I was born an old man. Cantankerous and curmudgeonly, I came to believe that miracles were possible — after a great deal of Thomistic tinkering. Still, I didn’t want to believe in them. I was a Catholic, but a bad one.
“We really hit a wall after our second child,” my friend assured me on his patio one evening, his wife at his side. “But Our Lady of La Leche gave us more children after we made our pilgrimages and novenas.”
I had been looking at the opalescence of the setting sun, which was peeking over the covers of the horizon.
“What’s that?” I asked. I have a terrible habit of assuming that when someone mentions something incredible, the person must be dumber than I. Thankfully, God would humble me. “I haven’t heard of that particular devotion before…” I trailed off, hoping to conceal my suspicions.
His wife, I think, sensed my incredulity and smiled as she replied. “Oh, after we had our first daughter, I was on top of the world. Then we had our first son two years later. I always wanted to be a Catholic mom with a great, big family.” Then her countenance fell, as though some invisible blow had landed on her heart. “But we just hit a wall.”
I furrowed my brow. She had raised my compassion and concern. But my suspicions lingered. “What do you mean?”
Looking at the ground, as though her secondary infertility was a horrible tragedy for which she was personally responsible, she replied. “We just couldn’t get pregnant again. We tried and tried, went to doctor after doctor. They couldn’t figure out what was wrong.”
It had been years since the tragedy had befallen her, but I knew that the pain was fresh.
“Then we learned about Our Lady of La Leche,” she went on. “We made a pilgrimage to St. Augustine Florida and prayed a nine-day novena there.” Her smile returned. “Then we had our second boy — six years after the first!”
I smiled involuntarily. “Well, that’s a turn of fortune.”
She shook her head. “No, it was Our Lady. Once we had our second son, we hit a wall, again! So, we went back to Our Lady of La Leche, and then our third son came along.”
I unfurrowed my brow and widened my eyes. “Really?”
She must have sensed my skepticism fading. “Yep.” Her smile was triumphant, as though she had prevailed in an unspoken debate with me. “The doctors were useless again. But not Our Lady. So, when I couldn’t get pregnant after our fourth kid, you know where I went!”
I nodded and gave a look of cautious acceptance. It was a small step toward believing in miracles.
In my previous article, I shared the pain many people experience with miscarriage. Today, I shall share a related and often more devastating epidemic many are suffering: infertility.
If miscarriage causes one to feel a sense of loss, infertility carries silent shame and guilt — as though the infertile person is somehow personally responsible to medical issues over which he might have no control. There is a brutal helplessness to those who want dearly to become parents but cannot. Infertility, particularly secondary infertility, is plaguing the industrialized West.
Consider the tragic case of a man who struggles with infertility. The resources for such men are few. Fewer still would be the number of people who reach out to such men with words of comfort. The only medical option for most such cases is in vitro-fertilization, which is a gross violation of the moral law. Many men feel as though their infertility is something for which they ought to blame themselves. They have no one to whom they might turn.
Women feel infertility in an especially grievous way. Far more women experience this blight than many realize. A grave flaw in modern apologetics is the focus on Natural Family Planning (NFP) and the concern over having too many children. This is an important aspect of our faith in our contraceptive age. But we mustn’t forget those Catholics struggling to have any children at all. There is also a tendency in some internet circles of demanding to know why a particular woman doesn’t have more children. This type of cyber-bullying and the high standards of anonymous commentators ought to end.
I ought to have known that the answer to infertility would be Our Lady. Even if you do not struggle with this specific ailment, pray for those who do. If infertility is a serious problem in your life, I invite you to pray to Our Lady of La Leche and — if possible — make a pilgrimage to St. Augustine, Florida and visit her shrine there.
Our Lady of La Leche was the first Marian shrine erected in what is now the United States by Spanish explorers, in St. Augustine, Florida. While run according to the norms of the Novus Ordo, it is a place that has healed several women I personally know from fertility issues, including the wife of a friend who struggled for ten years with infertility. After making a devotion to Our Lady, she became pregnant for the first time at forty-two and gave birth to a perfectly healthy girl. If you visit the Shrine’s website and scroll down to the “Stories of Grace,” you’ll read stories just like that. The priests at the shrine are more than happy to bless women. More than that, Our Lady of La Leche is also one who looks after babies already conceived. Our Lady La Leche should be prayed to by pregnant women who fear that their child may not be delivered safely or is in danger of having a birth defect.
I do not want to promise everyone a miracle, but I have seen so many women’s fertility healed through this particular devotion that it would be a grave injustice not to share. Infertility causes so many to lose hope. We must never forget the words of Our Lord in Mark 11:24! We must trust in Our Lady. All the struggles of miscarriages, of health issues, of silent sorrow and grief and shame cannot compare to the joy of becoming a mother. Trust in Our Lady, and overcome skepticism as I did. Pray, and experience a little miracle.
Let us pray:
O Glorious Lady of La Leche, look down upon the infertile women of this world, as our Father looked upon Sarah, Rachel, and Hannah and give them children so that they might raise up an army for Heaven. You comforted your cousin, St. Elizabeth, when she was pregnant with St. John the Baptist. Comfort pregnant women now, and give them the same joy you had when Gabriele announced your pregnancy. Ora pro nobis, Sancta Dei Genetrix!
M.B. Moore is a former blogger, soon to be published novelist, former I.T. guy, and business consultant. He is also a curmudgeon, trying hard to break ungodly habits and be a good Catholic. In fact, he’s trying to start a series of articles for “Happy Trads.” He long ago got off social media for the good of his soul and hopes you do, too.