Trusting the Divine Physician: Mother Attributes Baby’s Miraculous Healing to Divine Mercy
‘Our sweet little Mary Elizabeth had endured more pokes, needles, tubes, surgeries, procedures than most people will in their life. I couldn’t help but look at her sweet bruised and broken body and see the nail marks of Our Lord ...’
As Catholics celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday, one family in Indiana can’t help but think of Holy Week one year ago, when they were all praying fervently for their tiny daughter, Mary Elizabeth, who they say is only here now because of the gift of Jesus’ Divine Mercy.
Born with several heart defects and Down syndrome, doctors had told Jennifer Bauer that her seventh child didn’t have much chance to survive. The news came when the baby was still in her womb.
“We took that straight to St. Monica’s Church and prayed very fervently and deeply that we could care for Mary Elizabeth the way that God intended for us to care for her,” Bauer recalled to the Register. “We cried a lot, but we offered everything at the foot of the cross.”
Just before Palm Sunday last year, when Mary Elizabeth was celebrating her six-month birthday, she had to undergo surgery for her heart defects. Operating on an infant is riddled with risks, but the doctor was hopeful ahead of surgery. Things changed drastically when the surgeon came out with an update.
“She was very unstable, in critical condition. And he said it would be a rough night,” Bauer told the Register. “And we didn’t know if he had a faith background. So we prayed for him — and, of course, for Mary Elizabeth. We called on all of our prayer warriors, all around the globe, to just fervently pray for this little girl.”
Trained as a nurse in a profession she calls a vocation, especially now to the hundreds of students she teaches at St. Mary’s College School of Nursing in Notre Dame, Indiana, Bauer knew when she laid eyes on her little girl, it would be only through the gift of Divine Mercy that her baby would make it through such a dark night.
“When I saw her post-op, she was so sick. As a health-care provider, I knew that without God’s grace, this baby was not going to make it …”
The night was extremely rough: Mary Elizabeth was in dire need of CPR, and “she was by far the sickest baby at Riley Hospital [for Children in Indianapolis],” Bauer said. “And again, I had a conversation with God, and I said, ‘You know I love this little girl with all my heart and her siblings, but this is up to you, Lord, whatever you want to do. If you have to take her from us … please don’t let her suffer.’”
The perpetual praying was packaged with episodes of “smothering her in holy water, whispering in her ear to hang on." It was in these desperate moments that Bauer seemed to sense a wave of alarm even among the hospital staff on duty that evening.
The night nurse remembers taking care of Mary Elizabeth. When she was briefed about her patient, she was told she “had the sickest baby in the unit to care for and would need to be extra vigilant to any subtle changes,” she recalled. Just when it seemed like nothing could be done for her baby, a mother’s love met a glimpse of the Divine Physician.
Bauer explained: “Out of nowhere came this pediatric surgeon who no one had ever seen before. He was tall. He was well spoken. He was eloquent. He had this glow about him. And he walked right into our room and said, ‘I need to put this baby on life support. Are you willing?’ And we said, ‘Yes, please.’ And before we knew it, he said, ‘She’s on life support,’ and the baby was stable. And he was gone. It was like he vanished. Several other nurses who had been there forever said they hadn’t seen him before.”
Learning more from hospital staff, nurses say the doctor was new to the unit and perhaps visiting. But in the heart of this mother of seven who had been storming heaven for a miracle, she believes her prayer was answered.
Having Mary Elizabeth stable was the first glimmer of hope Bauer and her husband, Kevin, had felt during that hospital stay, as Mary Elizabeth’s six siblings all took turns praying for their littlest sister, with some bringing saint dolls to comfort the tiny, suffering child.
“I caught a glimpse of heaven that day when they were reunited one by one with Mary Elizabeth,” Bauer said. “The pure love they had for their tiny baby sister was poured out that day.”
But a very long road lay ahead. As Bauer recounted:
“She continued to come and go with her condition. She had infections with high fevers; her peripheral arterial lines kept blowing; her whole body was just bruised — she looked crucified; her wrists, her groin, down by her little feet, wherever they could find a place [to put an IV].”
And it was in these vulnerable moments as a mother that Bauer turned to Our Lady of Sorrows, recognizing the grief and insurmountable pain the Blessed Mother felt for her only Son dying on a cross, “and I said, ‘I can only imagine what you’ve been through, so please carry me, because I can’t stand to watch her look like this anymore.’”
Entering Holy Week, just days before Mary saw Jesus suffering and could only weep, it was during a private Mass at the hospital chapel that Kevin said that Jesus’ Divine Mercy was shining through the Eucharist. “He said, ‘I noticed as the priest elevated the Eucharist, a golden cross reflected onto the priestly vestment, and it shone as bright as the sun,’ searing through the Eucharist,” Bauer said about her husband’s experience, adding: “He was on his knees, but just brought to extreme gratitude and humility of [recognizing] who Christ is and what he can do.”
Just as when St. Faustina recounted in her diary of Divine Mercy, 1565, “The rays which issued from Jesus’ Heart enveloped the sick man, and the powers of darkness fled in panic,” Bauer’s husband felt a warm embrace from that moment forward as the family spent days and nights in the hospital. It was Holy Thursday when the doctors decided to take Mary Elizabeth off of life support. “I would say her biggest endeavor was coming off that life support around that time,” Bauer said, and it was just so beautiful to see how God was working.
“And he wasn’t just working on Mary,” she said. “He was working on me and my husband, our marriage. He was working on our family. We were praying the Rosary together, on Zoom with extra people. We needed this more than Mary needed this: We needed Christ to intervene. She was just the vessel for moving us closer to him, and he knew what he was doing all along.”
As the doctors readied to take Mary Elizabeth off life support, dire risks and outcomes were discussed, and the cardiac surgeon who had witnessed such prayer from the Bauer family told them to go to a side room so they could pray, and he promised to do the very best he could for their little girl.
“So we went over to the room, and someone had recommended the song by CeCe Winans Believe for It. And we went ahead, and we played that, and we are kind of listening, drifting off into a deep, deep prayer with Christ, just asking him to hold me and hold Mary. During this time, I had this vision of Mary in this little, tiny crib to operate. The cardiac surgeon was at the foot of her bed, and I saw Christ come down: Jesus came down, and he laid a hand over the surgeon’s hand that was over Mary’s Heart …”
And it was when this vision ended that the doctor came back into the room with the most amazing news. “He said, ‘She’s doing beautifully. Surviving, this baby is gonna do just fine,’” Bauer said, crying happy tears, adding, “I just knew, I knew no matter how many ups and downs we had in the hospital, that she was coming home with us. And really just so grateful for what he had done for us. And now, I look back and say, ‘Wow, you know, look how far she has come. She’s just beautiful.’”
A year later, Mary Elizabeth is now 18 months old, bubbly and brimming with a grace and happiness that the entire family of nine feels. The Bauers are convinced that the Divine Physician was at work, protecting their baby and healing her, along with the whole family. In those moments, they knew that his will was greater than theirs. “And it was one of the first times as a couple we really submitted ourselves to Christ’s will, and we firmly believe that if she was going to make it, it would be on his accord.”
A year later, Holy Week — especially Good Friday — and Easter are now more real than ever for the Bauers, having watched the suffering of their tiny Mary Elizabeth and her miraculous recovery.
“Every year, we recall the brutal crucifixion of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, pure innocence itself, crucified for us and our sins to offer us eternal salvation. Last Good Friday pierced my heart all the more,” Bauer told the Register. “Our sweet little Mary Elizabeth had endured more pokes, needles, tubes, surgeries, procedures than most people will in their life. I couldn’t help but look at her sweet bruised and broken body and see the nail marks of Our Lord. My poor baby had taken this all on, sinless and innocent.”
And after the dark nights and dreary days, the Divine Mercy of Jesus remains emblazoned on the heart of this mother and father who pleaded with God for the life of Mary Elizabeth. “Our prayers have been answered. God heard our cries and took pity on us …”
Although Mary Elizabeth has more surgeries ahead, the Bauer family keeps prayer close at heart, imparting such wisdom even to the youngest in the clan. “She tries to say the Rosary when we say the Rosary,” Bauer told the Register about her daughter. “She is amazing. She’s amazing. I wish I could share her with the world. She just makes everyone smile.”
The Bauers’ inspiring story, who took their sorrows, faith and hope to the foot of the cross, ultimately basking in the piercing light of Divine Mercy, echo the words of St. John Paul II, who, in his homeland in 1997, said:
“There is nothing that man needs more than Divine Mercy — that love which is benevolent, which is compassionate, which raises man above his weakness to the infinite heights of the holiness of God."
Jesus, I trust in you!