Thursday, April 22, 2010

Serendipity, Signal Graces, and a Beautiful Novena

Earlier this week, I explained the meaning of serendipity to my tween daughter after a trip to Blockbuster.  When we checked out our movie, the girl behind the counter asked if we'd like a soda, popcorn and a box of candy for no additional cost.  Really?!  As I picked out the bonus items, she explained that she had a coupon and just wanted to pass it on.  My daughter easily grasped the definition of serendipity with this example of a "happy coincidence".

We can receive a type of spiritual serendipity by praying the Rosary.  One of the 15 Promises of Mary to those who pray the Rosary frequently and devoutly is the promise of signal graces, or signs from God directing us to the right choice or assuring us that we have just made one.  Unlike serendipity, signal graces are not coincidences.  Let me give you an example.

While I was writing my book, The Rosary Workout, I needed to find a spiritual tie-in for the nine levels of my workout program.  An idea occurred to me to name them after each of the Nine Choirs of Angels, and I started doing some research on angels.  Although the Catholic Church teaches that angels do in fact exist, there is no requirement to believe that there are nine choirs.  I found several sources that disputed this division, which troubled me. I didn't want my book to include any inaccuracies, and this was a very important element.  I prayed for discernment, and it came one evening as I was walking just before sunset.  My attention was drawn to an amazing formation of clouds that were lit up with shades of gold and rose, calling to mind a human interpretation of heaven.  I noticed that the clouds were arranged in a very orderly fashion, each about the same size.  I had a strong inclination to count them, and sure enough, there were nine.  To me, this was a very clear signal grace regarding the Nine Choirs of Angels.

If you are dedicated to the Rosary, do not ignore any "coincidences" when it comes to spiritual matters.  I was talking to my dad recently, and I casually mentioned the Divine Mercy Chaplet.  Surprised, he said, "You are the third person to bring that up this week!  I had never heard of it before, but I guess I'd better start praying it." 

I had a similar string of signal graces recently.  While flipping through a copy of Canticle magazine, I saw a unique painting of Mary (shown, at left).  Intrigued, I read the article and found that there was a growing devotion to Mary Undoer of Knots, based on this 17th-century painting by an unknown artist.  I have undone many frustrating strings of knots in my life (gold chains, shoelaces, daughter's long, fine hair, etc.), but my face never remotely resembled the loving, serene expression on the face of Our Lady as she patiently unties each tangled knot.  I put the magazine aside, but came across the same painting just a few days later in a blog post on Faith and Family Live.  Mere days later, I one again found a reference to Mary Undoer of Knots in a Twitter post by my friend, Sarah Reinhard (link to her fun and inspiring blog).  This was obviously not to be ignored!  Today I am starting a novena to Mary Undoer of Knots for a private intention.  The prayers are very beautiful and include praying the Rosary with a daily meditation.  You can order a novena booklet at this link.


Anonymous said...

Just ordered several copies of Our Lady Undoer of Knots novena, thanks to your very fine link. Love the religious art you often use, as well as that delightful "signal" picture. I am reading a book by John Saward, "The Beauty of Holiness and the Holiness of Beauty; Art, Sanctity, and the Truth of Catholicism". I think you and many others might like it.

Ann said...

I ordered a copy too and a rosary. I have my rosary I received as a child and one my sister gave but I thought it would be nice to have one to go with this devotion. Do most people have more then one? Thanks for the link. I agree with Anon above the art is beautiful.

Peggy Bowes said...

I would love to have that painting of Mary in my living room! Just looking at it makes me feel calmer.

Anon, thanks for the book recommendation. I just added it to my ever-growing Amazon wishlist.

Ann, I don't think it's possible to own too many Rosaries! I have one in my car glove box, one in my purse (rose-scented), one by my bed (with earth from Fatima encased in the Mary medal), and a few keepsakes from my childhood. My children own sevral as well. Check out for a huge selection of gorgeous Rosaries.