I know that every breath I take is ordained by God. But I don't always live my life as if that were the case.
During a morning Mass at an Encino church in October, God let me experience this through a special statute of the Virgin Mary, when it was stripped of its rosary by a troubled woman.
While parishioners watched in shock, the woman removed the rosary from the Virgin's hands and walked up to the presiding priest and pleaded with him to let her have it.
The priest told her she could. So, the hands of Blessed Lady --- the statue of which had been at the altar of the St. Cyril of Jerusalem Church for the month of rosary --- were empty.
But not for long. A miracle was taking place. We saw the rosary being returned to the Lady's hands.
It was a miracle I was blessed to witness with fellow congregants during the 7:30 a.m. October 9 Mass. This is how it happened:
During Communion, while proceeding to receive the Cup of Blood, I noticed a middle-aged woman walk up to the Virgin Mary's statue.
She looked at the Virgin, then at the long, brown rosary held by the Lady. Her eyes appeared transfixed on the rosary. Suddenly, she went for it --- removing it from the Lady's wrists.
In silence and in horror, I watched the woman. She had fair skin with curly brown hair. She was well-dressed in all black --- a turtle neck, pants and a windbreaker.
On two previous occasions, I had run into this woman. Once, on my way from the 7:30 a.m. Mass, she asked me for money to help pay for a motel room. On another occasion, I saw her asking other parishioners to give her lodging money.
The woman then came to the distributor of the Cup, and showing her rosary asked, "Can I have it?" "No," the distributor replied.
She then walked up to the Msgr. Cyril Navin, the pastor emeritus, who was presiding at the Mass, and asked if she could have the rosary.
The priest, who was wiping the chalice, looked at her but did not speak. The woman, the rosary in her hands, stood there and waited while the priest cleared the credence table.
As Msgr. Navin closed the prayer book, he told her, "Yes, you may." Holding the rosary in her folded hands she stepped down the altar and walked to a rear row, with downcast eyes, but with a look of satisfaction.
The priest then went on to preside over the weekly novena to the Mother of the Perpetual Help, which closed with his benediction on each of us, forming two lines toward the altar. The woman with the rosary joined us, too.
While in line, I heard her speak softly with a tall woman parishioner behind her.
After the benediction, Msgr. Navin left the sanctuary. The woman with the rosary took her seat in the front row. The tall woman sat beside her.
While we remained in the sanctuary and began to pray the Sorrowful Mystery, the tall woman left. But the woman with rosary stayed in her seat.
When we were entering the Crucifixion decade, I saw Msgr. Navin appear from the sacristy. Approaching the woman, he stooped down and spoke to her. I couldn't hear what he said.
Then, reaching into his pocket, he took out a rosary --- a beautiful rosary in white, green and black --- and gave it to her.
The woman raised her arms, removed the long brown rosary from her neck and handed it to Msgr. Navin. He then took the rosary to the Lady and carefully draped it over her wrists. He bowed before the Lady's image and left.
I felt anxiety leave me, replacing it with a sense of relief and peace. It was a miracle.
The statue of the Blessed Virgin is a "miraculous" one, Msgr. Navin told me later. It had survived the 1994 Northridge earthquake. The strong temblor had destroyed much of the sanctuary, but the statue, though made of plaster, "lay on its back, without any scar," he told me.
The miracle statue, slightly smaller than life-size, is attired in an ecru robe and mantle with gold trims. Crowned with a wreath of pink flowers and green leaves, it is one of the oldest of its kind, and does not have a particular name, Msgr. Navin said.
"It is the Mother of the Savior who crushed the power of Satan," he said, noting that the Lady's bare feet trample on an open-mouthed serpent, muffled with a red apple.
As in the earthquake 14 years ago, the Blessed Virgin Mary revealed on that October morning another divine arrangement. That arrangement had been provided to the priest, parishioners and the woman who wanted a rosary.