Day 5: Tears
Editor’s Note: For day 5 of our Advent series “The Day of Joy Drew Near,” Madeline Turley, a DC Service Corps alumna and current blog manager, shares how a pilgrimage to the Holy Land restored her hope during a season of tears and waiting.
“Those who sow in tears will reap with cries of joy.” ~ Psalm 126:5
For a little over a year, my tears were for a baby that my husband and I weren’t blessed with yet. I pleaded with God every time I went to Mass. I saw pregnancy announcements while scrolling on social media, and I wondered when I would make a similar post. There were times when the weight of infertility crushed me in the middle of work, Bible study, or grocery shopping. I fell asleep each night wondering when I’d be blessed with a baby.
In Advent, we wait in hope for Jesus by remembering the prophecies and events foreshadowing His birth and preparing our hearts for His second coming. For me, praying and waiting for a baby was something like the Advent season, but it was much longer than four weeks. As we light the candles on the Advent wreath, we hold onto hope, faith, joy, and peace. The longer I waited for a baby, the harder it was to remember those virtues.
My husband, Nathan, and I had the opportunity to travel to the Holy Land in July 2023. We prayed for a baby every day we were there, and the other pilgrims prayed for us as well. One of my favorite days of the pilgrimage was the one we spent in Bethlehem. It began with Mass in a cave in the Shepherds’ Field, where angels announced to the shepherds that the Messiah was born. After receiving our Lord in the Eucharist, I knelt and let my mind wander in imaginative prayer. I pictured myself holding the newborn Jesus. I looked at Him and said, “All I need is You.” In that moment of prayer, Jesus reminded me that He Himself is an abundant blessing.
After Mass in the Shepherds’ Field, we visited the Church of the Nativity and touched the bedrock where our Lord was born. Then, we spent a moment in a chapel dedicated to the Holy Innocents, where we saw the skulls and other bones of the babies that Herod had ordered to be killed. The place in Bethlehem that touched me the most was the Milk Grotto. According to tradition, Mary nursed Jesus in a cave while Joseph dreamed about an angel who warned them to flee to Egypt. The Holy Family left in a hurry, and a drop of Mary’s milk spilled on the red rocks, and the whole cave turned white. Today, the Milk Grotto is a place where pilgrims with infertility pray for a baby.
Our group meandered through the Milk Grotto and found a Eucharistic adoration chapel. Everyone settled in to pray, and Nathan and I approached the priest who was traveling with us. I whispered, “Father Adam, could you please pray for me and Nathan so that we can have a baby?” In front of the Blessed Sacrament, he held our hands and prayed a heartfelt prayer. He prayed in thanksgiving for our marriage, that we would be blessed with a baby, and that God’s will would be done in our lives.
Moments later, we received another blessing. Another pilgrim handed me a prayer card and a tiny bag. “I got you the rock powder,” she said. The powder was made of ground-up rocks from the Milk Grotto. There are countless testimonies of women who experienced infertility who mixed the powder with water, drank it, and miraculously conceived. With tears of gratitude, I hugged Della and thanked her for this gift.
These moments and many others from my time in the Holy Land have restored my hope. I was convinced that Nathan and I would be blessed with a baby, but I assumed that it would take a little while longer for us to conceive. I’m grateful to say that God had other plans. We got a positive pregnancy test just a few weeks after we returned from the Holy Land!
Among nausea, fatigue, and the flutter of my baby moving, I’ve felt gratitude throughout this pregnancy. God has replaced my tears of longing with the joy of our first baby. This Advent, Nathan and I get to wait for our own son while we wait for Jesus. My hope and faith have been renewed in time for this season of waiting in hope and praying with expectant faith. My season of tears has made my heart all the more grateful for the child that Nathan and I will hold in April.
Question for Reflection: How has God comforted you in a season of tears?