Then in early December, Sister Dominic Agnes rustled and puffed into the classroom to announce that Mary had been badly hurt. In order for Mary to live, they needed to pray hard. If they said enough rosaries, and if they were good rosaries, if the children prayed sincerely, no one’s mind wandering off the Sorrowful Mysteries, and no eyes getting sleepy, the Blessed Mother would count up all the numbers and tell Jesus, who would think about it, and maybe He’d trade the prayers and let Mary Wolfe get well.
With that burden on their shoulders, Willow’s class lifted the tops of their desks and pulled out strings of beads and offered up “Hail Marys” like dropping pennies in a jar for Jesus. Three rosaries every school day: the first thing in the morning, after they’d eaten their peanut butter sandwiches at lunch, and before leaving in the afternoon—struggling to pay off whatever ransom Jesus wanted. Each time they said a rosary, Sister Dominic Agnes cut and pasted another link to her black construction paper chain. Jesus needed to know they were very sad. Willow imagined Jesus visiting the dark and empty classroom with his mother at night (because He let only very special people see Him), walking in His sandals alongside the chain, counting the links, three new black circles each night. The number was always three, always matching.
Now, five months later, Mary had returned. On Monday of that week, with the chain draping across the top of the blackboard and down the sides and up to snake over the tops of all the classroom windows, Mary walked into the room.
Jesus had let her get well. All that day, the other grades, K through twelve, filed into the first-grade room with their nuns or lay teachers and admired the funereal rope, their heads swinging back and forth as they looked from one end to the other and then at the beaming Sister Dominic Agnes and then at Mary sitting shyly in a chair placed at the front of the room. Even Father Steinhouse, the parish priest, came into the classroom and nodded approvingly at Sister Dominic Agnes and laid a hand on Mary’s head. Tuesday, a few parishioners visited. Wednesday and Thursday, no one came. No footsteps in the hallway resulted in believers entering, though each time someone passed the door, Sister Dominic Agnes stopped her instructions and waited. Now, on Friday, she’d hung a sign beneath the chain: Sister Dominic Agnes’s Miracle.
All of which Willow knew, meant Mary was a saint. Jesus let her get really hurt, and then the rosaries changed His mind, and He fixed her. Something He’d not done for Willow.
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