My maternal grandmother was not born into Christianity. She practiced an African Traditional Religion. She converted to Catholicism when I was in High School. After the Holy Mass, her next favorite prayer is the Holy Rosary. She has an altar with a picture and a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in her living room. She would pick her rosary, kneel before the altar, and pray her rosary. She would begin with the Sign of the Cross. On each bead, in place of the Our Father and the Hail Mary, she would say, “On this bead, I pray for my husband. You know he is sometimes stubborn, please, keep him out of trouble. On this bead, I pray for my son, John, to keep him safe from harm. On this bead, I pray for my daughter, Esther …” So, she would pray for all her children, stepchildren, grandchildren, in-laws, livestock, etc. At the end, she would gather her rosary beads on the altar and say, “Mother Mary, you know do not have a formal education, I do not know how to say the prayers [Our Father and Hail Mary], but I have prayed the rosary, the way I know best. I now, hand my rosary over to you, please, pray it in the correct way for me, and present my prayer to your Son, Jesus Christ.

I was in High School / Minor Seminary when my grandmother began her journey in Catholicism. During my vacations with her, I knew her prayer time. A few minutes into the time, I would go into her living room and pretend to be sleeping on the couch just to listen to her pray. I would cover my mouth to hide my laughter. After listening to her prayer, I would go to tell the story to my friends and laugh more about it. It made no sense to me that she would pray the rosary that way.

Recently, I have been reflecting on my grandma’s faith journey. I remember how I laughed at her and the way she prayed the rosary. I was already a minor seminarian. I was the expert; I had all my prayers well memorized. I was not like my old grandma who could not memorize simple Our Father and Hail Mary. But come to think of it. She acknowledged her lack, her deficiency. At the same time, she recognized the little she could do. She would not let what she could not do get in the way of what she could do. She put in her best and presented all she had to the Blessed Virgin Mary to complete it for her. She trusted that God could make something great out of the little she could offer.

On the other hand, I thought I was the expert. I knew my prayers well. I did not need to ask for God’s help in saying my prayers. I was good enough. Today, I can confidently say that my grandma’s prayers were more authentic than mine. She put her whole heart in it. She came to God empty of herself and that God may fill her up. Because I knew the prayer so well, I could multitask. I could be praying my rosary and thinking about my homework and other things. I strongly believe that whatever I am today is thanks to my grandma’s prayers.

Today is the Fourth Sunday of Advent, the last Sunday before Christmas. The Church presents us with a Gospel passage that tells us how Christmas came about. It tells the story of the Annunciation. It tells how the Angel came to a humble Virgin in Nazareth to tell her about God’s plan for her to become the mother of Jesus. She immediately acknowledged her lack. “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” The angel said, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” In other words, “Just come as you are, and leave the rest to God.” She then submitted herself to the will and power of God in the words, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” And so, God took charge of her from then on.

Sometimes, we feel the call to do something great, and then some voices begin to speak to us, “But you have no college degree… but you are not smart… but no one from your town has done that before, etc.” If Mary had stopped at the level of listening to the voice reminding her of what she lacked, there would have been no Christmas. My dear friends, what is that dream you are suppressing? What is that potential you are delaying actualizing? Remember, everything is impossible until someone does it. What if you are that someone? Do not wait until all the conditions are perfect. Do not allow what you cannot do to get in the way of what you can do. Begin with who you are and what you have now, and let God take care of the rest. May our faith in God never fail us until we come to our heavenly inheritance. Amen.

Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Ochigbo

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