The Journey of a Crucifix
By Kellie Ross (Apr 4, 2007)
It was a cold and windy morning when I stepped out of the hotel. The soft music from cafÃ©s and the faint chant of the Rosary being prayed by pilgrims echoed in the streets.
Cindy and I had already been to the grotto, experienced the wonders of the "baths" and joined with other pilgrims to process through the streets with candles lit for the intentions of all of our loved ones. Our journey to Lourdes, France — where Our Lady appeared to St. Bernadette in 1858 — was almost complete, and yet there was a sadness in me as we were preparing to depart. I wanted others to experience the healing power of the water at Lourdes as well as the spiritual atmosphere that surrounded it. I yearned to pray in the "City of the Poor" where the underprivileged stay when coming to see the grotto.
The impact of this pilgrimage was beginning to sink in. "Others need to know about this place and we must bring it to them, whether by thought, word or deed," I thought to myself. Little did I know how much those words would later come back to me.
In Lourdes, the tourist shops were nestled around the grotto, and one could hardly walk by without seeing an image or statue of Mary. Having looked and looked for an unusual memento, I came across two papal crucifixes. They were about five-inches tall, silver plated and stunningly beautiful. I really wanted to have both of them for my home, or perhaps to wear as evangelization, or maybe even — but then my heart stirred.
"Whatever I have given you, you must freely give to others."
"Great," I thought to myself. I wanted the crucifixes, but somehow knew that they were meant for someone else. I purchased them and immediately carried them with me everywhere I went that day. Then, I returned to the grotto and washed each crucifix with water and held them up to the place where the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary had appeared years ago. Then, I took them to the "Water Walk of Mercy" (a series of nine stations of water) and prayed each station with the crucifixes, washing them with Lourdes water each time I finished praying. I took them to adoration — to Jesus Himself — trying to make these items as close to heaven as possible. Then, I went home.
For a few weeks I actually thought God had forgotten about the crucifixes and was going to let me keep them. I wore the crucifix around the house, to Church, on errands, hoping that the image of Christ crucified may enkindle souls to return to Him. Christ answered my prayer on Sept. 24, 2006.
On the eve of the 24th, my husband and I were invited to a dinner party. It had been a long time since we had gone out "alone," and I was looking forward to seeing old acquaintances. When I arrived at the party, I mingled a little bit, but then I felt the strong urge to pray the Rosary.
"What's going on, God?" I asked Him under my breath.
Hoping it was just a desire to draw closer to God and not an emergency, I gently took the beads out of my pocket and began praying the beads while listening to conversation. Then, the phone rang, and one of the guests said, "You'll never guess what's happening to Tatiana — she's dying!"
"Dying?" I thought to myself. Tatiana was just 37 years old. I had known of her for five years. I had heard stories of her marriage as a mail-order bride, bouts of promiscuity and addiction to alcohol. But this took me by complete surprise. My heart hurt for her, knowing she had been legally separated from her husband, had a teenage son and no other family in the United States.
I called my friend and asked, "What happened?" She told me a story that brought me to tears. Tatiana wasn't dying of cancer, trauma, suicide, or illness. She was dying because she was so lonely that her addiction to alcohol had overcome her little body.
Earlier that day she had said goodbye to her son as he left for school. When her son came home later that Friday, he found her passed out on the couch. He had seen it before. Nothing to worry about. She'll come out of it as she had before.
But she didn't.
For 15 hours, Tatiana lay motionless on the couch while her son anxiously awaited her to awaken. At 10 a.m. on Saturday, her son went to a neighbor pleading for help. The neighbor, aware of her alcohol condition, saw she was still breathing and told him to watch her for a few more hours, and if she didn't awake, to come get him and he would call an ambulance.
Time passed slowly for the child, and after two hours, he met the neighbor in the street who was already coming back to check on Tatiana. Now her breathing had stopped and her body was cold. The ambulance came. CPR was begun. No pulse. No breathing. No life. For 40 minutes Tatiana was clinically dead with no signs of life. Then, in the emergency room, something happened. Her pulse came back, and although she was on a ventilator, she began to breath spontaneously (the ventilator was still assisting her breaths).
"Have you prayed the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy?" I urgently asked a friend of mine.
"What's the Chaplet?" she said.
I told her that the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy was the key to God's mercy at the hour of death and that it brought tremendous graces to the dying. After hanging up the phone with my friend, I called Fr. Jack and pleaded with him to visit Tatiana, give her the sacraments and have Mass for her that evening. "Throughout Tatiana's entire life, no one has ever advocated for her soul. Let now be the hour where we fight for her soul and the glory of God's mercy," I told Fr. Jack.
Father Jack, without hesitation, vested himself and went straight to the hospital. He found neighbors at her bedside who welcomed him warmly. Then he took her hand and gave her all of the sacraments. Her son, who witnessed all of this, marveled at the transformation of his mother. This wasn't a woman who was rejected by society, but a woman who was beloved by strangers. He consented to her baptism and anointing and watched Fr. Jack tenderly speak to his mother. His eyes glazed with tears as he began to understand mercy — something he had not known before.
I arrived a few moments after Fr. Jack had left. My 9-year-old son, Jake, joined me. "Wait here and pray," I told him as I left him with my friend. Then, my friend Cindy and I ventured into the Intensive Care Unit. Tatiana's blood pressure was 40/20, barely sustaining life. I knew she would die soon, and I began to implore God's mercy on her soul. The neighbors were with me as I spoke to Tatiana and prayed with her — yes, with her. I knew that if she was still alive she could hear my voice, and that's all that mattered. She had changed so much since I had last seen her. Her face was swollen and she looked tired. Not just tired from her condition, but tired from life.
I walked around the bed, blessing each part of her body. Then, I took holy water from Lourdes and begin to sprinkle it on her. When I leaned over the bed to sprinkle her head, my crucifix tapped her chest. I looked down and saw it laying on her and knew then why God had wanted me to carry it to all those places in Lourdes. I knew why I had washed it in the water, and I knew that He did it for her.
He loved her, especially. He loved her so much that He wanted her to be with Him throughout eternity. He loved her so much he brought her back to life so that she could receive the sacraments. He loved her so much He wanted her to have His crucified image — the image of suffering and the image of salvation at hand. But the crucifix wasn't for her. No, she was but one soul who was touched by the healing water of Lourdes and the crucifix.
At 10 a.m., she gave her soul to Christ. What liturgical day was it? Our Lady of Ransom, of course. Her son, now weary with exhaustion, walked in to say goodbye to his mother. All of the tubing was removed. No IV lines. No monitors. She was lying peacefully in bed holding the crucifix next to her heart. No longer was she a mother with addictions, sadness and loneliness, she was the redeemed Tatiana, mother and recipient of Divine Mercy through the Sacraments of Christ with hope of Eternal joy.
Her son, tearfully walked up, gently took the crucifix from her hands and clutched it tightly to his chest. The pilgrimage was complete.
Kellie Ross is director of operations of the House of Mercy, in Manassas, Va. The store can be reached at 1-877-BE-MERCY.
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EDITOR'S NOTE: What happened to the second crucifix Kellie bought at Lourdes? She will write about that in a column next week.
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