Within a couple of hours (and after eating all of the snacks), we had both grown hungry and I decided to take my guest out for something only Philly is famous for: cheesesteaks. Yes, those greasy, meaty, cheesy delicacies that melt in your mouth and leave you craving them for weeks after you've eaten the messy things! So off we went on our own little adventure.
On the way there I remember training my friend on how to order. "You have to order quickly and precisely ... 'wit whiz' is all you have to say. Don't order the fries. Oh, and stay off your phone - they'll throw you out of line for that!" If you live in Philly or have ever visited our great city and had the chance to eat at Pat's or Geno's, then you know the drill. This is serious business and Philladelphians don't mess around when it comes to two things: our sports teams and our cheesesteaks. Once there, my friend stood in line while I found us a table. The place was packed on this Friday night, like it is every other Friday night: tourists, locals, hockey fans from the game, couples, the old, the young - it seemed like the whole world was revolving around that one congested all-way stop. Once I found us a place to sit (at the end of a table that was already being shared by five people), I took in to people watching. As I looked around, taking in the buzz and the smell, I saw my best friend in line -- gasp -- ON HER PHONE!!! I tried to get her attention, to signal to her to stop, but she was laughing and taking pictures of a group of nuns eating cheesesteaks. Okay yes, it was about 10pm and was rather anomalous to see a large group of nuns at this time of night standing around with their traditional habits on eating cheesesteaks, but what was she doing? I forewent our tiny space at the table to walk over and correct her so she wouldn't be kicked out of line just before she ordered. She did okay, too, until she tried to order an orange soda and the man taking her order sneered and yelled "next!" She never did get that orange soda.
As we gathered our food and again, found a small nook to eat, I noticed that two of the nuns that my friend was taking photos of were looking in our direction and speaking quietly. I caught one of them noticing my swollen pregnant belly, and as her eyes glanced over me, we locked stares for a moment. I smiled shyly, embarrassed that they had probably seen my friend snapping photos of them, and quickly looked away. A few moments later I glanced over again, and they were both smiling at me. I felt such kindness in their eyes. Before I cold even turn away one of them started walking over towards us. As I shifted in my seat, not really sure of what to expect next, one of the nuns knelt down beside me, took my hand and said, "This is for you." She placed something small and cold in my hand, and before I could even look at it, she said something else that to this day still takes my breath away. "God is protecting your son," she said. Before I had a chance to thank her she had walked away. I opened my palm and found a small medal with an inscription on it too small for me to read. I thought it was beautiful and showed it to my friend, who sarcastically asked why she didn't receive one. As we both tried to read it, something occurred to me: I didn't tell the nun I was having a son. How did she know something so personal? I stood up immediately to find her, but she and all the other nuns were gone. We tried to make out the markings and words, but with the night sky swallowing up the light, we couldn't make out what it said. I slipped it into my purse and thought at the very least, we had a fun story to tell the guys. I didn't know how blessed I was to have been given such a gift. Sutton was born the very next night, three months premature, under the most extraordinary of circumstances.
After I got home from the hospital, I found the medal in my purse. I finally had a moment to read it's inscription and research what it meant. What I found was nothing short of amazing. The Miraculous Medal design was originated by Saint Catherine Labour following her reported vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Wearing or keeping the medal with faith and devotion can bring special graces through the intercession of Mary at the hour of death. At the hour of death. Those words really struck me. I finally understood my calmness as I bled out the night I went into labor. I finally understood all of the wonder and grace I was feeling from deep within before my womb was cut open to save my life and the life growing inside of me.
Brad and I kept that metal taped to Sutton's isolette the entire 71 days he was in the NICU. When Sutton came home healthy, we taped it to the headboard of our bed until my younger sister became pregnant. She battled severe hyperemesis gravidarum, so we passed it on to her to keep her safe and protected, as the medal was a great testimony of the power of healing prayer for us. It is now back by our bedside, and I have since learned that God uses the Miraculous Medal, not as a relic, but as an instrument in bringing to pass certain marvelous results. Marvelous indeed.
The Meaning of the Front Side of the Miraculous Medal:
Mary is standing upon a globe, crushing the head of a serpent beneath her foot. She stands upon the globe, as the Queen of Heaven and Earth, as her feet crush the serpent to proclaim Satan and all his followers are helpless before her. The year of 1830 on the Miraculous Medal is the year the Blessed Mother appeared to Saint Catherine Labouré. Light streams from Mary’s diamond rings, signifying grace. Not all the rings shine though. Asked by Catherine why some of her rings did not shed light, Mary reportedly replied, "Those are the graces for which people forget to ask."
The twelve stars can refer to the Apostles, who represent the church as it surrounds Mary. They also recall the vision of Saint John, writer of the Book of Revelation, in which “a great sign appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of 12 stars.” The cross symbolizes Christ and our redemption, with the bar under the cross a sign of the earth. The “M” stands for Mary, and the weaving of her initial and the cross signifies the Blessed Virgin at the foot of the Cross when Jesus was being crucified. The two hearts are the Sacred Heart of Jesus crowned with thorns and the Immaculate Heart of Mary pierced with a sword.
To get your own Miraculous Medal, visit here.