By Jessica Russell
To be grateful is one of the most difficult things to do when you are not in the right place in your life to give thanks. When you can be pessimistic and always look for what’s wrong in your life instead of looking for all the small blessings that God has given you. They can seem small, but if one of them weren't there on any given day they can make a huge difference in our lives. For example, how many times have we woken up and opened our eyes and just breathed? How many times have we told God thank you for the breath in my lungs? Can you imagine if that breath wasn’t there?
God has blessed me tremendously, he has healed me from my PCOS and given me a son after 16 years of praying for him. I am now at home taking care of him which means I am no longer working my full-time job. We have become a one-income household, which can be really challenging in Hawaii.
Our lives have been changed and we may not have everything we want but we have everything we need. God has found a way to provide for our every need. When I start to lose focus and start to worry about our finances, God reminds me that he will take care of everything. He reminds me of the smallest things like a rainbow which means that he keeps his promises. When that Rainbow first appeared to Noah they were so grateful after waiting so long for a dry day and for somewhere to land where they were able to get off that boat. Can you imagine how they must have felt after so many days on a boat with nonstop rain? During the COVID lockdown, it was so difficult to remain positive and connected to God when the churches were closed and we couldn’t see anyone because we had to stay home. The rate of divorce and suicide went up during this time. It was really challenging, but somehow through all the rain, God continued to show himself through his rainbows.
During this time God guided me to start a small group on Zoom with all my cousins and to create a friend group on messenger where we supported each other through it all. I would watch Father Mike Schmitz on Youtube for mass and pray before my workouts. I started going daily to the Aiea Loop trail to feel close to God. There is a peak where all you see is God’s beautiful creation and feel his breath in the wind so strongly I can’t help but feel close to him there. All these beautiful blessings helped me not only survive but thrive. I lost 67 pounds.
One day I decided to choose God. I choose joy. I chose to trust him and I did. I wasn’t going to let sadness win and when I felt weak I prayed harder. I reached out to my beautiful support group and God shined through every dark cloud.
To be grateful is very important to me. I can’t stop feeling grateful for everything he has given me; my health, my son, my husband, and my beautiful doggy that is still miraculously alive after 15 years. The way that Jacob looks up at me.The way that just by seeing me I can make him smile. How I hold him and he stops crying or being scared. I have learned so much about God’s love, I can’t stop thanking him. The fact that I can hold a beautiful miracle in my arms every day is more than enough for me. I look at my son's beautiful eyes as he looks at me so lovingly. I feel so grateful to have him. I try to enjoy every second I have with him and not let stress or worry a.k.a the Devil steal my joy. I love our Lord and I trust him with everything in my life but knowing Jacob has shown me a new understanding of love.
To love God is to be grateful no matter what you’re going through. There is always a blessing to give thanks for. There is always God behind the scenes blessing you, protecting you, and loving you. Just because you are his beautiful miracle, his beautiful baby that he can't help to just hold and look into your eyes and hold you when you cry or are scared. Let him love you like a baby in his parent's arms. Let yourselves be loved by him. Let our beautiful Mother embrace you and cuddle you when you need her. Let his love shine through every circumstance. Let him love you. I pray that this Thanksgiving you find more blessings than you can count to be thankful for.
by Normie Jean Taylan
When I was introduced to the rosary as a young child, I found it intriguing, but I also dreaded praying it. I was intrigued by its various mysteries, prayers and what I thought was its “power”, but I dreaded praying it because the average 15 minutes it took to pray it felt like such a long time. It was when I was able to, with God’s grace, grow in my faith life and learn about the rosary’s impact on our salvation and my inner peace that my heart started to change about the rosary.
My introduction to the rosary as a child came through my family’s involvement in a Philippines-based ministry in which daily praying the rosary with one’s family was a huge part. Each Saturday, my sister and I would join our mom and her friends in bringing a statue of Our Lady of Fatima to a new family’s home, where with them, we would pray the rosary and various devotional prayers followed by dinner and fellowship. A week later we would return to pray the rosary with the family again, then bring Our Lady’s statue to the next family she would be staying and interceding for over the next seven days. I did not understand it then, but looking back, it was amazing to see the greater sense of peace and unity that a lot of these families had when we returned that following Saturday, as well as hear about how their prayers were answered through Our Lady’s stay with them.
As a very sensitive child who really wanted to please my mom and her friends, I really enjoyed the praise that I got from knowing how to kneel down and pray the rosary at such a young age. But other than feeling that I was obligated to pray the rosary because it was “good for me” and made my mom happy, I did not feel a real desire to pray the rosary, or a true connection to God and to Mother Mary at that time. God and Mother Mary just felt distant, superior and unable to understand me.
In my later elementary school to middle school years, however, various events happened that started to shake my life and my faith. When I was 10 years old, my mom was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. My mom then promised that in order to be healed from her cancer, she was to pray 2000 Hail Mary’s on one day each month for 20 intentions (two rosaries each intention) for the whole world and for her own healing. We then, as a family with some friends began setting aside a certain Saturday each month for 12 hours of praying (since I thought 15 minutes was long, 12 hours was absolutely crazy!) Yes, it was a challenge, but reading about the vast needs of the world through those intentions and praying those rosaries for them gave me the faith to believe that my prayer to God was making an impact on the world, and most definitely, my mom’s healing.
Two years after my mom’s cancer diagnosis, my dad passed away and it left me feeling very lost and vulnerable. It was also the very first time I saw how fragile life was and how much I needed something or Someone greater than myself and what was in front of me to help me make sense of it all. The daily praying of the rosary that my mom, sister and I did for the repose of my dad’s soul was a great comfort to me at that time. No longer did God feel faraway… I felt that starting with that event in my life, God became a true Father to me Who took me in and Who is continually caring for me, and that Mother Mary, because she is so close to God, was and continues to nurture me in all of these seasons and crosses of life (the passing away of my mom when I was 19, graduating from college, my journey of singleness to my vocation as a wife and mother and its daily challenges, etc.). Praying the rosary both then and now continues to be a great source of consolation because in both joyful times and especially dark ones, it truly feels like I am holding our Blessed Mother’s hand.
Now as a wife and mother in need of continually growing in my conversion and faith life, the closing sentence found at the end of the rosary’s final prayer (the prayer following the Hail, Holy Queen) is one of the truths about the rosary that continually encourage me to pray it:
“Grant that we beseech thee, that by meditating upon these mysteries of the most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise, through the same Christ our Lord, Amen.”
When we study and reflect on what the rosary means to us as Catholics, we see that it is scriptural and catechetical—through it, God teaches and assists us in living out and building our faith life and our virtues. When we meditate on the mysteries and see how Jesus, Mother Mary, St. Joseph and the early Church responded, we have a model of how to respond in situations of uncertainty, when others are in dire need, the deeper meaning behind the Sacraments, how to respond in suffering and above all, how much God loves us.
In addition to helping us grow in our faith life and love of God and neighbor, the rosary is definitely a link to the true peace that God alone can give us. Our world and our lives are very busy. Taking the time to intentionally pray the rosary especially “forces” us to slow down, to contemplate, to put aside the distractions and the world for some time in order to make space for this special time with God and with our Blessed Mother. As a person who struggles with anxiety and the self-defeating script that anxious thoughts bring, asking for our Blessed Mother’s intercession and protection regularly by praying the rosary obliterates the fear and evil of these anxious thoughts and always helps me to move forward. There have been too many times to count where I have started a rosary so crushed by my anxiety and finished it feeling completely transformed.
As October is the month of the rosary, we are again challenged to take up this necessary devotion and, if we are already praying the rosary, to pray the rosary daily and with more fervor. In his 2017 article, “Our Lady of Fatima's 3 Secrets: What You Should Know About the Fatima Centennial, Jethro Higgins wrote:
“Our Lady of Fatima urgently desired for all of the faithful to pray daily for the salvation of poor sinners, and for the whole world. That message from Our Mother Mary is a challenge – no matter where you are in your own personal prayer life – to go deeper, to pray often, and with greater fervor.”
Whether it is praying the rosary in parts throughout the day when we are unable to finish the rosary in one sitting, or using apps like Hallow or Laudate and scriptural rosary meditations to dive deeper into each mystery, it is very possible for us to make praying the rosary a priority each day and to dive deeper into this devotion. Also, using picture books on the rosary, especially ones that show an image for each Hail Mary of each mystery are very helpful in fostering in young children an understanding of and love for the rosary.
A telling meme I saw on Facebook stressed the profound importance of the rosary and Mother Mary’s role in our salvation. It was a comic of Mother Mary pulling up people into Heaven, who were clinging for dear life onto these life-sized rosary beads, which she was using to hoist them up from earth into Heaven with. As Catholics and people of faith, I believe we are called to practice our devotion to the rosary and our reliance on Mother Mary (as the path to Heaven and to Jesus) with the same loving trust and ferocity as the people in this comic clung to those rosary beads. May this October be that time we again and with more intentionality, turn to God, take our spiritual health seriously and pray the rosary more frequently and with more devotion. I can assure us that those 15 minutes we spend in praying the rosary will be one of the best ways we will spend our time.
Normie Jean Taylan has been a part of EPIC Ministry since the earlier days of its founding. She has served in the past on the EPIC Core Team, and really contributed much of her gifts and talents to the growth of this Ministry. She also met her husband John Taylan through this ministry, and is now a mother of three, with two beautiful girls, and expecting a son, to complete their growing family of 4. She works full-time as a Program Support Coordinator for Family Education Centers of Hawai'i (FECH). We are so thankful to her as she is a model of prayer and steadfast faith.