Mary embracing our pain and showing us the awaiting light

Lina is born in Lebanon and her husband is Italian. They have lived in a number of countries.

06 - Faith Story - Lina Pantaloni. Photo by Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

After settling down in Dubai for four years enjoying great English Masses every Sunday at the only Catholic Church at that time, the news broke that we were to move to Shanghai and it shook me hard. I started looking on line for a Catholic Church there so that my faith wouldn’t be put on pause. I was so relieved to find out there was one Catholic Church running English Masses on a regular basis - Good Shepherd Church. Shanghai was just opening services for its international community but surprisingly, the small Chapel quickly started getting packed out with more expats seeking God's Word. To my joy, St Peter Church, which was much bigger, was to be our new church after its renovation.

I became pregnant with Arianna which was God’s gift to us. Raising a girl in Shanghai was such a challenge. Attending Sunday Masses with her was the gate for her to be introduced to each of Mother Mary, Saint Joseph and Jesus. I used to enjoy strolling around the Church presenting her to the images and talking to her in a simplified toddler way.  She used to keep quiet during Mass to please Jesus as He loves attentive kids. Here is the seed of faith that I planted into her and it was being watered week after week. Kids learn their faith by mimicking their parents! 

My main hurdle was, besides being a foreigner, the difficult Chinese language that should have bridged me with the new culture. I don't forget my suffering every Sunday waiting for a taxi. I wasn't a priority for the drivers to pick up a foreigner and one carrying a toddler wasn't an incentive for them either. Prayers of making it back home never stopped. My faith was always actively assuring me that God will send me a compassionate driver to give me a ride back home. One day, with all my strong prayers and the Saints intercessions for a cab ride home, I broke down in tears as I was stranded on the road sheltering under the bridge from the heavy rain with my daughter in the stroller. It took me one hour of unforgettable pain to hail a taxi. Prayers to Mother Mary to intercede was all I could do. I couldn't seek any SOS from anyone as mobiles weren't readily available at that time. Prayers were my only resolution to get myself around.

I don't remember anyone saying that God ever promised a road without any setbacks! Otto, the new Italian restaurant that my husband started up was getting a good reputation in the city. My husband’s dream to manage his own restaurant was his ultimate desire. He worked so hard around the clock and strove for a successful outcome. Bam! The economy started plunging. It hit us so hard to keep the business afloat with this unexpected economic downturn. We were left with no steady income to pay our monthly rent and school fees for our only daughter. It was a tough, bitter situation. Tears and prayers were channelled for God’s mercy on us. It was difficult to find a helping hand at that time. I remember pleading for an urgent appointment with the school principal to get financial aid.

We were surrounded by painful hurdles from all angles. However, my weapon, the rosary, which never let me down, was augmented. Mother Mary was there as usual to reach out to us embracing our pain showing us the awaiting light. 

I volunteered to assist in getting seven confirmation candidates growing in their faith. What a rich experience to see planted seeds blooming in those young people. The Youth Mass was a door to get them to serve God with all their gifted talents.

Then with God mapping out our life journey, we delightfully packed our belongings to be relocated in Miami.

My faith in Shanghai had sprouted like an opening flower enriching and empowering me to keep a steady balanced prayerful daily life. I am so grateful for this unique enrichment in my faith.