Sr. Neghesti shares her deep wisdom with the MISEVI International Team as our Advisor from the Daughters of Charity
“My soul clings close to you; your right hand supports me.” (Ps 63:8)
Every day people come with new and untold stories to the doorway of the Chapel of the Miraculous Medal at 140 rue du Bac. They come from far and near to deposit the personal miracles they have received and the many heavy burdens in their own lives. This happens thanks to the Miraculous Medal that someone gave them or that they bought after their pilgrimage to the Chapel of the Miraculous Medal. There are also newcomers who wonder what happens in this house. Often, if a Sister stops for a few minutes in the alley, someone will approach her for a conversation. They tell a story of the graces received through the intercession of Mary. They often say in a very simple, moving and touching way, how God touched them when they put on the Medal and prayed.
I was so much touched by a young man of 26 years, who wanted to talk to me at the doorway. Here is his story.
“When I was young, I used to pray the rosary in my family. Because of difficult circumstances I had to leave my home for another country, in search of a safe place. After long reflection, I decided to cross the Sahara Desert to Libya. This was in 2016. The day before my departure, a friend gave me the Miraculous Medal, advising me to hold on to it with confidence. Even though I was familiar with this religious symbol, from that moment it became very precious to my heart. It awakened my faith and trust in God. Every time I was scared in my travels, I just touched my medal and I received peace and courage. After a terrible time in Libya, a night came to get into a fragile boat and to face the most perilous adventure of my life. We were 400 men, with only one girl among us. At 3am, as we got into the boat, we were all silent, as if we were facing death. After 12 hours of difficult sailing, our boat became short of petrol and it began to be tossed back and forth by the wind. Water started seeping in. Then, we all felt lost. For 6 hours I held tightly to my Miraculous Medal praying: if I die, I die in hope of eternal life in the hands of Mary. I was internally calm and serene. We were all aware that a full boat had capsized a week before us. I will never forget the screaming and desperation. In the middle of all of this I was able to keep up and tell my companions in adventure to keep our faith and hope; holding always in my hand my medal and praying the rosary. Finally, a helicopter started hovering over us and after 3 hours rescue came and we were all saved!
I stayed only five days in Italy and during these days I lost my medal. When finally, I reached Germany, I looked for a Miraculous Medal and one of my friends googled and bought it for me through Amazon. I was so happy to have again my precious medal. Since that day my life has changed dramatically. I always believe that as I am still alive it is thanks to the intercession of Mary.”
He continued, telling me how he was in Paris.
“For the month of Mary, the month of May, this year Catholic Life transmitted a program about the story of the Miraculous Medal, on YouTube. I realized that I could reach Rue du Bac easily from Germany, so I just decided this very weekend to reach out and see where it all happened and to pass a weekend in prayer. It seemed to me very far, but I reached Paris in three hours, praying my rosary and time passed so quickly. Now I am here, where many like me come to say THANK YOU to Mary.”
The boy was so happy to narrate his story since it means a lot to him. He experienced the saving hand of God in the midst of deep sorrow and fear.
Hearing the young man, I was so struck by his faith and gratitude to God. It helped to me to meditate on the great devotion to the signs of love that bring us to God, that are very alive in our Vincentian tradition.
It reminded me a story told by St Vincent, when darkness enveloped his soul. It was impossible for him to make acts of faith. He felt the world of belief and certainty in which he had been enveloped from childhood, collapse around him. However, he retained in the midst of darkness the conviction that it was all a trial from God, who in the end would have mercy on him. He redoubled his prayer and penance and put into practice the means which he believed to be the most appropriate. The first was to write the Creed on a piece of paper and wear it above his heart. Although he did not speak a word, he made an agreement with God that whenever he put his hand on his breast, he was renouncing temptation against the faith.
St Vincent and St Louise taught the Daughters of Charity to pray the rosary as their own breviary. During the centuries they used to wear the rosary on their belt. This was to help them to pray while they were coming and going in the service of the poor, and a reminder to meditate on the mystery of salvation. I have heard witness from Sisters whose spiritual life was revitalized, thanks to the simple prayer of the rosary which brought them safe from many dangers of life.
Signs and symbols are remainders of deep realities. We are taught to carry them with us in faith. I am very sure that there are many untold stories from our own experience and the experience of others. Symbols often say much more than words. They express deeply personal, affective undercurrents that words are not able to communicate.
Continuing in my reflection, I remembered many stories of witness from the poor persons I served of the value of the well-known symbols of the Cross, the Medal and the Rosary. Each of these three concrete material symbols has a very deep meaning for our Christian life in our Vincentian tradition.
The medal is a little sign of highly biblical significance, since it contains expressions of sin, incarnation, redemption, the Church and the life to come. Many of us wear it round our neck, or carry it in our pocket. I am sure we have many untold hidden stories of how in using this simple symbol of devotion our heart was lifted up to God.
The Cross is the sign of our redemption and Christ’s infinite love for us. We Christians have it in our house or we carry it on us each day, to remind us to contemplate with confidence the presence of Christ in our lives as companion on our journey. I am sure we have many stories of its protection.
This month is dedicated to Mary and to the practice of praying the rosary together. The rosary is a mini-gospel, an easy Christian prayer, that helps to connect many faithful people to God through the intercession of Mary. St Vincent and St Louise recommended it highly to the Daughters of Charity, as their breviary.
Simple rosary beads put us into a mystical frame of mind. They bring us discipline for meditation and they calm our restless hearts and scattered superficial minds. The repetitive prayer of the rosary quiets the mind and allows the depth of the soul to rise.
The rosary helps us to meditate on the greatest Christian mysteries – the birth of Jesus, his preaching of the good news, his suffering, death, resurrection and ascension to heaven – from a variety of angles with different emphases. The rosary is a slow prayer of the deep soul. It has enormous spiritual power. I have heard many witnesses of spiritual revitalization thanks to the prayer of rosary. Each of us have experiences that we have never told to others, but they are real and powerful when we remember them and share them.
Just now, we all are passing through hard times and, in one way or another, all the events are inviting us to rediscover where we find our energy. As in the story of the young man, we can draw energy by using some small reminders like the cross, the medal and the rosary, to help us pray, to renew our hearts and to be close to God.
As Vincentians we journey through life with the poor, and we contemplate and find God in daily events by sharing them with those who live near to us.
Pope Francis invited the whole Church to pray the rosary and ask Mary’s intercession for the needs of our world. Let us simply put our faith and hope in God, sure that He will answer our needs.
We will surely have the same experience as the psalmist:
“No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame.” (Ps 25,3)