Mary Eased Sorrow, Pain of Benkovic
NUTLEY-"If it wasn't for the intercession of Mary, I wouldn't be here today," Johnnette S. Benkovic, keynote speaker at the annual Women's Day of Reflection, declared.
The April 4 event at Holy Family Parish drew over 800 guests. This year's theme "Mary and the Holy Spirit," holds special significance for Benkovic. After tragically losing her son Simon in a car accident, she lost her husband of 34 years, Anthony, to cancer just a few years later. She credits Our Lady with helping her through her trials.
After years as a non-practicing Catholic who "turned her back on The Way," Benkovic had a profound conversion in 1981 following a charismatic prayer meeting. Since then, she has made it her life's mission to spread the word of God throughout all media.
She is the executive producer of the television program "The Abundant Life," seen internationally on EWTN, and the host of "Women of Grace Live," a one-hour, call-in radio talk show broadcasted nationally on various AM and FM radio stations. She is also the founder and president of Living His Life Abundantly International Inc., a Catholic evangelization apostolate based in Oldsmar, FL (Web site: www.lhla.org).
Benkovic's faith was tested when Simon, having just retuned from serving in Iraq, struck a tree while driving a few miles from the family home in Florida. She was overcome by unbridled grief.
"There was a pain in my womb (when I learned that Simon had died). I was wailing like when Rachel wailed for her children in the Bible. I asked God for the spiritual blessing that held Our Lady firm for the three hours while she was under the cross. There was no sensible consolation," she recalled.
Although her emotions were in turmoil, Benkovic relied on God for spiritual blessing. She believes that we all live in a "day and time that is all about feelings" and that faith is not about emotions, but steadfast conviction. "Faith is not about feelings; it's a theological virtue that resides in the intellect," she said. "Faith is practiced and made strong through the will. Emotions are not reliable indicators of faith in our lives and don't tell us the truth all of the time."
In 2007, her beloved husband Anthony succumbed after a long battle with brain cancer. She once again asked God for spiritual blessing and grace. Her relationship with Mary grew deeper after the tragedy. "I entered a relationship with Our Lady where she would mother me and show me what to do during my travail. God wants all of us to know and live and experience Our Lady. He wants to entrust Mary into our hearts. This is the key."
Through her suffering, Benkovic connected to Mary's suffering and contemplated the plight of Christ's mother. "I thought- if I am experiencing this level of pain, what did Mary experience? My pain was rooted in the desires to see Simon happy- I wanted my son back. Mary was not compromised by selfishness. She had only love rooted in her."
The death of her son and husband, although heartbreaking, brought them eternal life. She understood that God took those closest to her and that their physical death is not the end of their journey. "God knew the perfect time for Simon and my husband to leave this world. What the earth calls tragedy is not that at all. The only real tragedy is the loss of one's soul. I will take all of this pain if it is for their eternal, heavenly life," she said.
Through Mary as the "contact point," Benkovic was able to strengthen her relationship with the Lord even in the midst of deep pain. "Mary spiritually took me by the hand through suffering. When we open ourselves to Our Lady, she leads us to her son Jesus Christ. True devotion to the Blessed Mother leads us to divine union with the Lord. If you want more of God, get more of Mary."