic approached me and asked if I would consider designing her book On a Mission to Love and bring it to life cover to cover.
Honored to be asked to be part of such a beautiful endeavor, the Rosary and Theology of the Body how could I say no. From creating cover illustrations, designing layout and typeset, I was living and breathing all things Mary and the Rosary. Part of my thank you was taking shape. In no way is On A Mission to Love my book, but it does have my fingerprints and prayers of love for my Mother throughout. During the production my children would constantly look over my shoulder and comment on Mary, on the various mysteries and their meaning. My youngest would just absorb image after image. As a young reader my youngest watched the book unfold before her, it became an extraordinary way for her to “read” the Rosary into her soul. Years later as an insatiable reader she still comments that she loves how the pictures tell the story of Jesus. She loves to see the Mysteries and not just hear them.
I can’t say as a family we use the book in the traditional sense; sitting down using it cover to cover. As my children are now in the deep years of elementary school, praying the Rosary has taken on different forms for us.
As a family, saying the Rosary is usually guided by what we are experiencing, what are our struggles, what virtues are we lacking. OMTL beautifully lays bare the virtues we are all called to live. Instinctively my children have anchored themselves to these beautiful virtues.
When we pray the Rosary and they lead, they often will ask that a certain decade prayed be for an increase in a particular virtue. I like to say On a Mission of Love has become more of how we live rather than how we use the book. On a Mission to Love, like the Rosary adapts to every part of our lives no matter our family’s joys or struggles. Our Blessed Mother is such a miraculous weaver of the domestic with the divine. When the book finally rolled off the presses and I held it in my hands, I couldn’t help but have tears in my eyes, again it was Mary, grace and all.
While the book has a gentle inviting presence, it can be deceiving as to its depth. Volumes can be written on the Rosary in and of itself as well as Theology of the Body. You could spend a lifetime studying both. But as a family living in a chaotic world with conflicting messages, the pearls of OMTL are ones that forever cling to your soul once you’ve turned the page.
It’s a beautiful book for families especially when you have young children. I often thought as I was working on laying out the book “I wish I had had this when my kids were very small.” But now as my children are entering the teen years and the younger are navigating middle elementary school it’s so critical to have resources that outline the core of our Catholic prayer life in a quick, tangible way, giving children faith, mystery and virtue to anchor to; especially when examining their conscience. As well as giving parents the words we need to speak when we lack our own.
As parents we want nothing more than for our children to hear us not just listen to us. Having tough discussions does not need to be painful or uncomfortable. Instead the beautiful gift of Theology of the Body frames God’s loving plan for us in the most intimate to the practical of everyday life, wrapped amid the decades of the Rosary.
Yes, On a Mission to Love will wildly appeal to young children. But when the road gets a bit choppier and tears stream from broken hearts rather than a broken toy, I deeply feel that the grace we are given by Jesus through Mary by way of the Rosary and the gift of Theology of the Body, through On a Mission to Love, will truly become a path for each of us to be more fully transformed and capable of claiming our own personal Fiat.
In acclaimed Catholic fiction writer Flannery O’Connor’s words “All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.” Change can indeed be painful, and we do resist. But the boundless grace offered by Mary will make things bearable and sweet. Nothing is ever bitter when Mary is involved. The time around my youngest daughter’s birth and the years after, have had moments of deep pain and some great loss. But there has never been one moment I have regretted nor would have changed. I attribute that to the grace and the sanctification given by Jesus through Mary so that she could make the change within me that I so needed. I am so grateful that Mary teaches us a path where we don’t need to resist change, but simply trust and move forward holding her hand!
Click HERE to learn more about On a Mission to Love.
Written by Meghan Klare-Florkowski
Meghan is an artist and designer living in Cincinnati, OH with her husband and their four children. You can find Meghan on Instagram @megcreative, she shares the Rosary Mystery daily along with the beauty and truth she finds along the way.