Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Pregnancies, prayer intentions & Spanish water

Catholic pregnancy tip: well water from the Abbey of Santo Domingo in Spain where Blessed Jane of Aza prayed for another child—a prayer heard and answered in the person of Saint Dominic. I was told that someone in the parish usually had some, but warned to drink only a small amount. Had I noticed the number of twins running around after Mass?

Just a few short years ago, this advice would have struck me as insane.

Water from a well in Spain? A 12th-century woman desperate for another baby, dreaming about a dog with a torch in its mouth? The most ridiculous thing ever. 

I remember reading infertility forums and, in addition to suggestions ranging from sweet potatoes to ovulation predictor kits to giving up coffee, some (crazy loony) Catholic suggested a novena to Saint Gerard. I read that and thought, “How on earth is that going to accomplish anything?”

But, in my post-conversion world, I was nothing short of thrilled to realize that I knew someone on pilgrimage in Spain. Not only did she promise to bring back water from the well, but she had a Dominican priest take pictures of her getting the water.

Just days after receiving the Spanish water, a writer embarking on an Italian pilgrimage asked readers for prayer intentions. I jumped on that too. Another baby. She responded, It would be an honor. She was going to haul my prayer on international flights, over rough Italian roads, and in and out of hotels to be presented to God at grottoes, cathedrals, and tombs. And that's how my intention ended up before Padre Pio and Pope St. John Paul II.

Another friend was praying the Novena to St. Therese of Lisieux for me.

Yet another friend gave us relics from St. Gerard. 

So with the small glass bottle of Spanish well water on our mantle, and prayer intentions storming heaven from Oregon to the Vatican, what else could have happened? A positive pregnancy test, in all its double-lined glory. I might have looked at it a dozen times a day, just to assure myself this was actually happening.

But then it was suddenly not happening anymore.

Despite the water, the prayers, the special feast days corresponding with discovering we were expecting again, there it was—an abrupt ending. Even though there were a dozen incredible things about this baby coming into being at this precise moment.

The shocking thing isn’t that this happened, because miscarriages happen all the time. Or that the intentions, blessings, and prayers didn't “work” well enough. Because God alone can bring forth new life.

But that all was not lost—that this effort was not for nothing. Prayers are never wasted; they are always fruitful. In reaching out to brothers and sisters on earth and saints across time and place, it is nothing short of astounding to consider those who hear and witness our prayers. What a privilege it is to be Catholic, to have this communion to call upon. 


My little children, your hearts are small, but prayer stretches them and makes them capable of loving God. Through prayer we receive a foretaste of heaven and something of paradise comes down upon us. Prayer never leaves us without sweetness. It is honey that flows into the soul and makes all things sweet. When we pray properly, sorrows disappear like snow before the sun. —St. John Vianney

The Forerunners of Christ with Saints and Martyrs, Fra Angelico, 1423-1424.