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What If?

Date: October 16, 2021

By: Doreen D.

Have you ever wondered how your life would be if your prayers were answered exactly as you had prayed for? Or if an event in your life did not happen? I just completed the book, “The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary” by the Venerable Anne Catherine Emmerich, a book based on her visions of the family line of Mary. The initial part of this book provides a genealogy of Mary’s ancestors, specifically of St. Anne (her mother) and how all the births, marriages, and events unfolded until the perfect vessel was found to birth the mother of our Saviour. I never really thought about the parents of Mary needing to be from ideal stock, but that would make sense for Mary to be the perfect womb for Jesus. The book goes on to talk about Anne receiving advice from priests as to which suitor to marry, and tells of her struggles leading up to the birth of Mary. The book then continues with Mary’s story, of the Nativity, of the Holy Family’s life of exile in Egypt after Jesus’s birth, and their harrowing journey to get there. Their time throughout these trials did not sound easy, but they endured it with peaceful hearts.

There is no proof that Catherine’s visions are accurate or true, but when I read it, it made my heart more open to the fact that Jesus' ancestral line also had to make difficult decisions, and endure world events around them just like we do today. This got me thinking about the things that could have happened in my life, and that of my ancestors, had world events not happened or even if different choices were made.

My family history tells of my great great grandparents, poor German speaking farmers, being enticed to move to Russia with the promise of free land. Their fate had other plans for them though. With the outbreak of WWI they were suddenly considered enemies and were shipped off to a Siberian concentration camp. Their son-my great grandfather- met and married my great grandmother, and gave birth to two daughters. When the war ended, they were released and made the long and treacherous journey to Danzig. After some time, and through the generosity of relatives, they had enough money to make their way to Canada and took the opportunity to receive free land in Alberta. They were never wealthy (by the sounds of it they were one of the poorest families in the area) but they did manage to raise an additional ten children. Here, my grandmother (the second daughter) married a local farmer whose parents had also decided to make the journey and adventure from Europe. His father had a similar catastrophic event happen to him and his brother on their travels. After immigrating from Belgium to San Francisco, the two young men opened a bar only to have it burn down in the 1906 earthquake. Surviving the natural disaster, they made their way up the California valley putting up telegraph lines until they eventually made their way to Calgary, once again looking for Alberta farmland. There are many familial stories and tales along with world events and natural disasters leading up to the time I was born. Like my husband’s family the saga of each family line is so interesting. But what if one, or many, of these things did not happen? Would I still be here? Would God still have somehow caused our ancestors to meet in another way? In the end was this all God’s plan?

I remember praying very hard for many things in my life that never materialized, some I would never know why, yet others it soon became evident that God had different plans for me. One that sticks out to me happened when I was in grade nine. During this time my family once again had to move. My father was a bank manager, and it was the nature of his job to be transferred every few years. I prayed and prayed that God would somehow find a way to keep us in our current town. That prayer was not granted. We moved to Drumheller where I eventually met my husband and is where our love story began.

There is another significant period of intense prayer for me that stands out. This prayer was answered, but not in the way I had imagined. It was over 20 years ago, when I was often praying for, and at times with, my good friend (who is not Catholic but learned to pray the Rosary) to bring her and her husband a child. I remember knowing in my heart that she would have children somehow, but the way this was to come about was not through the way I was asking in my prayers. Finally, my friend and her husband, after many years of trying to conceive, started considering adoption. Shortly after they brought up their decision, I remember noticing an advertisement in our church bulletin for a Catholic Adoption Agency in Red Deer looking for parents. Funny thing is, once I casually passed it on to my friend, I never saw that ad in our bulletin again. As they say, the rest is history. Present day has them with two beautiful children that I can not imagine them without. Their youngest was in fact the last child adopted from the agency as it closed shortly after.

Those instances are examples of prayer moments where God was a part of the equation. But what about the hundreds of decisions we make every day? Some may seem trivial such as what to eat, and the time to go to bed at night. While others are more difficult. Should I change jobs... go back to school... marry my boyfriend... move to a new country? With any of these decisions what if we do not choose wisely, or go about making decisions without praying for guidance?

If you look at the Old Testament starting with Adam and Eve, God did not want the Fall to occur, but He allowed them to choose, and the choice to sin changed the way humanity’s trajectory would unravel.

Even St. Paul, a murderer and persecutor of Christians turned from his crimes to embrace Jesus after hearing a call from God. What if he did not heed this sign and message? Would we not be robbed of this great Saint’s example of God’s Divine Mercy shown to even the greatest sinners? Or had God been calling Paul all along, but it was only when Paul was struck blind that he finally adhered to God’s voice?

It seems to me -keeping in mind that I am no theologian or Christian scholar- that God, regardless of our previous decisions, continues to call us home to Him. Perhaps if we are trying to discern God’s Will, we can make the best choice for God’s plan for us. When we stray and don't put God first, we are reminded of Him by the consequences or guilt of our actions. However, when we return to Him each time we make a wrong move we can be assured that He will guide us. After all, how many chances since the Fall of Adam and Eve has He given mankind? Has he not sent many prophets, saints, miracles, messages, gifts, and signs throughout the ages, even his only Son, to redirect us back to him? Thankfully, God still loves us despite all we do, and like a good Father He persistently sends us clues to guide us home. We will make mistakes, choose poorly, and misinterpret God’s signs but, I think, if we can at least try to follow the Holy Family’s example of remaining faithful prayer, in difficult times or not, then we too can have peaceful hearts while navigating our lives. If we do this, we can put aside all our questions and what ifs and have the peace that only comes when we are travelling with God on the right path.

What if today I just trust in God?


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