My name is Maria. I’m from Valencia (Spain) and I am the mother of six children. Javi and I have only been married for eight years, so you can imagine the marathon of pregnancies we’ve run. Well, thanks to these children, or rather, these pregnancies, the Home “slipped in” to our home.
I usually spend half of the nine and a half months of pregnancy bedridden, without moving from the bed or the couch at all, because I could go into labor in any moment. The doctors always get nervous, but I live this situation calmly, abandoned into the hands of God. And we have always, always had full term pregnancies, against all medical prognosis. My pregnancy with José, our fourth child, once again made me lie down on my boring couch, and once again, we found ourselves with the problem of how I would be able to receive Communion daily, because the parishes around us only take Communion to the sick and homebound once a week. So Javi had a great idea: since we live right next to the hospital, and there they take Communion to the sick every day…. Maybe they could do us a favor by coming to our house to bring me Communion. And right away Javi set out to find the hospital chaplain. My husband goes to daily Mass at the hospital’s chapel, so he at least knew who the chaplains were.
And that’s how that very day Fr. Dominic appeared at our doorstep, with a big smile and a peaceful presence that made it such a pleasure to be with him. We talked for a little while and he said he would be back the next day. And he came back. And right away he told us about the Home of the Mother, brought us a magazine, told us all about the activities that they run in their parish, made us pray for their altar boys… And his visit, taking turns with Fr. Luis, the other hospital chaplain, became part of our family routine. But one day he said he was going to be out of town, so some Sisters would be coming to bring me Communion. I was very grateful; it seemed like such a nice detail to me. The Sisters also told us about their work at the hospital, asked us to pray for their patients and for the retreats that they had planned for girls. Since I had some free time on my hands, I made their intentions my own.
Once José was born, it seemed like we weren’t going to see each other anymore, but they came over right away to meet the new baby and invited us to a get-together for families in Torrente (Valencia). Honestly, it didn’t seem too appealing to us, but since we were so grateful for the spiritual attention they gave us during all these months, we decided to accept the invitation and see how it would go with the four little ones. And we just loved it. There weren’t too many people, but the atmosphere of family and prayer, as well as the spirit of simplicity and poverty in which the Sisters lived really impacted us. So we became regulars at these family get-togethers.
I discovered I was pregnant again very soon after the birth of José. This one we named Juan. It wasn’t a normal pregnancy— I didn’t have to be bedridden — but there were a lot of complications that made my daily life more difficult. The spiritual support and the affection that I received in the Home helped me to carry out the pregnancy the best I could. I admit that I suffered a lot in this pregnancy, and I was very grateful for the prayers of the Sisters, which truly sustained me. Juan was born, but it was a stillbirth. God carried him away before he could know sin, but he didn’t get to know his parents or his brothers and sisters either. We were able to hold him in our arms for a few minutes and see how beautiful he was, just like all his siblings. And in this time of pain, the Home was once again a great support to continue living in God’s hands.
That was towards the end of the month of August. We weren’t able to go to the annual Family Encounter in Santander because of my condition at that moment, although we sure would have loved to go. The following summer we did make it there. That whole year we did not stop going to the retreats and get-togethers for families in Torrente, as well as the Holy Week Encounter, and Marisa, our oldest daughter, started going to the day-retreats that the Sisters hold for little girls. We were all very happy, and the experience kept repeating itself that each time we went to the Sisters’ house in Torrente, we returned to our own house changed, with more enthusiasm to live closer to God and Our Blessed Mother. We usually arrived in Torrente a little nervous and stressed-out because we always arrive late, the kids fighting in the car… you know, normal with four children and a bit of exhaustion. But we always returned happy, having prayed and learned so much from the others.
And like I mentioned before, the following August we were able to go to Family Encounter. The first thing that called our attention was the poverty in which everyone lived there. When we arrived, they showed us our room: with two bunk beds and one single bed… and we were a family of six! But everyone was in the same situation, smiling and settling into their rooms the best they could, as if it were the most normal situation in the world. But Marisa took care of our problem right away: “Mom, please, please, can I go over with the other girls to the house in Zurita? But I mean to sleep over there and everything! That way you all fit better, anyways. Please?” And since the baby had a portable crib, it was all taken care of. Within half an hour we all felt at home. Some people were moving tables into the dining room, others were pitching in wherever needed, and the kids were more than happy to be playing with the Sisters… The days passed by, getting to know the Home and everyone in it a little better, and growing closer to Our Blessed Mother; she’s really in charge here.
One day we had an outing to Garabandal. Fr. Rafael took us to see the place where it is planned to build a shrine, and he asked several of us to stand in the places where the pillars will be built. I was lucky enough to be one of the pillars, and with my arms in the air, made the shape of the arches. And there, standing in the shape of a pillar, I understood that I am part of all this. That the shrine, the Home, was already in my life and I had to sustain it. I looked around, saw Father, the Servant Brothers and Sisters, and so many laypeople so different from one another, the youth, the kids, and I felt that I was forming part of that parcel of the Church, and that I had to help it and sustain it. Our Blessed Mother made me see my vocation as a lay member of the Home of the Mother in a very graphic way. But I didn’t say anything to my husband at the moment. I understood that he was going to receive the same calling in whatever moment Our Lady wanted. And I prayed for him, and waited.
We returned to Valencia, with the good fortune that at the end of August, the Home was organizing Spiritual Exercises for laypeople in Torrente. Javi signed up, and I asked him to take advantage of this opportunity to discern our place in the Church, and I stayed home with the little ones, praying for the fruits of his retreat. When he came home, one of the first things he said to me, with a grin from ear to ear, was, “Maria, I know where my place is: it’s in the Home. I saw that I was going towards God, walking through all this undergrowth, alone and going against the current, with lots of difficulties. And there were people going on highways, forming part of a movement in the Church. I saw that I also have my place on the highway, and I want to get on it as soon as possible.” I was shocked. He had discovered his vocation in an even more graphic way than I did. I loved it.
So on October 5, since Fr. Rafael was going to be in Valencia for a few days, our whole family entered the Home, all together. Everyone was happy and grateful to Our Lady for having placed the Home, in our home. And I say all of us, because in that moment (even though we didn’t know it yet), I was already pregnant with Jaime, so he was also able to participate in our ceremony. And I am sure that Juan had a lot to do with all this, bugging Our Blessed Mother in heaven (she takes care of him up there), to give us the gift of this vocation.
Well, that’s how we met the Home, through the Eucharist and something as simple as a pregnancy, and thanks to the spirit of service and care for the sick of the Servant Brothers and Sisters. Three years ago they attended to me day after day, although they had no obligation to do so.