I remember the first time I saw her. She was wearing a red dress, which seemed unusual to me. I normally imagined her in blue. Her gaze, though, was just as I had always known it to be. Eyes downcast, she was smiling sweetly at her little brown-headed baby boy, tucked up close in her arms.
It was the fall of 1994 and I was on a “come and see” weekend at a tiny college outside of Terre Haute, IN. My mom brought me to visit campus, meet with some professors, and visit the oh-so-critical financial aid department. St. Mary of the Woods College, while being exactly what my 170year-old self needed, was also home to the motherhouse of the Sisters of Providence in the United States.
After our tour and meetings, Mom and I visited the Church of the Immaculate Conception. And that’s where I saw her. Or, rather, where I saw it. A beautiful painting of Our Lady of Providence.
Providence in My Story
I don’t know what it was about the painting (which is based on the work by 16th century artist Scipione Pulzone) that captivated me so. Maybe it was the unusual red dress. Maybe it was the way Jesus’ fingers are wrapped around His mother’s in such a familiar and intimately human way. Looking back, all I can say is that the providence of God and the intercession of Our Lady of Providence, whose feast day we celebrate on November 19, have had a noticeable and indelible influence on my life.
Sure enough, I ended up attending St. Mary of the Woods (on a full-tuition scholarship, no less). It was there that I learned more about women religious through my interactions with the sisters. I joined the Madrigal Singers at the college and routinely sang songs of praise and hymns of supplication in the same church my mom and I had visited.
I met my husband while attending the school. We were married in that same church in 1999. The sisters who had become so dear to me were in attendance, one of whom was my former Madrigal director. At the conclusion of our wedding, I looked up to the choir loft and saw their faces smiling down on us, praying for us on our special day. As a wedding gift, my former director gave us a framed copy of the painting. To this day, 18 years and four houses later, it still hangs in a place of honor in our home.
I frequently pace the floor under her loving gaze, comforting a sleepless baby or caring for a sick little one. What a comfort it is to be able to pray for her intercession and know that, as a mother, she walked these same steps.
Photo courtesy of Blessed Is She.
To read more about Our Lady of Providence, please click here to link over to where I can be found writing for Blessed Is She.