Economic problems, abortions, divisions, and a slim devotional thread to Our Lady of Lourdes.
Manila (AsiaNews) The deep devotion Maria Socorro Remedios [Not her real name] has for the Virgin Mary was born at a time in which despair ruled her life, and she needed a point of reference. Things could hardly get worse: she had separated from her drug-addicted husband; her mother was showing the first symptoms of mental illness; her daughter was on the verge of being thrown out of school; family finances were so bad that her house was put on the auction block for non payment of taxes. But they did when she aborted her son.
Desperate and lost, she decided to turn to Our Lady at which time she heard a sweet and clear voice:
"Do you remember that day when you shielded you daughter with your own body?" the voice said. "So will I, you celestial Mother. I shall protect you."
"That was Our Lady," Maria said, "that was Mama Mary, our Ina, speaking to me personally."
Some years earlier she and her 10-month-old daughter had been in an accident when her car drove right under a truck. "It was like being in slow motion. My first reaction was to grasp my scapular, get my baby, place her on my lap and shield her with my body."
After hearing the Blessed Mother's reassuring voice, she vowed to do everything to please her Mother now that she had rediscovered her. From that moment on, her life changed.
The next day, a foreign company bought her father's long forgotten factory. "Things got better," she told AsiaNews. "Even my daughter's attitude to her studies changed so much so that she topped her class."
Other small, "surprising miracles" started happening. One day she had to rush her father to the hospital. "I had only 800 pesos ( 18, US$ 15) in my pocket and about 1,600 in the bank." After praying for hours in the hospital's chapel, she met a family friend who offered to pay all the hospital expenses. "Things were happening unexpectedly," she realises today.
She finally understood that she had to turn her life around and devote herself to the tasks that her "Ina" expected of her, namely promote the Catholic faith among Filipinos.
Before her conversion, Maria Remedios was a child of the 'swinging generation', a generation that broke all rules. "I have gone through all sorts of things women do today, and perhaps even worse," she told AsiaNews. "I used to smoke three packs of cigarettes a day, couldn't smile, wept and got angry easily. There were so many wounds!" Her redemption was as "quick as God's forgiveness" and as "slow as psychological wounds are deep".
She travelled to Europe. "For a whole month we jumped from one city to the next. Because we could not afford a hotel, we slept in trains." One destination she would not miss was Lourdes. "I felt I had an obligation to go there because my mom is devoted to Our Lady of Lourdes."
"In Lourdes, I felt sorrow for my sins. But as I gazed at Our Lady my sorrow became suffused with hope that the tender Mother would help ease my pain and heal me. She was by my side during my worse moments and dressed the wounds of my soul. She led me back to the path of righteousness and grace."
In Lourdes Maria felt the comfort of forgiveness that the Virgin Mary's intercession made possible.
She acknowledges that with the pilgrimage a chapter of her life came to a close. "I had a really bad childhood growing up in a dysfunctional family," she emphasised, "but Mama Mary turned my broken family into a happy one. Where there is love, hurt and discord can be borne more easily."