The one who seeks, finds

Rosa Fini has always hungered to know the Lord. The daughter of devout Catholic Italian immigrants, Rosa grew up on Long Island in the 1960s with her parents, her sister and brother, and her grandmother in a home filled with beautiful religious icons from Italy. Always curious about spiritual things, Rosa asked her pious grandmother - who slept with a Rosary in her hand - questions such as, "Who hurt Jesus?" Her grandmother "always had patient and comforting answers."

Rosa's father made sure the family went to Mass every week and that the children attended CCD classes, but he was very busy with his construction business. He was also the only adult in the house who spoke English. When Rosa was confused by some of the lessons her CCD teachers presented, she didn't have anyone to help her understand.

Rosa remembers her Confirmation preparation classes as "rowdy" and "not very inspiring." Sometimes, no teacher showed up to class at all. Rosa received the Sacraments, but her spiritual hunger was not satisfied. As a teenager, she spotted a Bible for sale at a flea market. Rosa longed to buy it so she could learn about God, but she was one dollar short of the vendor's asking price. He sold it to her anyway. "That Bible was my prized possession," she says.

Throughout her college years, Rosa continued searching for God. She once attended a Catholic charismatic prayer event but was scared away by the people speaking in tongues. She tried to arrange private meetings with a priest, "but that didn't work out, either." Eventually, Rosa found her way to a Baptist Bible study and attended Baptist church services for a while. "I was finally learning Scripture," she says. "The Holy Spirit infused my heart."

Rosa studied medicine at Georgetown University, where she met her future husband. She started going to Mass again but still did not understand many things about the Catholic faith, such as Mary's role in salvation or why Catholics pray to saints. Still, "God works with whatever you bring Him," and despite Rosa's unanswered questions, God found ways to draw her closer to Him.

Rosa became a pediatrician, wife, and mother. In 2000, her fourth child, Madelyn, was born with Down syndrome and needed heart surgery. From the moment Madelyn was born, Rosa sensed God telling her, "I will take care of this." Although it was difficult, Rosa decided to "let go and let God." As she learned how to care for Madelyn, God "always came through."

When Madelyn was still small, Rosa joined a Catholic women's Bible study called "Walking With Purpose." As with the Baptist Bible study, Rosa was learning about God through Scripture, but this time, her education took place within the teaching tradition of the Church. Rosa studied the Gospels with the aid of Fr. John Bartunek's book The Better Part and read Rome Sweet Home by Scott and Kimberly Hahn, which clarified many issues for her, such as Catholic teachings about Mary.

Rosa credits 33 Days to Morning Glory by Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC, with "unveiling the mystery of spirituality" for her. She eagerly bought another of Fr. Gaitley's books, Consoling the Heart of Jesus, but it sat on her bookshelf. The time for reading it would come in an unexpected way.

In January 2020, Rosa suddenly lost all feeling and movement in her right leg. At the hospital, she learned that a nerve had died; her doctors were unable to determine why. They warned Rosa that she may need a brace to walk again. Lying in her hospital bed for six days, Rosa spent quiet time alone with God. "I felt God was trying to tell me something," she says, "but I kept replying that my role as a wife and mother meant being functional. I was facing a possible lifelong disability, and I was worried."

With therapy, the nerve gradually revived, and when it did, Rosa experienced excruciating pain. Rosa contemplated Jesus on the Cross and chose to offer up her suffering in union with His. In her heart, she sensed once again the deep reassurance God had offered her after Madelyn was born: "that it was all going to be fine."

Two months after Rosa's hospitalization, COVID-19 struck the country, and her family, like so many others, was on lockdown. For Rosa, it was a time of learning. She started watching videos by the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception. "Never had the faith been explained to me this way," she says. With a few friends, Rosa started a virtual Rosary group. She also finally opened Consoling the Heart of Jesus and found that her new understanding of suffering had prepared her heart to experience the book more deeply than she could have done before.

"My whole journey has been about the importance of being small and trusting," Rosa says. "The smaller we are, the better God can fill us with His grace and with purpose."

As a child and young adult, Rosa's religious education was lacking, but she allowed God to lead her by the heart. She never stopped searching for Him. God continues to fulfill in her life the promise Jesus made: "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find" (Mt 7:7).

Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash


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