This weekend it was my birthday and I turned 23. I spent the weekend in Sioux Falls and the Lifelight Christian Music Festival. I was slightly uncomfortable going because I knew it would have a strong Evangelical slant to it. Being my confrontational self, I packed enough Catholic t-shirts to last me the weekend through.
On Sunday, my birthday, we were walking around one of the barns full of merchandise booths and I was wearing my t-shirt with the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on it. I stopped at a booth that had a lot of stuff made from Jerusalem olive wood and things of that nature. I had seen the booth the day before and had come to the conclusion that it was Catholic owned after seeing Crucifixes, Rosaries, and carvings of St. Francis. As I stood there looking at some awesome Crucifixes, the woman at the booth asked me what was on my shirt. I told her it was Our Lady of Guadalupe. She responded that she knew all of the images of Mary, but that she just hadn’t ever seen Our Lady of Guadalupe on a t-shirt before. I told her that I got it at the FOCUS Conference in Orlando. The woman asked me if I had to defend my faith alot wearing a shirt like that around Lifelight. I then went on to explain that I didn’t but that since I’m a convert, I’ve had to defend myself to my friends and family who don’t really understand why I converted to Catholicism. The woman seemed amazed at my story and asked me how old I was. So I told her that it was actually my 23rd birthday that day. She got this huge smile on her face and told me to wait there. She started rummaging through this drawer and came back and placed something in my hands and held my hand in hers and said “happy birthday.” When she took her hand away, I saw a white plastic case with an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on it. Inside was a new Rosary, one of those Rosaries made from actual rose petals.
It was the perfect birthday present. It was just what I needed, something to reinforce that there are people who see the value in being Catholic and rejoice when a separated brother or sister returns to the fullness of the Church. I had to peek at another Rosary to see how much this Rosary cost. It was a $20 Rosary, but the value of the gift was much more than that to me.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.